Don't let the tattoos and pierced body parts fool you—wakeboarders enjoy creature comforts. They like powerful, smooth-driving tow boats with yards of seating, ballast systems that fill fast with the flick of a switch and stereos that can be heard in three zip codes. Most of all, though, they flat-out love wakes that launch them into the sky.
And don't think for a moment that serious slalom skiers thrive on austerity. They, too, love the pampering features—and ripple-like wakes—of today's top tow boats.
That applies to the new-for-2002 MasterCraft X-7. The 22'-long, 7'7"-wide MasterCraft X-7 we tested delivered all of that, and was powered by a 385-horsepower Cadillac HO 6.0-liter engine—a marinized version of the mill you'll find in a Cadillac Escalade. It also came with a $53,108 sticker. Of course, our test boat was loaded. The base model costs $38,007.
Our ski-test team fell in love with the X-7. The romance began with our ski-test driver, who described the boat's takeoff power as "smooth, strong and very fluid." Our wakeboard test driver agreed, also noting how quietly the boat's engine ran. (Had the engine been loud, however, the boat's 500-watt CD stereo system with two sets of speakers on the tower easily could have drowned out the noise.)
At speeds from 32 to 36 mph, the X-7 delivered fine wakes for slalom skiing at various rope lengths. Naturally, the wakes were most flat at the higher, skiing speeds (and shorter rope lengths) and larger at lower, ?boarding speeds.
"But the entry and exit is still nice at 32 mph because the wakes slope nicely—they're rounded," said our test skier. "You don't get thrown."
Our wakeboarder, on the other hand was thrown big time. Wakes that he described as "playful" with the water ballast system empty jacked up nicely when the system was full.
"Plus, the wake (with the ballast system filled) had a little more lip at the top, which gave it better pop," he said.
Among the features of the X-7 that drew raves from our test team was the trunk, which had space for boards (as if the racks on the tower weren't enough), the soap-dispenser system at the stern and the teak platform. For 2002, MasterCraft added 4 inches of depth to all its swim platforms, which gives skiers and boarders more space. Another clever feature was a raised strip on the platform, which prevented skis and boards from scratching the transom while they were being strapped on.
MasterCraft based the X-7 off its successful 197 tournament boat platform. The 4-degree hull had two strakes on each side of the keel and slightly turned-down, 2-inch-wide chines. For stability and tracking, the hull also had three brass skegs. To harness the 385-horsepower from the Indmar-marinized motor, the manufacturer used a direct-drive (1:1 ratio) spinning an OJ 13" x 14" four-blade stainless-steel propeller.
Top speed for the X-7 was 49.6 mph, making it the fastest tow boat we tested during our 2002 Performance Trials, and it reached that speed in less than 15 seconds. Time to plane was 2.6 seconds and the boat ran from 20 to 40 mph in 4.6 seconds.
The X-7 earned high marks in slalom turns at all speeds and circle turns at cruising and full speeds.
Drivers with passengers in the open bow of the X-7 will want to proceed carefully through their own wakes to pick up downed skiers or boarders. The boat's nose was low enough, and its low-speed wakes were tall enough, for water to come over the bow.
The X-7 essentially consisted of three parts—hull, liner and deck. The hull featured multiple layers of 1-ounce mat and 1810 bi-ply, 2-ounce mat, 120 mils of Spraycore and 15 to 20 mils of gelcoat. Incorporating 18-pin bi-ply, 1808 biaxial and 1 1/2-ounce mat, the liner included laminated steel reinforcements for the motor mounts, tow-bar brackets and platform brackets, as well as multiple plastic reinforcements. The deck was laid up with three layers of 1-ounce mat, 90 mils of Spraycore and 18-pin bi-ply.
Gelcoat exhibited a healthy shine, and mold work was free of waves.
A veritable hardware store, the X-7 had a nav light on its nose, a polished aluminum tower with a running light on top, a Taylor Made windshield, a pylon and stainless grab handles. The manufacturer also outfitted the tow boat with four Accon Pull-Up? cleats.
The center-mounted engine hatch raised on two gas struts. Engine installation, employing a brawny four-point mounting system bolted to the stringers, was excellent.
The X-7 clearly was designed with comfort in mind. We'd match the contoured lounges, with stowage lockers under their hinged bottom cushions, against those in any tow boat. The boat also featured a true walk-through, rather than a step-over between the open bow and cockpit. In the sole of the walk-through was a cooler that, thanks to a clever dual-lid system, could be accessed from both the bow and the cockpit.
In the cockpit, the rear-facing observer's seat flipped up on a gas strut for access to a stowage locker. That's fairly standard tow boat fare, but what wasn't so standard was the gas strut that supported the locking glove box lid. Inside was the Clarion CD stereo.
With the X-7, MasterCraft has raised the bar on high-end tow boats. Like most top-shelf products, it doesn't come cheap. But you get a lot of tow boat for the price you pay.
Hull and Propulsion Information
|Deadrise at transom||4 degrees|
|Hull weight||2,800 pounds|
|Engine||Cadillac HO Vortec|
|Lower-unit gear ratio||1:1|
|Propeller||OJ stainless steel 13" x 14"|
|Price as tested||$53,108|
SilentMaster muffler/exhaust system, Teleflex Xtreme high-performance shift and throttle cable, tachometer with hour meter, two 12-volt DC power outlets, built-in cooler with drain, Clarion AM/FM CD stereo system, subwoofer and 500-watt amplifier, digital speed indicator, driver?s seat with solid rotocast frame, observer?s seat fits three people, removable teak swim platform, tilt steering wheel and water-resistant glove box.
Options on Test Boat
Upgrade to Cadillac HO Vortec engine ($8,510), two sets of speakers on tower ($1,487), Perfect Pass ($1,455), amplifier and subwoofer ($1,175), tower lights ($812), Bimini top ($691), cockpit cover ($600), Tonneau cover ($227) and transom remote ($144).
|3 seconds||23 mph|
|5 seconds||33 mph|
|10 seconds||45 mph|
|15 seconds||50 mph|
20-40 mph, 4.6 seconds
Rpm vs. Mph
|Radar||49.6 mph at 5200 rpm|
|Nordskog Performance Products GPS||49.6 mph at 5200 rpm|
|Time to plane||2.6 seconds|
|Minimum planing speed||15.3 mph|
|At 25 mph||3.9 mpg|
|At 35 mph||3.2 mpg|
|At 45 mph||1.9 mpg|
|At WOT||1.7 mpg|
|Fuel capacity||28 gallons|
100 Cherokee Cove Drive
Vonore, TN 37885