BRP calls its new Sea-Doo GTi series a “VX killer.” That’s the Yamaha WaveRunner VX that Sea-Doo is out to bump off. Since its intro six years ago, the Yamaha VX has offered buyers quiet, efficient four-stroke performance in a boat that cost thousands less than premium three-passenger models, and it’s been the industry’s best-seller since it’s launch. Clearly chafed, Sea-Doo has equipped its mostly-new 2011 GTi series with technology and performance Yamaha does not offer, and hopes to lure entry-level buyers to its brand.
The four new GTi models range in price from $8,999 to $11,499, and are offered with a choice of 130- or 155-hp engines and a package of features and electronic enhancements that escalates with the price of each model. Yamaha will offer three VX models in 2011, priced from $8,299 to $9,399, each with a 110-hp 1.0-liter engine that will push those models to about 53 mph.
Each of the new GTi models is based loosely on the previous GTi series, using the same hull with slight modifications and the same powertrains. The deck, however, is all new, redesigned to enhance ergonomics and refresh styling, with a lower profile and changes to the seat and footwells that move the center of gravity closer to the water. The instrument pod is now located farther forward on the cowl to be more visible, and the seat shape is narrow at the nose so it’s easier to straddle by a standing rider.
Sea-Doo says the running surface of the new GTi hull is essentially the same as that of the previous model, retaining a rather shallow 16-degree deadrise. Overall length is increased by about three inches. The bow is extended slightly to accommodate transverse chines to knock down spray, while more length was added at the stern to both enhance buoyancy aft and to also expand the size of the boarding platform. Both changes will make the new GTi work better with a passenger – or two – aboard.
All models in the GTi line are equipped with iBR (intelligent brake and reverse), perhaps the most-significant bit of technology to find its way to a PWC since the four-stroke engine. Through a lever on the left handlebar, iBR offers the finger-tip control of an electronic directional control system.
On start-up, iBR always places the reverse bucket over the jet pump outlet in a “neutral” thrust position – the Sea-Doo stays stationary save for wind and current. Simply blip the finger throttle, and iBR instantly selects forward thrust. Flick the iBR lever to go back to neutral, or hold it down to shift to reverse. I find iBR to be intuitive to use, and it allows the rider to maneuver in close quarters without taking either hand off the bars, without giving up throttle control, and even without looking down.
The braking aspect of iBR is activated by pulling the lever when the boat is at speed, just as you’d apply the brake to any other power-sports vehicle. The system electronically cuts the throttle, drops the reverse bucket, and then applies enough throttle to dramatically slow the boat without pitching the rider over the handlebars. In a panic stop, the rider will be soaked by a wall of water coming over the bow, but it’s possible to modulate the lever to avoid that fate. The braking feature is probably of most value to beginning riders who may not instinctively turn and power away from trouble. Sea-Doo says that iBR shortens braking distance by about 100 feet at 30 mph, and in my experience that seems about right.
GTi models now have a drive-by-wire throttle and on-board GPS to report boat speed, and even the base GTi 130 has a compass display on the data screen. The iControl system offers two engine-performance profiles. The default on start-up is the Touring mode. The alternative is Sport mode, which serves up more-aggressive acceleration. It’s aggravating that the system does not allow the owner to set Sport mode as the default on start-up. If you want Sport mode, you need to push a menu button on the handlebar twice after each start of the engine.
All GTi models except the base boat also have a new ECO mode in which the engine management system adjusts performance to achieve the best-possible fuel economy. The system limits top speed to about 40 mph, and the acceleration is even softer than Touring mode allows. BRP says ECO delivers 8 percent better overall fuel economy. In my test ride on the GTi Limited, which can display fuel flow on its data screen, fuel consumption was five gallons per hour (gph) at full throttle (41 mph) in ECO, but 10 gph at full throttle (58 mph) when ECO was turned off.
The base GTi 130 has the 130-hp engine and iBR. Up one notch is the GTi 130 SE, which adds an adjustable nozzle trim, a deeper touring seat, ECO mode and a reboarding step. The GTi 155 SE has all of that plus the 155-hp engine. Either engine delivers enough power to pull a wakeboarder or ride two-up. With the 130-hp engine, expect a top speed of about 54 mph. The 155-hp models top out at about 59 mph. At the top of the line is the GTi Limited, which has all the features of the GTi SE 155 and adds more functions – 29 total – to the digital data display, cruise control, VTS trim that can be adjusted on the fly, a ski eye, and an array of goodies including a cover, a dry bag and more.
On a day-long test ride, during which I got to try each of the new GTi models, I found the new ergonomics to be outstanding when sitting. The seat held me firmly in place, there was plenty of room for my longer-than-average legs, and the handlebars put my arms in a natural, comfortable position. However, I found the bars to be too low to ride in comfort while standing for more than a short distance – there’s too much pressure on my wrists. I’m six-feet one-inch tall, but there were shorter riders at the media event who made the same comment. It’s something to consider if you do a lot of riding in rough water or just like to stand.
BRP likes to call its GTi hull “playful.” It tends to skim over the water rather than plowing through it like the deeper, heavier GTX hull. This makes the GTi feel light and nimble, and the hull tracks well in flat water and light chop, holds a nice line in tight turns, and delivers a ride that won’t beat you up. However, like the previous GTi hull, this new model hunts badly when running along wakes, as when following a boat or riding with a group of watercraft. The hull hunts up the sides of wakes and often does not respond to steering input unless it’s deliberate and combined with a firm shot of throttle, which can be a little disconcerting.
The Sea-Doo GTi offers an enticing package for entry-level buyers to consider, with power options and some features no other brand offers. We’ll see if that’s enough to knock the VX off it’s best-seller perch.
Charles Plueddeman is Boats.com’s outboard, trailer, and PWC expert. He is a former editor at Boating Magazine and contributor to many national publications since 1986.