Crownline’s new E-29 XS capitalizes on outboard power in form and function.
This article originally appeared on boats.com. Republished by permission.
Putting outboard engines on bowriders is nothing new – and yet it is. Stern drives dominated in runabouts for decades, then we saw a shift to offer both stern-drive and outboard power, and in many cases manufacturers today are offering their runabout models only with outboards—and more specifically with twin powerheads. It’s one of those design trends that has been hiding in plain sight so to speak.
Take Crownline’s new E-29 XS for example. It’s large enough to merit twin engines if it were an inboard, but the use of outboard power gives the buyer enormous range of choice. For example, the boat comes standard with twin 250 Mercury Verados with digital throttle, which points up a $201,132 base price. However, buyers can get the “radio delete” option, so to speak, by choosing either twin 200 Verados in four- or six-cylinders.
Opting for the four cylinders drops the base price to $190,027 and the six-cylinders set the price at $193,000. That’s probably the better power choice if you’re looking to save money. An inline six-cylinder runs more smoothly than an inline four and it offers a superior torque curve, too.
Deadrise: 21 deg.
Displacement: 8,350 lbs
Fuel capacity: 137 gal.
Water capacity: 15 gal.
The other thing outboards do is free up a lot of space that was once occupied by the engines and rededicate it to the people on board, and the E-29 XS delivers on that trait. Stern seating is versatile, with backrests that adjust to face forward when underway or toward the stern when swimming behind the boat. Crownline designers provided a full swim platform to walk around the engines, even when they’re partially trimmed up. They included a ladder off starboard side and a walk-through with a low step up from the cockpit.
You can do that because, you know, there’s no engine under the stern sun pad.
Crownline designers also made good use of cockpit space by offering two-wide seating at the helm and observer’s seat. It’s a squeeze fitting two in, but it’s doable. The thigh bolsters on both sides flip up for enhanced visibility or the ability to stand and leaCrownline designers also made good use of cockpit space by offering two-wide seating at the helm and observer’s seat. It’s a squeeze fitting two in, but it’s doable. The thigh bolsters on both sides flip up for enhanced visibility or the ability to stand and lean when underway. However, the neatest part about those seats is that the backrest on both sides adjusts to face fore or aft. Pretty cool.
What’s also cool are the features includes as standard. The color-matched bow and cockpit canvas are standard, as is a three-bank battery charger and bow walk-through doors. Cleats are the pull-up variety, which are nice because they hold lines when you want them to, but won’t snag them when you don’t.
You also get standard bow and stern docking lights and a Raymarine ES98 touch-screen multifunction display. Of course, if you’re a regular reader of this column, you know I harp on a builder when it doesn’t include a Bimini top as standard equipment included in the list price ($190,027, in this case). There will be no such harping today because Crownline not only includes a Marquis aluminum hardtop with the E-29 XS, but also the telescoping Sure Shade canvas that extends the covered area to the aft lounge.
More functional standard items include a removable dinette table, transom shower, trim tabs with indicators, underwater transom lighting, and a power windlass with rode and chain. It also comes with an enclosed head. Not all of those features stem from the design freedom the outboard powertrain provides, but many of them do and they’re part of what makes the trend toward outboard power so practical. It’s not clear which manufacturer thought of it first, but Crownline is making good use of it in its E-29 XS.
Other Choices: The Regal 29 OBX is another big bowrider that runs on outboard power. If you’d rather follow a more traditional stern-drive route, see the Sea Ray 280 SLX or the Cobalt R7.
A runabout is a boat with such a wide definition that it’s a challenge to decide whether to include certain boats inside that definition or exclude them. It’s become especially challenging lately, given boat builders’ penchant for stretching the overall lengths of their models to ever-increasing sizes. While most folks consider a runabout to be a small, generally open design, larger boats also have of those open runabout attributes.
With that in mind we’ve curated five excellent runabouts for the 2017 boating season that should fit many different family sizes, intended uses, and, of course, budgets. Some models fit the familiar runabout definition, while a couple are longer models that push the boundaries. Either way, you should find something below that tickles the right boating vibes.
Yamaha 21 Series: Packed with Innovation
It’s already a well-known fact that Yamaha builds excellent, high-quality jet boats that do lots of things really well. Their 19- to 24-foot boats include models built for watersports, family cruising, and there’s even a center-console fish boat in the lineup. Their 21-footer recently got a refresh, and we’re here to say that it was quite a significant one, with lots of new and innovative features.
The third-generation iteration of Yamaha’s 21-foot hull comes in five different models, all built with an eye toward satisfying different boating activities and budgets. The base SX210 starts at $39,999 while the option-filled, watersport-themed 212X goes for $57,999.
Most noteworthy among the new features is the addition of a pair of Yamaha’s new 130-horsepower TR-1 HO three-cylinder engines to each model. These are powerful enough to jolt the base models up to around 43 mph. They’re not only quieter, but more compact. Yamaha has also added lots of heavy-duty foam in the engine bays and bilges to help tone down the racket these engines typically produce. Higher-end models in the lineup get four-cylinder engines rated at 180 ponies each, with top-end speeds around 50 mph. Also on board is a new feature Yamaha first introduced on its refreshed 24-foot models a couple of years ago: an articulating keel. This helps stop the problem of wandering so prevalent in jet boats, and also improves slow-speed maneuvering.
These boats are remarkably well-appointed, from the base model up to the kitted-out 212X. What do you get as you creep up the model lineup in price? Larger engines, watersports kits and wake packages, more luxurious interiors with built-in wet bars, and increased seating and stowage, for starters. Upper-end models also get Yamaha’s Connext system, which is a touchscreen panel that controls wake surfing ballast and general boat system controls.
There’s pretty much a model for every budget in Yamaha’s new 21-foot lineup. Whether watersports are your game or you simply want to take the family out for an enjoyable day on the water, we think Yamaha has hit the bullseye with these new boats.
Chaparral 227 SSX: Wake Surfing Wonderland
Sometimes when you’re trying out something new and complicated, it’s a good idea to get some help from a friend. That’s exactly what Chaparral did when it licensed Malibu’s Surf Gate technology, a system that utilizes a unique hull design and electrically powered flip-out panels in the hull to custom-craft the perfect wake. It allowed Chaparral to make a leap into a new segment it might not have otherwise been able to do without Malibu’s help.
Even without the great watersports features, the 227 SSX is a capable runabout all on its own. There’s a comfy bow seating area—some may call it a bowrider—and lots of convertible seating in the main cockpit. Seatbacks can be flipped around to change the purpose of the seating. There’s an expansive sunpad at the stern that can also be converted to a lounge, or allow easy access to the swim platform from the cockpit.
Getting back to the watersports theme, the Surf package adds around $9,000 to the base price of about $65,000. For that kind of loot, you get the Malibu Surf Gate system and hull, a ballast system, and Viper II touchscreen controls at the helm. Most folks who get the Surf package will want to get the folding watersports tower—another $3,615. We’re not sure why Chaparral didn’t include it in the Surf package. A Mercury 4.5-liter V6 inboard with Bravo sterndrive makes the 227 SSX go, and can send this sport boat up to around 45 mph at wide-open throttle.
The best thing about this boat is that it’s equally capable without the Surf Package, so it’s a great choice for both watersport enthusiasts or family cruisers. Given its remarkably convertible seating layout, quality construction, and zippy Mercury propulsion, we think the 227 SSX is a great choice for a number of different types of boaters.
Regal 29 OBX: Outboard Overload
This model is the “big boy” in our list. It debuted at the 2017 Miami International Boat Show, pushing the boundaries of what folks consider a runabout. In our mind it’s technically a deck boat, but its plethora of remarkable and Transformer-like features make it a worthy competitor in the large runabout market. What’s most remarkable about it is its twin Yamaha F200 four-stroke outboard power—most boats of this type rely on inboards.
What that outboard power gets you is a ton of performance and loads more room inside the gunwales. We took the 29 OBX out on a choppy Biscayne Bay and saw a top end of about 50 mph with four people on board and a half load of fuel. That’s fast for a boat this type. Mashing the throttles into the deck resulted in 0-30 mph times of around 10 seconds. The boat did bang a bit in the steep chop but otherwise handled the challenging conditions well.
Inside the boat are a ton of clever features that allow it to be used in many different ways. Perhaps most worthy of comment is the “ultra-lounge” platform at the transom, which electrically scoots forward about a half foot to increase the swimming platform space taken up by the pair of flipped-up outboards. Since there are no inboard engines to contend with, there’s a huge stowage compartment under the main deck with plenty of room for safety gear, skis, or whatever you might need to keep out of the weather. Like lots of boats in this class, the 290 OBX’s interior is highly convertible, equipped with a slew of flipping and fold-down seat backs that allow customization of the boat’s interior.
Add in a spacious head compartment, a huge bow lounge, and an electrically lowered wake tower with integral Bimini top, and you’ve got one heck of a boat for all sorts of water-themed fun.
Glastron GT-180: Fun and Affordable
Glastron, now owned by Groupe Beneteau, literally wrote the book on runabouts, producing its first model, the Firelite, in 1957. We decided to take a look at the smallest member of the Glastron family, the GT-180. It’s a true runabout with outboard power on the stern. The best part is the fun begins in the $23,000 ballpark.
Standard power on the GT180 is a 115-horsepower Mercury FourStroke outboard swinging a 13.75-inch diameter, 15-inch pitch stainless-steel propeller. You can choose a Yamaha or Evinrude outboard as well, and put up to 150 hp on the transom. The standard power plant will get you to around 45 mph at wide-open throttle—not bad for an entry-level boat—though most folks will cruise the GT-180 in the low 20s for best fuel economy. The math reveals a 121-mile range at those speeds, sipping fuel from the 24-gallon fuel tank.
Inside there’s enough room for eight folks, though six will likely be the comfortable maximum. The comfy bow area features two forward-facing chaise lounges set in a U-shaped configuration with an additional cushion forward, The space can be turned into a large bow playpen with the addition of an insert cushion. There’s stowage beneath the chaise lounges and forward cushion seat. Behind the expansive windshield are two swiveling captain’s chairs, while farther aft is an almost full-width bench that has additional stowage beneath it. We like the relatively utilitarian feel of the interior, which remains comfy while still being sturdy enough to stand up to the abuse kids and family can exact on a boat. A split swim platform has a surprising amount of space, almost completely surrounding the outboard engine.
All in all, we really like this budget-minded yet capable machine from Glastron. It’s the perfect platform for entertaining friends and family, or even towing a bunch of kids on a tube or a water skier around. No muss, no fuss.
Crownline E29 XS: Fast and Furious
The E29 XS is a new, twin outboard-powered bowrider from Crownline. Outboard power in runabouts is a trend, and for good reason. As mentioned above, outboards not only provide reliability and simplicity, but also open up tons of interior and deck space normally taken up by inboard engines and engine boxes. You’ll see more of this trend in runabout-style boats in the coming years.
Crownline has slapped a pair of 250-horsepower Mercury Verados on the stern, but buyers can opt for Yamaha outboards as well—up to twin 300-horsepower engines. The base engines will get you into the high 40s easily while the optional 300-horsepower powerplants will catapult you into 50-mph territory. Either setup has plenty of hole shot and power to pull skiers, wakeboarders, or a tube with a load full of kids. The engines are also electronically controlled, which eliminates a lot of rigging mess on the transom.
Inside is a single-level deck design reminiscent of a deck boat, though Crownline considers this boat to be a crossover that blends many different design elements together to please folks with varying boating styles. There’s a wakeboard-style watersport tower with speakers that should please watersport enthusiasts. Crownline has also engineered an awning that pulls out from the tower over the twin convertible chaise lounges at the stern. These can face either forward or aft with the flip of a seatback. There’s comfy cockpit seating under the tower’s hardtop, twin swiveling captain’s chairs behind the wraparound windshield, and a huge bow area with luxurious chaise lounges that are part of a U-shaped seating affair. A head is concealed under the port console.
Though the Crownline E29 XS doesn’t come cheap—it runs about $200,000 to start—it’s packed with tons of standard features that are options on many similar boats. With outboard power, a speedy disposition, and a lot of comfort baked in, Crownline’s got a winner here.
Ten years ago most any bowrider over about 25 to 27 feet in length would have been considered truly huge by most standards. Today, however, these boats make up the middle of what is an ever-expanding range of bowriders on the market—some pushing well into the 40-foot plus range. In fact, these super-size-me bowriders challenge most folks’ conceptions of what a bowrider really is. With that in mind we’ve selected a couple of larger bowriders that caught our eye recently, as well as one truly huge example measuring 44 feet in length. Let’s cast off the lines and see what these big-boy bowriders are all about.
Crownline 270 SS
If you know anything about Crownline Boats, you know they’re graceful, elegant, and chock-full of rich trim and comfy, buttery upholstery components. That’s probably why the builder’s 270 SS bowrider model caught our eye at this year’s Miami International Boat Show.
At first glance the Crownline 270 SS’s lines have the qualities not just of a bowrider, but also of a watersports boat, an express cruiser, and a runabout. And while that might sound like an awkward juxtaposition, the 270 SS carries all of these design elements with a lot of style. A two-tone paint scheme, swooping Bimini arch, and flowing sheer line help anchor the 270 SS’s smart looks.
Onboard at the stern you’ll find an expansive integrated swim platform with no-slip decking. It’s equipped with a drop-down swim ladder that should make getting in and out of the water a cinch. Just ahead of it at the transom is a convertible lounge that can do double duty as a forward- or aft-facing chaise longue. Simply moving its swinging seatback changes its orientation.
Farther forward, the cockpit features twin swiveling captain’s chairs behind a wraparound windshield and split console. An enclosed head sits inside the port console while the helm is situated to starboard. The aforementioned convertible chaise longue forms an L-shaped lounge in the cockpit with the seatback flipped aft. There’s a companion bench just opposite it, and all cockpit seating has tons of stowage cleverly hidden beneath it.
Deadrise: 19 deg.
Displacement: 5,200 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 55 gal.
Water Capacity: 15 gal.
The comfy bow seating area is U-shaped, with the bottom of the “U” facing forward. The area can be used either as a group seating area or more intimately by two folks relaxing in the pair of forward-facing lounges. The whole setup is very roomy and comfy. There’s also lots of easily accessible stowage beneath the seat bottoms, which are fitted with gas-assist struts. A pedestal table can be fitted to enhance the bow area’s entertaining capabilities.
Standard power in the 270 SS is a 300-horsepower MerCruiser 350 MAG/Bravo 3 powertrain, which is capable of propelling it up to a top speed of around 45 mph. Best cruise is around 29 to 31 mph, where the MerCruiser will sip about 10 gallons of fuel per hour. A 430-horsepower MerCruiser is an option for those with a need for speed. You know, like 50-plus mph worth of speed. That’s nothing to shake a stick at, performance-wise, especially for a bow rider.
So, what sort of folks will want to consider the 270 SS as a candidate for their boat-buying dollars? We figure anyone with a mess of family and friends to entertain will want to check out this well-appointed bowrider that has a touch of speed and performance baked in.
Sea Ray 280 SLX
Brand new this year, having been introduced at the Miami International Boat Show, the Sea Ray 280 SLX is a bowrider that crosses into day boat territory with its expansive cockpit and luxurious and comfortable seating accommodations. As with any boat from an experienced builder like Sea Ray, we were expecting big things from this boat. And Sea Ray didn’t disappoint.
Shuffled onboard as part of a media event, almost a dozen marine journalists and their gear were swallowed up in the 280 SLX’s interior. It’s logical that the boat should seem a little bit roomier than other bowriders its size because it carries a nine-foot beam. And yes, that means you’ll need a permit to trailer it in most states. Still, the compromise seems worth it. Our group easily spread out in the 280 SLX’s three distinct social zones, which includes the spacious bow area, a large cockpit seating scheme, and an expansive swim platform with adjacent transom seating. Transformer-like seating that’s richly upholstered and convertible enhances relaxation, but also adds utility with lots of easily accessed and generous stowage underneath. We also liked that each person was never out of reach of his or her own cup holder or personal stowage cubby.
Deadrise: 21 deg.
Displacement: 7,018 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 90 gal.
Gizmos and gadgets can either make a boat infinitely better or painfully annoying. So, when we saw Sea Ray’s new Dynamic Display touch-screen interface sandwiched into the 280 SLX’s dash, we were skeptical. But to our surprise the touch screen display made operating the 280 SLX’s systems much easier than a conventional array of control switches and dials. You can even electrically actuate the clever hinged Bimini tower with the touch screen display. It’s hinged in such a way that it stows flat across the cockpit, doing double-duty as a boat cover. Super cool, once you’ve seen it in person.
Under the engine hatch you’ll find a 350-horsepower MerCruiser® 6.2L MPI ECT Bravo III w/ DTS Sterndrive as standard, though you can up the horsepower ante with as many as 430 ponies, courtesy an 8.2-liter MerCruiser gasoline inboard. With those options you’ll likely never want for performance.
You’re not likely to run out of room for comfortably entertaining your friends and family on the 280 SLX. If we were in the market for a bowrider, this one would be near the top of our list.
Four Winns Horizon H440
Before you say it, we know what you’re thinking: Why in the heck would anyone want a 44-foot bowrider. Luckily we have a lot of good answers to that question, thanks to the new H440 model from Four Winns. Introduced at the 2014 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, the Horizon H440 takes what’s usually a lot of wasted foredeck space on a typical express cruiser and turns it into an incredibly useful relaxation zone.
Accessed via a set of steps that lead up through the windshield and then down into the foredeck from the cockpit, the entertaining area in the bow is really well done and incredibly roomy. Occupants can lie back and take in the view facing forward in a couple of chaise longues or tuck in around a beautiful center-mounted teak table that sits inside the overall C-shaped seating scheme. A piece of custom canvas can be fitted overhead, adding to the overall comfort factor.
Back in the cockpit is even more entertaining space, centered around a large wraparound L-shaped lounge with teak table. A wet bar is close at hand, while the helm and its companion seating are situated just forward . There’s tons of additional outdoor fun space as well, with a huge upholstered transom bench and a massive hydraulic swim platform that can be raised and lowered to facilitate getting people or toys into and out of the water.
Standard power on the H440 is a pair of Volvo Penta 370-horsepower turbo diesels mated to IPS 500 pods. A pair of 435-horsepower Volvo Penta turbo diesels with IPS 600 pods is an option. And yes, the IPS system nets you the bliss of joystick steering and control, which is awfully handy come docking time. Expect top speeds in the mid 30-mph range, with a nice cruise in the mid 20s.
Deadrise: 19 deg.
Displacement: 26,000 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 300 gal.
Water Capacity: 85 gal.
Because of the walk-through that leads up from the cockpit to the forward bow lounge, access to the belowdecks spaces is offset to port. Three steps down from the companionway land you in the main cabin. To port is a bench dinette with twin teak pedestal tables. Opposite to starboard is the galley, which has a refrigerator, microwave, sink, and a surprising amount of stowage space.
Just aft of the galley in the midcabin area is the master stateroom, which has a queen-size berth and is open to the main cabin. A VIP/guest stateroom is situated in the bow and a single—and very roomy—enclosed head and shower is shared by all. Lots of natural light percolates below to all areas thanks to a plethora of opening hatches and hullside portlights. Cherry woodwork and cream-colored upholstery add richness to the feel below and there’s way more space down here than you’d expect.
Four Winns has done a spectacular job of combining the DNA of two great boat designs—a bowrider and an express cruiser—to create a capable cruising boat with an emphasis on relaxation and fun in the sun. The biggest take-away is that they’ve managed to do all that without compromising comfort or roominess below.
I knew I was going to marry the guy I was dating the first time I saw him hitch his Crown Line to the back of his truck, haul it over 100 miles of winding roads as if it were no more trouble than a little red wagon, then expeditiously launch it into Colorado’s majestic Lake Granby with unprecedented ease.
It was our first long weekend away together, and I was thrilled at the invitation to spend 4 days exploring the lake and hiking trails, catching and preparing lake trout, and simply relaxing into a quiet escape from the sounds, sights and summons of city living. And, since this was not his first time to weekend with friends on the lake, he knew exactly where to anchor and set camp for the absolute best in all things relating to comfort and practicalities. Needless to say, the ‘date’ was perfection, until the inevitable arose and we were faced with an urgent situation that required precise and direct communication if we were to avoid certain disaster.
As we’d only just begun to know one another, the ability possessed by seasoned couples to cryptically or telepathically direct, and respond with, definitive action during times of crisis simply was not yet in place. And let’s face it, while I love to boat and am gradually developing somebody’s version of water sport finesse, if we have to rely solely on my inherent nautical skill or cat-like reflexes to get us out of pinch, chances are good we’re in big trouble, buddy.
So, being forced to employ more rudimentary options for presenting the right direction to incite the right action, (ie, verbal exchange of the American language), we found ourselves smack in the middle of a Mars vs. Venus situation, and suddenly reminded that effective communication between the sexes isn’t always easy when the unexpected arises and critical action is required.
Quite fortunately, he and I are both from the same school of thought that it’s far more appropriate (and fun!) to figure out who is right and who is wrong after danger has passed by. We avoided the mishap by using the valuable seconds prior to that final moment of “Shew, we made it!”, or “Holy Cow! Are you okay?!” to refine our statements and sharpen our interpretation, rather than give ourselves over to the powerful (and sometimes numbing) effects of adrenaline.
It takes practice to stay calm when submerged in chaos, and whether you’re from Mars or Venus, remembering to keep your words productive can assist anyone you’re depending on to react quickly and correctly at crucial moments. In my opinion, that’s the stuff good Captains are made of, so with this as the first of many cooperatives in successful navigation of adversity, he’s become my Captain for life.