The Powerquest 380 Avenger runs 70-plus-mph.

The Powerquest 380 Avenger runs 70-plus-mph.

Few performance boats on the market today have been fine-tuned and tweaked more than Powerquest's 380 Avenger, which was introduced in 1998. It's back now — the third incarnation in as many years. This time around, the 380 Avenger boasts further hull refinements and an engine upgrade that the Holland, Michigan-based manufacturer claims make the 38-footer some 4 to 5 mph faster than some of its comparably sized competitors.

That's a tall claim, of course, one that's difficult to prove unless you've lined up competitors' boats of the same weight and horsepower in the same sea conditions for a side-by-side race. We didn't do that in a recent test on the Gulf of Mexico near Sarasota, Florida, but our test of the 380 Avenger did confirm one thing: The newest version of the boat will get up and fly in a hurry, with a smooth and surprisingly quiet ride as part of the bargain.

Our test boat ran to a crisp 82.3 mph in semi-choppy sea conditions, cut through waves and wakes with the greatest of ease and produced a tolerable roar of about 102 to 104 decibels at top speed.

Bottom lines

Powerquest has perfected the stepped bottom for the 380 Avenger, which is as stable as it is efficient.

Powerquest has perfected the stepped bottom for the 380 Avenger, which is as stable as it is efficient.

What essentially happened to this stepped-hull screamer during the past three years was a process of endless engineering scrutiny. Powerquest's designers worked to find the best configuration/location for the two steps in the bottom. The most significant change for 2001, according to Powerquest's engineers, was moving both steps slightly rear of the middle of the boat. That changed was combined with reducing the length of the rear strakes by 2 feet. According to the folks at Powerquest, these changes produce optimal stability, speed and fuel-consumption efficiency.

The other step that Powerquest took for the 2001 version of the 380 Avenger was more fundamental — an upgrade to two 550-horsepower Mercury Racing HP575Sci engines. They were stoutly installed on through-bolted aluminum motor mounts in a neat and logically designed engine room under a power engine hatch topped with a comfortable sunpad.

On performance

Power options include twin 550-hp HP575SCi engines from Mercury Racing.

Power options include twin 550-hp HP575SCi engines from Mercury Racing.

The people at Powerquest are mindful of their competition. That's why their game plan for the 380 Avenger is to have "the speed of a Fountain and the luxury of a Formula." While I can recall rides on Fountain boats that may have turned in a couple more mph at the top and a few outings on Formulas that seemed a tad more like expensive bachelor pads, it's safe to say that Powerquest is essentially on target with its goals for the 380 Avenger.

For the record, our test boat hopped on plane in a blazing 4.26 seconds with tabs down and 6.42 with tabs up, hit 30 mph in 7.8 seconds and 60 mph in 17.33 seconds.

Easy on the ears

Perhaps my favorite thing about the 380 Avenger was something I couldn't find — an extra 10 or 20 decibels of engine noise. Ryan Coles, Powerquest's product development director, said that was because of the exhaust design, which vents the exhaust gases under a rear swim platform. (The swim platform, incidentally, had a built-in swim ladder that folded under a fiberglass hatch.)

Like most performance boats I've tested, the 380 Avenger was a bit louder idling at the dock — with the sound waves reverberating off everything around the boat — as opposed to wide — open blasting on the open water.

At idle or running wide open, it would be possible to drown out most of the exhaust noise with the standard Sony stereo system. Speakers are placed strategically around the cockpit, even in the base of the bench seat.

Cockpit qualities

A complete assortment of Gaffrig gauges at the helm is standard.

A complete assortment of Gaffrig gauges at the helm is standard.

The helm and front passenger seat were stand-up bolster seats — a wise choice with any boat that will take you north of 70 mph and, using a big swell as a ramp, leap into the air. The wood-free bolsters had color accents that matched the color scheme of the boat, which in this case sported purple and gold on the basic white.

In addition to a bolster for the driver, the helm station featured a host of Gaffrig gauges. The standard gauges are white-in-white bezels, although other color packages are offered.

Weighty issues

You can certainly find lighter boats than the 8,500-pound 380 Avenger. The point to remember is that you can easily load the boat with six people and still run in excess of 80 mph.

As you might expect from a 4-ton boat with a well-designed stepped hull, the 380 tracked extremely well. More importantly, it delivered a soft yet solid ride — the kind that makes even nervous passengers feel secure.

Inside story

The cabin of the 380 Avenger was thoughtfully designed with 5 feet 7 inches of headroom in most areas. The cabin included two double berths, a stand-up marine head and a galley area complete with all the essentials — sink, fridge and stove. Being 6 feet 10 inches long and 5 feet 10 inches wide at the widest point, the V-berth offered plenty space for two people to lie down and crash.

The only thing missing from the 380 Avenger's cabin? Good cross ventilation — there were no opening ports in the hull sides. However, there were two deck hatches above the berth.

Graphic detail

Decked out in a black-and-white color scheme with everything in sight either upholstered or carpeted, the cabin also included some nice extras such as a hanging locker for clothing. Halogen lights judiciously placed around the cabin should make it easier to cook a meal in the galley or just read after the sun goes down.

Here's another "graphic" function I found truly cool about the 380 Avenger. By going to the Powerquest website (, you can click on a feature called "Paint Your Own Boat," and see what it looks like with various optional graphics and color schemes with names like "Centurion" and "Neptune."

When you are buying what could easily be a lifetime investment, it's good to know as many specifics as possible up front.

Boat specifications

Length overall39'7"
Fuel capacity169 gallons
Approximate dry weight8,500 pounds
Deadrise24 degrees
Headroom below deck5'7"
Top speed in test82.3 mph at 5100 rpm
Cruising speed44.1 mph at 3,500 rpm
Sound level at wide-open throttle104 decibels at 72 mph

For more information

Powerquest Boats Inc.
2385 112 th Avenue
Holland, MI 49424
(616) 772-9474