Express cruisers are a top choice for family boating, and it’s no wonder why: they offer both fun in the sun and protection from the elements, they come in all shapes and sizes, provide exhilarating performance, and can be used for everything from sun worship to weekending to cruising. In some cases, an express can even double as a fishing boat, or a watersports boat. Naturally, that means there are a lot of choices on the market. As in, hundreds of choices, for any given size range. But as we tested, reviewed, and relaxed aboard boats these past few years, we've noticed a few stand-outs. Here are 10 favorite express cruisers that stood apart from the pack.
1. Cruisers Sport Series 279
This boat set itsel apart from the crowd when we ran it, thanks to unexpectedly spiffy performance (top-end was close to 50-mph), excellent fit and finish, and a unique cabin design. Unlike most small expresses the Cruisers houses its head in a separate enclosure, built into the passenger’s side console. That keeps the MSD completely isolated from your lounging and eating area. Thank you, Cruisers. The boat also has perks like an over-sized swim platform, comfy flip-up bolster seats, and yacht-level construction with items like fabricated aluminum motor mounts and an auto fire-extinguish system. For more information, visit Cruisers Yachts.
2. Four Winns 290 Horizon
Wait a sec – this is a bowrider, so why are we including it here? Because thanks to modern boat design advancements, the Four Winns 290 Horizon manages to blur the lines between bowriders and express cruisers. Even though it has a cockpit forward of the windshield, it still has all of the cabin amenities, albeit in a smaller package, as a traditional express. In the passenger’s side console there’s a fully enclosed head. And inside of the driver’s side console, there’s a changing room with a berth. Yes, it is a small berth—spouses only, please—but you could still pull off a weekend cruise and as long as you opt for the Refreshment/Galley package, prep your own meals. For more information, visit Four Winns.
3. Aspen C100 Escape
When efficiency counts—and considering the cost of fuel in this day and age, it usually does—the Aspen C100 Escape is a hands-down winner. Cruising in the low 20’s, this powercat gets about three miles to the gallon. How can it double the norm? This cat is a proa; one hull is 35-percent wider than the other, and it hold a single 220-hp Volvo-Penta diesel. The asymmetrical hulls are designed to counter the torque coming from one side of the boat, so it still runs straight and true. Net result? This is one of the smallest express cruisers around that can, if you throttle back to slow speeds, travel over 1,500 miles on a single fill-up. For more information, visit Aspen.
4. Sea Ray 370 Venture
The Sea Ray 370 Venture is a stand-out boat, particularly because of its powerplants: this is one of only two express cruisers in its class to run with outboard power. The other is our next pick:
5. Pursuit SC 365i
So why not pick one of these boats over the other? Truth be told, we don’t want to be forced into choosing between the two—both are stellar boats. Both have hatches just forward of the transom which swing open to expose clean-burning, highly-reliable outboards (Mercury Verado engines in the case of the Sea Ray, and Yamaha F 350’s on the Pursuit), and both take advantage of eliminating the need for an engine room by expanding the mid-cabin. The Sea Ray hit the water months before the Pursuit, making it the first creation of its kind, and its widely-spaced engines make for easy maneuverability. But the Pursuit has a hard-top, and Yamaha Helm Master joystick controls. For more information, visit Sea Ray Boats, or go to Pursuit Boats.
6. Sabre 38 Salon Express
Those who want a traditional-looking express cruiser will be attracted to models like the Sabre 38. But, don’t let those looks fool you. The only thing traditional about this boat is its appearance, and both hull design and construction methods are as modern as it gets. The running surface has 24-degrees of deadrise amidships, and tapers to 17 degrees aft. And the boat is built with resin infusion and bi-axial stringers, bonded to a foam core. The Sabre might be traditional looking, yet it’s anything but old-fashioned. For more information, visit Sabre Yachts.
7. Tiara Coronet 3900
This boat makes the list because it functions as a fishing boat with both inshore and offshore capability, yet it makes no sacrifices in looks nor luxury to do so. The Coronet has a cockpit with 80 square feet of room, and is equipped with a built-in wet-bar/bait-prep center. The bridgedeck is even larger with 95 square feet of room. But all of this outdoor area doesn't come at the expense of the cabin—there’s still room below for a full galley, a stand-up head, a forward stateroom, and a settee/dinette. For more information visit Tiara, or see our Short Take Video of the Tiara Coronet 3900.
8. Hunt 44 Express Cruiser
An express cruiser shouldn’t just make you happy, it should make you feel like royalty. One glimpse at the Hunt 44, and you’ll think you’ve just been crowned. Sure, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we’d bet there’s not a mariner amongst you who would disagree when we say that this is one of the nicest looking boats on the water. The boat’s lines are classic, and the interior is set off by touches like Carrera marble countertops, high-gloss teak woodwork, and 360-degree panoramic views. When you want to breathe salty air just press a button to slide open the giant moon roof in the overhead, and if cooking indoors seems droll, fire up the integrated cockpit grill. Added bonus: with a pair of IPS pod drives, handling the Hunt 44 Express Cruiser around the dock is a piece of cake. For more information, visit Hunt Yachts.
9. Prestige 620S
This is another hybrid boat, which purists may not consider an express. And truth be told, the fact that is has a flybridge does make us think twice. But the design stays true to an express’s ideals by shifting the small bridge aft and leaving the forward two-thirds of the overhead clear, so there’s room for a giant opening sunroof over the main saloon. That means you get the same outdoor exposure as in a more traditional express, and in the cabin, you’d never have any inkling there was a flying bridge overhead. We express our acceptance, with a big thumbs-up. For more information, visit Prestige Yachts.
10. Riva 63 Virtus
If you have a few spare million laying around and you want the biggest, baddest express cruiser in the marina there might be a Riva 63 Vitrus in your future. This boat is extreme, in every sense of the word. Despite its heft it runs at about 40 knots, and its luxury level is clear off the charts. Cockpit furniture is move-able, the giant Bimini top rises and lowers at the press of a button, and a tender garage in the transom swings open at the press of another button. For more information, visit Riva.