Five years ago most pontoon boats had the unfortunate reputation of being nothing more than poky party barges. Today things are quite different. Not only have pontoon boats completely changed; today the segment is one of the fastest growing in the U.S. boating market.
With that popularity is coming innovation. In 2015 the big news was 30-foot pontoons sporting twin 300-horsepower outboards and joystick docking, capable of breaking the 50-mph barrier. For 2016? How about triple outboard-powered pontoons with cuddy cabins, topping 60 mph?
If you’re in the market for a new pontoon boat, there’s no better time than the present. Here are some models we’re excited about for 2016.
Premier 310 Encounter: Prepare for Liftoff
It might have been enough just to strap 750 horsepower to the back of the new Premier 310 Encounter. But Premier also added a cuddy cabin to the platform, which makes this one a standout new pontoon boat for the 2016 model year.
Power is provided via a triple dose of Evinrude’s 250-horsepower E-TEC G2 two-stroke outboard, which propels the 310 Encounter to almost 60 mph. The Encounter also has Premier’s 42-inch PTX Performance Pontoon system—a key ingredient in this pontoon’s ability to carve turns and handle that amount of horsepower. The package includes a 42-inch center tube, as well as nose-cone enhancements, pontoons with angled running surfaces, and under-deck wave shields.
That 42-inch center tube also provides enough space for a cuddy cabin, perhaps the most distinct feature on this boat. The cabin has a dinette and tons of lounge seating that can be converted into sleeping accommodations by simply lowering the drop-down table and drawing a privacy curtain. And while the idea of a cuddy cabin on a pontoon might make you think it’s a cave down below, you’d be wrong. There are three opening ports, an overhead hatch, and copious lighting accents.
Fasten your seatbelt, and then head to Premier Pontoons for more information on the 310 Encounter.
2016 Bennington 2375 RSBW “SwingBack:” Lay Back and Relax
One feature you’ll find on a lot of Mediterranean-inspired motor yachts are sun pads—large, cushy, upholstered platforms where owners and guests can soak up the sun, or just hang out and relax. It’s a feature you didn’t find very often on pontoon boats in the old days. Today there are more of them — but the Bennington 2375 RSBW SwingBack takes the theme to a whole new level.
The entire stern is dominated a massive, five-foot-wide upholstered sunpad set on a durable fiberglass base. The clever part of the lounge is a hinged seatback that swings forward to create a headrest for the sunpad, or aft to expand an L-shaped lounge in the cockpit (hence the term “SwingBack”). If you can’t unwind and relax on this thing, you’re not living right.
Underfoot is Bennington’s 25-inch ESP Performance Package, which includes two 25-inch diameter outer pontoons with performance foils, a patented 32-inch elliptical center pontoon with lifting strakes, and an under-deck wave shield. This package allows you to fit the 2375 RSB with up to 300 horsepower, good for speeds well into the upper 50-mph range.
Build your base tan and then head to Bennington Marine for more information on the 2375 RSBW.
Premier Dodici 310: The 60-mph Family Room
At 31 feet long and 12 feet wide, the Premier Dodici 310 is one of the most spacious pontoon boats your money can buy. But what makes this boat even more unique is what Premier has mounted to its stern: 900 ponies. Horsepower, that is.
In case you’re wondering, “Dodici” is Italian for “twelve,” referring to this new pontoon’s enormous 12-foot beam.
Available in both 29- and 31-foot lengths, the Dodici can be ordered up with the company’s Cruise or Pub layouts. The Pub layout features a full standup bar with swiveling bar stools and a bar-height table with additional swivel-stool seating, while the club layout focuses more on lounging and relaxing. The 31-foot model can host a mind-boggling 26 people aboard — and at high speed.
To contend with that wad of horsepower—provided by three 300-horsepower Evinrude E-TEC G2 outboards—Premier has fitted the Dodici with its 42-inch PTX performance pontoon package, mentioned above. The package means that you can not only strap more horsepower to the stern, but it also provides handling and cornering qualities that mirror what you’d find on many traditional fiberglass boats. While that sounds like a marketing gimmick, I’ve run enough of Premier’s pontoons to confirm the system works as advertised.
Hold on tight and head to Premier Pontoons for more information on the new Dodici pontoon boat.
Manitou Legacy XT and X-Plode XT: Fiberglass is Fabulous
If you had to nail down something that more than a few folks don’t like about pontoon boats, it’s that they can have a “blocky” look to them. Another is that the fencing and panel systems that surround the decks of these boats can be creaky or vibrate underway.
Manufacturers have tried to solve this problem by producing ever-evolving fencing and panel combinations, but the efforts haven’t always paid off. Manitou Pontoons thinks it has a solution with its new Legacy XT and X-Plode XT models.
Instead of having welded aluminum fencing with insert panels, Manitou’s newest additions are all fiberglass from the deck up. And that includes the interior furniture, too, which is fully integrated into the fiberglass deck enclosure. This allows Manitou to create a pontoon with a sleeker profile, having a look that’s more akin to traditional fiberglass boats. It also means a longer-lasting and more durable pontoon.
Under the new fiberglass modules sit Manitou’s normal decking and pontoon systems, both of which have a reputation for sturdiness and quality. The X-Plode model has a bend toward watersports activities, with splashy graphics and a tow tower, while the Legacy trim sports a traditional pontoon look with lounge seating and comfy captain’s chairs.
Head on over to Manitou Pontoon Boats for more information on these spiffy new fiberglass pontoon models.