BRP has revealed an all-new platform for its full-sized Sea-Doo personal watercraft line. Designed to be more stable and offer new storage and convenience features, including an audio system, the new three-passenger platform will support seven 2018 models in the Sea-Doo GTX, RTX and Wake product lines.
I had a chance to sample all seven of the new models on a two-day run down the Colorado River from Laughlin, Nev. to Havasu, Ariz., ample time to ring every bell and blow every whistle on these new PWC. The new hull worked very well in the smooth water of the river and I was really impressed with the clever ideas BRP is introducing on these new models.
A new hull
An all-new ST3 hull underpins the new Sea-Doo and has a deep-V shape that’s similar to the quick-handling T3 hull found under the high-performance RXP-X 300 model. The new hull has 20 degrees of deadrise and a much sharper entry than the hull it replaces. According to BRP the hull was designed to offer much-improved performance in an offshore environment, tracking up steeps swells, for example. The new hull is 11 feet 4 inches long – about 3 inches shorter than the previous hull – but at 49.4 inches is about an inch wider than last year’s model. The new Sea-Doo models are also up to 90 pounds lighter than the models they replace – that’s a significant weight reduction of close to 10 percent for the GTX Limited, for example. The hull has a bit of reverse chine for improved stability underway, and a secondary chine that accounts for the added width and is designed to give these models great stability at rest, especially with a passenger or two on board.
As more customers use these full-size PWC for towing and “coving,” BRP says this emphasis on stability is key. To lower the center of gravity and further enhance stability, the seat is 1.4 inches lower at the rider position and 3 inches lower at the passenger positions. The footwells are correspondingly deeper to maintain a comfortable riding position. On flat water the new hull cornered predictably with very linear response to steering input and always felt really glued to the water – these new models can corner harder than I can hang on. I did notice the hull did not track so well when any of these new models encountered trailing wakes, meaning wakes from boats and other PWC ahead. Because we were riding in a group with 15 PWC this was a common issue. However, this never happened when crossing the wakes of other boats, on Lake Havasu, for example. You probably won’t be riding with 14 other PWC, either.
The new design of the bow stowage compartment makes it much easier to reach gear that’s been stashed under the cowl. The entire helm – handlebars and instrument display – lifts with the hatch. I could reach a dock line and my backpack without standing. The twin latches for the compartment require some force to release, but they can be disengaged one at a time, which helps. Capacity is 27 gallons, quite a bit less than last year’s 42.8-gallon bin but so much handier to reach. An organizer for the bow compartment is standard on the GTX Limited models and offered as an accessory for other models.
Keeping up with our craving for connectivity, the new Sea-Doo models all feature a water-tight phone box in the helm storage cubby (can we still call this the glove box?). The box comes with a slice of open-cell foam for shock absorption. Not sure how long that will last but it will be easy to replace. There’s also a USB port within the phone box. The phone box consumes a lot of space, so there’s no longer room for a water bottle, for example, in the compartment.
You’ll need that cell phone box to achieve a Bluetooth connection to the new audio system, a standard feature on the flagship GTX Limited and available as an option on all other models ($700 ordered from the factory or $950 dealer-installed). The system features a pair of 6.5-inch woofer speakers and titanium tweeters mounted in enclosures placed above the forward end of the footwells. A 100-watt amp drives the system. It does not have a radio function, so relies on files stored on a smart phone or other device with Bluetooth. A set of buttons on top of the left speaker enclosure is used to adjust volume and toggle through music files, and power up/off the system. BRP says the audio system was engineered to survive this very exposed marine application; the woofers, for example, can handle a direct shot from a pressure washer. I could not personally test the system because I roll old-school and don’t keep music files on my phone ( I even will use my phone to place voice calls, which my kids think is weird), but it sounded great when other riders tried it and the system is very easy to sync to the phone. Given wind noise at speed, I think the audio system will be more practical for those “coving” sessions. With that in mind the system has a feature that powers down the audio system after about an hour of use with the engine off, preserving enough battery charge to fire up for the ride home.
More stowage: LinQ accessories
The new LinQ accessories are my favorite feature on the new Sea-Doo platform because they help extend the ride. The LinQ system was developed by the BRP Ski-Doo snowmobile division, and utilizes a pair of pop-up composite cleats in the aft deck to secure four accessory items: a 4.2-gallon cooler ($279.99), a 5.5-gallon dry bag ($194.99), and a 4.0-gallon fuel caddy ($179.99), or a LinQ retractable ski pylon ($299.99). The dry bag can be mounted on top of the fuel caddy but not on top of the cooler, and you also cannot stack the cooler on the fuel caddy – too much weight magnified by inertia for the mounting points, I’m told. The cooler, dry bag and fuel caddy are secured with a stout-looking cam-lock latch that was designed to withstanding the pounding of a rough snowmobile trail. For salt water use, order the corrosion-resistant LinQ Marinized Hardware Kit ($17.99).
On a day when riding on the Colorado River felt like having a hot blow drier aimed in my face, the cooler was the ultimate luxury. The lid is secured with rubber latches that face the seat, and I could just reach back and grab a cold drink. It’s not a huge cooler but large enough to be useful, and it seems to be very well insulated. There’s still room on the deck around any of these accessories to stand or re-board. This is a good spot to mention the new modular seat. The passenger section lifts off and revels a flat deck below. You could leave the aft seat on the dock and have room to lash down even more gear, or remove the aft seat to use the flat deck space as a lounge or picnic table, again while “coving.”
The three engine options carry over from 2017: normally aspirated 155 HP Rotax 1503, supercharged 230 HP Rotax 1500 HO ACE, and supercharged 300 HP Rotax 1630 ACE. The 155 engine delivers satisfactory acceleration and a top speed of about 55 MPH. The 230 and 300 engines are speed-restricted to about 67 MPH with a single rider aboard, so the difference in performance lies in acceleration. The 300 engine will rocket any of these models from zero to 60 MPH in less than four seconds, according to BRP. The 300 engine is a $1,000 upgrade over the 230, and if you think that’s worth a few seconds of acceleration, well go nuts. The aftermarket offers solutions to unleash the full potential of the 230 and 300 engines, warranty and the U.S. Coast Guard be damned. Each of these engines features a closed cooling system that uses the ride plate as a heat exchanger, and that system has been improved for 2018.
The seven new models all feature the base package of features offered on previous full-size Sea-Doo models, including the Intelligent Brake and Reverse (iBR) system, Intelligent Throttle Control with three riding modes: Touring, Sport (more aggressive acceleration) and ECO® (soft acceleration and speed limited to about 35 mph for economy), electric Variable Trim System (VTS), cruise control and slow mode, and tilt steering that I used a lot to ride while standing up.
The GTX 155 ($12,799) and GTX 230 ($13,899) have all of the above mentioned base features, with power and color determined by the selected engine. The GTX Limited 230 ($15,899) and GTX Limited 300 ($16,899) come in a classy metallic grey and brown color scheme, with a saddle-brown seat and a teak-look swim platform mat, and the following additional features: Bluetooth audio system with USB port, storage bin organizer and dry bag, a safety equipment kit, a watercraft cover, and two additional gauge functions (time/distance to empty and altitude indicator). The RTX 230 ($13,799) and RTX-X 300 ($15,699) are sport/high-performance models with a narrow racing seat and bold colors and graphics. To the list of base features, the RTX-X 300 adds a new racing handlebar with adjustable riser, race-tested, adjustable X-Sponsons for stabilization and aggressive cornering, angled and extended footwell wedges, Launch Control Auto-Trim for optimal acceleration, and trim tabs. Finally, for tow-sports enthusiasts there is the Wake Pro 230 ($14,699) that features speed-based Ski Mode throttle control that allows the driver to adjust the intensity of the launch from five profiles for different rider skill levels and tow sports, a removable wakeboard rack, and the LinQ retractable ski pylon.
In 2018 BRP is noting the 50thanniversary of the introduction of the original Sea-Doo water craft, a product that only lasted two seasons. I was around for the do-over in 1988, when the Sea-Doo SP debuted and helped launch the sit-down PWC revolution. Comparing that 1988 Sea-Doo to the 2018 models—the performance, the features, the reliability—is like comparing a DC-3 to a Gulfstream jet. And who wouldn’t want to fly the jet?
For more information, visit Sea-Doo.