When I got invited to run Bennington’s brand-new 30 Club Twin pontoon boat at this year’s Miami International Boat Show, I honestly didn’t give it much thought. Heck, I’d run plenty Bennington pontoons before, so I figured I knew exactly what to expect.
And just like the team I picked to win the Super Bowl this year, I had it all wrong. With twin Yamaha F300 outboards and 300 square feet of deck space that can entertain 21 people at speeds of up to 50 mph, this is definitely no ordinary pontoon boat. Better hold on to your chips, dip, and wine glasses, folks; this is going to be a wild ride.
Looks Can Be Deceiving
Nestled in along a dock full of boats packing as many as 1,600 horses of outboard power, the Bennington 30 Club Twin looked as if it were a sheep among wolves when I first approached it at Sea Isle Marina in Miami, FL. In fact, aside from its astounding 31-foot, three-inch overall length, it looked like many other Benningtons I’ve run—subtle, yet elegant. Then I spotted a pair of Yamaha F300 outboards, each strapped to a pontoon like the solid rocket boosters on the Space Shuttle. Six hundred ponies is impressive power, but there was a ton of attention-grabbing stuff going on inside the Bennington 30’s fences, as well.
Decked out with its “RCW” trim level, the 30 Club Twin is near the top of the Bennington range. My test vessel was fitted with Bennington’s “Club” interior, which is highlighted by an expansive, plush, J-shaped lounge on the aft port quarter of the boat. It’s as big as any sectional couch I’ve ever seen. In fact, the whole deck is bigger than my entire living room.
Insert cushions can be added to the lounge to create a large sunpad, or removed and replaced with a teak table. Adjacent to the club lounge on the starboard aft quarter is a molded fiberglass wet bar with ample counter space for fixing up snacks and sandwiches with tons of stowage space underneath. Forward are two long, L-shaped lounges with buttery upholstery and cushy pillow-top backs. A clever table surrounded by cup holders with a cooler hidden inside sits between them.
Take a Seat
All seating is set atop sturdy rotomolded PVC bases, and many of the seat bottom cushions open to reveal stowage beneath them. These cushions are hinged, making the stowage easy to access, but I prefer dual-action hinges that permit the cushion to swing out and away from the stowage compartments, providing easier access. As with all of the Bennington pontoons I’ve tested, the materials used in the cushioning and upholstery are absolutely top-notch. Bennington’s layouts, like with many pontoon manufacturers, are highly modular, meaning you can mix and match all sorts of seating and furniture arrangements to suit your taste.
As we saddled up and poked the Bennington 30 out into the marina fairway, I took notice of how easy it was to spin the big pontoon around, thanks to those twin outboards. Seated at the helm, I nestled back into the comfy swiveling captain’s chair and took a look at the faux-wood trimmed dash, which seems way less “faux” than you’d think.
Circular Yamaha digital engine gauges are nicely centered and set just above the tilt steering wheel. I’d personally prefer a Yamaha Command Link or Command Link Plus panel here, but Bennington tells me they are not currently an option. Dang. Otherwise the engine controls, Garmin GPS, control switches, and stereo controls are all well placed and easy to reach. It’s all set into a sturdy molded fiberglass module with plenty of stowage underneath. The unit also provides a solid, elevated base for the captain’s chair.
The Need For Speed
A tinge of inadequacy came over me as those other quad-outboard-tipped speed demons zoomed by as we entered Biscayne Bay, but a firm application of the throttles pushed me well back into my seat. Before I knew it we were blasting along and holding our own with some of the big boys. While Yamaha’s performance bulletin for the Bennington 30 Club Twin reports a top-end speed of 48.3 mph at wide-open throttle (5900 rpm), according to my GPS I was able to touch 50 mph a few times as we sped back and forth along Miami’s Venetian Causeway. That top speed nets fuel consumption of about 52 gallons per hour.
|Test conditions: calm seas, winds 5-10 knots, 3 POB. Performance data courtesy of Yamaha.|
|Power||Twin Yamaha F300 four-stroke outboards, swinging 15.5" x 17" three-bladed stainless-steel props.|
My results in discovering an efficient cruising speed closely matched Yamaha’s own test results. They show that around 30 mph and 3,500 rpm, the two F300s sip about 16 gallons of fuel per hour. With the 30 Club Twin’s whopping 100-gallon fuel tank that gives a theoretical cruise range around 187 miles. Back the throttles down to 20 mph and range goes up to nearly 220 miles. Considering that Bennington is aiming this boat at grabbing at least a small chunk of the coastal market—where destinations can be a decent distance apart—those impressive cruising ranges should be a big selling point.
Efficiency and cruising range aside, you might be asking yourself how Bennington can weave so much horsepower into a pontoon boat—and it’s a great question to ask. The short answer is, “It’s all in the tubes.” Bennington’s Elliptical Sport Package (ESP) adds a 32-inch elliptical center tube with lifting strakes, and enhances the outer tubes with performance foils and keels. The additional buoyancy provided by the center tube means bigger, heavier engines can be added, and the lifting strakes and keels provide quick planing and directional stability in turns. The handling characteristics of this boat are so good, in fact, that it’s scary.
|Fuel capacity||100 gal.|
As we cruised into an open part of Biscayne Bay at around 30 mph, I turned the wheel all the way over into a tight turn. My camera bag went flying across the boat’s 10-foot beam, the cooler/table combo up forward flipped over (make a note of that, Bennington), and I was plastered up against the starboard deck fencing like lettuce in a salad spinner.
Despite pulling multiple Gs in the turn, there was no sideways slippage. None. Nor was there a sharp decrease in speed followed by wallowing in the ditch we'd made in the water. No way. Like other Benningtons, this one feels as if it’s on rails. And yes, there’s a sturdy tow bar on the expansive aft deck so you can whip around those water skiers, wake boarders, and tubers.
Consider the Bennginton 30 Club Twin a boat full of superlatives. Fast, roomy, big, and capable come to mind. You might throw in comfortable and luxurious, too. And with a price pushing $118,000, it should be filled with superlatives.
If a performance pontoon with a living room’s worth of deck space that can touch 50 mph sounds like your idea of a good time, this is one pontoon to add to your list.
Other Choices: For other big and bodacious pontoon boats, consider the Premier 290 Grand Entertainer or the Avalon Ambassador 27.
View Bennington 30 Club Twin listings.
For more information, visit Bennington Pontoon Boats.