I’m a stickler for details, which may be why I was so impressed when I arrived to film a video boat review of the Bryant Calandra. Here’s a 23-foot bowrider with solid construction, fantastic fit-and-finish, and some smart design ideas that depart from the cookie-cutter sameness afflicting the runabout segment.
But video boat reviews are limited in both time and scope, and there was so much more detail to dig into that we decided to take a long, hard look at the Calandra in more detail. So if your family has gotten over “pontoon-itis” and is looking for a boat that’s a cut or two above the norm, read on.
The Bryant backstory: In 1960 Jim Bryant founded his first boat company, Thundercraft Boats, in Knoxville, and in 1990 started Bryant Boats in the near-by berg of Sweetwater, Tenn., with a regional dealer network mostly in the southeast states. In 2012 John Dorton, the former president of MasterCraft boats, purchased a controlling interest in Bryant. With his partner and son Ben Dorton as brand manager, John set out to expand that dealer network and revitalize the Bryant brand and product line.
Bryant has always built a solid boat but the designs the Dortons inherited were a bit dated. New from the keel up, the Calandra, along with the 21-foot Speranza and the 27-foot Potenza, represent the new era at Bryant. Each of these new Bryant models reflects John Dorton’s experience in the inboard tow-boat segment, and his 16 years of meeting the very high expectations of that customer. Step aboard the Calandra and you’ll feel—because it’s hard to see—the way paying attention to dozens of little construction details conveys over-all quality. The upholstery stitching aligns cushion to cushion, and the edges are welted. Run your hand along the edge of any molded part of the boat and instead of roughness, you'll feel a smooth bevel.
The seat adjustments work smoothly, the snaps all line up, and nothing rattles. The Bimini is tight and doesn’t flap in the wind. Open the engine hatch and look at how well the hull-to-deck joint is finished.
Here’s the thing about all these details; when I see a little sloppy workmanship or some shortcutting on a boat, it makes me wonder how that builder finished the stuff I can’t see. When a boat is as well-finished at the Calandra, I feel pretty confident about the entire product.
This boat features wood-free construction, with a one-piece fiberglass liner over glass stringers, and composite coring the transom. Ben Dorton says the new Bryant models are designed to deliver a smooth and quiet ride. To that end the Calandra features a rather deep 20 degree transom deadrise. The hull does slice neatly through wakes and chop, heels over comfortably into turns, and still feels stable at rest.
The trade-off might be a bit of top speed; we clocked the boat at 51.5 MPH with a 350 HP MerCruiser 6.2 under the hatch. At speed this hull does not generate a lot of lift, so while it feels confident and steady in the water there’s also not much sensation of high speed.
The quiet was especially evident, due in part to the new MerCruiser 6.2, which has an aft-facing throttle body and many other features designed to reduce sound and vibration. But at the media intro for this engine, I ran it back-to-back in the Bryant and some other runabouts, and none of the others were as quiet as the Calandra. So it’s not just the motor. Credit the tight construction, and the sound-deadening effect of its aft seat design.
That aft seat is sort of a convertible settee over the engine that can be configured to face fore/aft or fold down in increments, to create a lounge or a flat sundeck. The latches and sliders for this operation are all easy to manage. Placing the seat over the engine creates more space in the cockpit, and I like the wide, flat walkway from the platform–it’s easy to move around in this boat.
Instead of the wrap-around seating and captain’s chair so typical in this segment, Bryant has created seating modules in the deck. The seats are placed about three inches higher than standard, and the bottom cushions are deeper, a deliberate design tweak made to enhance comfort. To port there’s a lounge with a pivoting backrest (note the polished stainless-steel supports) so a passenger can face the console or recline facing aft. To starboard, the module holds a “1.5” helm seat that gives the captain a lot of room or leaves space for a mate to get cozy. There’s a matching seat that faces aft. The head compartment has decent elbow room, but no ventilation.
The helm features a tilting sport wheel, six-speaker Clarion audio control to the right, and a little glove box front and center on the dash that will hold an optional chart plotter. Note the deep brow over the plotter location that helps limit glare. Also note that the dash panel is blind-mounted, rather than secured with a handful of nasty sheet-metal screws. There’s that attention to detail again.
Gas struts raise the seat to reach stowage below the helm module, and struts are also fitted to port and on the bow seat cushions. All the stowage is well-finished. The starboard bow backrest is hinged to access the helm wiring.
Our boat looked sporty and sophisticated in black with deep orange accents on the lower hull. The black color highlights the polished stainless-steel rubrail insert, and big stainless-steel grab handles on the aft gunwale and surrounding the edges of the transom platform. Base price with the MerCruiser 6.2 and a trailer is currently about $70,000—but it would easy to guess the Calandra cost a lot more.
Other Choices: The Cobalt R3 is another well-finished bowrider with a convertible aft seat, but a lot less cockpit space than the Bryant Calandra. The Cruisers Sport Series 238 is also built to a high spec, with a transom design that puts emphasis on an extended platform.
See Bryant Calandra listings.
For more information, visit Bryant.
|Fuel capacity||49 gal.|
|Water capacity||14 gal.|
|Test conditions: calm seas, 2 POB, full fuel.|
|Power||Single MerCruiser 6.2L 350 HP Bravo III stern-drive, swinging a 23" propset.|