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2021 Yamaha Waverunner – The Good, Bad, And Ugly

2020 was a crazy year for all jet ski manufacturers. With everyone stuck at home, you had jet ski dealerships selling out of new and used watercraft like there was no tomorrow.

Yamaha was no exception to this as their sales grew like crazy.

Riding that momentum, Yamaha has released 11 new models and ones that the industry has been begging for.

Click here to see the Yamaha vs Sea-Doo vs Kawasaki post for 2021.

Video Introducing 2021 Yamaha Waverunner

I highly encourage you to watch this video from The Watercraft Journal.

The Spooky Good

Before I dig into this, I got to point out how spooky good the release is for Yamaha in 2021.

I say spooky because I feel they’re reading what I wrote. I doubt they read my stuff, I’m just some guy on the internet, but they’ve released some things I’ve wanted them to release.

One example is the VX Limited HO.

In my 2020 VS post, I have a section discussing the VX Limited and how it’s missing a bigger engine option to compete with the Sea-Doo WAKE models.

If only Yamaha gave the VX Limited the engine that the VX Cruiser HO has. If they had done that, it would be a more even comparison to the Sea-Doo WAKE 170.

I hope Sea-Doo is paying attention because Yamaha just hit it out of the park with this one.

And it’s about time too!

The WAKE models from Sea-Doo haven’t had a real competitor in years.

Yamaha coming in and giving you a bigger engine with a ton of accessories is what the Yamaha VX Limited needed.

The Good

The real show stopper is going to be the SuperJet.

This, to me, finally marks the end to all 2-strokes. I get why stand up jet skis have 2-stroke engines, but it’s a needed transition. The future is 4-strokes and keeping 2-strokes really hinders Yamaha from where they can ride their standup.

Plus, with Kawasaki having the SX-R, a 4-stroke, it was only a matter of time before Yamaha released their own. With the quick turn around it seemed Yamaha has had this one ready for a while and must have waited until Kawasaki made the first move.

I know this may sound silly to some, but Yamaha is giving us a gas gauge, and an L-Mode is a nice touch too. Stand up jet skis are a workout and that L-mode is very much welcomed!

It’s clear the SuperJet is coming for the Kawasaki SX-R, but looking at the price of the 2020 SX-R and features, Yamaha has hit it out of the park.

GP1800 R

The GP1800 R is simply a beast.

Sea-Doo needs something new in 2021 as the 2020 RXP-X is not cutting it in comparison.

The GP1800R has a redesigned upper deck with better ergo for the driver and tilt adjustable handlebars.

It also has the first auto-trim, which is something I’m wondering why we didn’t have 5 years ago because it’s so clever. It will trim the nose down when slowing down to give you better cornering and then trims up when launching back.

It’s the same basic hull as 2020, but they opened up the intake grate to get more water through the pump for quicker launches and gave the pump itself more breathing room.

They also moved the gas tank back 80mm, and 15mm lower, which lowers the center of gravity and helps with cornering as the pivoting point is further back.

These small changes will make a world of difference that is for sure.

New Seats On VX Models

The seats are less wide on the VX, which is nice. One of the issues I had with older Yamaha’s was how wide they made the seat.

The old seats were not ideal for shorter people. The new seats are more ergonomic and fit more people now.

The Glovebox

Some models get a phone holder, which is nice to have.

The LED glove box lights are awesome too. They come on all VX models except for VX and VX-C. It’s the little things like this that matter as you’ll be using it all the time and often never realize how great they are until you don’t have them.

Little Extra Features!

More models get pull up cleats, which is nice.

I’m noticing the old-style mats are slowly going away. I always hated the mats they used that were horizontal lines as they cut in your feet over time. The new mats are less aggressive and look good too.

They got new speakers system options that don’t look like an afterthought and blend in well. I must say the button locations are better and easier to get to compared to Sea-Doo.

VX is getting self-draining footwells; this should be an industry standard.

I do like how Yamaha often has models with dry storage under the rear seat. This is not anything new, and they have done it many times, I want to point out this feature because it’s nice.

PIN

I do love how Yamaha is going away from the Key Fob for security and setting speed.

It was a bad idea as the fobs use a battery, which is not ideal when you’re around water. And every Yamaha owner I know lost their fob; they just disappear as they say.

The PIN option is way better and easier to understand too.

I prefer a key option as Sea-Doo does as a 4 digit PIN doesn’t seem as secure to me as a digital key. Let’s be honest, most people are going to pick “1234” or other easy to guess PINs.

A digital key can have a longer code that the rider doesn’t need to know and thus increase the security of the PWC.

I’m surprised Yamaha is not doing something related to Bluetooth for security on their wave runners. Most people have smartphones and often take them with them on their PWC. I mean, Yamaha is even putting a phone holder on some models now. An app that locks or unlocks your PWC and gives you information about your Yamaha would be excellent. Set speeds for different riders, know when the next oil change is needed, and if we’re extra crazy, maybe give GPS location where your jet ski is, so you know where your kids are while on the jet ski? Yamaha doesn’t have this yet, but it would be cool to see.

The Bad

The seat support on the VX has taken a design cue from the EX with a top plastic that supports it.

This is a love/hate thing.

They do this because Sea-Doo is all about the Polytec, which cuts down on weight, but they have that patten on lockdown. So this is the next best thing Yamaha can do to cut down on weight.

Nothing wrong with this except we’re getting jet skis that are harder to work on while easier too – confusing, I know.

You have to remove the seat and the plastic holder to do any meaningful thing in the engine.

This is annoying but also a good thing.

It’s like the Sea-Doo Spark, where you have to remove the whole top deck to work on anything meaningful, but once off, it’s the easiest thing to work on.

I wouldn’t say I like the idea, the more bolts, the more likely one will strip. I’m not too fond of the direction Sea-Doo and Yamaha are going with this one but I can understand.

Acceleration Control

Yamaha is adding acceleration control to some models, for example, the VX Limited HO.

Scrolling through the gauge, you can set how fast and how quickly it takes off.

This is like Sea-Doo Touring mode and Sport mode options.

It’s excellent that Yamaha has them, but I don’t like having to scroll through so many settings to get to them.

On Sea-Doo, it’s a single button hold on the handlebar to get in and out of these settings. This also seems like a half attempt at Ski-Mode that Sea-Doo has on the WAKE Models. Makes sense as the VX Limited HO is going after the WAEK line up now.

But I’ll give Yamaha credit, even though the buttons are easier to reach on Sea-Doo I bet more people will find the functions on Yamaha because it’s all in one location on the screen. I know many Sea-Doo riders who don’t know they have sport mode even though there is a visible button. At least with Yamaha, they have a central location and can stumble upon it more easily.

Screen Glare – It’s A Bit Nit Picky

A full-color screen is cool, and there is no doubt about it. It is for sure better than what Sea-Doo has been doing.

But the glare! I know, it’s super nitpicky of me, I mean I got to have some bad things as Yamaha did well in 2021.

The Watercraft Journal Video at 2:57 shows the glare outside on a sunny day is noticeable.

But the amount of info Yamaha can put on that screen makes up for that shortcoming.

Especially since Sea-Doo in 2020 reused a gauge from their ATV and Spyder lineup – they had freaking turn signals on a jet ski, who thought that was a good idea?

The Ugly

The new EX Limited for 2021 feels out of place to me.

It furthers muddies the water for the Rec-Lite category and is priced at a point where it would make more sense to get a VX or GTI instead.

The EX Limited is a luxury model without the luxury ride, and that bothers me.

Yamaha is trying to make up for this by giving you a lot of accessories, and who knows, the people might like it?

While it’s nice having the tube, inflator, rope, speakers, 12-volt outlet, and cover, I still would prefer getting a VX or GTI instead. Your bottom will thank you if you plan on riding for more than an hour, and the extra weight and power of the VX or GTI is a must for any pull sports.

Overall

Overall, I think Yamaha did a fantastic job on their 2021 line up.

They’re really flexing on Sea-Doo, and I hope Sea-Doo has something up their sleeves for 2021.

18 thoughts on “2021 Yamaha Waverunner – The Good, Bad, And Ugly”

  1. Hi there. So we put a deposit on the yamaha ex sport 2021 models, (2 of them). They’re not in yet because of delays in production. Turns out we won’t get them until the end of summer, (if that). My son rented one today and he and everyone who rode it said it tips REALLY easily. He said every teen and adult who tried it, (actually there were two of them), rolled it at some point. He also said they don’t self correct by flipping back over easily. Have you heard of this? Should we cancel our order and go for something different? Thanks in advance.

    Reply
    • The Yamaha EX and Sea-Doo Spark are smaller jet skis that are more nimble and with enough people on them, they can flip. It’s not something that happens on the regular especially if you ride by yourself. If you want a more stable ride the Yamaha VX or Sea-Doo GTI is the way to go. Rental units are often ridden hard and not always in the best shape so there could be something wrong with those units.

      Reply
  2. Hello Steven,
    What do you think about 2021 Yamaha gp1800r ho?
    Is there anything I should worry about?
    I heard that Yamaha built quality is very poor for 2021 as they being in rush with manufacturing process and forgot about quality.
    Many thanks for your time

    Reply
    • The GP1800R HO is a great machine. The only issue I’ve heard that concern me are the guys modding them and boosting power and the cylinder head cracking but stock units seem to be doing fine. The only real complaints I see from average people is that they can’t get their hands on them due to current events.

      Reply
  3. Hey Steven, awesome article / website. It has helped educate me on this entire segment of fun.

    I’m curious where would you land between a 2021 VX limited or VX Cruiser HO?

    Reply
  4. the 2021 Yamaha Rec line up is so complicated. which is the best model with safety in mind. I have 2 teenage sons and i dont want them driving too fast (need speed control) and safety is my main concern, not price thanks

    Reply
    • You’ll want to stick to the EX Deluxe or the EX Limited as they have the RIDE system which is a must for safety and control if you ask me. If you bumped up to the VX Deluxe not only will it be a more comfortable and stable machine compared to the EX but you have Low RPM Mode which limits the power of the engine. Low RPM Mode is a slow takeoff and limited top speed mode.

      Reply
  5. I am looking to get a luxury ski for my wife. We are an older couple (50’s) and I was wondering which brand is easier to reboard. I was looking at either a Sea Doo GTX or Yamaha FX Cruiser HO. Which one would you recomend?

    Reply
    • When it comes to reboarding I find the step on the Yamaha FX to be better and easier to get back on. But the comfort and stability go to the Sea-Doo GTX. If you got to have one now I would go with the Yamaha FX but if you don’t mind waiting I would look at the Sea-Doo GTX when they release 2021 models.

      Reply
  6. Great site Steve. I found it a couple weeks ago when I started researching PWCs. We want to buy one (our first) for the 2021 lake season. We like the Yamaha VX Cruiser HO. Do you think that could pull a slalom skiier? Also, my local Motorsports dealer (who I have worked before) said a good time to buy in our area (Knoxville) would be in March at our local boat show. Does that sound reasonable to you? Thanks again for the informative website. Great work!

    Reply
    • For sure, any HO Yamaha Waverrunner can pull a Skiier. Your dealer is 100% correct, the best time to buy is at their boat show. I would say usually now would be the best time as dealers usually have leftover models they want to get rid of so they can make room for 2021’s but with 2020 being such a huge year for jet skis the next best time will be at a boat show.

      Reply
      • Excellent! Thanks for the advice and prompt reply. Quick follow up – would the boat show also be a good time to pick up a trailer?

        Reply
        • The trailer would not matter, they rarely change in price except when they go up every year. So it would be better to get the trailer now just to get it out of the way.

          Reply

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