As some of you might remember, I posted a review of the 2013 Yamaha VXR yesterday. Someone asked what the closest competitor would be. The answer? The BRP Sea-Doo GTR 215.
Though I have not personally had a chance to try one myself (Hint to anyone in the Ottawa, Ontario area who might own one), PersonalWatercraft.com have reviewed it. I recommend anyone interested to click here and read their review of the 2013 GTR 215 in order to get familiar with the craft. Fair warning though: personalwatercraft.com don't seem to ever negatively review PWCs, well nobody ever does except maybe point out specific annoyances but the former are always glowingly positive but the information is still accurate.
Now I understand both my review and the GTR 215 review are for 2013 craft. However, you can still find unsold 2014 VXRs in dealerships as many people have opted to wait for the redesigned 2015 Yamaha line-up. The 2014 models are identical in every way to the 2013s except for available colours. You also benefit from dealer discounts as they try to make room for newer machines so it's worth taking into consideration. As for the Sea-Doo GTR 215, it's still available brand spanking new and unchanged from the 2013 model as a 2015 unit and MSRP is only 100$ more than the outgoing VXR. So, these two reviews are still very relevant to shoppers.
If you would rather read a shorthand version of what distinguishes the two models, keep reading here.
For starters, the GTR takes the same approach as the VXR, take the company's entry-level hull and stuff a bigger engine in it. In this case, the 1.5L N/A Rotax inline 3 is replaced by... the same engine but with an added supercharger, upping output to 215 horsepower. Yes, the GTR has a 35hp advantage over the VXR's 180hp figure, but the performance advantage gets slightly reduced by the GTRs extra weight. The VXR weighs 728lbs while the GTR weighs 799lbs. Power to weight ratio still predictably falls in BRPs favor at 3.72lbs/hp vs Yamaha's 4.04lbs/hp.
There is a slight catch to consider, however. Yamaha's engine is naturally aspirated, which means it runs happily on 87 octane and has much less complexity and required maintenance. Last I checked, the supercharger in the Sea-Doo requires a clutch rebuild every 100-200 hours which will run you several hundred dollars in cost. If you neglect that maintenance item, you eventually will have the supercharger completely fail on you. The S/C Rotax engine CAN run on 87 octane but BRP recommends using 91 octane. There's also the fuel efficiency trade-off you get with the added supercharger.
In terms of handling, the Yammy's VX hull is designed to feel like it's on rails. It just bites hard into the water and doesn't allow for for any "drifting" so to speak. It's the race car of the two. The GTR, however, is built atop the GTi hull which has a much looser, more playful feel than the VX series. You can easily get the read end to drift and slide and do 180s with this hull. You can get it to bite harder by playing with your weight but it's not as aggressive at cornering as the VXR. It's the drift car of the pair. This comes down to what you personally find more fun.
Now the part where the GTR scores big points: The GTi hull design is MUCH better at handling choppy water conditions than the VX hull. The GTR also has a few features the VXR doesn't. Trim being the main attraction for varying water conditions. It has iBR instead of a mechanical reverse bucket. iBR is essentially a left-hand trigger that activates the reverse bucket and also acts as a "braking" system at speed with electronically controlled reverse thrust used to slow you down up to 50% sooner than if you just coast. This system is also how you activate reverse, so you keep your hands on the steering at all times. It makes maneuvering around a dock and launch ramp MUCH easier. You get 3 on the fly electronic throttle configurations which are self-explanatory: Eco, Touring and Sport. Finally, the touring seat on the GTR is better suited for passenger duty.
So, on one hand you have the VXR which aims for absolute purity with a less is more approach. By contrast, the GTR aims to allow you to have your cake and eat it too. You get better acceleration with the latter while still being fully-featured. The trade-off is that the BRP unit requires more expensive maintenance and drinks more fuel than the Yamaha. What do you prefer?