TEXT BY JUSTIN STANNARD PHOTOGRAPHY BY DANNY EVANS
48 PERSONAL WATERCRAFT ILLUSTRATED • OCT/NOV 2009
RP refuses to give up. First, it set a new performance standard with Sea-Doo’s 215-horsepower supercharged Rotax in 2004. Then, when Kawasaki answered back with its potent new Ultra 250X in 2007, Sea-Doo was already hard at work; the Ultra enjoyed only 12 months of “Horsepower King” status before the 255-horse X-Series SeaDoos nudged it from its throne in 2008. Instead of becoming mired in an escalating horsepower war of astronomical proportions, Sea-Doo decided instead to slam on the brakes – literally – by focusing their efforts on innovation and safety. New for 2009, Sea-Doo’s GTX Limited iS 255 (boy, is that a mouthful!) is based on the same aggressive, stepped S3 hull as its RXT iS brother.The GTX Limited iS 255, which takes the place of last year’s 215horse GTX Limited, is nearly identical to the RXT at first glance. The same sharp angles and floating top deck grace its muscular frame, yet the GTX’s cruiser seatbacks are a tad more pronounced and supportive than those found on the sporty RXT iS. The computer-controlled iBR (intelligent Brake and Reverse) system, found also on the RXT, is monumental, to say the least, and is capable of stopping the 1000-plus-pound runabout from full speed in just two-thirds the distance normally needed to coast to a stop. Geared more toward the weekend cruiser than the aggressive buoycutter, the GTX Limited features an Intelligent Suspension (iS) with more plush valving, spring rate and programming. Further distinguishing the GTX is its deep-hued Topaz-Mist Metallic color, which tastefully adorns both the craft and its hinged seat. But aside from that, you’ll have to look deeper for the rest of the cruiser’s swanky options. The GTX Limited features retractable mooring lines hidden in the top deck’s portside fairing and rear swim platform. These additions include high-strength nylon cords to make docking a breeze – no more fishing around for soggy, stinky rope at the bottom of the storage bin. When you’re ready to take off, the spring-loaded lines zip back and the toggles snap flush against the trim. Also, a removable organizer keeps things dry and tidy in the glovebox. For even more Limited Package schwag, look no further than the IMFDIC.Wait, what? You mean you don’t know what IMFDIC stands for? The Interactive Multi-Function Digital Information Center is Sea-Doo’s overly complicated, acronymic way of saying there’s a veritable cornucopia of cool stuff at the rider’s fingertips. Included in its 28-function capability is suspension-setting control, no-wake mode, depth finder, cruise control, GPS-monitored speedo and compass (with lat/long readings), VTS (Variable Trim System) position, ambient water temp, and a bunch of other cool stuff. The part we liked best was that the instruments tilt with the bars – meaning you always have a clear view of the well-designed gauges in any one of the handlebars’ five possible positions – and all IMFDIC activity is easily controlled by ergonomically located buttons on the handlebars. But enough of that; how does she ride? Pulling into the Cabrillo Beach launch ramp in San Pedro, California, the wind rippled the early-morning glass. The wind-whipped swells would provide the perfect conditions
to push the 255-horsepower Rotax and iS suspension of our GTX Limited to its, well, limits. With several toggles in reach, the Sea-Doo’s controls are ergonomically friendly and easy to reach, but curiously difficult to master. Testers struggled with the bizarre Start/Off button which required some to unhook the lanyard, wait a few seconds, reattach the lanyard and then hit the button. Sometimes, it fired right up. Other times, not at all. The cruise control was totally unresponsive and frustrating, while the iS and VTS controls operated like clockwork. After untying the Speed Tie lines from the dock (we really loved those, by the way), the first thing I noticed was how incredibly easy it was to maneuver the 139-inch-long Sea-Doo around the other launch-ramp patrons.After learning to not instinctively feel around the left fairing for a reverse lever, I quickly grew accustomed to the GTX’s left-mounted neutral/reverse/brake lever – and really liked using it. Running a completely fly-by-wire throttle system, the GTX’s throttle response is sharp. However, due the lack of a traditional throttle cable, the throttle trigger doesn’t have the familiar lever tension that most riders are accustomed to, and may take some time to adjust to. With the iS set to automatically adjust to my riding, I headed out for some chop. In the small waves and chatter, the iS responded brilliantly, absorbing the stutter bumps and allowing me to relax in the lumbar-supportive alcove in the seat. But braving the heavier stuff, on the other hand, was a different story. Unfortunately, Sea-Doo’s hopes of the GTX Limited iS being the ultimate rough-water craft just don’t float. First off, the actual coil-over linkage acts as a highpressure pogo stick at times – preloading the craft on the face of a wave and launching it higher upon rebounding and giving the rider an unnatural feeling of being airborne while the pump is still engaged. It also doesn’t provide the responsive feedback necessary to adjust and control the craft at high s pe e d ;
Aggressive, sharp angles and rich, tasteful colors make the GTX Limited iS 255 stand out from the crowd. “They say taupe is very soothing.”
OCT/NOV 2009 • watercraft.com 49
While it may not have charmed the pants off of us, the new GTX Limited iS 255 is a revolutionary new ski that will no doubt set the trends for decades to come.
Simple and well-hidden, these retractable mooring lines are a fantastic addition to the GTX’s Limited Package and make for easy docking.
Not only does the GTX Limited iS offer 5-way tilt steering, but the handsome gauges pivot with the handlebars.
Under the plastic engine cover rests the same 255horse, supercharged and intercooled, Rotax threecylinder powerplant as the X-Series and RXT iS models.
50 PERSONAL WATERCRAFT ILLUSTRATED • OCT/NOV 2009
SPECIFICATIONS 2009 Sea-Doo GTX Limited iS 255 List Price: ...................................................................$16,499 Dry Weight: ................................................................948 lbs. Length: ..........................................................................139 in. Width: .............................................................................48 in. Height: ............................................................................44 in. Engine: ..............................Supercharged and intercooled Rotax SOHC 4-stroke, 12-valve, inline 3-cylinder Horsepower: ...............................................................255 hp Garmin GPS Max Speed: ......................................66.3 mph (light chop)
the word “insulated” comes to mind. Second, the upper deck doesn’t always move in a solid up/down motion inside of the lower deck. Frequently, a bothersome squeaking and groaning was heard as the GTX protested any off-camber wave hits that sent one deck ramming laterally into the other. While slippery and quick on the straightaways, the S3 hull’s handling leaves much to be desired. Sometimes, though the bars were turned almost to lock in either direction, the craft tended to plow straight ahead unless coaxed into the turn by applying a handful of throttle and leaning in. In tighter turns, I noticed that the GTX commonly slid across the water (choppy or smooth) until eventually catching an edge and all but bucking my passenger and me over the side. Overall, the Sea-Doo GTX Limited iS 255 is a valiant effort in the advancing of fullsized personal watercraft. The suspension does great on lake-type chop and small waves, though it regularly bottoms-out with two riders and lacks the stability and rigidity needed for oceangoing riders. The iBR is easily the favorite feature.The ability to apply brakes and slow your boat when needed should be mandatory on all future runabouts, and the trigger-operated neutral/reverse/brake lever is just pure genius. The fit and finish of this particular SeaDoo failed to garner praise from all of our testers, as many of its plastic components (like the glovebox hatch and hinged rear swim platform) felt frail and wobbly – not up to par with a PWC that would likely cost them over $18,000. Footwells without drain holes and the storage buckets beneath the folding rear platform fill up with seawater almost instantaneously with no place to go. Also, we’d really like to see more than a
meager 16.4 gallons of storage on a cruiser (though it is watertight). Compare that to the 31.4-gallon RXT 255 or 53-gallon Kawasaki Ultra 260LX and its plain to understand. Plus, the two-latch closures on the hood and rear platform storage areas are difficult to access, requiring you to lean way over the boat to open the second latch while docked. Ultimately, the GTX Limited iS 255 is a grand exploration in what a watercraft could be. A little ahead of its time and suffering from refinement woes typical of a first-year run, we fully expect to see a better-executed version in the near future. Sea-Doo, again, has thrown down the gauntlet, only it’s done so into an arena that nobody else was comPWI peting in.
What We Like • Trigger-operated brakes are very effective and safe • Great-looking gauges that tilt with the handlebars • Retractable mooring lines make docking a breeze • Brilliant ergonomics let you control everything from the handlebars
What We Don’t • Unresponsive, insulated, loosey-goosey ride lacks confidence • Suspension rebound creates exaggerated bouncing at times • Cheap plastic hinges make for wobbly hatches and swimstep • Storage is almost non-existent.