One trend in boat building today is to offer more of everything. More speed, more power, more amenities and more length. While this might sound like builders are only offering bigger and longer boats, that's not the whole story. Many outfits, like Monterey, are closing gaps in their lines with boats that are just right, not too big and not too small, for a certain kind of boater.
For 2006, Monterey is adding the 234 FS and 234 FSX to its lineup of sportboats. This puts a solid pair of 24-foot choices between the 23-foot, 4-inch 228 SI sportboat and the 26-foot, 7-inch 248 LS. It's important to note here that all the lengths include the extended swim platform that each boat comes with as standard equipment. With the new 234s, however, it's a large, integrated swim platform that's actually part of the hull mold. This means it's going to be sturdier and it's certainly going to look better than a bolted-on extended swim platform.
The 234 FS and 234 FSX share the same hull and basic amenities, but the FSX goes to the extreme with an upgraded graphics package, custom Corsa Quick & Quiet exhaust system and a premium sound system with a Kenwood AM/FM CD, subwoofer, two amplifiers, four speakers, two tweeters and dash and stern remotes.
In our opinion this boat is ideally suited for the boater who is looking for a sporty midsize runabout and is willing to pay for the quality and class Monterey has built its more than 20-year reputation on.
We actually had an opportunity to test both the 234 FS and the 234 FSX, so we can tell you how this hull handles with different power. Our 234 FSX was hopped up with a 320 hp MX 6.2 MPI MerCruiser sporting a Bravo III drive with a set of 26-inch, three-blade stainless steel counter-rotating props. The maximum RPM rating is 320, so we were playing with as much power as you can get in this boat.
We jumped to plane in just over 4 seconds and quickly spooled up to a top speed of 51.3 mph at 5,200 rpm. The MX 6.2 MPI MerCruiser has a wide-open-throttle operating range of 4,800 to 5,200 rpm, so we were running right there at the far end of what this engine can deliver. Our most efficient cruising speed was 27.1 mph at 3,000 rpm, which gave us 3.2 mpg for an estimated cruising range of 181 miles. While the boat ran a little loud at 90 dBa at full speed, it quieted down to 84 dBa at cruising speed (anything less than 85 dBa is really good).
The 234 FS we tested was powered with a 270 hp 5.0 GXi Volvo Penta SX, spinning a 19-inch, three-blade aluminum prop. Even though we had less load in terms of people and fuel than in the 234 FSX, we still expected the 234 FS to run noticeably slower than the 320 hp equipped FSX.
In terms of acceleration the FS was about a second slower coming onto plane at 5 seconds. But with the throttle mashed all the way forward we posted a top speed of 50.8 mph at 5,065 rpm. The 5.0 GXi Volvo Penta is rated for a top end of 5,000 rpm, so this setup was operating right up there at the top of this engine's performance curve as well. In terms of fuel consumption, the Volvo fared a little better with 3.8 mpg at a 3,500 rpm cruising speed of 32.3 mph, which yielded an estimated cruising range of 210 miles. Our sound meter registered similar results as those of the FSX.
Both setups were equally fun to drive and both demonstrated wicked potential for watersports, especially if you decide to add the optional wakeboard tower to the equation — and if serious wakeboard action is part of your plan, we strongly suggest budgeting for the $2,393 this option runs (it's also recommended you opt for a MerCruiser Bravo III or Volvo Penta Duo-Prop drive and at least 280 hp if you plan to do a lot of towing with the tower).
We had favorable conditions for testing, so cruising was comfortable at all speeds. And you can feel confident that this deep-V runabout will handle a decent amount of the rough stuff thanks to its 20-degree deadrise.
After testing Monterey craft for a number of years we've come to expect great things from this independently owned Florida-based boat builder. The first few Monterey's we got our hands on wowed us, but since then being impressed is simply what we expect.
One area Monterey prides itself on is keeping up with standards and even raising the bar from time to time. Whether in terms of safety, performance, styling, comfort or luxury, you can expect a brand-new model from Monterey to be noticeably better than what was brand-new 12 months ago.
The 234 FS and juiced-up 234 FSX bring new choices to those looking for a sporty premium midsize runabout. Some people have no problem paying more for something that's really nice, and that's what you can expect here.
Both models come with a handsome list of standard features, and there's plenty of room to trick the craft out for serious watersports action with the addition of a stylish tower.
If this boat has the size and style you're looking for and is within your price range, it should be at or near the top of your list of boats to consider this year.
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Manufacturer Contact Information
1579 SW 18th St.
Williston, FL 32696