Vital Stats

Engine:
1.3L I4
Power:
140 HP / 87 LB-FT
Transmission:
5-Spd Manual
Top Speed:
45 MPH
Drivetrain:
Rear-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
1,333 LBS
Seating:
1
Base Price:
"around $40,000"
The Ultimate Crossover



Having grown up in Michigan, I spent the entirety of my early adult life riding whatever powersport machine I could get my hands on, be it snowmobile, dirt bike, four-wheeler or personal watercraft. Pretty much, if it has an engine, I've ridden it. On Memorial Day weekends ­– the unofficial start of summer – I would usually split my time between tearing up two-tracks on dirt bikes and jumping waves on a jet ski. Now, Michigan-based Gibbs Sports has come up with an innovative amphibious vehicle that my 18-year-old self is glad never existed. It's called the Gibbs Quadski. Unlike those odd, six-wheeled amphibious machines that are built more for practicality than excitement, the Quadski was designed with enthusiasts in mind to create an enjoyable riding experience on both land and water.

The idea for the Quadski actually began with the Aquada, a street-legal amphibious concept car that gained the company a lot of publicity. But Gibbs learned the hard way that getting such a vehicle built was a difficult task when dealing with federal regulations pertaining to both street-legal cars and marine vessels. So the company has taken some of the technologies it developed for the Aquada and applied them to the Quadski, creating what is essentially part all-terrain vehicle, part personal watercraft and even part motorcycle.

Introduced late last year, the Gibbs Quadski is on sale now at a handful of dealers across the country (okay, mostly in Florida) with a staggering price of around $40,000. These days, your top-of-the-line ATVs and PWCs can easily top the $10,000 mark, so with this asking price, the Quadski is indeed being targeted at well-to-do early adopters and government agencies. At the moment, I'm neither, but Gibbs invited me to its custom-built test course in South Florida to put the Quadski through its paces on both land and sea.
Gibbs Quadski side viewGibbs Quadski front viewGibbs Quadski rear view

The Quadski has a wheelbase only three inches shorter than a Smart ForTwo.

When I pulled up to Gibbs' test facility, it was the first time I had ever seen a Quadski in person. My first impression focused on just how large this machine is. Jet skis and four-wheelers are already on the big side of powersport vehicles, but combining the two results in a surprisingly massive machine. In fact, looking at the specs, the Quadski has a wheelbase only three inches shorter than a Smart ForTwo, and it's about an inch wider and almost two feet longer from nose to tail (or bow to stern, depending on how you look at it).

Helping cloud the Quadski's roots even further, it gets its power from the same 1.3-liter inline four-cylinder engine used by BMW in many of its motorcycles. In this application, power is reduced slightly to 140 horsepower and 87 pound-feet of torque, and on land, power is sent to the rear wheels through a five-speed transmission that requires manual upshifts from a button-operated shifter on the left side of the handlebars (the transmission downshifts automatically). The engine also sends constant power to the jet, which means it is running even if the Quadski isn't in the water.

With its composite V-shaped hull and prominent rear jet, the Quadski looks like a jet ski with wheels. The unique construction of the drive system means that there are no driveshafts to the rear wheels; instead, power is sent rearward via a chain. As for maintenance on the Quadski, it is recommended to be serviced every 50 hours at a Gibbs Sports Amphibians dealer, and the whole thing is covered by a 12-month warranty for models sold in the contiguous US. For a vehicle that does so much multitasking, it still ends up being quite competent on both land and water, offering plenty of power for riders to enjoy themselves at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour.

Gibbs Quadski engineGibbs Quadski rear jetGibbs Quadski wheelGibbs Quadski steering

Its 15-gallon fuel tank is about three times larger than a conventional ATV.

I started off on dirt, where a Gibbs instructor showed me around the course. There was a good mix of wide-open trails with some occasional washboards thrown in, a few steep uphill and downhill areas and even a slow-speed rock crawl section. The Quadski's four-wheel independent suspension took it all in stride. In fact, being about double the size and weight of a standard ATV, the Quadski actually felt more stable around some of the turns. Its steering setup is responsive at all speeds, and the best part is that the handlebars don't jerk out of your hands when going over rough, uneven terrain. Full headlights and taillights mean that it can be ridden at night, but sadly, this land and sea Transformer is not street legal. One benefit of the Quadski on land is that its 15-gallon fuel tank, which is recommended to be filled with premium gas, is about three times larger than a conventional ATV and should give it a much longer riding range.

The Quadski's wide body ensures that the rider's feet can't touch the ground while seated, so it has an electric reverse gear to make it easier to navigate tight areas. Backing up on land is accomplished by pushing a blue button on the left side of the handlebars. Unfortunately, the switchgear is poorly placed, requiring that you take your left hand off the brake lever to press the button, unless you cross your right arm over to the left side. In either case, both motions are rather awkward. Following the Gibbs representative on the trail, I also noticed that the hull shape, which is meant to help it perform better on the water, actually reduces ground clearance, and on a few occasions, I saw sand making its way into the jet outlet. Gibbs officials say this occurrence won't damage the impeller – apparently, it's nothing like sucking sandy water through the jet... a jet ski no-no.

Gibbs Quadski drivingGibbs Quadski drivingGibbs QuadskiGibbs Quadski

It only seats one and is unable to tow anyone behind it – no water skiers, no tubers.

Transitioning from ATV to PWC is simple. Just drive into the water, raise the wheels and you're good to go. Again, since the jet is always running, the Quadski is still able to putter through the water with its wheels down. Once the water is deep enough, pressing a toggle button raises the wheels in a matter of seconds, and then it's in full PWC mode. Considerably wider and heavier than the biggest three-passenger jet skis currently on the market, the Quadski seemed to take a little extra time to get up on a plane, but after that, it felt just like it wheel-less counterparts. One of the Quadski's biggest weaknesses is that it literally puts the "Personal" in Personal Watercraft – it only seats one and is unable to tow anyone behind it – no water skiers, no tubers.

One of the coolest moments riding the Quadski occurs when riding straight out of the water onto land. My first attempt was thwarted by my brain's confusion at trying to ride a jet ski ashore – I came in too hot and didn't have time to put the wheels down. Stern tones were addressed in my direction. On the second attempt, I came in at a slower pace – just off plane – and pushed the button to lower the wheels. Once the tires made contact with the dirt ramp, the Quadski's unique design used both the rear wheels and the jet to power up onto land. Even coming straight out of the water, the brakes worked perfectly in bringing the machine to a quick stop – the same can't be said for all ATVs after fording through water. (Interesting side note: the Quadski uses cross-drilled rotors that have scalloped edges, very similar to what is offered on the latest Audi RS models).

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The Quadski isn't really a proper direct replacement for some of the high-dollar 4x4 ATVs.

The good news is that once when you're getting ready to go from land to water, one's helmet can be stored snugly beneath the seat along with the battery and fire extinguisher, though the retracting front wheels mean that there is no storage area in the front. Even better, if you ride the Quadski right on the water, you won't need to pack a towel or a change of clothes.

Coming in at a little more than five feet wide and offering only rear-wheel drive, the Quadski isn't really a proper direct replacement for some of the high-dollar 4x4 ATVs that can go deep into the woods. While attempting to be a jack of two trades, the Quadski makes a few compromises, but they might not even be noticed by all but the most hardcore ATV/PWC enthusiasts. One issue that is clear as day, however, is that the Quadski's girth not only limits where it can be ridden on land, it also makes trailering a necessity since its width and length make it too big for most pickup truck beds.

Gibbs Quadski rear 3/4 view

Then again, it doesn't seem like Gibbs intends to replace conventional ATVs and jet skis – it's looking to create an entirely different experience when it comes to powersports. As it is, until the price comes down a fair bit, the Quadski may end up playing a bigger role in the yachting industry, or perhaps as a great tool for well-heeled beach-area police departments and lifeguard operations. We can also see it doing well in hourly rental scenarios, where its novelty value could be a big trump card. Regardless of who buys the Gibbs Quadski, they're sure to find endless entertainment in the simple joy of riding from land into the water and vice-versa. It's surreal, seamless... and it never gets old.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 31 Comments
      Stang70Fastback
      • 1 Year Ago
      I don't even have to look down at the comments to know that there will be plenty of people bashing this as something that gives up too much on either end of the spectrum in order to do both tasks. However, there are MANY applications that I can see this being useful in. For example: Search and rescue in flooded areas (assuming the impeller can be shielded from serious debris.) General transportation in rural areas surrounded by water. Recreational fun in back country where you can take your fishing rod and just go out onto the water for a bit (though not sure how comfy it would be after a while.) Hell, I could see these being rented out to people in an area that might have a lake as well as some 4x4 trails as an interesting family outing/picnic thing... There are many reasons why this wouldn't directly replace a hardcore ATV or a hardcore jet ski, but there are plenty of scenarios for which this is actually the best-suited vehicle.
      RonMcCord
      • 1 Year Ago
      When the zombie apocolypse comes this will be the vehicle of choice, no tickets to worry about so it wll be onroad legal. Fast enough to avoid zombies on the road and you can hit the water to avoid them as well. Road will be choked with cars so you can drive around them and siphon gas off.
        Mr E
        • 1 Year Ago
        @RonMcCord
        sure, it's a nice second-choice to that terrafugia vertical take-off car. this is sorely lacking the exposed-blades-to-decapitate-walkers feature
        A_Guy
        • 1 Year Ago
        @RonMcCord
        SOLD!
        The Wasp
        • 1 Year Ago
        @RonMcCord
        Good luck finding premium gas...
      tnsubie
      • 1 Year Ago
      I could see it being useful in certain search and rescue situations. Especially with a few panniers an/or a backboard carrier.
      13thGeneral
      • 1 Year Ago
      Looks just like something from that 80's cartoon show M.A.S.K. http://www.albertpenello.com/mask/gator.html
      Thipps
      • 1 Year Ago
      Or you could just go buy the best ATV on the market and PWC and keep the change. Why have some expensive THING that sucks at everything? IDK maybe there is a market for it but i think this product can be so much better. Maybe think stand up jetski size/sport atv. maybe the suspension and wheels quick attach on and off so its at least a decent PWC and small and light enough to be a usable ATV.
      rboote
      • 1 Year Ago
      Gibbs does some very impressive engineering work, but I have to wonder how well this will sell given it's RWD-only, especially when most people buying Quads do so to go "four-wheeling." Also, as great as their engineering may be, they just can't seem to manage the whole design aspect (I understand form vs. function), and their creations end up looking... Goofy.
      Timothy Tibbetts
      • 1 Year Ago
      For 40k, I see the same problem you always have with dual use vehicles. Does neither one really well. You can see where the tires will cause resistance in the water and the low clearance means a huge risk of banging up your hull making more resistance in water. Would love to try one out though just because it exists.
        Luke
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Timothy Tibbetts
        To me it looks like the tires fold up far enough to be a non-issue, especially once you get up on a plane.
      windexsunday
      • 1 Year Ago
      So I could buy a truck, a quad, and a some sort of personal watercraft for under $40 (with appropriate trailers) or I could buy this? Well, maybe if I was the US Government that would make sense.
      collabplan
      • 1 Year Ago
      Struggling to see the utility or appeal here. What scenario would really require the ability to transition from land to water? When I can buy a top of the line jet ski/wave runner and quad for half the price and get significantly better performance from both, can't see any reason why someone would want this.
        Michael D. Mitchell
        • 1 Year Ago
        @collabplan
        LIfeguards, search and rescue teams, and perhaps the military could find quite a bit of utility in this vehicle. How practical would it be to haul around both an ATV and a jet ski if you can only ride one at a time? If you're on land and need to respond to an emergency situation in the water, how much time would it take to change from one vehicle to another?
        The Wasp
        • 1 Year Ago
        @collabplan
        What if you own land on both sides of a river and don't want to build a bridge? I agree that a good jet ski and a good ATV would be more practical most of the time for most people, but if money is no issue, this would be more convenient some of the time for some people.
      Enrique A. Thiele So
      Put a renesis engine on it an get 232 hp instead of 140, Mazda will charge less than BMW. It will be more fun and have bigger sales due to lower price. Of course get tour investment back with the $40,000 models and put apart some money for more development (the Rotary).
      diffrunt
      • 1 Year Ago
      Jacks of all trades are usually masters of none.
      vizcarmb
      • 1 Year Ago
      kawasaki needs to get in on this so they can call it a KawaQuadSki.
        Michael D. Mitchell
        • 1 Year Ago
        @vizcarmb
        Or better still, Gibbs probably needs to put Kawasaki engines in the Quadski to bring that price down.
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