BOAT REVIEW Sea-Doo Switch

October 2021 Power Boat Reviews
Words by Craig Ritchie. Images by Craig Ritchie and supplied.
OUR RATING
4.5 STARS
Performance
Economy
Handling
Value
Build Quality
Specification
MODEL DETAILS
MODEL Sea-Doo Switch
DESIGNER BRP
BUILDER BRP, Sturtevant
CONSTRUCTION Synthetic Polytec hull, tri-hull design
PRICE AS TESTED US$17-27,000
SPECIFICATIONS
LOA 6.4M
LENGTH (Waterline) 3.9M
ENGINE Rotax four-stroke 100-230hp waterjet
FUEL CAPACITY 107L
HIGHLIGHTS
  • Modular deck plan allows great flexibility
  • A range of size and power options
  • Lots of accessories available
OBSERVATIONS
  • Performance of a PWC with the family appeal of an American pontoon boat
  • Initial dealer response positive
  • Available in NZ late 2021

Sea-Doo’s all-new Switch marries the performance of a personal watercraft with the versatility of a pontoon boat to create what might just be the perfect entry-level watercraft for young families.


If there’s one thing that’s been a constant throughout BRP’s colourful history, it’s a penchant for stepping outside the box and coming up with ground-breaking innovations. The company that was created around the invention of the snowmobile – and furthered by the invention of the jet-propelled personal watercraft – has never been afraid to adopt revolutionary approaches to what it sees as new opportunities. And they’re doing it again, this time with an eye on the growing number of young buyers entering the boat market.

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Combining the sporty performance of a personal watercraft with the versatility of an American-style pontoon boat, Sea-Doo’s all-new Switch is a boat quite unlike anything that’s gone before it. That’s especially evident in its Rotax jet power and PWC-like handlebar steering, its synthetic pontoon-like tri-hull and a boatload of innovative new features that give the Switch completely unique capabilities.


The Sea-Doo Switch isn’t a single model, but a family of boats available in three different lengths, and each with multiple engine choices. All ride on a scratch-resistant Polytec hull design that, from below, looks much like a small skiff with a sponson added to each side. The tri-hull design is deeper in the centre than on the sides, giving Switch tri-hull stability while retaining the ability to dig in on turns and handle very much like a traditional V-hull – or a PWC.


Overhead, a fully flat deck composed of BRP’s LinQ quick-attach tiles allows owners to move the seats about as they wish, by simply releasing a small, brightly coloured locking tab in the seat base. In just a few seconds, Switch owners can configure the vessel as they wish for morning fishing, afternoon wakeboard sessions or evening cruises with the whole family by moving seats, adding additional seats, or shifting table locations to where they work best. BRP notes that while the helm console and seat always remain stationary, everything else is fair game, allowing owners to achieve more than 100 possible configurations.


All Sea-Doo Switch models also share clear side body panels, which provide unimpeded visibility of the water at all times. It’s a novel approach that adds to the experience when underway, and represents what Sea-Doo calls a “clear advantage” when docking, monitoring swimmers or spotting wakeboarders.
Extruded gunnel tops provide an opportunity to mount a range of LinQ accessories atop the fencing, including things like drink holders, waterproof storage bags for gear, and some neatly designed Switch dock bumpers which clip neatly to the outer gunnels when not required – keeping wet fenders out of the boat while holding them securely out of the way until they’re needed again.
All Switch models feature Eco, Standard and Sport driving modes. BRP’s Intelligent Brake & Reverse feature also comes standard, providing greater confidence when docking or at the launch ramp, as well as allowing drivers to have some fun underway side-slipping and spinning the boat around in its own length.


Switch also comes with a dedicated anchor storage locker in the bow, cruise control, a retractable stern boarding ladder, a ski tow eye and a painted trailer, all as standard equipment. Some Switch packages include trailer brakes, or further amenities like stereos and Bimini tops.
Available options include a full-enclosure camper top, a wide variety of extra seating and furniture options, and a corner-mounted JL Audio premium sound system complete with four speakers, an amp, a subwoofer and LED accent lighting.

One for all
Keeping versatility front-of-mind, Sea-Doo will offer three different levels of Switch, with Base, Sport, and Cruise trim. This is where it gets a little confusing, since each of the three core models can be ordered in different lengths and with different power options – 25 possible configurations in all.
The Base model Sea-Doo Switch comes in lengths of 3.9 or 4.8m with a 100hp engine; the 5.4m model has a 170hp engine. Standard features include a monochrome digital helm display, an adjustable table, a glove box with dual USB ports, a 12-volt outlet, and a huge under-deck storage compartment. Designed with the sensibilities of young families in mind, the base Switch retails from US$17,000, which is awfully appealing for a full package of boat, motor and trailer. All base model Switch boats come with grey decks and white hull sides, trimmed with a bright blue nose accent.


The more upscale Switch Sport lineup, available in white with a blue, red or yellow accent, starts with a 3.9m with a 170hp naturally-aspirated Rotax engine, and continues with 5.4 and 6.4m floorplans each powered by a supercharged 230hp Rotax. Standard features include a Garmin GPS in addition to the helm display, an inflatable tube holder on the swim platform that keeps wet towables secure without eating into interior space, a rear-view mirror for watersports and a dedicated Ski Mode. There’s also an upgraded driver’s seat with an integrated bolster, a Bimini top, a glovebox with dual USB ports, LED courtesy lighting, two corner tables, the aforementioned aft swim platform and a stern lounge seat. The 5.4 and 6.4m models also come with a watertight BRP Bluetooth audio system. Packaged with a trailer, the Sport still comes in at an extremely attractive retail price of US$23,999.
Sea-Doo’s top-of-the-line Switch Cruise model is also offered in a choice of blue, red or yellow accent colour, lengths of 5.4 and 6.4m, and a choice of 100hp, 170hp or 230hp power options. Standard features in the Cruise include a seven-inch Garmin GPS with a free regional map token, a BRP sound system,


a Bimini top, a swim platform, deck mats, a stern lounge, four corner tables with drink holders, a glovebox with twin USB ports, LED courtesy lighting, under seat storage, corner table storage, an under-deck storage compartment, additional seating and storage, and an upgraded helm seat with bolster. Starting price for the boat, motor and trailer package begins at US$26,999.

Fun comes standard
It doesn’t really matter which Switch you opt for, because fun comes standard in every model.
BRP had all three versions of its new jet pontoon available for test rides at a media event held in the days following its official announcement. Although I’m not the target market at all, I’ll readily admit – it’s a load of fun to drive.
My first experience at the helm came aboard a 6.4m Switch Cruise model decked out with a full camper top and pretty well every available option – including the 230hp supercharged Rotax engine. In spite of this being the largest and heaviest Switch variant, underway it definitely felt a lot more like a Sea-Doo PWC than any pontoon boat I’ve ever driven before. The handlebar steering and handgrip throttle do admittedly take a bit of getting used to, but it doesn’t take long before you begin to appreciate the design and agree with the decision that this is the right set-up for the highly-responsive Switch.


Acceleration – whether from a dead stop or from halfway through the powerband – is virtually instantaneous, with the power coming on immediately, yet in a measured, controlled way. After a few minutes to get the feel of the boat and its unique hull structure, you quickly develop confidence and feel right at home adopting increasingly sharper turns. Yet in spite of its power, the Switch Cruise simply goes where you point it – and gets there pretty quickly as well.


The mid-range Switch Sport that BRP had available for test rides also had the 230hp supercharged Rotax, and in the shorter and lighter 5.4m hull, the responsive throttle was even more fun. Unlike the bigger Cruise model, the front deck in the Sport was configured with the bow set up as a big sunpad, complete with two forward-facing backrests. Hands-down that’s the most enjoyable seat in the house when the boat is underway, in spite of the revealing view of the water through the clear side panels. The sight of oncoming boat wakes does look a bit alarming being so low to the water, but the floating Polytec hull always managed to rise to the challenge and keep the water out of the boat.
Although the least powerful variant with its 170hp naturally-aspirated engine, the 3.9m base Switch – named the Compact in a nod to its trim dimensions – was arguably the most fun of all. The responsive throttle and short hull length make it a genuine blast to drive, especially if you try fishtailing it back and forth PWC-style.


More than any other, this model really makes the most of BRP’s standard Intelligent Brake and Reverse feature, allowing you to – with a bit of practice – literally turn the boat 360o in pretty much its own length. Not much larger than a three-seat Sea-Doo, the Compact is far more personal watercraft than pontoon boat – even if it does require a bit of trim to get it up on plane when you have all your passengers seated in the stern. Fishos who use a Sea-Doo but wish it had a bit more space for gear will absolutely love the Compact.

The future of boating
Switch is very much designed and built with younger buyers in mind. “We saw a gap in the market for smaller-sized pontoon boats, and an opportunity where we could really shake things up and disrupt the markets,” says Annick Lauzon, director, global marketing for Sea-Doo and Ski-Doo. “Two of the key features that we knew we had to address were ease of use, and ease of docking. This is where the a handlebar-driven console came in early on in the design process, because it’s simply a more intuitive type of riding. Anyone who has ever ridden a bicycle is immediately comfortable with it.”


Lauzon adds that adaptability also ranked highly among Switch’s initial design parameters. “A family’s needs are always changing, not just from one year to the next, but even over the course of a single day,” she says. “That’s hard to accommodate in a single boat, and our research confirmed that the ability for Switch to switch things up and adapt as needed was critically important.”
Clearly, the company’s market research was right on target, with Sea-Doo’s Switch launch going viral on social media worldwide. Initial response from dealers has been overwhelmingly positive, says the company.


Built in the US at BRP’s Sturtevant, Wisconsin plant, the Sea-Doo Switch arrives in dealerships across North America in September and October, with a global rollout to follow.
Different? You bet. But with its bold combination of pontoon boat amenities and personal watercraft performance, the Sea-Doo Switch really does represent the best of both worlds – and in an eye-catching package that’s loaded with innovation and fresh new ideas.

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