2013 was a watershed year for boat builders and for the marine industry as a whole, and it produced some memorable models. Let’s take a look at my 10 favorites from 2013, listed here in alphabetical order.
Though we all still tread forward with caution, economically speaking, it’s nice to see that Chaparral is again exhibiting market leadership with its latest new product, the 257 SSX. Touted as the next generation in luxury family bow riders, the 257 SSX is bristling with fresh ideas and clever design. It’s also well equipped in standard trim. I’m a fan of boats that are fully featured without ticking any of the options boxes, and the 257 SSX performs well in that regard save for a bimini top. The Wideband hull colors black, blue, red and teak are available at no charge, which really adds to the 257’s visual appeal. Standard power is a MerCruiser 300 horsepower 350 Mag MPI with catalyst exhaust and a Bravo Three twin-prop drive. For more information, read the full review, Chaparral 257 SSX: Moving Forward, or visit Chaparral.
Cobalt has been on a tear over the last couple of years, despite the challenges of the new economy. And Cobalt designers and engineers know a thing or two about runabouts — so the new R5 doesn’t try to be a revolutionary boat. Instead it is a culmination of the best of every Cobalt runabout built to date, which is what makes it one of those aspirational products: something you buy after having owned a series of lesser products. Standard power is a 300-horsepower Volvo Penta 5.7-liter V8 with a DuoProp drive. Base MSRP for the R5 is $87,333. Of course, anyone familiar with the runabout market knows that Cobalts aren’t entry level boats, but maybe that helps explain Cobalt’s sales gains over the last couple of years. For more info, read the full review, Cobalt R5: Runabout Reawakening, or visit Cobalt Boats.
Formula 240 Bowrider Sport
It’s easy to spot a Formula boat out on the water. There is a consistency of design to Formula’s boats that should be apparent even to even the most casual observer. The 240 Bowrider Sport model comes with innovative and functional upholstery features like the flip-up thigh bolsters on the front seats, which also swivel and adjust fore and aft. It also comes with the do-it-all rear bench, which converts to a full horizontal sun pad and a rear facing bench so you can keep an eye on the kids while they swim behind the boat. The 240 Sport also benefits from the larger siblings in the Formula line, specifically in terms of stowage. For example, the “trunk” on the port side of the transom is deep and usable and easy to access, so it’s ideal for ski ropes, fenders and lines. For more information, read the full review Formula 240 Bowrider Sport: Popularity Contest or visit Formula Boats.
The next time you and your wife are shopping for a runabout, have her look at a Formula or Donzi or Baja and see how much luck you have trying to convince here that any of their models would make a viable option for the family. Or just go online and “accidentally” click on the Interceptor button, then start lobbying to get a 24 PCi for the family. Interceptors are indeed performance boats, but the 24PCi is right in line with many large runabouts from other more pedestrian manufacturers. The price is right in line with most 24-foot family runabouts, too. Base MSRP is $44,499, which is almost unheard of in the performance market. There’s a lot for everyone in the family to like about the Interceptor 24 PCi. As the old saying goes, you could pay more, but why would you? For more information, read the full review, Interceptor 24 PCi: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing or visit Interceptor Boats.
Malibu Wakesetter 20 MXZ
Billed as “the little giant,” Malibu’s Wakesetter 20 MXZ is big in many ways. It just isn’t large, and it doesn’t have to be. It’s designed to be “garage friendly,” so the tower folds easily to 7-feet, 2-inches tall on a trailer to slip in under the door frame. With the swim platform on and the trailer tongue folded, the boat measures 22-feet, 10-inches long. Remove the swim platform and that dimension shrinks to 21 feet, 6 inches. Inside the cockpit, there is ample wraparound seating and conceealed stowage, and even a removable Igloo cooler that lowers into a form-fitting compartment. The cushion above the cooler is supported with gas struts. Another nice aspect of all the stowage Malibu thought to include in the Wakesetter 20 MXZ is access. Read the full review, Malibu Wakesetter 20 MXZ: Little Giant, or visit Malibu Boats.
Mastercraft's new-for-2014 ProStar is proof that it has not forgotten the slalom jocks out there. MasterCraft was founded on slalom skiing, after all. Last redesigned for the 2001 model year, the outgoing ProStar was due for a refresh, and Mastercraft did a masterful job. Though it’s true the slalom skiing market is a somewhat static, it might well be that MasterCraft could reignite it with this new model. It’s more innovative and exciting than any new ProStar in MasterCraft’s history. For more information, read the full review MasterCraft ProStar: New School Ski Boat or visit MasterCraft.
One of MasterCraft’s newest offerings, the X10, is a V-drive inboard. The X10 comes with standard trim tabs on the left, right and center, so getting it to ride flat and fast for ski wakes is as easy as adjusting the tabs to a skier’s preference. Probably the coolest passenger feature is the rear bench, which converts from a conventional lounge to a rear-facing loveseat that lets more people watch the action without having to twist their spines and crane their necks. Best of all, it operates with one hand. The wakeboard tower and the wind dam between the cowls also operate with one hand. Read the full review: MasterCraft X-10: Call of Duty, watch our Mastercraft X-10 Tow Boat: Fast Video Tour, or visit Mastercraft.
It’s easy to talk about Moomba boats and price in the same paragraph, or even the same sentence for that matter. Moomba has long been a value leader in the market. However, one thing Moomba might not get enough credit for is the amount of innovation per dollar, something it offers a lot of in its new-for-2014 Mondo. One of the latest trends in tow boats is the advent of the touch-screen digital display to store multiple rider preferences and adjust the boat’s ride characteristics. That kind of computing power costs money, so Moomba came up with the new Digital Cruise Pro II, an LCD screen that not only acts as speed control, but also displays ballast levels in the port, center and starboard bladders and displays wakeplate position. Digital Cruise Pro II also shows mph and the set cruise speed, the water temperature, engine hours and rpm, among other functions. It’s slick and innovative because it does much of what the more high-tech touch screens do, but does so without adding a huge premium to the MSRP. Read the full review, Moomba Mondo: Little Giant Tow Boat or visit Moomba.
One of the first things you notice when you throttle up a Stingray boat is how “freed up” the boat feels from the water. Hydrodynamic drag is difficult to overcome, but Stingray clearly has figured it out. Inside the 250LR, the largest bowrider in Stingray’s lineup, there is a great deal of cockpit and cargo space. The bow area is fitted with generous sculpted lounges with grab handles that fall readily to hand and gobs of stowage underneath. Stingray included a built-in cooler underneath the forward most seat cushion, with enough room for a 12 pack and enough ice to keep them chilled. There’s a decent size anchor locker on the tip of the bow, too. For more information, read the full review, Stingray 250LR: Top Shelf Bowrider, or visit Stingray Boats.
It wasn’t all that long ago that Tigé wowed the industry with the RZR. With its chiseled lines and sharp surface breaks, edgy gelcoat schemes and graphic elements, the RZR was definitively new and cutting edge. Now, Tigé is upping the ante with its new-for-2014 ASR, a family-friendly boat with the features wakeboarders and wake surfers want. The ASR’s new Apex hull can carry up to 3,000 pounds of water ballast in its floor. And it comes with the Tigé wake-enhancing features you expect, like the Convex VX hull and the TAPS system and the Alpha Z tower. There’s a lot to this boat, more than we have space for here. Even Tigé has yet to publish all the details of the new ASR. Suffice it to say that this boat is one you are going to want to take a peak at. Read the full review, Tigé ASR: Wake Up and Wakeboard or visit Tigé.