Every year the personal watercraft media are invited to an interesting and attractive location where they get to test the latest and greatest offering from a leading manufacturer. This year we were invited by Yamaha to Nazaré, a small but bustling resort on the Atlantic coast of Portugal about an hour’s drive north of Lisbon. It has beautiful beaches and is also a popular surfing destination.

You may remember Nazaré hitting the headlines in November 2011, when an American surfer, Garrett McNamara, rode a record-breaking giant wave of 23.8m. And in January this year, Portuguese surfer Hugo Vau surfed a 35m-high wave, known as ‘the big mama’; however, this record is yet to be validated. As well as breaking records, these big-wave surfers have also done their bit for the personal watercraft industry by throwing a positive light on the use of the larger three-seater craft that they utilise to tow surfers into the best position to catch the next big wave. They then wait on standby to ski into the surf and pick up their surfer out of harm’s way.

Nazaré’s big waves are created by the presence of a huge underwater canyon. The difference in depth between the canyon, which is 227km long and 5000m deep, and the continental shelf separates the wave into two, so when the swell heads to shore and the two waves converge with the local water current, some of the biggest waves in the world are created.

Luckily for us, there were no giant waves to navigate – just a gentle swell and perfect riding conditions to test the new Yamaha fleet.

So after months of speculation it was finally time for Yamaha to unveil their 2019 WaveRunner line-up, and not surprisingly it was the FX series that grabbed all the headlines. The FX has been Yamaha’s flagship series since its inception back in 2002 by offering up more power and luxury than any other watercraft on the market, and it remains a popular choice for families due to its versatility and outright comfort. It’s also become a firm favourite with offshore racers and coastal riders alike due to its straight-line stability in big seas and forgiving dry ride – but it’s not so popular with the circuit racers, who prefer a craft that they can lean into the turns.

Today the FX series comes in four options (shown below) that utilise Yamaha’s proven 1.8L 4-stroke marine engine, which remains the largest displacement currently in production at 1822cc. They aren’t the cheapest personal watercraft on the market, with the FX HO coming in at £15,299, and the most expensive model, the FX SVHO cruiser, at £17,199.

FX Models                   Spec Price (inc. VAT)
FX HO                   Non-supercharged high output £15,299
FX HO Cruiser     Non-supercharged high-output cruiser £15,799
FX SVHO    Supercharged super vortex high output £16,799
FX SVHO Cruiser Supercharged super vortex high-output cruiser £17,199

The difference between the cruiser models and the standard HO or SVHO is the additional plush three-person seat configuration. The seat steps up to provide back support for the driver and better viewing for the passengers. It also comes with a couple of retractable side cleats.

The SVHO models come equipped with a 160mm jet pump – 5mm larger than the HO and a supercharger. An intercooler is also installed on the SVHO models, which is used to cool the incoming air and further boost the supercharger’s power. All these extras give the SVHO improved acceleration and a 5mph top-speed advantage over its little brother, the HO.

The supercharged models also benefit from the lighter-weight NanoXcel 2 hull and deck material – a saving of over 8kg compared to the HO models, which still utilise the NanoXcel material. The cruiser models are slightly heavier. However, the hull and deck on both models have been completely redesigned, giving a rounder, smoother and more modern look and feel than the previous models.

The new design is also slightly longer and wider than its predecessor, allowing for a whopping 41 litres of extra storage space over the 2018 models, which is spread between the bow compartment, glovebox, under-seat storage and the wet storage area adjacent to the rear grab handle. Yamaha have also fitted a RAM multi-mount system in front of the handlebars. RAM mounts are versatile docking systems for phones, GPS units, cameras and other mobile devices that allow the user to customise their craft.

Another useful feature found on the deck is the addition of drain holes, which prevent pooling of the water in the footwells when the user is sitting stationary in the water or when the craft is stored uncovered, outside and exposed to the elements. The boarding step has also been beefed up and deepened, making it a lot easier easy to remount when waterside.

Historically, the larger three-seaters have struggled to compete against their smaller and lighter counterparts, pushing the user to purchase a cruiser for long hauls and a high-performance craft for the race track. Yamaha have certainly broken the mould with the new FX.

The hull is based on the race-winning Yamaha GP1800 hull design, and even though the FX hull is 23cm longer and 5cm wider than the GP, the FX still feels remarkably similar to the GP in the way it handles itself around the turns. Where the GP hull is superior to other hulls is its ability to cut through chop and waves and not bow-steer, which is especially noticeable at low speed following in the wake of other craft. The combination of FX and GP gives the user confidence to enter into a turn at speed without the fear of spinning out or being high-sided, while retaining all the pros from the previous FX models: the straight stability, comfort, luxury and a dry ride. A perfect combo!

The power delivery from the FX SVHO 1.8L engine is incredibly smooth, although don’t be fooled as it’s no slouch. The acceleration is blisteringly fast, reaching 60mph in under 5 seconds – but if you’re a new rider, the Connext system, which is covered later in this article, allows the user to limit the speed and adjust the acceleration rates. However, the FX SVHO is a seriously powerful craft for a first-time user, and I would strongly recommend that if you are new to personal watercraft riding, you should start with the HO – the non-supercharged version – and learn your craft before moving up to the immensely powerful supercharged SVHO.  

Specs 2019 FX SVHO 2019 FX H0 2018[u1]  FX HO/SVHO 2019 GP1800
Length 3.58m 3.58m 3.56m 3.35m
Width 1.27m 1.27m 1.23m 1.22m
Height 1.23m 1.23m 1.23m 1.19m
Dry weight 371kg 379kg 377kg 349kg
Storage 166.7L 166.7L 125.5L 93.2kg

Last, but certainly not least, are the upgraded electronic features that come standard on all the FX models, and the first thing to stand out is the addition of an industry-first LCD 4.3in touch screen, which raises the bar for on-board PWC technology and puts Yamaha firmly at the front of the pack.

Along with the touch screen technology, Yamaha have installed their Connext software, which provides a plethora of features allowing the user to customise the settings for different modes of operation – towing, cruising, learner riders etc. Language and unit (mph/km) settings can also be customised along with the colour and brightness of the screen. Gone is the security push-in key fob required to fire up the engine – instead users can now enter a four-digit pin code straight onto the touch screen. 

The impressive system is designed to work in direct sunlight, with gloves on, and the screen controls are easy to navigate. The home screen features fuel level, RPM and trim position, while submenus provide more detailed information on MPG and trip data. But one of the most useful sections is the drive system, which allows the user to adjust the top speed and control the acceleration rate. This is especially useful when teaching first-time users. There is also a wellness screen to inform the user when the next service is due.

Moving from the touch screen to the handlebar controls, the No Wake mode has also been improved and users can now increase or decrease the tickover speed between 4mph and 6mph to match the environment they are riding in. Cruise Assist can also be set on the handlebars, but unlike a cruise control in a car when you can take your foot off the throttle, Cruise Assist will only set the speed and the user must keep the finger on the throttle, otherwise the craft will slow and stop. Speed can be increased or decreased using the Cruise Assist controls on the handlebars. 

Yamaha’s dual-throttle system, RiDE, now comes as standard on all the FX models and can also be controlled from the handlebars. The system includes a second throttle on the left-hand side, which controls the reverse and with a quick flick puts the craft into neutral. To complement the RiDE system, Yamaha have included a docking feature that reduces the tickover speed almost to a standstill, giving the user a lot of control and confidence when navigating tight areas such as marinas, or mooring up against a pontoon.

So there you have it – a complete overview of the new Yamaha FX series, and to say I was impressed is an understatement. The sleek and streamlined deck with the addition of the high-tech Connext system gives the FX an ultramodern feel, and the redesigned hull allows the craft to cut through the waves and corner with ease. The performance of the 1.8 power plant is nothing short of astonishing and has given me a renewed respect for the racers that utilise this engine when they battle the high seas in the AquaX series. But whether you’re a hard-core racer, a sea-riding enthusiast or just want to have fun with the family, the FX will deliver at every level.

Technical specs

Engine type 4-stroke, 4-cylinder, Super Vortex High Output
Supercharger SVHO – Yes (with intercooler); HO – NO
Displacement 1812cc
Bore x stroke 86.0mm x 78.0mm
Compression ratio 8.5:1
Pump type SVHO – 160mm high pressure; HO – 155mm high pressure
Fuel Unleaded premium gasoline
Fuel capacity 70 litres
Oil capacity 5.3 litres

Features at a glance

  • Industry-first colour touch screen instruments
  • New multi-mount system for your accessories
  • Drive Mode, Low RPM Mode and Security Mode
  • Industry-first footwell draining system
  • Luxurious 2-piece, 3-person cruiser seat (cruiser model only)
  • New deep step & dual handles for easy reboarding
  • Cruise Assist, No Wake mode and electronic trim
  • Revolutionary RiDE system – intuitive control
  • Supercharged SVHO 1812cc engine with EFI (SVHO only)
  • Sleek new body and hull design in NanoXcel 2
  • Electronic reverse with traction control
  • Unique 4-step tilt-adjustable steering system

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