With all the midcabin models on the market these days, it's almost refreshing to see a traditional bow rider. Don't misunderstand—we think midcabins blend the best of the cuddy-cabin and open-bow worlds. But for warm-weather day-boating, it's tough to beat a bow rider for pure fun and function.
The Chaparral 260 SSi we tested in Placida, Fla., reinforced that notion. The 25'6"-long (27'9" with the add-on swim platform), 8'6"-wide model offered all the comforts we've come to expect from a bow rider. It performed capably and was built to withstand the serious rigors of—gulp—family boating.
With a 260-hp MerCruiser 5.7-liter EFI engine under the hatch, the base 260 SSi costs $43,938. In a wise move, the manufacturer outfitted our 5,200-pound runabout with a bigger (420-hp) Volvo Penta 8.1 GXI DP motor. That power plant and a couple of other additions raised the as-tested price to $60,951.
Being a Chaparral runabout, the 260 SSi came with the company's proven Extended V-Plane hull, which translates to hull extensions that resemble sponsons a foot or so aft of the transom. The boat's 22-degree hull also featured a radiused keel, negative chines and four strakes. The outer set of strakes ran full length and the inner set ended roughly 15 feet from the transom.
The big-block Volvo engine was equipped with a DuoProp drive that had a 1.68:1 gear reduction and a three-blade stainless-steel "E" series propellers. That engine-and-drive combo pushed the boat to a top speed of 57.5 mph at 4,500 rpm, which was reasonable for a recreational runabout.
Time to plane was 4.8 seconds and the boat reached 48 mph in 15 seconds. Consistent and steady in midrange drills, the 260 SSi ran from 20 to 40 mph in 6.5 seconds and from 30 to 50 in 6.6 seconds. Those are mild numbers, to be sure, but they're completely appropriate for a family-oriented model.
Handling was predictable and reassuring. The 260 SSi leaned into slalom and circle turns at various speeds and didn't slide, hop or otherwise misbehave. In rougher water, the boat tended to bang around a bit, but it should be more than capable of handling most lake conditions.
Tracking was straight and true at all speeds. When our lead test driver yanked back the throttle, the boat stayed on course as it slowed to a stop.
Showing no signs of peeling or lifting, as can be the case with a brand-new production runabout, vinyl tape accents complemented the 260 SSi's shiny two-tone gelcoat. Mold work was smooth, and the installation of the boat's protective plastic rubrail with a stainless-steel insert was excellent.
To build the boat, the manufacturer used a combination of AME 4000 resin, 36-ounce woven roving, layers of fiberglass mat from 1 to 3 ounces and Syntactic foam. To add brawn and flotation, the builder used balsa coring. The stringers were fashioned from XL marine-grade plywood.
Chaparral did a fine job with the boat's draining anchor locker, which was on the nose aft of a nav light. The locker had a hinged lid with a latch to keep it open when desired, a gelcoated interior and a clip for an anchor.
Notable hardware items included stainless-steel handrails and plastic grab handles, Accon Pull-Up cleats, a Taylor Made walk-through windshield and an add-on swim platform that extended from the boat's integrated swim platform. The add-on platform added functionality to the boat.
The engine hatch lifted on two gas struts, taking half the rear bench with it. Lag bolts driven into stringer blocks and the standard transom assembly were used to secure the motor—a standard installation procedure for production runabouts. Also up to production standards was the engine compartment wiring, which was protected in conduit and supported with tie-wrap-style cushion clamps.
The 260 SSi was, to put it simply, decked out. The manufacturer opted for a horseshoe lounge, with hinged cushions and stowage lockers (plus a draining cooler) underneath them, in the open bow. The bow area also boasted a tremendous in-sole locker.
Pedestals and a table, which could be used to convert the cockpit into a dining area or a massive tanning bed, were stowed in a locker that was part of the driver's console to starboard. The port-side, co-pilot's console contained the head locker, which was far from the average head unit in a stuffy fiberglass box. The 260 SSi's locker boasted appointments that included a porcelain head, a complete headliner, a substantial latch assembly, padding and a screen porthole for ventilation
Aft of the port console, the co-pilot's swiveling bucket seat adjusted fore and aft, and had a flip-up bottom. The port gunwale was padded, and a grab handle was integrated into the padding.
The same comfortable bucket seat was provided for the driver to starboard. Woodgrain panels for the instruments, all in silver bezels, matched the vinyl-wrapped woodgrain tilt steering wheel. A touch-pad control was provided for the stereo system, rocker switches activated the accessories and a 12-volt receptacle was installed near the ignition switch.
Aft of the co-pilot's bucket was a molded entertainment center which included a pressurized freshwater sink and a cooler. Behind the driver's seat, the rear lounge was huge. We found stowage lockers under almost all its bottom cushions.
Comfort and function abound in the 260 SSi, which also happens to be a solid and predictable performer. It's everything a recreational bow rider is supposed to be.
Hull and Propulsion Information
|Deadrise at transom||22 degrees|
|Hull weight||5,200 pounds|
|Engine||Volvo Penta 8.1 GXI DP|
|Lower-unit gear ratio||1.68:1|
|Propeller||Volvo DuoProp E|
|Price as tested||$60,951|
MerCruiser 5.7-liter EFI engine, five-year transferable hull warranty, anchor and rope locker, stainless-steel hardware including large bow and stern eyes, stainless hideaway boarding ladder, JVC CD stereo system with four speakers, battery trays, DC power plug, horn, full instrumentation, hour meter, power steering, starboard windshield wiper, Porta Potti, pressurized fresh-water sink and faucet, bow ice chest, cockpit liner, cockpit table, diamond plate nonskid in cockpit, walk-through transom, ice chests and bow ice chest with overboard drain.
Options on Test Boat
Upgrade to Volvo Penta 8.1 GXI DP engine ($11,052), Quick and Quiet exhaust ($1,741), swim platform ($850), cockpit and bow cover ($753), cockpit carpet ($560), premium package ($510), convenience package ($430), transom shower ($278), fire-extinguisher system ($240), bow rider filler cushions ($226), dual battery crossover ($217) and bow table ($156).
|3 seconds||21 mph|
|5 seconds||29 mph|
|10 seconds||43 mph|
|15 seconds||48 mph|
|20-40 mph||6.5 seconds|
|30-50 mph||6.6 seconds|
Rpm vs. Mph
|Radar||57.5 mph at 4500 rpm|
|Speedometer||57 mph at 4500 rpm|
|Nordskog Performance Products GPS||54.6 mph at 4500 rpm|
|Time to plane||4.8 seconds|
|Minimum planing speed||18 mph|
|At 25 mph||3.4 mpg|
|At 35 mph||3.3 mpg|
|At 45 mph||3 mpg|
|At 55 mph||2 mpg|
|At WOT 1.7 mpg|
|Fuel capacity||79 gallons|
For More Information
300 Industrial Park Drive
Nashville, GA 31639