- Its grunt and grip verge on intimidating and yet its rider interface is very reassuring and intuitive.
- It is massively rapid, almost magically taut in the turn and rigorously responsive to the input of the man at the helm.
- When you get her on the water, the GP1800 feels suitably shocking.
- It’s the kind of boat that propels your cheek fat to the back of your head and drives your eyelids into their sockets.
When Yamaha launched a new race-ready heir to their venerable GP performance line, PBR was first in the queue to check it out. Alex Smith reports.
Yamaha’s WaveRunner range is extremely comprehensive. It offers three variants of the affordable entry-level EX craft, four variants of the recreational VX model and five variants of the luxury high-performance cruising model, known as the FX. But like the iconic, race-ready SuperJet stand-up ski, the new GP1800 stands alone as the only model of its type in the entire fleet. In fact, until its launch at the end of 2016, there had been no GP model at all for well over a decade. Despite its illustrious forbears having achieved great things on the race circuit, the GP story had stuttered with the market’s transition to 4-stroke power, and Yamaha’s world-beating muscle craft line had faded from view. But with its long-overdue resurrection in the form of the new GP1800, it’s time for diehard PW sports fans to get excited.
Some Promising Basics
When you first lay eyes on the GP1800, all is much as you would want it to be. It’s a thickset, deep-chested, masculine-looking boat with a gratuitous feast of faceted panels, crisp tritone graphics, upholstery textures, metallic highlights and dynamic angles. It’s loud, brash and really rather obvious-looking, but as a race-ready muscle craft and the embodiment of an attitude as well as a bloodline, understated magnolia was never going to be the way to go.
Despite the scale of its visual impact, however, the GP1800 is not that big a boat. At 3.35 metres in length, it is in fact relatively short for a high-end three-man craft – and in tandem with its NanoXcel2 construction, that does great things for its weight. NanoXcel2 is apparently 18% lighter than the original NanoXcel – and that was apparently 25% lighter than standard sheet moulding composite – so despite boasting the engine with the largest displacement in the industry, the GP1800 comes in at just 349kg, a massive 66kg less than the comparable three-man performance craft from Sea-Doo’s fleet.
So far so good, then – but in other ways the GP1800 is not quite the dawning of a new age it appears to be. After all, it uses the same hull as the established VXR model and the same supercharged Super Vortex High Output 1812cc engine as some of Yamaha’s FX models. What it does add, though (beyond menacing looks and pared-back weight), is a new 160mm eight-vane pump and inlet, plus a nozzle and deflector redesigned specifically for purpose.
Putting it into Practice
When you get her on the water, the GP1800 feels suitably shocking. Hook her up, and even without any trim manipulation or rider guile you’re passing 52 knots in less than 5 seconds and 62 knots in less than 8. It’s the kind of boat that propels your cheek fat to the back of your head and drives your eyelids into their sockets. It is wildly rapid – and if the grunt is ferocious, the grip is even more remarkable …
There’s apparently some extra lift generated by the new aft plate, which enables the GP1800 to engage the forward surfaces of the hull for much sharper turning – and I have to say, it works almost too well for the likes of me. You can put her over at pace and you know the boat will grip and drive and turn as hard and as fast as you ask it. When you push that envelope, the only question is whether you have the technique and the physical strength to stay on board. That’s by no means a fault of the boat – on the contrary, it’s a resounding strength – but you do have to be proactive in your helming of the GP1800 because if you get lazy with your weight or your body position during rapid manoeuvres, you will get ejected from the topside in very short order. When you’re riding hard, it’s a physical engagement. It demands your attention and it can sting you for your failings, but these are exactly the handling traits an experienced speed merchant or racer will relish.
It’s interesting to note that the GP1800 is shorter, narrower, lower and lighter than the FX SVHO Cruiser with which it shares a power plant. I was lucky enough to test these two high-performance craft back to back, and while there’s really not much to choose between them in terms of outright pace, the GP1800 shades it in terms of acceleration and wins outright in terms of handling agility. Given that they’re a very similar price, I have no doubt that the bulk of buyers will continue to favour the fast, touring-friendly FX series, but for those who want uncompromising sport, the GP1800 is a truly fearsome piece of equipment.
Ferocity with Manners
When you ride the GP1800 in a more conservative fashion, it’s much more user-friendly than you might expect. The five-point trim switch, for instance, is not the showroom placebo you tend to see elsewhere in the industry, but a genuinely useful helming tool. At the top end, with wide-open throttle, trimming in from position 5 to position 1 drops the hull sufficiently to rein in your pace from 62 to 55 knots. In doing so, it also creates an even more grippy and pliable experience, transmitting a tangible sense of the water shapes through the handlebars that the extra trim helps dial out. With its simple two-button interface at the base of the left grip, it offers easy adjustments, with digital indicators displaying your settings on the dash. But even if you don’t fancy playing with it, the mid-trim setting of 3 will provide everything most of us will ever want or need – planing in an instant, lifting high and flat at pace, and turning with a degree of aggression that is profoundly affecting.
Yamaha’s RiDE control system is equally simple. You tweak your right-hand throttle to move forwards and your left to go astern. You can use the left-hand trigger at speed to drop the bucket and haul yourself to a standstill or you can simply release both triggers to engage ‘neutral’. It’s thoroughly confidence-inspiring to use, it enables you to keep both hands on the bars, and where low-speed manoeuvres in tight situations are required, it proves itself a very well-conceived driver aid.
In a first for Yamaha, there’s even a remote security device with ‘Low-RPM Mode’. This is designed to enable you to limit top speed for controlled manoeuvring or to disable the ignition, preventing accidental start-up or an unauthorised joyride, all at the touch of a button on the remote transmitter. And if that all sounds pretty impressive, the rider’s physical interface on the GP1800 is just as friendly as the electronic one …
The deep-cut seat ledge enables you to jam your backside in position and stay securely forward with no effort at all; the integrated wing mirrors are much bigger and more useful than most I’ve seen, even on Yamaha’s own craft; there’s plenty of room in the footwells to adjust your position at pace; and with those colour-coded handlebars (blue in this case), it’s very satisfying to know that you’re straddling a machine with a difference. I appreciate that sounds like a slightly odd thing to say, but once you’ve had a good play on this boat, there is a very distinct and rewarding sense of occasion in knowing that your trigger finger can unleash that kind of poke – and being reminded of that truth by some spangly blue handlebars does no harm at all.
Having been chucked off a couple of times while pushing my own boundaries to the casual amusement of the unflustered GP1800, I can also testify first-hand that the soft-touch, spring-loaded boarding step and the Hydro-Turf-lined aft platform are also extremely easy to use. Even with fatigued arms and mild bewilderment, it’s a simple job clambering back on board, retaking your seat and going again – and that all bodes well for this boat’s credentials as a recreational tow boat, as well as an unyielding speed machine.
I have the utmost respect for the GP1800 – not least because its sheer ability leaves me no choice. Its grunt and grip verge on intimidating and yet its rider interface is very reassuring and intuitive. It is massively rapid, almost magically taut in the turn and rigorously responsive to the input of the man at the helm. Despite packing a 4-cylinder 1812cc supercharged engine, it’s both lighter and more affordable than the equivalent three-man performance craft from the Sea-Doo fleet. And while it’s fair to suggest that this boat is better defined as the coming together of existing technologies from other platforms than an original in its own right, that in no way detracts from the potency of the experience. It’s a much better boat than I am a rider, and while I would enjoy the process of getting better and exploring its limits, even my brief dalliance with the GP1800 saw me stepping off the boat with aching muscles and widened eyes. If you want a proper sporting PW, it would be absurd not to pay it some attention.
- LOA: 3.35m
- Beam: 1.22m
- Height: 1.19m
- Weight: 349kg
- Fuel capacity: 70 litres
- People capacity: 3
- Storage capacity: 93.2 litres
- Power: Yamaha won’t tell us
- Engine: Supercharged SVHO 1812cc EFI
- Top speed: 63 knots
- Acceleration 0–52 knots: 4.8 seconds
- Acceleration 0–62 knots: 7.8 seconds
- Blistering acceleration
- Razor-sharp grip
- User-friendly interface
- Competitive price
- Limited storage
- Niche appeal
Notable Standard Features
- Supercharged SVHO 1812cc EFI
- NanoXcel2 hull
- New 160mm pump
- RiDE ‘gear’ selection system
- Rapid electronic trim
- Integrated mirrors
- Ski towing eye
- Hydro-Turf mats
- Soft-touch reboarding step
- Metallic paint colours and graphics
- Textured, multi-tone, race-style seat
- Clear meters for F-N-R and electronic trim
- Remote security with Low-RPM Mode
- Glovebox, under-seat and bow storage