The darkest days of the recession did bring about some bright spots in the boat market, most notably in the form of affordable entry level boats like the Bayliner Element, Stingray 198 LX, and the Chaparral H2O Sport. Though we all still tread forward with caution economically speaking, it’s nice to see that Chaparral is again exhibiting market leadership - but now at the high end of the market, with the 257 SSX. Touted as the next generation in luxury family bow riders, the 257 SSX is bristling with fresh ideas and clever design.

chaparral 257 ssx

The latest from Chaparral: the 257 SSX, which targets the higher end of the bowrider market.

Just aft of the observer seat is one of the most innovative interior features you’ll find in any family runabout. Chaparral has created a “transitional lounge,” a patent-pending seat that serves three purposes. First, it serves as an individual inward-facing seat. Second, it slides aft to create leg bolsters for a forward-facing lounge. Third, it pivots toward the center to form a forward bench for the gunwale-mounted dinette table. It is, well, brilliant.

Another innovating seating feature is the aft bench, or more precisely put, what is usually an aft bench. The rear seats are large enough on either side for a couple to sit facing forward, and there are rear facing seats just aft of them. It would be cozy, which is why we use the word couple. It isn’t a rear bench because the walk-through to the swim platform is in the center and it’s a permanent feature.

chapparal 257 ssx helm

The helm station is decked out for maximum luxury; note the French stitching and chromed appliqué accents.

It gets better. Each of those seats folds down electrically to create a flat sun pad that also has articulating head rests. Again, it’s brilliant.

The helm is probably Chaparral’s best to date. It’s wrapped with vinyl and French-stitched with accenting thread at the surface breaks, but it’s also notable because it uses a perforated vinyl, which looks great and likely will increase longevity because it can breathe while baking under the hot summer sun. Switches are laid out smartly in columns to either side of the three-spoke steering wheel, accented by chromed appliqués and piano black plastic panels. The French stitching continues on the coaming panels on the gunwales. A Garmin GPSmap 720 is available as an option.

On the port side, the 257 SSX includes a standard head compartment spacious enough to use as a changing room. It has a vent window and available facilities include a pump-out Porta-Pottie or a fixed vacuum-flush commode which also can be fitted with a macerator.

chaparral 257 ssx bow rider

Unlike many competitors, the Chaparral 257 SSX comes well-equipped before you start adding options.

The boat comes well equipped in standard trim. If you have ready any of my other columns, you know 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 Bimini comes with the canvas package, which is an option that costs over $1,200. The wideband hull colors black, blue, red, and teak are available at no charge, which really adds to the 257’s visual appeal. The base engine is plenty strong, too. Standard power is a MerCruiser 300 horsepower 350 Mag MPI with catalyst exhaust and a Bravo Three twin-prop stern drive. Base price is under $100K.
Max. Draft3'0"
Deadrise22.5 degrees
Weight4,700 lbs
Fuel capacity72 gal.

Signs are emerging that our economy is showing some fresh life. One of those signs is Chaparral’s all-new 257 SSX, a plush family bow rider bursting with fresh thinking and innovative features. Make mine blue, please.

Other Choices: Cruisers Sport Series 258: Bowrider with Bling will introduce you to another new entry in this field. Or, take a look at We Have Arrived: The Formula 260 Bowrider to read about a similarly high-end boat that places a bit more emphasis on performance.

For more information, visit Chaparral Boats.