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Review: Yamaha AR190

Yamaha pulled a fast one when it introduced the new AR190. While the rest of the jet boat industry was thinking bigger, it was thinking smaller. In fact, this 19-footer is the “mini me” of the company’s runabout fleet for 2012. But you know what they say about judging things based on size alone.

“We’ve been researching the 19-foot segment for years to understand what this buyer is looking for and how Yamaha can exceed those desires,” said Scott Watkins, Yamaha’s product manager. “This boat hit everything right. It’s a 19-foot boat that feels like 21 feet. There’s not one inch of wasted space.”

The boats’ designers put a lot of time into the bow, Watkins said. They carried the beam forward to allow more room for two adults to stretch out. There’s a molded-in anchor locker with a drain — something you won’t see in a lot of 19-footers — plus two cup holders, two speakers for the standard stereo and two under-seat storage compartments. The port one extends back into the console for stowing larger items.

A console door provides a second access point to the portside storage compartment; that’s another feature you typically see on larger sport boats. The same could be said for the stylized upholstery, premium bucket seats, snap-in carpet, J-shaped cockpit bench with contoured backrests and fold-down wakeboard tower. All of these things add up to a more comfortable boat and superior value.

The real difference-maker for many buyers, though, will be the stern. Like Yamaha’s other jet boats, this one has a “stern lounge” and swim platform that together act as a patio on the water. The design incorporates two aft-facing backrests, integrated cup holders, non-slip matting, wet storage, a ski tow eye and swim ladder. I’ve spent a lot of time on Yamaha jet boats, and it’s hard to beat the laid-back ease of this feature, made possible by the drive train and compact engine that sits low in the hull.

Speaking of which, the AR190 is powered by the same four-stroke 1.8L marine engine that comes with Yamaha’s flagship models. The boat is quick to plane and, not surprisingly, is a lot of fun to drive. I reached a top speed of 45 mph during my test. New are the Cruise Assist and No Wake Mode features. The former works like the cruise control on your car, great for longer trips or for towing a skier; the latter allows the driver to set the engine to no-wake speed at the push of a button, which is a nice convenience.

While it might seem an unlikely strategy to go smaller when “bigger is better,” what this 19-footer does is introduce buyers to the idea of prop-less power at the entry level. The real payoff comes later, when these folks trade up to their next Yamaha. With its spritely performance and many upscale, user-friendly features, the AR190 does a good job of ensuring that its customers will stick around.

SPECIFICATIONS
LOA: 19 feet, 2 inches
Beam: 8 feet
Draft: 1 feet, 2 inches
Dry Weight: 2,161 pounds
Fuel Capacity: 30 gallons
Max Horsepower: 180 hp
Base Price: $26,999

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