The boat world is dominated by big, obvious horsepower.
A Chevy Traverse doesn't have a giant "305 HORSEPOWER" decal across its hatch, but a Traverse's aquatic equivalent definitely would—and smaller personal watercraft are no exception. , for example, boldly brags about its 300 horsepower. That may not seem like much in the auto world, but on a machine that weighs 850 pounds, that's a power-to-weight ratio that's better than a Bugatti Chiron.
But as silly-powerful as the supercharged Rotax triple engine is, its dragster acceleration isn't the defining trait. In fact, the real fun comes from the handling.
"This thing will carve a turn at 70 mph. Whether you're on it or not," a pro racer told me before handing over the keys. He wasn't joking. Sea-Doo calls this the T3 hull, for "tight-turning, T-shape," and when you're at speed, the hull rides on a bladelike lower section that protrudes about two inches below the rest of the running surface.
Meanwhile, the side edge of the hull is rounded, to allow side-to-side roll. Sponsons, those wing-like shapes on the outer rear edges, dig in only once you're leaned over. So when you crank the handlebars and lay on the power, the RXP leans into the turn like a motorcycle, the hard sponsons keeping the rear end from looping out on you.
It's crazy responsive, which is a little bit of a double-edged sword—the RXP-X is always ready to turn, which means that it's a little nervous in a straight line compared to most. Stability increases the faster you go, as you put pressure on the knife's edge you're balanced on.
Usually that would pose a problem, because you don't want to hit big chop or wakes at 50-plus mph, but this thing soaks up big water like a 40-foot race boat. Several times I winced in anticipation of an impact that never came because the Sea-Doo's hull sliced through the nastiness. Unless you're going airborne off huge swells, the ride is cushy.
With the RXP-X 300, the hull is finally equal to the horsepower bolted to it, not like those jet-propelled boogie boards of the late 90s. Back then you were totally out of control unless you were hard on the throttle, so it made sense that manufacturers and the Coast Guard agreed to a voluntary 65-mph speed limit on new machines. But that limit feels more antiquated than ever when your ride RXP. Now you can turn and even hit the brakes if need be at high speeds.
I suspect that this particular voluntary limit will soon go the way of its old-school automotive equivalents, like the 155-mph speed limit for German cars and the 276-horsepower max output for Japanese ones. I saw 71mph before the throttle dialed itself back to a steady 67 (yes, straining the limit of the 65-mph leash), so there was clearly more on the table, and aftermarket programmers will happily unlock higher speeds. After all, this is a race boat, albeit one that's only 11 feet long.
But whatever the length, boats are expensive. To approach the RXP-X's turn of speed in a conventional boat, you'd probably need to bolt twin 300s onto the smallest boat that would take them, and for something like that you're looking at six figures. So the Sea-Doo's $15,400 price makes it a bargain.
It may be on the expensive side for a personal watercraft, but it's the cheapest race boat you can buy.