If you’re in the market for a pontoon boat, you want to make sure you get the most bang for your boating buck. And while we love many of the newest models—see Best Pontoon Boats of 2018—and we still enjoy many that made our list last year—Top 10 Pontoon Boats of 2016—it's time to take a closer look at the hottest pontoons from 2017.
Bennington 27 Q
We didn’t set out to test the Bennington 27 QSR but stumbled across it more or less by accident, while testing out the new iDock outboard engine joystick docking system from Evinrude. It was a good stumble – the 27 QSR is one heck of a sweet pontoon boat. We noted unusual features including a sleek look thanks to Bennington’s raked-back bow fencing, an extra-large bow swim platform, and the presence of real windshields (as opposed to those common plastic deflectors) at the helm and passenger’s consoles. The furniture proved to be as comfortable as that of any pontoon boat, and everything about the 27 QSR felt sturdy and well-built.
For more information, visit Bennington.
See Bennington pontoon boat listings.
Crestliner 240 Rally DX
We spent an entire day aboard a Crestliner 240 Rally DX on Lake Darling, MN, while filming a video boat review of this model, and several stand-out features quickly made themselves apparent. First off, consider price—with a base MSRP under $30,000 with a 115 HP outboard, the 240 Rally DX is eminently affordable. But we didn’t spot indications of cost-cutting anywhere, and quite to the contrary, kicked back in rather luxurious pillow-top loungers, enjoyed the shade of a large standard Bimini top, and zipped around the lake at speeds in excess of 40 MPH.
For more information, visit Crestliner.
See Crestliner 240 Rally DX listings.
Cypress Cay Cabana 220
The Cypress Cay Cabana 220 has been around for a few years now (we have a 2014 Cypress Cay Cabana 220 Video Boat Review in the archives,) but this year the model was notably jazzed-up and upgraded, propelling it onto our Top 10 list. Our favorite cool new feature: a rolling, slide-open cooler with a padded perimeter, three cup holders, and a table-top. This unit solves the epic fail found on virtually every pontoon boat – flimsy, shaking, drink-spilling removable pedestal tables – once and for all. We also like the optional triple-tube package with an under-skin and lifting strakes, which lets you boost the maximum power to 250 horses.
For more information, visit Cypress Cay.
See Cypress Cay Cabana 220 listings.
Harris Grand Mariner 270
The all new Grand Mariner 270 is designed for the modern pontoon boat aficionado who appreciates the finer things in life, with contemporary touches like five USB charging ports, stereo controls built into the aft lounger, a touch-screen MFD integrated into the helm, and a 350 HP Mercury Verado outboard that propels this pontoon boat beyond the 50 MPH barrier. Heck, it even has a wet bar with wine bottle storage, an optional refrigerator, and a power outlet for your blender. Margaritas, anyone?
For more information, visit Harris.
See Harris Grand Mariner 270 listings.
Lowe Retreat 250 RFL
Lowe’s new Retreat series aims to mix economy with quality, and we like the way they’ve used top-notch construction touches (like a fiberglass console, full-length keels, 24” crossmembers, and all stainless-steel hardware) yet kept pricing quite reasonable. Just how affordable is this boat? In base trim (which includes a 25-horse eggbeater) it’s a hair over $30,000, and equipped with a 115 HP powerplant it’s still significantly under the $40,000 mark. We also like the fact that Lowe adds big, comfy twin aft-facing loungers and fills the bow with one giant U-shaped settee.
For more information, visit Lowe.
See Lowe Retreat 250 RFL listings.
Manitou 25 X-Plode XT
What’s not to like about pontoon boat that can carry twin 300 HP Evinrude E-TEC G2 outboards on the transom, and breaks the 60 MPH barrier? If you’re a speed freak, this pontoon was made for your pleasure. Along with neck-snapping acceleration and performance, the Manitou 25 X-Plode XT will blow you away with goodies like an 800 watt, six-speaker JL Bluetooth stereo system with a sub-woofer; blue LED accent lighting on the exterior, interior, cup holders, and speakers; and a seven-inch touch-screen helm display. Yowzah.
For more information, visit Manitou.
See Manitou pontoon boat listings.
Princecraft Vogue 29 XT
We’ve been hip to Princecraft’s offerings ever since we spent a day testing (read: relaxing) aboard the Vectra 23. But the Vogue line represents their top-shelf offering, and it provides an even higher level of luxury. While a huge forward U-shaped lounge, a trio of pedestal seats, and a pair of oversized aft loungers provide acres of comfy seating – the Vogue 29 XT can carry up to 16 passengers – it’s the ease of water access that really caught our eye. The swim platform extends aft to either side of the outboard pod and rigging to provide extra room, while a hefty swimming pool-style ladder makes re-boarding a piece of cake. Added bonus come party-time: get the SE version of this boat and two of the seats are replaced with a simulated-granite bar (a “snack table” for you family-oriented folks,) with four stools.
For more information, visit Princecraft.
See Princecraft Vogue 29 XT listings.
Soel Cat 12
Of all the boats in this round-up, the Soel Cat 12 is unquestionably the most unique. With a pair of pontoons built of fiberglass, a huge hard-top covered in solar panels shades the entire boat – eliminating both sunburn, and fuel burn. Power comes courtesy of a pair of 30 kW electric motors and it can cruise at eight knots on battery power, which is extended to 7.5 hours thanks to the 8.6 kWp array. Top-end is 14 knots. Even more surprising, when it’s sitting at the dock you can plug the Soel Cat12 into the power grid and feed it 15 kVA. Reviewer Zuzana Prochazka noted that the boat is “decked out with plush seating on the perimeter and bar stools around a centerline U-shaped countertop just aft of the helm.”
For more information check out our full Soel Cat 12 review, or visit Soel.
SunCatcher Diamond Elite 324 SS
Suncatcher’s Elite series goes one better this year, with the new Diamond Elite 324 SS. This 23’10” model takes the guesswork out of what makes for a top-shelf model, with a standard features list that’s chock-full of items considered options on most pontoon boats. There’s a 10” Garmin at the helm, a six-speaker Kicker stereo system with a sub-woofer, a Bimini top with an arch, and the logs are powder-coated and filled with foam. But more importantly, three pontoons come standard, not the usual up-gradable two. That means the Diamond Elite 324 SS can be outfitted with serious power, ranging from a Yamaha F225 to an F300.
For more information, visit SunCatcher.
See SunCatcher Diamond Elite 324 SS listings.
Sun Tracker Party Barge 18 DLX
The Sun Tracker Party Barge 18 DLX belongs in this round-up for one simple reason: it carries a “No Haggle, No Hassle” MSRP price-tag of $16,295. True, the 40 HP outboard doesn’t exactly overpower the boat. Yes the layout is fairly simple, with facing forward lounges, an aft L-lounge, and a helm chair. But that base price also includes a stereo with Bluetooth and MP3 input, a Bimini top, a 12-V outlet, courtesy lighting, and a 10-year warranty. Besides, when’s the last time you spotted a brand new 18-foot pontoon boat that cost less than the average Smart Car? Yeah, that’s what we said, too.
For more information, visit Sun Tracker.
See Sun Tracker Party Barge 18 DLX listings.
The Trifecta 22C was another boat that, quite honestly, we found by accident. It showed up at a recent event we attended to test the new Yamaha F25, F75, and F90 outboards, and we stepped aboard to check out the F90. But when we hit the throttle, the results were a bit surprising. Remember, this is a 22-foot pontoon boat. Yet with a mere 90 horses on the transom we hit 28 MPH, while getting 3.0 MPG. During our cruise across the lake we noticed front, rear, and side gates. And we found standard features like a Sony stereo with MP3, iPod, Bluetooth, and four speakers; a 10’ Bimini top; and a fiberglass helm console.
For more information, visit Trifecta.
See Trifecta listings.
To check out all the latest and greatest pontoon models, be sure to see our most recent feature, Best Pontoon Boats.