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Sea-Doo GTI SE 170 Boat Test

DATE POSTED:March 7, 2020

Sea-Doo’s 2020 GTI SE 170 is lighter, more powerful and far more stable than any previous iteration of the long-running GTI platform. It also boasts more storage, a more ergonomic rider connection, and the ability to carry a wide variety of additional gear with ease. So, why is this industry-leading builder touting an optional feature atop nearly all marketing materials? It’s because Sea-Doo knows that feature is music to a buyer’s ears—literally.

 170
LOA: 10'10.6" | Beam: 4'1.2" | Dry Weight: 739 lb. | Displacement: 1,630 cc | Fuel Capacity: 15.9 gal. | Rated Horsepower: 170 (Courtesy Sea-Doo/)

Sea-Doo’s BRP Audio-Premium is not the first manufacturer-installed sound system on a PWC (Kawasaki’s JetSounds holds that claim to fame), but it’s certainly the most user-friendly. Thanks to Bluetooth, the 100-watt Audio-Premium system streams music directly from a smartphone to the pair of waterproof, MTX Audio-developed speakers neatly integrated into the forward wall of the footwells. A touchpad control mounted adjacent to the left speaker turns the system on, adjusts volume, and skips forward and back in the user’s selected playlist. Because the speakers essentially point directly at the driver and passengers, volume is ample. Sound quality, at least to this nonaudiophile writer, is also impressive. For many, cost will seal the deal. Installed at the factory, Audio-Premium is an $800 option. A similar system, available starting in 2018 on the GTX platform, has proved overwhelmingly popular with consumers.

Sea-Doo’s ErgoLock saddle narrows like an hourglass to allow thighs to naturally grasp the seat for more leverage in turns and enhanced control in rough water.
Sea-Doo’s ErgoLock saddle narrows like an hourglass to allow thighs to naturally grasp the seat for more leverage in turns and enhanced control in rough water. (Courtesy Sea-Doo/)

While music is cool, it shouldn’t define this midrange craft, especially given the welcome makeover that also debuts for 2020. Sea-Doo borrows from the flagship GTX line, adopting much of that craft’s styling along with a lower-slung profile and center of gravity. The latter two, combined with an added inch of width provided by a hard hull chine, dramatically improve the craft’s stability, particularly at rest. To prove it, I literally stood in the port footwell while the craft stayed nearly level. Release two latches and remove the aft section of the modular saddle, and the platform grows further in size, allowing fishing enthusiasts to use it as a casting platform or as loungers to stretch out and soak up the rays.

Sea-Doo’s LinQ accessory system likewise crosses over from the GTX. Twin recessed, 16-inch-on-center composite cleats raise into position to secure a variety of optional accessories, including a gas caddy, premium coolers, storage caddy or roll-top dry bag via a cam-type latch system. They all fit surprisingly snug and resisted my best attempts to dislodge them at high speed.

The GTI SE 170 is packed full of storage options.
The GTI SE 170 is packed full of storage options. (Courtesy Sea-Doo/)

Further stowage is provided by the newly supersize 40.2-gallon bow storage compartment. Add the portable, netted organizer insert ($60) to separate frequently accessed items from the abyss. A 2.3-gallon glove box primarily holds a watertight box designed to protect your smartphone (and the music source for that audio system). An optional USB charger can be added.

Sea-Doo’s GTI makeover also seeks to improve the craft’s performance, control and “robustness.” With a new 170 hp version of the Rotax 1630 ACE engine, Sea-Doo touts a 20 percent improvement in acceleration compared to the previous 155 hp engine. PolyTec, which originally debuted on the popular recreation-minded Spark, replaces fiberglass-based hull materials to trim up to 40 pounds in weight. Now in its second generation, the already durable formulation is up to 50 percent thicker in key areas, features additional fiberglass molded into the hull sides for added impact resistance, and forms molded stringers and over-molded engine mounts to improve rigidity. Sea-Doo claims that PolyTec Gen 2 doubles the impact speed required to actually damage the hull, and impact resistance is as good as, or in some instances better than, conventional hull construction. That’s hard to prove in a standard boat test, but I’ve seen PolyTec withstand some pretty rough treatment over the years. For that rare case of damage, Sea-Doo has also introduced a plastic welding repair process that will allow dealers to weld and buff damage.

Remove the aft section of the modular saddle, and the platform grows further in size.
Remove the aft section of the modular saddle, and the platform grows further in size. (Courtesy Sea-Doo/)

On the water, the GTE SE 170 accelerated to 50 mph in 5.2 seconds, peaked at 55.2 mph, and busted through choppy conditions smoothly and solidly. Chalk up the latter to the dampening qualities of PolyTec not shared by fiberglass. As to the GTI’s trademark playfulness, the newest version loses a little of the looser feeling that defined previous models, despite sharing a similar 16-degree deadrise. Still, angle up the nozzle via the electric trim and unweight the stern, and you can still slide and spin the craft old-school-style. Angle down, and you’ll carve that imaginary buoy course with precision.

Shopping? Spec out Yamaha’s VX Cruiser HO ($11,799). Similar in size and weight, the VX boasts a superior 65 mph top speed, adds cruise control, and offers less stowage capacity. Like Sea-Doo, Yamaha’s RiDE system simplifies forward, neutral and reverse maneuvering, as well as provides stopping power at speed. Yamaha also offers twin removable EcoXGear Bluetooth speakers.

But while music may make both craft more attractive, standard features will likely make or break most buyers’ decisions. In that regard, the GTI has an abundance on its greatest-hits list.

High Points

  • Touring, Sport and Eco modes allow riders to fine-tune the power delivery to match skill levels or reduce fuel consumption.
  • Intelligent Brake & Reverse (iBR) dramatically reduces stopping time at speed, and offers a feeling of forward, neutral and reverse gears during low-speed maneuvering.
  • New 4.5-inch digital info display replaces analog gauges and offers an orange backlight to improve visibility.

Low Points

  • Audio-system control pad, at arm’s reach and tight against the console wall, is somewhat awkwardly positioned.
  • No cruise control or no-wake mode.

Price: $11,399 (with test power)

Available Power: Jet Drive

Sea-Doo GTI SE 170 Certified Test Results
Sea-Doo GTI SE 170 Certified Test Results (Boating Magazine/)

How We Tested

Engine: Rotax 1630 ACE 170 four-stroke, naturally aspirated

Drive/Prop: Jet/ 155 mm high-pressure pump with stainless-steel impeller

Gear Ratio: 1:00:1

Fuel Load: 13 gal.

Crew Weight: 155 lb.

Sea-Doo - Valcourt, Quebec; 888-272-9222; sea-doo.com