Which Sea-Doos have a Suspension Seat? [Model List]
Surprisingly, Sea-Doo was the only manufacturer to offer jet skis with suspension seats. These unique machines hit the market in 1995 and remained in production through 2017. The very first suspension Sea-Doos were the 2-stroke HX / XP models, followed by more advanced, 4-stroke skis with adjustable suspensions. The Canadian manufacturer offered its innovative full suspension system with three different configurations, the manually-adjustable S/aS, and the “intelligent” iS versions.
If you want to find out more about these systems and the importance of having a suspension seat on a jet ski, this post is for you.
We at JetDrifthave compiled all you need to know under one roof!
Why Does a Jet Ski Need a Suspension?
If you have ever ridden a jet ski on choppy waters in a sitting position, then you probably know how uncomfortable it can be. The endless pounding results in fatigue and pain in the back and buttocks, spreading towards the entire body.
This is where PWC suspension seats come into play.
The key advantage of having a suspension on a jet ski is that it ensures a much smoother and more comfortable riding experience.
Let’s face it, each powersport vehicle, including motorcycles, snowmobiles, and ATVs, feature suspensions, and with a good reason. Without shock absorbers, these vehicles would provide very rough rides.
Unlike their wheeled brothers, jet skis run on water, ensuring a smooth surface – as long as the weather is calm. But even a little chop can cause a lot of annoyance for the rider and its passengers.
Therefore, it seemed to make sense to use a suspension on a jet ski as well.
When riding alone, you can still operate the ski in a standing position, using your legs as shock absorbers. But riding double in this position would be hard to impossible.
While you can hang onto the handlebars and sofen the punches with your legs, passengers basically bounce around.
This is why riding on choppy waters is never pleasant for passengers!
Having a suspension on a jet ski not only increases comfort but also reduces wear and tear on your body. This lessens body pain and fatigue, which comes in handy on long tours.
A suspension PWC seat can also be a game-changer for riders with knee or back problems.
Are you wondering which jet ski models have suspension seats? Keep reading!
Which Jet Skis Have a Suspension?
Sea-Doo was the only manufacturer that produced jet skis with suspension seats. The Canadian manufacturer has always been famous for its continuous innovation and advanced features. Because of this, it was no surprise that suspensions seats found their way onto many Sea-Doo models.
Surprisingly, competitor manufacturers haven’t copied this technology, as they have with many other Sea-Doo innovations.
The first suspension Sea-Doo models appeared in the mid – ‘90s and remained in production through 2016.
However, it’s a lesser-known fact that Sea-Doo released its suspension models with four different suspension configurations.
Let’s take a closer look at each!
4 Types of Sea-Doo Suspensions
In a nutshell, the four different types of Sea-Doo suspension systems were as follows:
- 2-stroke suspension Sea-Doos (HX, XPs): 1995-2004
- iS – intelligent suspension: 2009-2016
- aS – Manually-adjustable suspension (with FOX Podium Nitrogen Shock): 2011-2016
- S – Base manually-adjustable suspension: 2012-2017
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and talk about each in detail!
How Does a Sea-Doo Suspension Work?
2-Stroke Suspension Sea-Doos (1995-2004)
Contrary to popular belief, Sea-Doo didn’t introduce its first suspension system in the 2009 model year.
It’s a lesser-known fact that the first suspension seats had already appeared on certain 2-stroke Sea-Doos like the HX or the later XPs.
To be more precise, the first suspension Sea-Doo was the HX, manufactured from 1995 through 1997. This simple suspension seat was inherited from certain XP modes, namely the ’97 XP 800, the ’98-’02 XP Limited, and the ’03-’04 XP DI.
Each of these models utilized the same suspension technology.
They were designed with a motorcycle-like saddle supported by a simple shock absorber. The front of the seat was attached to the deck with a hinge while its rear portion hung in the air.
To make this design feasible, the engine of these skis was moved towards the bow.
These 2-stroke suspension Sea-Doos were available from 1995 through 2004.
iS – Sea-Doo Intelligent Suspension (2009-2016)
After a five-year break, suspension Sea-Doos made a comeback in 2009, when the manufacturer introduced the innovative iS (Intelligent Suspension) system. According to the manufacturer, this revolutionary system was the first full suspension system specifically designed for jet skis.
As the name suggests, Sea-Doo iS wasn’t a basic suspension with a simple shock absorber. Instead, this adaptive PWC suspension system was designed to be adjustable to environmental conditions.
The key advantage of this system was that it allowed the hull to move independently of the top deck, including the saddle, footwells, and handlebars.
The two halves were connected by a twin-arm suspension with a centrally-located shock absorber and spring.
This design isolated the operator and the passenger(s) from the impact of choppy waters.
The softness of the suspension could be adjusted by a pair of buttons on the left handlebar. Thanks to this easy control, you could soften or harden the suspension based on changing conditions or your riding preferences.
Besides this manual mode, the iS featured a unique “Auto Mode,” intended to automatically adjust the suspension to water conditions. This mode allowed for the longest suspension travel, resulting in the smoothest rides.
The Sea-Doo iS also offered a “Docking Mode” that lowered the suspension to the lowest position. This mode provided the lowest center of gravity, leading to greater stability at lower speeds.
It’s a fun fact that many riders used the iS to show off at the docks, as the system lowered/raised the rider based on the settings.
Sea-Doo offered two iS models in the 2009 season. On the GTX Limited iS 255, the suspension was tuned for luxury cruising, while the RXT iS 260 came with more sporty characteristics.
Besides the iS, the innovative iBR brake and reverse system also debuted in this model year.
By 2010, the iS fleet had been expanded with the GTX iS 215. While this model was only offered this year, the RXT iS 260 was marketed until 2012, and the flagship GTX Ltd iS 260 until 2016.
S – Manual Adjustable Suspension (2012-2017)
Although the electronically-controlled iS system was a revolutionary idea, it added a lot of complexity to the ski. Also, it significantly increased manufacturing costs.
Because of this, the iS suspension system was exclusively available on high-end models like the GTX Limited iS 260, and the RXT iS 260.
But everything changed in 2012 when Sea-Doo introduced the mid-range GTX S 155. Although this wasn’t considered a premium model, it was equipped with a simpler suspension system.
This manual Sea-Doo suspension was basically equivalent to the iS suspension, but it lacked the “intelligent” part. This means that, unlike its computer-driven counterpart, this suspension could be manually adjusted with a standard socket wrench.
The adjustment screw was mounted below the seat; loosening it provided a soft feel while tightening it offered a stiffer riding experience.
This manually-adjustable Sea-Doo suspension was known for its simplicity and durability. What’s more, according to Boating World, the 2012 GTX-S 155 was about $4,000 less than the flagship GTX Limited iS 260.
The only drawback of this system was that it required removing the seat to access the adjustment screw. Let’s face it; this wasn’t easy on open waters!
As – Manually Adjustable Suspension (2011-2016)
The Sea-Doo aS suspension was very similar to the manual suspension of the GTX S 155, but it was even more adjustable thanks to its FOX Podium Nitrogen Shock.
Its nitrogen-charged remote oil reservoir was mounted in the glovebox featuring an anodized blue dial intended to adjust the suspension.
Thanks to this setup, you could tune the exhaust quickly and easily with this glovebox-mounted dial. Also, the preload on the suspension could be manually adjusted with the regular adjustment screw under the seat.
As reported by PersonalWaterCraft.com, this suspension was set for 2’-5’ conditions, while its compression dampening was about 65-115% greater than the intelligent suspension (iS).
The only Sea-Doo with the adjustable “aS” suspension was the RXT-X aS 260 manufactured from 2011 through 2016.
Which Sea-Doos Had a Suspension?
For your convenience, we’ve compiled all the Sea-Doos that had suspensions into one list:
- 1995-1997 Sea-Doo HX
- 1997 XP 800
- 1998-2002 XP Limited
- 2003-2004 XP DI
- 2009 GTX Ltd iS 255
- 2010 GTX iS 215
- 2009-2012 RXT iS 260
- 2010-2016 GTX Ltd iS 260
- 2011-2016 RXT-X aS 260
- 2012-2017 GTX 155 S
Why did Sea-Doo Discontinue Suspension Seats?
Although using a suspension seat on Sea-Doos was a revolutionary idea, these models have some definite disadvantages over base models. The suspension Sea-Doos were heavy, pricy, and much harder to work on. Sea-Doo officially dropped its suspension seats due to their all-new ST3-hull, but the real reasons were likely poor sales figures.
Sea-Doo Suspension Problems
In a nutshell, the major problems with Sea-Doo’s suspension seats were as follows:
- Increased production costs
- Added complexity to the ski (more parts to break)
- Restricted access to the engine compartment
- Significant weight increase (ca. +150 pounds!)
- Different riding experience (made the ski top-heavy)
As you can imagine, the suspension seat significantly increased production costs, which resulted in higher retail prices.
For example, the 2013 Sea-Doo RXT aS 260 was marketed for an MSRP of $16,399, while the base model was priced at $13,699. As far as the GTX line, the flagship 2013 GTX Limited iS 260 came with a price tag of $16,999.
The cheapest suspension Sea-Doo model was the GTX S 155, this ski cost only $11,999 in 2013, while its non-suspension equivalent was offered for $12,999.
However, the hefty price tags were not the biggest problem of these machines.
Instead, one of the most common complaints against suspension Sea-Doo models was their massive weight. For example, the 2013 RXT-X aS weighed 975 pounds, 151 pounds more than its base sibling.
What’s more, the suspension was nestled relatively high in the top deck, making the ski top heavy. This changed weight distribution made the ski less stable and offered a different experience.
On top of that, the suspension system added a lot of complexity to these skis. The iS models had an especially bad reputation for various malfunctions, as they came with a more complex ECU. This was the reason why Sea-Doo turned towards the manually-adjustable (S, aS) suspensions after the introduction of the iS.
Also, the suspension seat made these Sea-Doos much harder to clean or work on. On a non-suspension ski, you only had to remove the seat, which takes only seconds, to access the engine area.
In contrast, it took about an hour to remove the seat on a suspension Sea-Doo! This made maintenance more difficult and increased labor costs at the dealerships.
When did Sea-Doo Discontinue Suspensions?
Because of the aforementioned drawbacks, many owners regretted investing in a suspension Sea-Doo. Eventually, Sea-Doo decided to discontinue its suspension models in 2016 and 2017. The manufacturer dropped the GTX Ltd iS 260 and the RXT-X aS 260 in 2016, while the last suspension Sea-Doo, the GTX S 155 retired after the 2017 season.
Conclusion – Does Sea-Doo Still Have Suspensions?
To the greatest regret of many fans, Sea-Doo hasn’t offered suspension seats since 2017.
The first suspensions Sea-Doos were the 2-stroke HX and XPs, marketed from 1995 through 2004. However, the motorcycle-like seat of these models was equipped with a basic shock absorber.
Sea-Doo introduced its first “real” suspension jet skis, the GTX Limited iS 255, for the 2009 model year, followed by the manually-adjustable RXT aS 260 in 2011. The simplest model of this family was the affordable GTX S 155.
While the flagship suspension Sea-Doos were marketed from 2009 through 2016, the GTX S 155 was available until 2017.
Unfortunately, these skis had many drawbacks over their base siblings. The suspension system added a lot of complexity to the skis, resulting in lower reliability and higher manufacturing costs.
These models also had a bad reputation for their high center of gravity, making them more tippy.
On top of that, removing the seat on suspension Sea-Doos took about an hour. Due to these disadvantages, these models never became really popular.
Eventually, the manufacturer decided to drop its suspension seat in the late 2010s.
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