Yamaha WaveRunner FX140

With the impressive Yamaha R1 engine powering the WaveRunner FX140, Mark Bracks discovers that no wake can stand in his way.

Yamaha WaveRunner FX140
Yamaha WaveRunner FX140

There is a definite link between personal watercraft and motorcycles. Hooning around on a killer jet ski, you could be forgiven for thinking that the PWC is a marine version of its two-wheeled cousin. In fact, in the history of these craft, it was a snowmobile that inspired the first embryonic vision of the PWC - but I don't believe driving a snowmobile can provide the same adrenalin-pumping, grin-producing fun.

Personal watercraft have certainly come a long way since those early days. The range of the models on offer is astounding, and the evolution of PWC is most apparent in the latest offering from Yamaha: the wake-taming FX140 WaveRunner.

The Yamaha FX140 will be earmarked as the world's first four-stroke PWC. This high-performance craft from a brand recognised for tuning-fork precision uses one of the most successful powerplants in motorcycling as its centrepiece - the insanely powerful R1 engine.

The original R1 set the benchmark for high-performance sports bikes when first released (and continues to do so) as it possesses a stunning power-to-weight ratio that can spell unbridled terror for the uninitiated but unbridled exhilaration for the veteran thrill seeker.

As craft these days are very similar in performance, the little nuances make all the difference. In this case, it's the powerplant that sets this craft ahead of the pack. Like the motorbikes from which the engine design was borrowed, the FX140 WaveRunner will indelibly stamp its name as a memorable craft. With an enviable power-to-weight ratio that will keep a rider and up to two passengers entertained, the WaveRunner is sure to provide heaps of excitement and pleasure for PWC enthusiasts, and to seal Yamaha's mark on the competitive lifestyle market.

While the FX140 may be almost twice the weight of its road-going R1 cousin, this marine version of the record-breaking engine still delivers impressive performance. In fact, the R1 on the FX140 is so dynamic it's easy to forget that with less than 1000cc, the engine is not as powerful as some of its turbo- or super-charged competition.

The R1 powerplant is a liquid-cooled, in-line, four-cylinder, DOHC, 20-valve four-stroke with a compression ratio of 11.4:1 totalling 998cc. Yamaha claims it puts out 140hp. While that may not be the same horsepower as Yamaha's roadbikes can boast, the marine R1 still packs plenty of oomph. After a day's intense riding the FX140, my body felt like it had been used as a sparring partner in Jeff Fenech's gym.

Besides the engine, the FX140 boasts a few other features for enthusiasts who want comfort and practicality as well as style.

The hull is a draft vee-hull with a spray guard at the front to keep you a tad drier when the chop gets rough or you get more excited with the throttle. There's a well-positioned and easy-to-read multi-function dash that tells you all you need to know at a glance. The dash features an audible warning system that ensures you'll be alerted if something goes awry. The craft even has handy storage bins and two drinkholders!

Seating is neutral and the five-way adjustable handlebars ensure that even if your knuckles drag on the ground or you're reach-challenged you'll find a position that suits. As for the glutes, the seating position and comfort is one of the best.

The FX140 certainly lives up to the brand name of WaveRunner but perhaps an even more apt title might have been "WaveBasher". This PWC it doesn't just simply head over waves but smashes through them to give a much smoother, confidence-inspiring ride than many other similar engine-capacity craft and, for that matter, many craft with bigger engine block displacement.

It gets out of the hole surprisingly fast considering the weight the one-litre engine is pushing. Once on the water it doesn't "sit above" the water like other craft, and you appreciate this when taking it outside the heads into the sea swell and surf or when there is heaps of chop in an inland waterway. An added feature if you go hull-up in any situation is the roll-over slant detection switch that cuts the ignition to stop unwanted water injection into the engine internals.

Because of the new-technology four-stroke, the infamous PWC noise pollution has been virtually cut to nil. Additionally, the FX140 returns better fuel economy than the older two-strokes and also features an electric bilge pump and a corrosion protection system to keep the salty nasties at bay.

Other features include the Yamaha Engine Management System - the same as the roadbike - with reverse and off-power steering. Every manufacturer claims to have some form of steering with no throttle but to get it pointing in the right direction in a hurry you can't beat a quick blip.

In the open water the FX140 is a gem and its wave-bashing and swell-suppressing talents inspire confidence in the rider and the passengers. Even in decent rolling swell and white water, the FX140 just ploughs on through, giving the rider and passengers a level ride. The FX140 can go fast, and hold steady, and there are no worries in holding it pinned, squeezing the throttle for all it's worth.

It has a great top-end speed and impressive acceleration for a 1000cc normally-aspirated craft.

As for the handling, the FX140 won't be embarrassed by other craft and when it comes to hot-dogging or chasing your mates on other craft it is adept at sudden directional changes without the stern skipping out unless really provoked.

One little so-called safety feature that can add a bit of fun to your day is what the brochure calls "Yamaha's trademarked visibility spout". Like many outboard motors, the R1 powerplant features a tell-tale design feature to inform the rider that the water cooling system is operating at its optimum level. This spout shoots water some two metres in the air like a mini water canon. The best thing about it is that you can sneak up beside someone on another craft (preferably if they're dry) and give them a lovely cold shower with a well-directed stream.

Like most of the modern craft, the FX140 features variable trim, which Yamaha uses as a serious sales pitch for the craft. However, on the test day, the riders on the FX140 all agreed that the trim system is pretty well neutral when riding one-up, and it's not until you ride with a pillion on the perch, or with a skier or wakeboarder in tow, that you will notice the difference.

The FX140 is also available in a Cruiser model. Basically, these two craft are identical except that the Cruiser has the bonus of added attention to the pillion perch, as the rear seat has been extended to provide a great lumbar support for the lower back.

This is truly a benefit, as whoever is on the back can sit there in comfort, especially under hard acceleration or through a bit of decent chop.

The Cruiser also has easy-to-reach grab handles just beside your bum.

There's plenty to like about the FX140 and it would take a fussy buyer not to seriously consider its attributes when replacing the old dunger or entering the market. These Yamahas are competitively priced to entice with the FX140 retailing for $17,770 while the Cruiser version adds nearly $900 to the price tag.

Price as tested: $17,770
Cruiser model has upgraded seat, pillion and lumbar support for an additional $900
Priced from: As above
Hull type: Shallow-vee PWC
Construction: GRP
Length: 3.34m
Width: 1.23m
Dry weight: 362kgs
Fuel capacity: 70lt
Storage: 100lt
Capacity: Three adults
Type: DOHC 20-valve, four-stroke EFI
Capacity: 998cc
Rated power: 140hp @ 10,000rpm
Drive: Axial-flow single-stage with three-blade stainless-steel impeller
SUPPLIED BY: Yamaha Motor, for more information visit www.yamaha-motor.com.au

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