When is a PWC not a PWC? When it’s a boat. Personal watercraft have evolved, making the awkward, barebones single-rider water bikes of yesteryear look almost comical by comparison. Nowhere is this more striking than at Sea-Doo, who celebrated its 50th anniversary this year by introducing the GTX Limited 300—a PWC so luxurious and advanced, it’s hardly a PWC at all.
The Sea-Doo GTX Limited 300 turned a few heads at this year’s Miami Boat Show because it took the best of Sea-Doo’s existing technology and then added a bunch of new features that make this vessel look and work more like an actual boat.
First, let’s look at the design and overall performance. The wider hull merged Sea-Doo’s previous S3 and T3 bottom structures to create the ST3 design (with its sharper entry at the bow) and added chines for greater stability at rest and a smoother ride when running. The stance was lowered by 1.5” and widened by 1”, which lowered the center of gravity overall and created room for a larger swim platform. Sea-Doo’s Variable Trim System (VTS) added trim tabs in the aft corners and now can adjust the jet nozzle angle to improve handling.
There’s a choice of engines—the 230 HP Rotax 1500 HO ACE or the heart-stopping 300-hp Rotax 1630 ACE for crazy acceleration. With a dry weight of 847 pounds, this is not a small PWC, but both engines handle it well and can ride up to three (for a 600-pound of carrying capacity). This large stable cruiser is built for comfort as well as speed and it can go on extended outings with its integrated 15.9-gallon fuel tank.
Next, check out the riding features including the Intelligent Brake Control (iBR) and the Intelligent Throttle Control (iTC). Developed in 2009, the iBR is now in its third iteration. It allows the boat to stop up to 160 feet sooner than a watercraft not equipped with a braking system. Controls on the left handlebar activate the bucket that was redesigned with side outlets to improve handling in reverse. The iTC starts the engine in neutral and determines the best power delivery by setting optimal rpm for either best fuel economy or most exciting hole shots. You can even choose your riding style with a Touring mode (with progressive acceleration that is calmer and better for multi-rider cruising), and a Sport mode (for a more aggressive throttle response). ECO mode dials down the rpms for the best fuel economy. There’s also cruise control with the tachometer, speedometer, hour meter and fuel level visible on the centerline display ahead of the handlebars.
The Ergolock seat is narrow with good knee support that allows the driver to use her leg muscles to hold on in tight turns and therefore have better control and less upper body fatigue. It’s also stepped so riders two and three enjoy better visibility. The seat also splits so if you’re riding alone, you can remove the aft section entirely or move it back when stationary so the driver and one passenger can face each other and enjoy a picnic with the cooler (more on this later). The seat’s diamond pattern and piping add some serious luxury too.
The add-on extras are where the real differentiating features and fun start. Sea-Doo introduced their LinQ cargo system with snap-on accessories and extra stowage options that attach at the aft end. Bring along an optional 4-gallon fuel caddy, a 16-quart cooler or a dry bag that’s perfect for a towel or a change of clothes. Some of these accessories can be stacked (like the bag on top of the external fuel tank) and the cooler can be moved and used as a small table between the split seats for an instant picnic area. There’s even a quick release ski pylon for towing. Also, the re-boarding ladder is now wider and lower with a handle on the spacious rear platform so getting out of the water is easy.
A few things have changed forward as well. The normal stowage compartment in the bow area now has direct access so the driver can reach in without standing and leaning over to release a latch at the front. The Limited version has enough room to stow a 5-gallon dry bag. The instrument pod angles up with the handlebars so it’s visible even when the driver is standing. The aft end of the compartment nearest the driver even has a waterproof and shockproof pocket to store car keys or a phone that can charge via the integrated USB port.
Finally, no day on the water would be complete without a premium sound system. With 100 watts of power, Sea-Doo’s proprietary waterproof audio system has Bluetooth connectivity so you can enjoy your phone playlist all day. Speakers are tucked into the footwells below the wide-angle mirrors and are directed at the riders for best sound.
The GTX Limited 300 feels, rides and explores more like a boat than a PWC but it’s also priced like one. The base model with the 230 HP engine starts at $15,899 and that’s before must-have add-ons like a trailer, wakeboard bracket, pop-up cleats, a depth finder, water temperature gauge and snap-in fenders. But when you consider that you can distance cruise this PWC, wakeboard behind it, enjoy premium tunes and bring your lunch along all under $20,000, then this PWC starts to look like a very affordable and versatile boat indeed.