Boat Review by: Craig Ritchie
BRP made quite a splash in mid-August when it announced its all-new lineup of 2022 Sea-Doo Switch pontoon boats. With their unique Polytec tri-hull design, handlebar steering controls, and modular deck design that allows furniture to be repositioned on the fly as desired, Switch is clearly unlike any other boat on the market. But what’s it like to drive one?
I recently enjoyed the opportunity to do just that as part of a BRP media introduction held at the magnificent Fairmont Chateau Montebello, overlooking the Ottawa River about halfway between Montreal and the nation’s capital. There, our small group of journalists enjoyed the opportunity to put a small fleet of Switch pontoons through their paces and find out firsthand if this innovative boat design truly lives up to the hype.
Let’s cut right to the chase – yes it does, and OMG is this boat a lot of fun to drive!
The Sea-Doo Switch comes in a choice of three length, each powered by either 100 horsepower or 170 horsepower Rotax 1630 ACE engines (further options exist among the Switch Sport and Switch Cruise models, but we’ll save them for their own separate reviews). All Switch models feature the same tri-hull design, which from below looks like a PWC with a sponson added to each side. Since the central portion sits deeper in the water than do the sides, the innovative hull profile provides Switch with the stability we expect from a pontoon while maintaining traditional Sea-Doo performance, including the ability to dig in on turns for a truly exhilarating ride.
There’s plenty of innovation topsides as well. The ability to move the seats around really intrigued me, and I was surprised at just how easy this is to do. Flipping a small, chartreuse tab located in the seat base releases the seat from its grip on the modular, tiled floor. Very light in weight thanks to its composite construction, the seat can then be lifted, repositioned elsewhere, and secured by simply pushing the little tab flush again. That’s it – no tools, no fiddling, and no effort whatsoever. While the helm console and driver’s seat are permanently fixed in place, everything else can be moved about at will on the fly, so owners can remove seats, add additional seats, set out sun pads or shift tables around any way they like.
The more you explore, the more you come to appreciate just how much thought has gone into the design of the Switch. But to really appreciate this remarkable boat, you have to take the wheel.
‘Take the wheel’ is wrong, of course, because the Switch helm comes equipped with Sea-Doo’s familiar handlebars instead. A pair of levers ahead of the comfortable hand grips control the throttle to the right, and Sea-Doo’s iBR intelligent braking and reverse function on the left. With the handlebar control and the Switch’s clear side fencing that provides exceptional visibility, the setup makes docking as easy as it gets – come in a little too fast and no problem, just squeeze the iBR lever to select reverse thrust, then apply a touch of throttle to stop the boat in its tracks. Overshoot the dock? Apply a little more throttle and the boat backs up. The handlebars with throttle and iBR provide a level of control that’s on par with a joystick, allowing passengers who have never docked a boat in their life to quickly look like old pros and feel fully confident at the helm.
The unique control provided by the handlebars and throttle/iBR arrangement allows more experienced drivers to have a great time underway, spinning the boat and performing all manner of slaloms, fishtails and other silliness. It’s great fun, and especially on a hot summer’s day. The reality is that it almost seems a shame to drive the Switch in a straight line, because you’re acutely aware of how much more fun you could be having otherwise.
With four of us aboard our 5.7-metre Switch and a half-tank of fuel indicated, I was keen to explore the boat’s hole shot with the 170-horsepower, naturally-aspirated Rotax. No problems there, as the boat simply leapt forward in true Sea-Doo style, planing the boat in seconds while eliciting grins all around.
Switch includes a trim function, which can make a big difference in planing performance – especially when driving the more compact models or when you have a couple of passengers up front. Trim setting is indicated by a simple bar gauge on the dashboard LCD display. With two passengers up front enjoying the sun lounge seats and the rest of our crew more or less evenly spaced through the cockpit, the Switch planed easily with a bit of negative trim. Further adjustment at full throttle gave us a top speed of 36 mph indicated and 36.4 mph on my phone’s GPS speedometer – not bad for going upstream with a decent load in a moderate current.
The Switch handlebar includes touchpad controls to select between driving modes – Eco, Sport, and a Cruise Control feature that relieves the driver from having to constantly grip the throttle lever. But the reality is that you don’t want to give up the throttle, because fooling around in the Switch is just pure, simple fun. While I was initially uncertain of its handlebar steering, I quickly came to appreciate it – especially while slaloming away in the current, enjoying a series of gentle fishtails … just because.
The Sea-Doo Switch is designed for young families buying their first boat, making me pretty much the polar opposite of its target market. Yet I honestly had a ball driving it. Switch is simple, it’s unpretentious, and it’s just plain fun. In boating, isn’t that the whole point?
|Dry weight:||1,738 lbs||790 kg|
|Fuel Capacity:||29 US gal||109.7 L|
|Base Engine / Drive:||1630 ACE 100|