The nice man from Sea Doo told me the 2016 Sea Doo RXP-X 300, with its all new supercharged 300 horsepower engine, would provide one G of force under full acceleration. I ride the fastest motorcycles in the world, I should be fine... right?
Wondering why you’re reading a personal watercraft review on the world’s best bike site, which is part of the world’s best car site? PWCs are the motorcycles of sea and we think that if you like motorcycles, you’ll like these too.
Also, who says no to a 300 HP Sea Doo? I sure as hell won’t.
(Full Disclosure: BRP, the company that owns Sea Doo, Ski Doo, and Can Am, wanted me to ride their 2016 skis so badly that they flew me to Nashville where I froze my skinny little ass off in the water for a day. They also gave me ribs, which were delicious, but did not help me warm up.)
As you can imagine, PWC sales dropped dramatically when the economy took a dive. The first thing to go were expensive toys and few things fit that description better than personal watercraft. Between 2006 and 2010, the PWC market in the U.S. shrunk 50 percent, according to Dealernews. In that same article, they claimed that “value models,” which they stated were models under $9,000, were the only ones that were still somewhat selling.
But then, something interesting happened in 2013. Sea Doo released the Sea Doo Spark which came in at 90 horsepower, 400 pounds, and a starting MSRP at $5,000. That’s half the weight and about half the price of everything else that existed in the market - and a better power to weight ratio than anything twice the price.
Just as bikes like the Honda 300 and 500 range have done in motorcycling, the Spark sparked (sorry) the PWC industry. I mean, two of them and the trailer Sea Doo offers with them weighs less than 1,500 pounds. Two adults could pick one up. They cost less than any new dirtbike. There isn’t a single thing not to love about a PWC that feels like a dirtbike on the water again and, fortunately for the PWC industry, many people agreed. For many, it was a return to the small and lightweight PWC’s of old - which is exactly what had been missing
For 2016, following with the theme of PWCs following motorcycles, Sea Doo is launching their new RXP-X 300 and RXT-X 300. This time, it’s a supercharger and a bunch of fancy electronics and changes aimed at improving control.
The Specs That Matter
Both skis are built using an all new, Rotax 1630 ACE, which is supercharged and makes 300 horsepower. To achieve this, they used a longer stroke than their previous 1503 engine and now use a new, faster spinning supercharger which produces 30% more boost. This engine has been tuned to deliver more torque, which means you carry more momentum and grunt as you ride through chop. You also feel less lag as the ski moves in and out of the water.
Both skis also come with Sea Doo’s Intelligent Brake and Reverse (iBR) system which essentially points a jet in the opposite direction of the main to help the ski stop, which is does 100 feet sooner than any other ski with some sort of braking system.
While ergonomics might not seem important, I can assure you that 75 mph on choppy water is quite convincing of the opposite. These new skis have Sea Doo’s Ergolock system, which is made up of a seat shaped to help keep the rider in place, molded areas for your knees (like a motorcycle tank is shaped), angled footwells, and a handlebar that is adjustable and that has grips shaped to help support your palms.
The more responsive engine combined with the improved hull shapes, better weight displacement, and Ergolock system make these ski’s 300 hp, an absolutely absurd number, actually manageable in the water. Sea Doo know that one of the keys to both riding fast and having fun is feeling of control, and all of these changes have been with control as the goal.
The main difference between the two models is that the RXP-X model is for buoy courses and tighter racing, while the RXT-X model is more for stability in rough water and straight line endurance racing.
The RXP-X uses the T3 hull, which is a medium sized platform with a deep-v hull that is better for lean in and precise handling. It’s 130 inches long, 48 inches wide, weighs 850 pounds, and has storage for 30 liters worth of your crap. It retails for $15,199.
The RXT-X uses the S3 hull, which is a longer platform designed to be stable and predictable. It’s longer, at 139 inches, but the same width as the RXP-X at 48. It packs 43 liters of storage, which brings its weight up to 915 pounds. It has an MSRP of $15,399.
We Rode The Damn Thing
To test Sea Doo’s latest and greatest, we head to the Cumberland River in Nashville, Tennessee. We put in around 8am Monday morning, while the air was still a chilly 60 degrees and water was calm. From there, we head east to Old Hickory, where we could unleash the full fury of a machine that was part purpose-built race machine and part bucking bronco.
I started my day on the two-seater Spark with the 900 ACE HO (high output) motor, which is the smallest hull design paired with the faster of the two engines it’s offered with. While puny next to these hulking brutes beside me, the Spark is quite capable of impressive speeds - as long as the water is smooth. I’m what some would call svelte (yes, others may call it scrawny), and the slightest of disturbances in the water launched the ski and I from it, costing us precious momentum.
Unable to keep up with the big boys, I fell back to do what the Spark does best - dick around. The Spark is so light and nimble that flinging it into 180 degree turns or spinning circles to create a wake to use as a ramp is truly effortless. It’s a motocross bike without consequences, like riding a supermoto in a field of marshmallows. Come in too hot and launch yourself off it’s back and the worst thing you’ll have is a bruised ego. The Spark makes 20 mph feel like 50 mph, or 45 mph like 100 mph in a way that’s charming - in the same way a Yamaha R3 makes freeway speeds fun.
And then, all too soon, it was time to stop and switch. Someone asked to trade and I obliged, trying all the while to hide my disappointment. I gazed longingly as my beloved Spark frolicked with its new owner, without so much as saying goodbye, and failed to take in which model I’d been stuck with. The red ones were the new fast ones and this one wasn’t red. I told myself this would be a good stepping stone to the “big guns” and popped it into sport mode for the next leg.
What I experienced next, as the handlebars attempted to rip themselves from my hands, can only be compared to wrestling with Marshawn Lynch over the last bag of skittles. I was no longer riding a machine, I was hanging onto a supercharged dolphin that had been given meth. I was at 70 mph before I knew what was happening, the Ergolock seat the only thing keeping me on the ski at all.
Turns out, they’d brought a white and yellow model of the RXT-X and I was to be its next victim. Riding, or hanging on to, the RXT-X is unlike any other ski I’ve ridden. Sure, Kawasaki makes a 310 horsepower PWC, but it has more lag and doesn’t feel nearly as snappy. It warns you you’re about to get it, and then power comes on. The Sea Doo is different. The Sea Doo is angrier.
By this time, we’d made it up the river, had traveled up a lock (which feels sort of like traveling into a Bond villain’s hideout, and were making our way into the
lake section of the river that was really wide. It was switching time again.
This time, I went for the RXP-X, which shares the motor with the water rocket I’d been riding, but is shorter and has a hull design which makes it handle far better. For a lake-ish area like where we were to spend the rest of the day, the RXP-X was the perfect weapon. I had plenty of room to scare the shit out of myself with the speed but also plenty of room to try and toss myself from its back.
I didn’t think that the hull changes would make a massive difference in being able to help control all that power, but the two models really are drastically different.
While 300 horsepower is still an insane amount of power and far more than someone with as little experience as I have can fully use, the RXP-X really turned that power into something I could use and have fun with. The RXT-X is impressive and all, but going that fast on the water is something you achieve more than something you enjoy and I prefer to enjoy my powersports unless I’m racing.
What We’d Change
We aren’t a PWC site. The purpose of this review is not to compare it to other competitors, nor is that something we’re comfortable saying we’re experts enough to make claims about. So, while I can’t compare the Sea Doo to the Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra 310R and nit pick differences or tell you which one you’ll win more races on, I can talk a bit about problems with the Sea Doos in general.
Okay, so that’s a lie too. I could do that if there were any, but for the recreational riders or those fairly new to personal watercraft the new Sea Doo skis are incredible well thought out. The electronics are easy to figure out, the new handlebar grips, contoured knee cutouts, and angled foot wells are all perfectly designed and seem rugged enough to withstand some serious abuse. The only thing this day on the water left me wanting for was a nice middle ground between the RXP-X and the Spark.
Why You Should Care
I was the only journalist at the launch of the 2016 Sea Doo lineup who didn’t work for a PWC or boat specific website or magazine. While that might make it sound like I was there by accident or didn’t belong, Sea Doo are intelligent enough to know that people who like motorcycles will also most likely enjoy personal watercrafts as well. They’re big fans of our site and of our love for all things with motors and thought you guys might like their skis. And they’re correct.
I happen to live in one of the best regions of the country for motorcycling, but one of the worst regions for using personal watercraft. Not only does Southern California not have any water, we have too many people and too many laws for PWCs to be very successful here. However, there are many of you who don’t live here and for whom a personal watercraft could be a much more appropriate recreational vehicle than a side by side or dirt bike.
If you also happen to have a little disposable income handy, I think a pair of Sparks and the Spark Move II trailer could be a way better way to spend $12k than a dirtbike.
Personally, the Spark is still the PWC I find the most interesting. It’s incredible how much fun and performance they’ve packed into such an inexpensive machine, and it really does feel like riding a dirtbike on the water.
If you ever have the chance to rent one, or live near a lake where you could take them, I highly recommend finding a way to ride one.
Sean MacDonald is the brand spanking new Editor of Lanesplitter. He likes long walks on the beach, searching for the best new burger spots to ride to, and his girlfriend says his snoring sounds like “braaaaap.” Follow him and his adventures on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.