AquaTrax R-12X Development

Sporting performance takes center stage with Honda's latest two-passenger personal watercraft

In 2002, Honda changed the shape and face of an entire industry by introducing the AquaTrax™ F-12™ and AquaTrax F-12X™, the world's first four-stroke personal watercraft (PWC) and the first PWC to incorporate a turbocharger. Immediately, a tidal wave of praise inundated the AquaTrax, coming from all media.

Such a flood of compliments would have made Honda's engineers blush--if they hadn't been totally absorbed in designing the next model in the AquaTrax lineup. Named the AquaTrax R-12X, this newest PWC, as the X designates, takes full advantage of Honda's stellar 165-horsepower, 1235cc turbocharged four-cylinder powerplant. But now this remarkable engine powers an all-new two-passenger hull designed specifically for sporty, aggressive performance. As was the case with the F-12 and F-12X in the three-passenger category, the R-12X will be a revelation to PWC riders in the two-seater class.

Origins of Honda PWCs

Honda initiated PWC research in the 1980s, and R&D continued into the early 1990s. In 1996, a new generation of prototypes began to take shape, just as the entire industry reached an environmental crossroads. Honda could see the future was ripe for a total revolution in personal watercraft design; it was time to lead the way with an entirely new generation of PWCs that introduced enthusiasts to Honda's legendary reputation for quality.

It was only natural for Honda to build a series of four-stroke personal watercraft. As the world's acknowledged leader in four-stroke technology, Honda has earned enviable credentials for both exemplary engine performance and laudable emissions standards. The same spirit of industry-leading innovation that introduced the lean-burn CVCC Civic automobile engine way back in 1973 has been applied to Honda's clean-burn motorcycles, scooters, ATVs and power equipment--including a full-line of successful four-stoke outboard marine motors. This ongoing quest to shape the future of the internal combustion world with the seemingly incompatible goal of high performance with low emissions has been proven successful time and time again.

By designing products that have foresight, vision and low-emissions technology interwoven throughout the blueprints, Honda's engineers are able to build trend-setting machines that offer performance first, but always with an eye toward future environmental concerns. For example, six models in the 2003 motorcycle lineup already meet the 2008 emissions standards established by the California Air Resources board--five years ahead of schedule! And now, in similar fashion, Honda leads the way into the future of low-emissions, high-performance personal watercraft.

Taking it to the Next Level--with Quick Trim

Only one year after introducing its first PWCs, the three-passenger AquaTrax F-12 and turbocharged F-12X, Honda was ready to go to the next level. The new two-passenger R-12X not only makes use of the remarkable 165-horsepower AquaTrax liquid-cooled, turbocharged, DOHC 16-valve 1235cc four-cylinder four-stroke engine, but it also introduces to sport PWCs a feature usually reserved for racing: an adjustable quick trim system to control the attitude of the R-12X's bow. This ingenious system redirects the angle of the drive system's jet nozzle via a positive mechanical linkage system. By dialing in trim during take-off, the rider can bring the R-12X to planing speed from a standing start much quicker. In addition, actuating the quick trim allows the hull to grab the water and change direction much more quickly while turning aggressively--a big bonus for sport riding.

A New Hull Sets New Class Standards

Existing two-seat PWCs tend to be polarized; they are either agile with poor stability, or stable but bulky in size and feel. The new Honda R-12X, in turn, melds the best traits while bypassing the usual pitfalls: It is especially maneuverable, agile and tenacious in turns while also delivering exemplary stability.

Having lavished unprecedented amounts of time and research work on development of the AquaTrax F-12 and F-12X, Honda's engineers found themselves well along the path toward the sporty two-seater R-12X. They explained, "We had accumulated a deep baseline knowledge of hulls while designing the F-12 boats, and the sporty two-passenger model was the next logical step in our development process."

According to Lee Edmunds, manager of the Honda Press Department, "The way the R-12X handles, it's so agile it feels like it's race ready. At the same time, it's a very stable platform; it doesn't demand concessions in comfort or require unnatural riding techniques. In fact, the R-12X features a number of refinements that make it decidedly easy to live with."

Specifically, the handlebar shape and placement feel instantly familiar to anyone with even a passing knowledge of motorcycles, and the floorboards rise gently going aft to create supportive footwells, which are covered with an anti-slip material. These elements, along with a grippy material used on the seat cover, create a natural, ergonomically sound riding position for extra control at speed in rough water, as well as during relaxed cruising in smooth conditions.

Refinements Aplenty

In addition, convenience features abound, items normally reserved for larger, more luxurious craft. These thoughtful touches, many of which were introduced on the F-12 and F-12X, make this new, ultra-sporty R-12X a very pleasant partner to live with as well. As Popular Mechanics magazine observed last year, "The AquaTrax incorporates a host of neat features. An off-throttle steering system provides directional control when the throttle is closed and the bars are turned. A Limit Mode allows owners to restrict new riders to 4500 rpm. A handy lever on the left side of the fuselage slides from Forward to Reverse without a catch. By using this clever lever, I could back up, hold stationary against the Colorado River's current, or gently maneuver up to another boat with a deft touch."

Awe-inspiring power. Race-style agility. Excellent stability. Abundant conveniences. Quiet, clean running. By rolling all of these benefits into one stellar package, the new two-passenger AquaTrax R-12X simply creates a new class of its own.

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