With a 470-horsepower Mercury Racing 500EFI engine under the hatch, the Sunsation 288 Intimidator runs more than 70 mph. (Photos by Tom Newby)

With a 470-horsepower Mercury Racing 500EFI engine under the hatch, the Sunsation 288 Intimidator runs more than 70 mph. (Photos by Tom Newby)

Seldom do I endorse a specific boat as sensational, but this is one of those rare occasions. Here's why: The 288 Intimidator from Sunsation Offshore Powerboats completely measures up to everything I expect from a single-engine offshore performer.

First, the 288 Intimidator is fast, but mild-mannered and forgiving. Second, it's built to endure the rigors of running hard offshore. Third, the interior layout, both in the cockpit and cabin, is well designed and appropriately appointed. Fourth, the standard-equipment list includes all the necessities for the boat to perform as it's intended. Fifth, the in-gel graphics are top-notch. And sixth, the price is right.

Maybe that should be higher up on the list.

Dazzling Performance

Bolster's with drop-out bottoms are provided for the driver and co-pilot.

Bolster's with drop-out bottoms are provided for the driver and co-pilot.

What impresses me most about the 288 Intimidator is how it handles. It should be noted, however, that the particular boat I tested was rigged with an optional Mercury Racing 500EFI engine that puts out a whopping 470 horsepower. This is a $22,457 upgrade from the $59,859 base price. With the standard 260-horsepower MerCruiser 5.7-liter engine, the top end and acceleration performance would be dramatically different. Nonetheless, this boat with a 500EFI mated to a Bravo One is a fine marriage.

At nearly 29 feet long — 28 feet, 8 inches long to be exact — the 288 Intimidator is not a big boat by offshore standards. But it's big enough. In fact, its light 4,500-pound weight allows for some pretty zesty performance. It crisply accelerates from zero to 30 mph in about seven seconds and cracks 60 mph in approximately 16 seconds. Top speed is a cool 73.4 mph.

The 288 Intimidator has been in the Sunsation line since 1993, and while there have been modifications to the interior, the basic bottom design has gone unchanged for the past few years. Basically, the hull has a 24-degree deadrise with a small step amidships, and a delta pad and notched transom aft. It has two sets of strakes, neither of which run full-length from the boat's stem. The inner pair terminate about 8 feet forward of the transom and the outer set end about 4 feet forward.

The swim platform of the 288 Intimidator has a boarding ladder.

The swim platform of the 288 Intimidator has a boarding ladder.

I have had a couple opportunities to get in the boat, one being in the Gulf of Mexico, which proved to be the perfect environment for putting the boat through its paces. Step-bottom boats are more sensitive to operate than non-stepped hulls, and the 288 is no exception. But within that realm, the 288 Intimidator was impressive. Several times I aired out the bottom of the hull coming off both following and head-on seas, and the boat consistently reentered with outstanding stability. Quartering seas require more finesse because, as is typical with step-bottom boats in general, the boat can fall off the step or chine walk if the drive trim, tabs, speed and angle of approach are not adjusted and synchronized properly. However, I found the 288 Intimidator a delight to drive through it all.

Sunsation offers several engine packages for the 288 Intimidator. The most popular, according to Sunsation is the new 496 Mag, which boosts the price to $66,101. Second most popular is the 496 Mag HO for $71,190. The biggest engine offered is the 550-horsepower Mercury Racing 575 SCi, which ups the boat's price to $106,897.

Dressed for Success

In true sport-boat style, the 288 Intimidator comes with separate controls for the throttle and gears. It also sports heavy-duty McLeod bolsters with power dropouts and two-tier footrests (for standing/leaning and for sitting) built into the dash console. Dual-ram Bennett trim tabs, through-hull exhaust with external flappers and high-quality Gaffrig gauges offset by anodized bezels are standard fare. Furthermore, the engine is solidly mounted on metal L-angles that are through-bolted to the stringers. All the wiring in the engine compartment is carefully routed and secured with cushion clamps.

Access to the engine is better than average. The padded engine hatch (which serves as a sun deck when closed) lifts with the push of a button at the helm. Since it incorporates the backrest of the aft bench seat, you can easily enter the compartment where you have plenty of room on either side of the engine as well as the front to perform minor servicing.

The 288 Intimidator is also constructed with durable materials. The hull and deck use balsa coring throughout for added strength while limiting extra weight. The strakes are solidly filled, and the hull/deck seam are both screwed and laminated together for optimum strength. Cored fiberglass liners are used in the cockpit and cabin for a neat, smooth look and to facilitate easy cleaning. A self-bailing cockpit ensures that any water from spray, rain or washdowns exits promptly.

Inside the cabin are small facing lounges, a V-berth and a galley.

Inside the cabin are small facing lounges, a V-berth and a galley.

Sunsation also does an admirable job of making the 288 Intimidator comfortable and inviting. The cabin features a 62-inch bench along the port side with 36 inches of headroom from the seat cushion to the padded headliner so that most people can sit upright with ease. Adjacent to it is a small galley with a large stowage cabinet, stainless-steel sink and mirror. Next to it is a 22-inch jump seat. Forward of this is a partial bulkhead that adds stability to the deck and hull but also serves to separate the V-berth. The berth, which has a centerline length of 81 inches and a width of 77 inches at the base, will accommodate two comfortably.

Beneath the center berth cushion is a compartment for a porta-potty. Foe easy access to it, Sunsation hinged the hatch and installed a gas shock to help lift it. Sunsation also gave thought to the cabin's ambience by stringing bead lights along the sides of the V-berth and installing recessed fluorescent lights in the gunwales behind the seats.

Every aspect of the 288 Intimidator is appealing, from its outstanding performance to its inviting interior. All things considered, the Sunsation 288 Intimidator is sensational.

Boat specifications
Weight4,500 pounds
Deadrise24 degrees
Fuel capacity110 gallons
Base price$56,859
Price as tested$85,298

0-30 mph7 seconds
0-60 mph16 seconds
Top speed73.4 mph

For more information

Sunsation Powerboats
9666 Kretz Dr.
Algonac MI 48001