Qwest is known for thinking out of the box and developing innovative pontoon boats. This is evidenced by models like the human-powered Paddle Qwest 614, and the Angler Qwest fishing pontoon. No matter how familiar or unfamiliar you may be with the pontoon boat world, you’ll be able to pick these model out as unusual in a heart-beat. Their new Luxury Series 818, however, looks more or less like a common pontoon. Until, that is, you step aboard. Join reviewer Charles Plueddeman for a quick ride on the 818, to find out what we mean.
Surprised? We thought so. Most pontoon boats this small are designed to hit a low price-point, and as a result don’t offer half the features of the 818, nor do they offer similar performance. Speaking of performance: although we tested this boat with the Honda BF100 and hit speeds in the mid to upper 30’s, you certainly don’t need that much power. If you’re willing to sacrifice some performance to cut cost, remember that the twin-tube version of this boat can run at speeds up to 20 MPH with as little as 40 horses, and if that’s not enough to get your blood pumping, can take a 75 HP powerplant on the transom.
Wait a sec—why worry about cutting cost in the first place? Remember, the Luxury Series 818 isn’t meant to be a cheap option, it’s meant to offer you all the luxury and pizzazz of a larger pontoon in a compact package. Besides, even with the BF100 you’re looking at a rig in the $30,000 range, which is thoroughly inexpensive by today’s pontoon boat standards.
If you watched the video you already know that one of the ways Qwest gets a leg up on the competition is by building their furniture with Duralight composites. This not only reduces weight, but also allows Qwest to build stowage areas under the seats which can vent and drain much better than standard roto-molded seat bases. Another construction perk can be found in the console. Unlike most pontoon boats in this size and price range, the console is made of molded fiberglass. And the long list of goodies you’ll find here is outrageous: chartplotter/fishfinder, Bluetooth Infinity PRV stereo, 12-V jack, cell phone holder, tilt steering—and it’s all capped off with an Italian-designed sport steering wheel. The rest of the boat is similarly well-equipped. The Bimini top with boot, LED lighting, reboarding ladder, wood grain table, and portable cupholder are all standard items that many builders charge extra for.
After spending an afternoon lounging about on the Luxury Series 818, we’re happy to report that the seating and Comfort Touch upholstery is every bit as comfortable as you’ll find on a much bigger, more expensive pontoon, too. But that does bring us to the one drawback we found on the 181. Simply as a matter of sheer volume, there isn’t as much as usual to work with on a 7’6” by 17’2” deck platform. You get an L-shaped aft lounge aft, a forward lounge, and another forward seat, but it can feel a bit cramped at times. We had three people aboard, which was no problem. And you can find seats for six or eight people, depending on how friendly they are. But you won’t be hauling out a dozen guests, as you would on some larger pontoon boat models. Maximum stated capacity for the boat is nine people and/or 1,340 lbs. Opt out of the center tube, and capacity drops to eight people and/or 1,116 lbs.
There is, however, at least one more big advantage to the 818’s diminutive size: easy towing. How many pontoons have a dry weight of just 1,800 lbs? Your SUV or mid-sized pick-up will have no problem hauling this boat. Things like fending off the dock or getting the boat off a trailer will be easier than usual, too. Plus, the relatively small powerplant will keep the fuel bill in check.
Other Choices: With much of the market focused on larger, more expensive pontoons, there aren’t a ton of similar offerings out there. Avalon has the Avalon Eagle, which comes in a 17’5” model. Sweetwater makes the SW 1880, which was named one of our Top 10 Pontoon Boats back in 2013. And though it is a bit larger, comparison shoppers may want to look at the Bennington 20 SLi.
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|Fuel capacity||25 gal.|