When the world of high performance and low price collide, it’s all good.
Author: Sea-Doo GTR 215
As Charles Dickens once wrote, “It was the best of times…,” which pretty well described my adventure when I got away from the hubbub that is the Miami Boat Show for a few hours and channeled my inner Gilligan on a nearby deserted island. Setting off on a PWC adventure with Tim McKercher, who handles PR duties for Sea-Doo, isn’t unusual, but playing hooky at the boat show was a new one for me. I rode the GTR 215, which Sea-Doo bills as its entry-level “musclecraft,” and with the first squeeze of the throttle, I experienced why the “M” word is used to describe it.
The first thing I noticed about the GTR 215 is the orange, white and black paint job. And if you don’t like it, tough, because it’s the only flavor this dream cycle comes in. Sea-Doo is big on making statements, and this watercraft is no exception with its aggressive Flowing-Facet styling design that identifies it as a wolf in wolf’s clothing.
Of late, Sea-Doo has been relentless with its innovations, such as the Intelligent Suspension system on the GTX Limited iS 260, which greatly reduces the pounding riders take in choppy water, and the T3 racing hull on the RXP-X 260, which transformed me from the Clark Kent of PWC riders into a buoy-slashing you-know-who. As you might expect, these innovations aren’t free, so Sea-Doo wanted to give buyers who lust after a performance model a more affordable entry point. With its $11,699 price tag, the GTR 215 is more than $5,000 less than its top-of-the-line brethren. What Sea-Doo didn’t do is remove the essential high-tech features you need.
To become a member of the Sea-Doo Musclecraft clan, a watercraft better deliver a fast and furious response when a rider pulls the billet aluminum trigger throttle. With a 215 hp supercharged Rotax 1.5L 4-TEC engine, the GTR 215 delivers. Sea-Doo uses the same basic 1.5L, 3-cylinder engine block for all its watercraft, which range in horsepower from 130 to 260. Aftermarket companies such as Riva Racing routinely extract upward of 400 hp from the versatile block. So in its 215 hp configuration, the GTR’s powerplant is right in its comfort zone. It also features a closed-loop cooling system, making it saltwater friendlier.
The Rotax’s intercooled supercharger provides extra boost to jam more air into the combustion chamber, allowing more gas to be pumped in for additional power. The supercharger is belt-driven, so the instant you hit the throttle you get an extra kick in the seat of the pants. Sudden acceleration can be a bit disconcerting for passengers, especially if the driver is uncommunicative about launch time, so Sea-Doo created Touring Mode, which rolls on the power at a less-alarming pace. In Sport Mode, hang on, because it accelerates to 30 mph in only 2.3 seconds. Top speed bumps right against the 65 mph barrier that the PWC builder community and the Coast Guard have jointly agreed to.
Most PWCs in the Musclecraft lineup have the S3 hull — Sea-Doo’s longest and deepest V — but the GTR 215 features the GTI hull. So instead of 24 degrees of deadrise, it has a more modest 16 degrees. One advantage is that it offers more lateral stability, which is especially noticeable when toting riders. That gives the GTR a more forgiving ride that’s also more nimble and easier to toss around thanks to its nearly 7-inch shorter length compared to the S3. It also weighs 210 pounds less than the RXT-X aS 260, giving it a very favorable power-to-weight ratio.
Despite the flatter hull, the GTR 215 is really easy to turn; it leans over in a very predictable manner that inspires a lot of confidence to overachieve, even for riders with less experience. The only downside is that it rides rougher in an extreme chop than its longer, heavier brethren that have more deadrise for wave penetration. Back on the positive side, the flatter hull rides high in the water, which is less work for the driver and gets better fuel economy. Its best cruise speed is 40.5 mph, which translates to 7.8 mpg.
Because this is a three-seater, it can be the family water-wagon, though I’ve found when riding triple — with me at least — one needs to be a kid or a supermodel. Too much weight and it gets “wiggly.” For watersports, there is a standard ski tow with an option to add an adjustable-height tow bar and a wakeboard rack, although hardcore wakeboarders should probably check out the Wake Pro 215, which also includes a ballast system.
As a cruiser, the GTR 215 is well suited for long-range adventures, with 30.8 gallons of dry storage capacity and a 15.9-gallon fuel tank. To stretch your fuel, there’s ECO mode, which automatically finds the best cruise speed for current conditions. A handy option for cruisers is the time/distance-to-empty reading, which gives you peace of mind when trying to reach point B. Another assist for long-range cruising as well as enhanced performance is the standard Variable Trim System (VTS), which allows the rider to change running attitude for better out-of-the-hole performance or to tweak the ride in challenging conditions.
Despite the low price, the GTR 215 comes loaded with technology and features. Because it has the drive-by-wire Intelligent Throttle Control (iTC) system, you also get the iBR braking system that is a Sea-Doo exclusive, which allows the GTR to stop up to 100 feet sooner than other PWCs thanks to its electronic reverse. This also makes it easier to dock, since you can go from forward to neutral to reverse without taking your hands off the handlebar. And you always start in neutral, which prevents others from making you the subject of their YouTube viral video.
A couple of options make the GTR 215 the complete package. High on the list of must-haves is the Speed Tie system, which gives you retractable docklines. Cruise control is a must for long-range explorers, and Ski Mode allows you to deliver the perfect tow for watersports participants. One option that should be a standard feature is the fold-down boarding step. Adding Sea-Doo’s revolutionary iCatch MOVE trailer will make launching and retrieving a pleasure.