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Born to Ride

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Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra LXA few years ago, Kawasaki introduced the most powerful PWC on the market — the 300-hp Ultra 300LX. The idea behind the new Jet Ski Ultra LX was to make a less expensive, more efficient version, and the result is a bike that’s still sport-driven but also comfortable for riders who don’t want to spend the whole day with their hair on fire. The reinforced hull is strong and light, and has been retooled to be more balanced and maneuverable. (One criticism of the old Ultra 300LX hull was that it could be unstable at speed.) The jet pump, driveshaft and nozzle all come from the 300, itself developed from Kawasaki’s racing machines, so the thrust is there.

Though not positioned specifically for cruising, the Ultra LX has a number of features that make it an admirable platform for this purpose. The watercraft’s big, in-line four is surprisingly efficient, so you’ll get a lot of exploration in before the 20.6-gallon fuel tank runs dry. Another reason you can disappear all day is the 60-gallon storage capacity. There’s also a new luxury seat with bolsters to keep everyone’s backsides happy, five-position steering that allows the rider to dial-in just the right amount of height, and splash deflectors to help keep everyone dry.

The big news from Yamaha for 2012 is the complete redesign of its feature-rich, three-person FX Series — including the flagship FX Cruiser SHO, FX Cruiser HO, FX SHO and FX HO. The models in this luxury-performance line are now 7.5 inches longer than previous years for a lengthier, more comfortable seat when riding with multiple passengers. In fact, the FX Cruiser models come with a new two-piece seat that has an additional bolster support for the second passenger, plus stacked “theater” seating so everyone has a view of the water ahead. Testing these models earlier in the year, I’ve never been happier to take a back seat with riding.

New mechanical neutral lets the rider stay in place when boarding, loading or docking, making these maneuvers more convenient, and new dash instrumentation allows easier manipulation of the engine features (cruise control, low-RPM mode). In addition, the stern reboarding area is larger and incorporates a new fast-access storage compartment for wet items and tow ropes. Altogether, the new FX series is designed for the utmost in form, function and unadulterated fun.

While Honda hasn’t introduced any new watercraft in the past several years, the company still sells the three-person AquaTrax F-15 and F-15X. Each bike features a four-stroke engine — the F-15X is turbocharged; the F-15 is not — as well as a UV-resistant foam seat, ample onboard storage, programmable keyless ignition and eye-catching colors.

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