Five Great Jet Skis for 2018
While many water sports enthusiasts enjoy a day out on the lake on a stand-up paddleboard, many others really want to see some action; they want to go fast. Relaxing and soothing is great when you’re lying on the beach or enjoying a picnic with the family, but sometimes, you just want the adrenaline rush that comes with speeding along on the water at a fast and furious clip. That’s why so many action-packed water sports enthusiasts love the pure, unadulterated fun that comes with riding a jet ski.
Whether you refer to them as a jet ski, or a wave runner, or even as a personal watercraft, there is nothing on the water closer to the thrill of riding one. It’s the closest you will ever feel to rising a motorcycle on water, and it is a great way to get your heart racing and your blood rushing. That said, you will want to choose the right jet ski for you, or you’ll find yourself sadly bobbing along on the waves, letting others feel the rush.
It’s not difficult to choose the right jet ski for you. Just choose a good brand, one with a strong reputation for quality and endurance. Then, you look through the available offerings for the one that matches your riding style, whether that is Vin Diesel driving a car cross-country, or you want to take the family on a cruise on the local lake. You can get a single-seater, if you want to be alone, or you can invest in a 2-, 3- or 4-seater if you want to make a group outing of it. Whatever your goal, here are five of the best choices on the jet ski market, in no particular order.
Kawasaki Jet Ski SX-R
Kawasaki Motors Corp. has been a giant in this space ever since it started the personal watercraft craze with its stand-up Jet Ski many years ago. Of course, it wasn’t long before sit-down models took over and the giant was pushed out of the market for a while. Now, Kawasaki is back, with the new 2018 Jet Ski SX-R. This personal watercraft resembles the one that started the craze, but it’s all new and looks like it’s been working out for the last few years, at a full foot longer, including a much larger nose and a deeper hull than before. craft that preceded it but looks like it’s been hitting the gym during its five-year hiatus.
The best improvement, however, may be the four-stroke engine that brought Kawasaki back into the business a few years back, after they were driven out of the business by emissions regulations on two-stroke motors. The naturally aspirated 1,498 cc four-cylinder engine is rated at 160 hp, which is far more power than Kawasaki offered in its stand-up model. Not only is it powerful, but the digital fuel injection makes the Jet Ski SX-R easier to start, with the 60 mm mechanical throttle body and resin intake manifold improve throttle response and power delivery. That means the 2018 version is able to be one of the best and fastest on the market.
As noted, the digital fuel injection means the Kawasaki Jet Ski SX-R accelerates instantly, with virtually none of the bow rise or porpoising typical of many other personal watercraft. Its top speed has been reported at almost 60 mph. And because of the SX-R’s hull design, the craft tracks more precisely and aggressively than any model before it. Also, the SX-R features runabout-style sponsons near the stern, as a way to keep the craft from “spinning out.” That means the jet ski is far more responsive than previous models, which means it is easy to use on fast rides, but for those who want a tamer ride, the craft can do that, as well. The bottom’s v-shape also reportedly handles rough water better than most. For those looking for a personal watercraft for almost any use, the Kawasaki Jet Ski SX-R is a great choice.
Sea-Doo GTR X 230
Even though the Sea-Doo GTR-X 230 is a new model, the consensus is that it is still very familiar. This jet ski features a top deck that is identical to that on Sea-Doo’s flagship racing craft RXP-X 300. It is perhaps that racing heritage that makes the Sea-Doo GTR-X 230 one of the best personal watercraft on the market. It’s likely why this jet ski can reach a top speed of 66.9 mph. This makes sense; according to Sea-Doo, the company’s goal in producing the GTR-X 230 is to offer the look and the feel, as well as the performance of its best racing craft, at a more affordable price and without the need for aggressive handling.
When one takes the reins of the Sea-Doo GTR-X 230, the first thing they notice is that the saddle design doesn’t push their thighs apart, like many other personal watercraft. Instead, it narrows through the middle. This shape allows riders to feel more comfortable, but it uses the muscles in their lower body to keep their body anchored during aggressive turns at high speed. Specially angled chocks mounted in the foot wells also give the rider additional leverage, at the same time they keep the knees more naturally aligned than in many other jet skis. Comfort was such an important factor, Sea-Doo even included padded, flared bolsters around thigh-level to offer even more support.
In addition to the saddle, the handlebars on the Sea-Doo GTR-X 230 are also a major feature, part of a style the company calls Ergolock. That style is intended to make everything more individualized and more comfortable for the rider. The grip angle and the overall width are adjustable to make the individual rider as comfortable as possible. Though these are not adjustments than can be made on the fly – they require an Allen wrench – that still means everything can be individualized for a particular rider and stay that way until another rider comes along. This makes the jet ski more adaptable and allows for a more solid feel for the rider.
The concept of Ergolock is important, since fast and agile jet skis can pose a major physical test for a rider’s upper body strength, especially when they corner aggressively. This design transfers much of that strain to the stronger legs. To power the Sea-Doo GTR-X 230, Sea-Doo gave it a 230 hp, 1,500 cc three-cylinder engine they call the 1500 HO ACE. The engine is designed for performance, as some tests have shown it capable of topping 66 mph in humid summer conditions, and to be able to accelerate from zero to 30 mph in less than two seconds. In order to provide this personal watercraft with an affordable price, Sea-Doo cut back on some areas, like the hull, so it can run a little rough at times. However, with the Ergolock style, with a little practice a rider will find themselves being able to ride the Sea-Doo GTR-X 230 like a pro.
Yamaha GP 1800
Too often, in the personal watercraft space, paying more money can buy mediocre fun and quality. When everything, including utility, speed and durability, shows improvement, then price usually soars. That’s why many are heaping praise on the Yamaha GP 1800. Word is, this is the personal watercraft of choice on the racing circuit, as well as for technical PWC types. In other words, when they test the throttle on the GP1800 and shoot up to over 70 mph, few are surprised. The real surprise comes when they find out the MSRP is under $14,000.
As good as the acceleration and top speed are on the Yamaha GP 1800, the greatest surprise was its maneuverability. Some who have tested this beauty of a jet ski say they can take sharp turns with this PWC without feeling any stress or strain on the machine. When you make such a turn in this machine, the hull and the jet pump stay in place and the jet ski doesn’t pause, even for a second. And because the GP 1800 uses a jet-pump drive instead of a prop torque, it is possible to make a sharp turn to the left or right with no mess or fuss and without the watercraft having to take a breather.
In addition to the power of its Super Vortex High Output engine, which can top 70 mph, the GP 1800 also features Yamaha’s Ride steerable reverse control. It’s also one of the prettiest jet skis on the market, with its stylish metallic finish on its super-lightweight nanotech hull, which gives this craft the highest power-to-weight ratios in the space. This model also features a big swim platform, a boarding ladder and plenty of dry storage for touring.
Sea-Doo Spark Trixx
Personal watercraft enthusiasts already know about Sea-Doo’s budget-priced Spark series, and that it features a great feel and easy handling. That makes the 2018 version of the Sea-Doo Spark Trixx special, as it attempts to take watery fun to the next level. They do that by adding several add-ons specially designed to enhance the craft’s already significant freestyle characteristics. For example, one of the best additions is a specially designed version of Sea-Doo’s electronic Variable Trim System (VTS). The Sea-Doo Spark Trixx also sports a redesigned jet-pump nozzle, which allows angles as high as 17 degrees upward and minus-6 degrees downward.
That 10 degrees of additional upward movement makes a significant difference. For instance, you can “pop a wheelie” with the Spark Trixx by tapping the trim-control toggle on the left side of the handlebars, which will cause the watercraft to point its bow upward with minimal throttle. The Spark Trixx personal watercraft also features 60-degree-angled chocks at the rear of the footwells, which keep the driver in control, even when the angle gets vertical. Another added component is a newly redesigned handlebars column with adjustable aluminum riser. This allows the rider to raise the handlebars as much as 6 inches beyond the norm, thus providing the rider with additional leverage. Sea-Doo’s Intelligent Brake and Reverse (iBR) system employs a modified, electronically-controlled reverse bucket to offer both greater braking power and also gear-like forward, neutral and reverse handling, which is especially useful around the dock or ramp.
Even relative newbies seem able to perform wheelies and handle the Sea-Doo Spark Trixx like someone experienced in the jet ski realm. Of course, the fun is in no way limited to the vertical, it is also possible to trim the nozzle in a way that makes the Sea-Doo Spark Trixx capable to do power slides, or even perform 180-degree spins on the surface of the water. trimming the nozzle upward also made the craft easier than ever to slip out in power slides, or even execute 180-degree spins on the water’s surface.
The 2018 version of the Sea-Doo Spark Trixx uses a reinforced polypropylene hull and deck, and it features a 90 hp Rotax 900 HO ACE engine, a combination that takes good advantage of power-to-weight ratio to achieve speeds that push close to 50 mph, as well as a very quick throttle response. That may sound slower than some of the others, but it’s a great craft for someone who just wants to play on the water and have some fun.
Yamaha EX Sport
The Yamaha EX Sport is the latest middle-of-the-road choice in the company’s three-model entry into the burgeoning “Rec Lite” category. This category consists of machines designed to place more focus on fun and affordability, rather than focusing solely on speed and performance, the traditional focal points. At a mere 10 feet 3 inches long, the EX Sport is somewhat shorter and narrower than Yamaha’s entry-level V1. The EX Sport’s upper deck is also simpler in style, with fewer angles and style lines, and the craft features only basic rearview mirrors, and a no-frills saddle.
That said, being affordable does not mean it’s made cheaply. The hull and deck are made of the same high-compression, glass-fiber-reinforced polyester (SMC) used in every personal watercraft in this line. Also, while the dimensions are shorter, the craft can still accommodate three passengers, regardless of size. The best thing to know about the Yamaha EX Sport is that it’s fun to ride, as anyone who does so will tell you. This boat is capable of making a sharp and precise turn, or when the passengers shift their weight just right, they can free it to do a classic power slide or many other things.
While everything on the Yamaha EX Sport is new and improved, the hull is based on the existing V1/VX platform, which is the best-selling line in history, although the dimensions were scaled down as a starting point and other tweaks were made to the shoulder, chines and strakes. The engine is relatively small, and the exhaust manifold and muffler were downsized and lightened. The pump bulkhead also was removed, the flywheel built into the coupler, and the pump stator and impeller housing molded as one piece. This was all done to save on size and to make the parts simpler and easier to replace, which brings long-term costs savings. The fact of the matter is, the smaller engine works well with the lighter weight (the craft weighs just 584 pounds), which means it makes the most of its 100m hp. The craft has great acceleration and can hit a top speed of more than 50 mph on a hot and humid summer day. You may not win any races with this PWC, but the Yamaha EX Sport was priced to compete with the pre-owned market, so you can save a lot of money, get a new machine and enjoy a great day on the water.