For Polaris watercraft designers, bigger has generally meant better. When the Minnesota snowmobile and all-terrain vehicle giant first entered the watercraft market in 1991, its initial model, the two-seater SL650, was notable for its segment-expanding size and girth. Finally, there was a two-seater that could actually carry two adults at the same time.
When it came time to move into the three-passenger segment, Polaris again designed a model notably bigger and longer than competitors and, in the process, redefined the class. And although it wasn't the largest four-seater to be introduced for the 1999 model year, the Polaris Genesis was the first.
The new 2001 Virage TXi fits in with that tradition. A musclecraft with the size and versatility of a legitimate three-up watercraft, it is redefining what a musclecraft is.
It is also doing it with a powerful 135-horsepower low-emissions engine that also provides exceptional fuel efficiency and economy.
But while the strength of the Virage TXi is its versatility — what other musclecraft can legally tow wakeboarders and skiers, and carry a driver and two passengers — it's that "tweener" status that also is its biggest weakness. Because of its size and weight, it won't be the fastest watercraft on the market, either in a straight line or around a buoy course. It also sacrifices some in the handling department compared to true musclecraft such as the Sea-Doo RX, Yamaha GP1200R, Kawasaki Ultra 150 or, for that matter, the Polaris 1200 Pro.
Out in the real world, however, where the wind blows and waves and chop get worse as the day goes on, the Virage TXi's larger hull can be a real asset when it comes to performance. It's just one of those frustrating trade-offs you have to live with.
Old and New
While the Virage TXi is technically a new model for 2001, it is based on last year's Virage TX but with the addition of Polaris's Ficht Ram Injection installed on the two-stroke 1200 Marine engine.
This addition is significant, since the direct-injection system provides Polaris with a performance craft capable of meeting the EPA's emissions standards for the year 2006, as well as the California Air Resources Board (CARB) 2002 standards.
The Ficht system, which debuted on last year's Genesis FFI, is proven and effective. In addition to dramatically reducing emissions and improving fuel economy — the TXi runs 76 percent cleaner than the standard carbureted Virage TX, while burning 35 percent less gas-it also offers performances benefits like a cleaner starts, smoother powerband, crisper throttle response, better acceleration and more efficient top-end response.
Polaris tweaked some with the Ficht design, tightening the tolerances on the injectors and matching them to the EDU for better performance so the system should be even more reliable than last year.
The Virage TXi was also fitted with the PLANET sound-reduction system that debuted on last year's Genesis. The system uses resonators in the exhaust system and other sound-dampening techniques to significantly reduce the sound output on the engine.
The rest of the engine should be familiar to Polaris fans. First introduced on the three-plus Genenis in 1999, the 1,165-cc triple is rated at 135 horsepower. The engine features a bore and stroke of 84 mm by 70 mm and produces its peak 135-horsepower rating at 7,200 rpm.
A couple of minor changes were made to the 1200 to improve reliability and performance. First, a new double crankshaft seal was installed to improve durability. Also, a new water-injection check valve was added to improve low-end acceleration and smooth out the idle, and a higher flow thermostat was added to improve cold-engine performance. A CDI rev limiter was also added to push-button reverse system for added safety.
Transferring all that power to the water is the Polaris Dominator pump, a 148-mm pump that features a unique six-vane stainless-steel stator and a three-blade stainless-steel impeller.
The hull and deck on the Virage TXi are identical to those on last year's Virages, though with an updated metallic black/Havasu Red color scheme with silver. The hull-and-deck design is basically the same.
The SMC (Sheet Molded Compound) hull features a 20-degree deep-V design, and at 120.3 inches long and 49.3 inches wide, the Virage TXi does fit its midsized classification, even though those dimensions were on the large side of the three-seater segment four years ago. Polaris describes the Virage TXi as a luxury mid-size craft or a two-plus craft, although it is rated for three passengers (with a 500-pound load capacity). You can thank the 131.1-inch-long-49.3-inch-wide Genesis and other giant three- and four-seaters for this new definition.
The hull also has a spray chine integrated into the bow and two strakes on each side of the keel, along with touring sponsons designed to provide stability and reduce porpoising. It's a decent hull, offering a balance between tighter handling and good rough water performance. It tends to skip a bit in rough water, but it is better in that regard than most two-seaters.
The deck is FRC (Fiberglass Reinforced Composite) and is fitted with a soft, hinged two-piece seat. Polaris changed the seat vinyl this year on all of it seats this year, improving the look and feel. The footwell pads have also been changed and now feature a new outline shape with no open gaps for better traction.
Storage capacity is rated at 32.7 gallons. There is a roomy 15.7-gallon front bin, with another 14.3-gallon beneath it. In addition, there is also a half-gallon glove box on the console and a 2.1-gallon cooler under the seat. Other features include dual mirrors, a stainless-steel tow ring and built-in footrests on the back
gunwales for a spotter, all of which are helpful when towing. The fuel tank holds 17 gallons, and the oil tank holds six quarts.
The Virage TXi also features Polaris' heavy-duty wrist-type lanyard with Velcro band, a thumb throttle, electric bilge pump (along with the standard siphon type) and the new PERC (Polaris Electronic Reverse Control) system, which allows you to move from forward to reverse with a touch of button. The system also features a slow speed control, and a middle setting that operates something like a reverse, which can be a big help when you're towing and the skier at the end of the rope isn't ready. The system can be a little confusing to use — you need to press the button three times to fully activate the reverse — but once engaged, it does offer precise steering and handling. That's something that can't be said about many of the reverse systems used on watercraft.
The instrumentation package has been updated this year. Rather than a single multi-function gauge, Polaris has designed a new console with 22 to 25 functions. It includes a analog speedo, and digital LCD with clock, fuel and oil level, compass, tachometer and trip meter. It also includes a programmable theft deterrent system to prevent any unauthorized users from starting the craft.
One complaint is the absence of a temperature warning light or message. During our tests, a pinched water intake hose caused the engine to shut down due to overheating, but because there wasn't an engine overheat warning, we had to guess at the cause of the shut- down. Overall, however, the gauge package is easy to read and use, and its an improvement from the old gauge package.
All in all, we were impressed by the Virage TXi. Although it defies easy classification, there's no arguing that it's is a solid and versatile watercraft. Its state-of-art engine and roomy platform offer a nice blend of performance and versatility. So what if it defies neat classification? Call it a "tweener" and leave it at that.
|Rider Capacity||three persons (500 pounds)|
|Suggested retail price||$8499|
|Bore x Stroke||84 mm x 70 mm|
|Fuel Delivery||Ficht Ram Injection|
|Intake||Case reed induction|
|Impeller||three-blade progressive pitch radial blade|
|Reverse||electronic bucket type|
|Mirrors||dual mirrors standard|
|Storage||32.7 gallons (Bow under seat and glove box)|
|Fuel Capacity||17 gallons|
|Oil Capacity||6 quarts|
For more information
1225 Highway 169 North
Minneapolis, MN 55441-5078