Five Fabulous Runabouts for 2017

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 has taken innovations from its recently refreshed 24-footer family and baked them into its 21-foot lineup with great success. Yamaha photo.
Yamaha has taken innovations from its recently refreshed 24-footer family and baked them into its 21-foot lineup with great success. Yamaha photo.

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.

The Chaparral 227 SSX is as equally capable as a watersport boat and as a family fun platform. Chaparral photo.
The Chaparral 227 SSX is as equally capable as a watersport boat and as a family fun platform. Chaparral photo.

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.

Revealing a trend among runabout and deck boat builders, the Regal 29 OBX sports twin Yamaha outboard power. Regal photo.
Revealing a trend among runabout and deck boat builders, the Regal 29 OBX sports twin Yamaha outboard power. Regal photo.

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.

The Glastron GT-180 is simple, versatile, and priced right. Glastron photo.
The Glastron GT-180 is simple, versatile, and priced right. Glastron photo.

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.

With options for up to 600 horsepower, the Crownline E-29 XS is a stunner in the performance department. Crownline photo.
With options for up to 600 horsepower, the Crownline E-29 XS is a stunner in the performance department. Crownline photo.

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.


The Outboard Expert: New F25, F75, and F90 Outboards from Yamaha

Lighter, faster, quieter outboard motors from Yamaha include a new F25 with EFI, an F75, and an F90. And there’s Yamaha prop news, too.

This article originally appeared on Reprinted by permission.

New outboard engines from Yamaha promise to deliver more power with less weight. The new F90, F75, and F25 outboards are each aimed at anglers and according to Yamaha, offer improved performance and economy with quieter operation.

Offered in 15” and 20” lengths, there are eight variations of the new Yamaha F25 outboard.
Offered in 15” and 20” lengths, there are eight variations of the new Yamaha F25 outboard.


This all-new motor features an EFI system that does not require a battery and should improve starting, fuel efficiency and over-all operation compared to the previous F25, which uses a carburetor. The lightest version of the new F25 weighs just 126 pounds, according to Yamaha. That’s a whopping 66 pounds–25 percent–less than the previous F25, and 46 pounds less than the EFI Mercury FourStroke 25.

The new F25 features a 432cc twin-cylinder powerhead, a little less displacement than the previous 498cc F25. The F25 features the Yamaha variable trolling speed feature, which can be activated with a button on the Multi-Function Tiller Handle, through a Command Link display, or a new remote switch on models with remote controls. The variable speed feature permits adjustment of the engine speed from 750 to 1050 RPM in 50 RPM increments. Alternator output is increased by 14 percent to 16 amps. The new motor has improved carry handles and is more compact than the previous F25.

These new 1.8-liter in-line four-cylinder models will replace the previous 1.6-liter four-cylinder F90 and F75 outboards.
These new 1.8-liter in-line four-cylinder models will replace the previous 1.6-liter four-cylinder F90 and F75 outboards.


Yamaha’s 1.8-liter powerhead is also used for the F115 models. Despite the 13 percent increase in displacement, Yamaha says weight decreases by 13 pounds, from 366 pounds to 353 pounds. Competing 90 HP outboards range in weight from the 320-pound 1.3-liter Evinrude E-TEC 90 to the 341 pound 1.5-liter Suzuki DF90 to 359 pounds for the 1.5-liter Honda BF90 and the 2.1-liter Mercury FourStroke 90. The 1.7-liter Evinrude E-TEC 90  H.O. weighs 390 pounds.

Yamaha claims more top-end power and bottom-end torque from the new powerhead (compared to the previous 1.6-liter engines), and I would expect an improvement on the bottom just from the increase in displacement. This should help the motor perform better on heavier boats and pontoons. Charging power is also improved, from 25 peak amps to 35 peak amps, with about 28 amps available at just 1000 RPM. The new motors can be equipped with the Yamaha Multi-Function Tiller Handle (sold separately) that incorporates engine start/stop, emergency stop, gear shift, power trim and tilt operation, and a variable trolling switch. Walleye anglers will appreciate that variable trolling speed feature, which can also be activated through a Command Link display or a new remote switch, and permits adjustment of the engine speed from 550 (200 RPM below idle speed) to 1000 RPM in 50 RPM increments. These motors are also compatible with Yamaha Shift Dampener System (SDS) propellers.


Yamaha will now offer its V MAX SHO 115 and V MAX SHO 175 outboard models in a 25” length in addition to the standard 20” shaft. The longer length will fit more pontoon boat applications as well as many deep-transom aluminum fishing boats.

There also a number of new outboards props coming from Yamaha, all featuring the Yamaha Shift Dampener System (SDS) with a special cushioned hub that eliminates the “clunk” sound of the drivetrain take-up when the motor is shifted into gear.

  • Saltwater Series II SDS propellers for Yamaha F200 through F300 V6 outboards feature a large blade area and progressive rake angle to provide great acceleration with excellent load-carrying capacity for large boats, and are available in 17” through 23” pitches as well as 13” and 15” pitch.


  • Reliance Series SDS propellers for Yamaha four-cylinder motors in the F150 through F200 range are available in 13” through 21” pitch, in right- and left-hand rotation.


  • The new Saltwater Series HS4 SDS four-blade propellers are intended for Yamaha 200-to-300 HP four-stroke outboards and when compared to three-blade propellers deliver improved acceleration and low-rpm planing. The Saltwater Series HS4 SDS propellers are available in 21” through 23” pitches, in right- and left-hand rotation.
This exploded-view image of the Yamaha Talon GP SDS prop shows the components of the Yamaha SDS cushioned hub system.
This exploded-view image of the Yamaha Talon GP SDS prop shows the components of the Yamaha SDS cushioned hub system.
  • The new Talon Pontoon and Talon GP SDS props for pontoon applications have significantly more blade area for outstanding thrust and reduced ventilation in turns. Talon Pontoon SDS Propellers polished stainless steel. Talon GP SDS propellers are aluminum. Both Talon lines fit Yamaha T50, T60 and F70 through F115 four-stroke engines. They also fit 60 HP through 130 HP two-stroke Yamaha outboards.


Robalo R300: Comfort and Confidence

This center-console fishing boat is more than merely capable.

This article originally appeared on Republished by permission. 

We were in good company as we blasted across Biscayne Bay during the Miami International Boat Show in the Robalo R300 center console fishing boat this past February. Surrounded by plenty of other capable offshore center consoles being run by fellow journalists, we transitioned into open water and poured on more power—watching while boat by boat dropped farther and farther behind. We passed the upper 40s, broke into the 50s, and then topped out at 55 MPH.

With a pair of Yamaha F300 V6 outboards on the transom, the Robalo R300 has plenty of pep.
With a pair of Yamaha F300 V6 outboards on the transom, the Robalo R300 has plenty of pep.

OK, we know what you’re thinking—there are plenty of center consoles that can go faster than this. But how many of them can do this comfortably, in a three-foot chop? Not that many, in our experience. Yet the Robalo R300 we ran in Miami handled these conditions comfortably, giving us the confidence to run fast. And that’s a nice feather to have in your hat, when offshore fishing is your game.


Though twin 250-horsepower 4.2-liter Yamaha F250 outboards are the most common power arrangement ordered by R300 buyers, we were quite pleased with the performance of the F300’s on our test boat. Yes, they had a rather thirsty 51.9 GPH fuel burn at top-end, but dialing it back to a 4500 RPM cruise around nets you 1.4 MPG while running at over 41 MPH. And at 25 MPH they provide an efficient 1.9 MPG cruise. Do some quick math and you’ll find that at that speed, the R300 has a monstrous theoretical range of around 575 miles. In case you were wondering, the twin F250 outboards net a top-end of around 51 MPH with a cruise in the upper 30’s. You’ll also save around four grand by choosing the F250s… about $1,000 for every one MPH of top-end.


  • Length 29’2″
  • Beam 10’6″
  • Draft 1’9″
  • Deadrise 21 deg.
  • Displacement 8,200 lbs
  • Fuel capacity 300 gal.
  • Water capacity 30 gal.

The R300’s solid ride comes compliments of its deep-V hull and 21-degree transom deadrise, which we found cuts through a steep chop like the proverbial knife through butter. The feeling of solidness also comes from a very noticeable lack of creaks, squeaks, and rattling while underway—a benefit of the R300’s beefy composite construction. The R300 performed admirably when put through a curvy, twisty course of sharp turns and figure eights, providing excellent tracking and an overwhelming feeling of surefootedness. There’s not much more to say other than the R300 is one sweet ride in a choppy, churned-up sea.


Hopping onboard the boat we found a vast deck with lots of walk-around space past the center console—a common bottleneck on this type of boat. Thanks for this roominess goes to the R300’s 10’6” beam. To give you an idea of how beamy that is for a boat this size, many competing 28- to 30-footers have beams well under 10 feet. So, what does Robalo pack into all this space? Lots of comfort and fishing-friendly features, that’s what.

We were particularly pleased to see not only two 82.5-gallon fish boxes under the cockpit deck, but also an additional pair up in the bow, under the U-shaped bow seating area. Behind the center console’s twin bucket seats is an aft-facing bench with a rigging station above it and stowage lockers beneath it. While it’s certainly big enough and up to the job, we wished it had a little more room—and a cutting board and sink—for chopping up and rigging dead baits. We counted more than 25 places to stow a rod onboard if you include the hard top rocket launchers, deck-mounted rigging station spots, under-gunwale rod stowage, the flush-mount rod holders on deck, and the rod stowage engineered into the head compartment under the center console unit. Twin Simrad multifunction displays at the helm and a 25-gallon livewell at the transom round out the R300’s compliment of fishy features.

The leaning post in the R300 incorporates aft-facing seating and tackle stowage.
The leaning post in the R300 incorporates aft-facing seating and tackle stowage.

Robalo thankfully didn’t skimp on keeping the R300 comfy in favor of all those fishing accouterments, however. Forward at the bow is the aforementioned U-shaped seating area, which can be transformed into a dining area with a drop-in table. A little bit farther aft is a cushy, two-person bench with an integrated cooler beneath it. It’s just ahead of the center console unit, which has a head, sink, and stowage area hidden beneath it.

Upholstered bolstering runs around the inside of the gunwale from bow to stern; it’s a nice way to protect against waist-level bangs and bumps against the hard fiberglass. The aft cockpit has seating for two more folks in the form of an aft-facing bench, but you lose that seating when the rigging station is in use. We really liked the seating at the helm—a pair of nicely upholstered bucket seats with push-up bolsters that convert for standing and leaning versus sitting. All in all there’s plenty of seating and creature comforts to keep a crowd of family and friends happy.

As you might have guessed, all of this performance and comfort comes at a price. Our test model pushed well into the low $200,000 range with all the options boxes checked. Still, for that money you get one of the most capable and comfortable 30-foot center console boats around—especially when the seas get churned-up and choppy.

Other Choices: The Contender 30 ST is another boat known for rough-water abilities, and although it has a foot less beam, it also adds about 10 MPH to top-end. If you want to go a bit bigger (and more expensive) check out the Pursuit ST 310. And the Cobia 296 should be another boat of interest to buyers in this market.

For more information, visit Robalo.


Yamaha WaveRunner EX: New PWC Series Debuts

Yamaha delivers a full dose of WaveRunner DNA in its new entry-priced EX series personal watercraft.

This article originally appeared on Republished by permission.

Designed to be fun and affordable, the all-new WaveRunner EX series from Yamaha is a PWC antidote to the high cost of boating. With a base price of just $6,599, the WaveRunner EX will be an attractive alternative to buyers who might otherwise be shopping Craig’s List for a pre-owned watercraft—with the added bonus that a new WaveRunner EX will come with a warranty and a Yamaha dealer. Get your first look at the EX series, right here.

The three-model EX series will replace the V1/Sport in the 2017 WaveRunner line. The 10-foot three-inch long EX is about six inches shorter and 100 pounds lighter than the V1, and EX models will be priced about $1,200 less than a comparable V1. The V1 is a good boat but it’s an old design that uses tooling originally created for the previous-generation WaveRunner VX. The EX was designed specifically for the new lightweight Yamaha TR-1/HO engine. For EX duty, the compact, three-cylinder TR-1 is slightly detuned from the 130 HP TR-1 HO, to about 100 HP, power that’s a good match for the size and weight of the EX platform. To fit under the EX deck, the TR-1 has a smaller exhaust manifold and muffler than the TR-1 HO, which is  used in the VX and some Yamaha sport boats. The EX also features a compact 144mm jet pump that weighs about four pounds less and is almost five inches shorter than the 155mm pump used in the V1.

The TR-1 powerplant in the EX line is Yamaha’s latest.
The TR-1 powerplant in the EX line is Yamaha’s latest.

The EX hull and deck are smooth and glossy, formed with the same sheet-molding compound (SMC) composite process used to build other WaveRunner models, although the EX is not formed with the lightweight NanoXcel material Yamaha uses for its premium models. To reduce weight, the EX has a narrow deck and slim-line one-piece seat that will be easy for most riders to straddle. The molded plastic seat base stays attached to the deck to keep the seat lighter, and can be removed from the deck for engine service after loosening six screws. Lift-out bins for under-seat stowage and a fire extinguisher also provide access to the engine for basic service, such as checking or changing the oil. There’s a shallow stowage bin under a cowl hatch that’s really only deep enough to hold some dock lines. The glove box, however, is quite wide and deep and can hold several water bottles. Instrumentation is provided by a small LCD screen located below the non-adjustable handlebars. All EX models are rated for three passengers or 485 pounds and so in most states can be used for tow sport when equipped with mirrors. I did not have a chance to try an EX with a passenger, but I’m guessing this hull will be a little less stable fully-loaded than the larger VX, which has a passenger capacity of 529 pounds.

Rubber latches secure a hatch over a shallow bow stowage compartment best suited to dock lines.
Rubber latches secure a hatch over a shallow bow stowage compartment best suited to dock lines.

With my 185 pounds on the seat, a pre-production EX zipped right up to a top speed of about 50 MPH. Power seems perfectly matched to the size and weight of the running surface, and the EX does not feel small. In terms of size and performance, the EX takes me back about 15 years, to an era before PWCs got really big, really fast, and really expensive. However, the EX benefits from the latest design technology. This hull delivers a soft ride in lake chop and carves like a devil on smooth water with no hint of skidding or spinning. The TR-1 engine is smooth and quiet, and Yamaha says it delivers about 20 percent better fuel economy than the MR-1 engine it replaces. At wide-open throttle (6800 RPM) the EX burns about 7.9 gallons per hour. Couple that with a very generous 13.5-gallon fuel tank, and you’ll be riding awhile between fill-ups.

The WaveRunner EX will be offered in three flavors. The base EX has just the basics. The EX Sport ($7,599) adds manual (cable-operated) reverse thrust, a reboarding step, mirrors and more graphics with a choice of black or white base colors. The EX Deluxe ($8,599) features the Yamaha RiDE electronic reverse/brake system, blue or silver metallic base paint color, and a two-tone seat. The competition at this price point is the 442-pound Sea-Doo Spark, which for 2016 is priced at about $6,499 with a three-up seat and the 90 HP Rotax 900 HO ACE engine, and $7,400 with the Sea-Doo iBR electronic brake/reverse system.

The WaveRunner EX deserves the full attention of anyone looking for a full dose of PWC fun, at a price that does not clear out the recreation budget.

For information, visit Yamaha.


  • Length: 10’3″
  • Beam:  3’7″
  • Passenger capacity: 3/485 lbs.
  • Stowage capacity: 7.7 gallons
  • Displacement: 577 lbs.
  • Fuel capacity:  13.5 gal.
  • Base price: $6,599