If you’ve been paying attention to current trends in the U.S. boat market you’ve likely noticed that boat builders are putting outboards on just about every type of boat imaginable, from Downeast day boats to express cruisers. Even bowriders, which have historically been powered with inboards, are now commonly powered with today’s reliable, efficient outboards.
Playing a tune to that theme, we’ve curated a list of our four favorite outboard-powered bowriders for the 2017 boating season. These boats range in size from 22 to 43 feet.
Four Winns HD220 OB
Four Winns is now owned by French boatbuilder Groupe Beneteau, and that partnership is contributing to a revival at Four Winns. One model we’ve run recently that’s benefited from the purchase is the Four Winns HD220 OB. It’s a deckboat, but with a massive bow area that pushes it into bowrider territory. And of course it has outboard power and impressive performance.
We ran the Four Winns HD220 OB last year at a large media event in Sarasota, FL. Truth be told, you can get the HD220 with inboard or outboard power, but we decided to take the outboard version for a spin on Sarasota Bay. The 250-horsepower Mercury Verado outboard on our test boat was just one of the engines you can choose to bolt to the stern. Evinrude and Yamaha options are also available. We saw a top end near 50 mph in our testing and cruised comfortably in the low 30s. We did experience a bit of banging while running into the chop, but it wasn’t overly pronounced.
Inside the gunwales is an interesting and cozy layout that has three distinct social areas. The first is at the bow, which has ample seating and tons of stowage underneath. We liked that the seat bases flip up on gas-assist struts to reveal the stowage compartments. Farther aft is the main cockpit, which has two swiveling captain’s chairs behind the twin consoles and an L-shaped bench with port-side companion seating. Lastly, at the stern, we found a super relaxing transom bench that easily accommodates two people. Ample use of vinyl seagrass matting and Sea Dek foam padding on the decks makes walking around—even in the hot sun—easy on bare feet.
Comfortable and fast, the Four Winns HD220 OB offers bowrider buyers a variety of powerplant choices while providing great performance and excellent interior accommodations.
Regal 29 OBX
We tested the Regal 29 OBX at this year’s Miami International Boat Show and found lots of things to like about this capable and fun-to-run boat. Sporting a stepped hull, twin Yamaha outboard power, and a bevy of clever interior features, this boat’s great for everything from day cruising to watersports.
Most boats this size are designed with eight-foot, six-inch beams to keep them trailerable without a permit in most states. The Regal 29 OBX, on the other hand, sports nine full feet of beam. Translation: this is one roomy boat inside. And Regal has focused on convertibility with the 29 OBX, especially with the interior seating. The twin aft bench seats can not only be flipped to face forward or aft, they also sit on a platform that can be electrically moved to increase room on the expansive swim platform. The 29 OBX can be had with a Bimini arch that raises and lowers electrically, or with a hard top that has an opening sunroof in it.
There are twin benches in the cockpit and a comfy seat behind each console. A head is situated under the port console. Forward is the usual bow lounge setup, which can be arranged with two forward-facing chaise lounges or as a U-shaped social zone with an insert table in the middle for happy-hour cocktails or lunchtime snacks.
Our test craft was fitted with twin 200-horsepower Yamaha F200 outboards. A pair of Yamaha F250s are optional. Most folks will do just fine with the twin F200s, however, as we easily busted the 50-mph mark in our testing. The boat cruises nicely—and efficiently—in the low 30s. Though there was a bit of banging in the choppy waters of Biscayne Bay, overall the 29 OBX was a solid performer underway.
Angle your eyes toward the 29 OBX and you’ll see a roomy and comfortable bowrider that packs a powerful punch in the performance department.
Sea Ray 310 SLX OB
Sea Ray is one builder that is pushing the boundaries of what a bowrider actually is. There’s no better evidence of this than the company’s new 310 SLX OB, a bowrider with twin outboard power and interior accommodations that push it into day-boat territory. We climbed onboard this new model at the Miami International Boat Show.
The helm is a good place to start on this boat because it highlights the luxury qualities of the 310 SLX OB. The dash is surrounded in stitched “leather-look” vinyl, and engine and system gauges are consolidated into a glass-cockpit style touch-screen display. There’s also a four-inch color LCD SmartCraft display and a seven-inch Medallion display, both of which display critical information and allow easy control of the boat’s systems.
Inside we found the usual luxury and comfort we’ve come to expect from Sea Ray’s premium SLX line. Aft is a huge swim platform with a wide transom walk-through leading to the cockpit. On the transom, a five-foot wide aft-facing lounger can be used as a two- or three-person chaise lounge, or as more conventional seats when flip-up backrests are deployed. The cockpit features a huge wraparound seating area with a day galley across from it. A swiveling seat sits behind the port console and a double-wide bench with individual flip-bolsters is behind the helm. As you’d expect, the bow features massive seating accommodations, usable as forward-facing loungers or as a group seating area.
A pair of 300-horespower Mercury Verado outboards are standard, but our test craft was fitted with twin 350-horsepower Verados. Merucry tells us the twin 350s can push the 310 SLX OB up to a top speed in the low 50s, with an efficient cruise in the low 30s. There’s a huge 130-gallon fuel tank aboard. Though we didn’t have a chance to run the 310 SLX OB, we’ve run some of its sister ships and expect a solid and dry ride with impressive cornering performance.
Folks looking for a boat with built with an eye toward day cruising in comfort and luxury will definitely want to take a Sea Ray 310 SLX OB for a sea trial.
Formula 430 SSC
Introduced at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show last year, The Formula 430 SSC was so popular that we had to wait in line to get a look at her. And why not? With quadruple outboards on the stern, a full cabin below, and a large bow seating area, this boat is very different than any boat Formula’s built before.
Despite the four outboards racked to the stern there’s plenty of room on the swim platform for folks to get in and out of the water, lounge around, or maybe even take a swing at a golf ball or two. Yep, it’s that big. A convertible sunpad/lounge at the transom is a great place for lying out and drying off after a swim. Farther inside is a well-outfitted cockpit with large dinette, companion seating, and a day galley. The hardtop overhead has an electric sunroof to let the sun shine in and enhance ventilation. The walk-through to the bow area is to port. Once you’ve arrived up forward you’ll notice a wraparound seating arrangement and a truly clever split table—its two parts can be lowered and raised independently, and stow in the cockpit floor when not in use.
Between the aft cockpit and the bow area is a raised cabin house that houses the belowdecks accommodations. There’s a V-shaped dinette area in the bow that can be converted for sleeping, a small galley, an enclosed head/shower, and a larger sleeping berth situated mid-cabin under the bridge deck. It’s not a cabin that’s big enough for extended cruising, but weekenders will surely be satisfied with spending a couple of nights below on the 430 SSC.
Back up on the bridge deck is the starboard side helm, which has a modern glass cockpit. Once you light off the four Mercury Verados, the 430 SSC will rocket up to a top end of around 64 mph and cruise at 47 to 50 mph.
The Formula 430 SSC may not be what everyone imagines when it comes to bowriders, but it’s a fast and capable boat that’s got plenty of comfort packed in for boaters who like to overnight and weekend their boats.