Captain's ReportTested by Capt. Vince DanielloThe MSX 110 Offers Quiet, Smooth, and Fuel Efficient Operation New for 2003, Polaris has introduced three models built on a completely new sharp-turning, smooth riding hull. The only significant difference between the new models is the engine installed. The MSX 150 and MSX 110 feature the company’s new four-cycle turbocharged engine, available in 150 or 110 horsepower, corresponding to the boat model numbers. The MSX 140 is fitted with Polaris’s top-shelf two-cycle, 140 horsepower engine for those who prefer the distinct feel of older-technology motors. Testing these boats together gave BoatTEST an unusual opportunity to run identical hulls with similar horsepower two and four-cycle engines, something I’ve been itching to do since the explosion of four-stroke technology.4-Stroke Engine TechnologyI noticed one major difference immediately. As expected, the new engines idled and ran quite smoothly, and were much quieter than the older two-strokes. This is due to the differences in the way the engines operate. A “cycle” or “stroke” is the number of times the engine’s pistons move up or down between each time the spark plug fires. On a four-stroke engine the cylinder fires, pushing the piston down. When it comes back up, the piston pushes all of the stale exhaust out, then draws in clean air as it travels back down (the second and third “strokes”). When the piston comes back up for the fourth stroke, the spark plug ignites a much cleaner gasoline and air mixture than is possible on two-stroke engines, which don’t have the middle “scavenging” second and third cycles. This clean air allows more efficient use of fuel, and the “dead” cycles and slower fuel burn of four-strokes smooth out the vibrations associated with the older two-stroke technology. Unfortunately, four-stroke engines traditionally weighed more and took up more space, both detracting from their use in small boats. But light-weight allows, better electronic ignition computers, and advances in turbochargers have all but eliminated these differences. Polaris’s four-strokes also feature a closed cooling system, which circulates fresh water through the engine, utilizing sea or lake water only for the jet drive and exhaust cooling.Acceleration from 4-Stroke EnginesAnother noticeable difference between the motors: four cycle engines typically produce more torque. In other words, they will work harder at a given RPM. Combining this benefit with a turbocharger (standard on both the 110 and 150) results in increased acceleration. From idle, when I first dumped the throttle, the boat jumped. When the turbo kicked in a split second later, it jumped again. While I’ve never been a speed demon, I love acceleration - and these boats have it! I should mention that the four-cycle engines we tested were prototypes. While Polaris assured us that they were identical to production specs, we will be testing boats off the line when they become available, to verify performance. Therefore, I’ll leave the specific performance differences for comparison through our posted test results.Hull DesignWe were also able to test the new Polaris hull side-by-side with the company’s previous hull design, although not with identical engines. Comparing the two on the beach, the new hull has a much more pronounced “V” shape, making a sharper entry to cut through the water instead of bouncing over it. Polaris calls the new form a “Progressive Dihedral Stepped” hull which refers to the new “V” and the pronounced chine that protrudes dramatically from the hull at the bow, tapering gradually to nothing about amidships. The chine actually angles down in an aggressive hook-shape, and is located slightly below the rub rail - well out of the water when the boat is running on plane. This seems to offer three distinct advantages. First, spray from the hull hits this hook and deflects back into the water, providing a dryer ride. Second, when the boat leans into hard turns this chine digs in and helps carry the bow aggressively through the turn, almost like a keel or skeg. Third, because the chine is only in the water during turns it does not add wetted surface to slow the boat the way keels, skegs, or strakes do. The new hull also includes a boldly flared sheerline that provides deeper footwells.Aggressive RidingWhile the stepped chine and deeper footwells make ordinary riding dryer, I found extremely hard turns will dig the bow into the water. When this occurs, the sleek, low profile design pushes a sheet of water up over the handlebars. The new hull is definitely dryer while riding, even during fairly aggressive turns. But very sharp high-speed turns are wet. Then again, when I ride aggressively I expect to get wet. Just like snow skiing, if I don’t take an occasional minor spill, I’m not riding to my potential.FeaturesAbove the water, Polaris gave the new boat a distinctive new look, capturing the essence of a high-performance motorcycle. I particularly liked the smoked plexiglas cover shielding the chrome-plated instrument pod from the sun, although it was a bit difficult to reach beneath the plexiglas with a chamois. If the chrome is neglected it may corrode or pit, detracting from the boat’s appearance in a few years.The new MSX design also added room for a deep storage compartment at the front of the seat, with a drink holder, a small mesh bag perfect for keeping sunglasses or a phone handy, and additional room for a wallet, keys, and sunscreen. The sculpted seat seemed more comfortable than on other Polaris models, and vertically oriented handlebars provided a more natural posture, with the rider turning the boat by bending the elbows. The old handlebar design is more horizontal, keeping arms straight and turning with the shoulders. This design modification also allows better access to the reverse lever.With new EPA emissions standards, four cycle engines represent the future for personal watercraft. This new offering from Polaris combines the new technology’s quiet, smooth, fuel-efficient operation with a maintenance-reducing closed cooling system and turbocharged acceleration, which promise to push the MSX 110 ahead of the competition.
Standard and Optional Features
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