Infinity is a long time. It's forever. Therefore, it's more than a little ironic that the new Smoker Craft Infinity M-824 CR would make a day on the water pass by so quickly.
The name M-824 CR doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but fortunately, Smoker Craft has put much more imagination into the boat than it has put into the boat's name. Rather than fall into the cookie-cutter layout found on many other pontoon boats, the Smoker Craft Infinity M-824 CR has a unique bow seating area that deserves recognition.
A Different Approach
Whereas most pontoon boats have a set of straight settees running along each side of the bow, the Infinity M-824 CR has a settee on just the starboard side, with two chairs and a pedestal table sprouting up from the port side of the bow. This design decision not only facilitates conversation but also pleases finicky passengers who desire the super-cushy caliber of seat that is usually reserved for skippers.
In addition to the forward seating, the Infinity M-824 CR has an L-shaped settee that wraps along the port side and transom. A second pedestal table serves the L-shaped settee, and there's a swiveling bucket seat at the helm.
All of the seating on the boat is very comfortable, and there's plenty of it, but our one complaint is that there's no access to the transom. The absence of a walk-through transom allows Smoker Craft to give the Infinity M-824 CR a much larger sunpad than it would otherwise have, but we would have liked a more convenient way to reach the engine, in case there are problems with it when under way. As it stands, you have to crawl over the rear sunpad, which is doable but unwieldy. Fortunately, a rear entry is available as an option.
The boat's three 30-inch gates facilitate boarding and unboarding. There's a gate at the center of the bow and then two gates directly across from each other at the center of the deck, one to port and one to starboard.
The fiberglass helm console is a standalone unit that features gold bezels on all the instrumentation. A tachometer, a horn, a 12v receptacle and a fuel gauge are all standard, and a depth gauge and a tilt and trim gauge are available as options. There's a simple little safety checklist posted at the helm, which boating novices will find useful.
Our test boat had the standard CD player with two speakers, but you can upgrade to a JBL CD player with a six-disc changer if you wish. Plus, if the standard burlwood steering wheel cap isn't fancy enough for you, you can also get faux burlwood accents on the wheel.
Smoker Craft has done a good job of hiding some of the Infinity M-824 CR's many features, not because those features are unsightly but because it gives the boat a clean, uncluttered look and feel. For instance, the optional changing room tucks away under the rear sunpad, and storage is located underneath all the settees. You don't even notice the optional mood lighting until it's turned on, and the optional aluminum bottom skin (which adds to the boat's durability) is unnoticeable when the boat is in the water.
Smoker Craft has also given the Infinity M-824 CR enough standard items to satisfy most boaters, as well as a solid list of options that lets the more demanding boaters add what they like. For instance, important items such as a Bimini top and navigation lights are standard, but a portable head and a galley with a stove and sink are optional, so you're not forced to pay for them if you don't want them.
To Infinity and Beyond
We tested the Smoker Craft Infinity M-824 CR during our big Go Boating shootout on Lake Wawassee in northern Indiana. We spent close to half a day on the boat, which gave us a very good feel for the handling and overall ergonomics of the craft.
Our test boat was powered by a 115 hp Mercury four-stroke EFI outboard, which is the largest power package available on the M-824 CR. We found this engine to be just powerful enough, so we wouldn't recommend you go any lower — and you can't go higher, so that pretty much leaves the 115 as the best choice.
Like most pontoon boats, the M-824 CR is not a speed demon, but it did hit an apex of 24.6 mph, which we found satisfactory. With three adults and 3/4 of a tank of fuel on board, the engine was able to take the boat from 0 to 20 mph in 7 seconds.
The engine remained quiet throughout our run, starting off at around 71 dB at idle and then hitting just 94 dB at top speed. Rather than climb steadily, the noise level had waves and troughs, jumping up to 90 dB at 3,000 rpm, but then falling down to 84 dB at 4,500 rpm. We liked the 4,500 rpm range as a cruising speed, because of the quieter running of the engine, and because we were able to get 16.4 mph from the boat at that speed.
When it comes to handling, the M-824 CR is not exceptional, but it's above average. It's good. The boat does well in turns and visibility is completely unfettered from every angle.
The Infinity M-824 CR is available with a third tube, which would give it extra stability but make it less fluid in turns. You gain in one area but lose in another, so it's a tradeoff; however, when you account for the fact that a third tube would also allow you to up the horsepower, it might be worth it. We didn't have a chance to test the boat with a third tube, but to be quite honest, we didn't miss it.
The boat has a capacity of 14 persons or 1,950 pounds; however, a more realistic maximum number of people would be 11. Any more passengers than that and everyone on board would be able to empathize with the plight of the sardine.
There are a lot of pontoon boats out there right now, but the Infinity M-824 CR manages to stand out with its interesting layout and comfortable seating. The boat is appropriately sized for first-time buyers, but pontoon boat aficionados will also find plenty to like. We certainly did.
Craft Infinity M-824 CR Specifications
|Fuel capacity||24 gals.|
|Maximum power||115 hp|
Gold bezels, tachometer, fuel gauge, faux burlwood steering wheel cap, 3/4-inch plywood deck, 12v receptacle, CD player, two speakers, high-back helm chair w/swivel-slide, table w/cupholders, sundeck, Bimini top, navigation lights.
Camper enclosure, sculptured carpet, JBL CD player (also available w/six-disc changer), tilt and trim gauge, depth gauge, galley w/stove and sink, portable head, changing room, rear entry w/boarding ladder, 36-quart cooler, Tri-Toon, 25-inch tube and transom, ski tow.
|Top speed||24.6 mph at 6000 rpm|
|Cruising speed||16.4 mph at 4500 rpm|
|Miles per gallon at cruising speed (both engines)||4.1|
|Gallons per hour at cruising speed (both engines)||4|
|Range at cruising speed||98.4 miles|
Speeds as Tested<