When most of us think about Cruisers Yachts, we envision big boats like their trend-setting Cantius 48. The last thing you’re likely to think of is a pint-sized bowrider. But last year Cruisers rolled out their Sport Series, which began at the diminutive size of 23’ (get a close-up look at this boat by watching our Cruisers Sport Series 238 Video Boat Review). This year they've continued to wrap big fun into ever-smaller packages, with the new 208.

cruisers yachts 208 running

Other than its LOA, nothing about the Cruisers Sport Series 208 bowrider is small.

Although this boat tapes in at a mere 20’10”, it still has most of the features of its bigger brothers. You don’t lose the hide-away cooler under the lounge. You don’t lose the over-sized swim platform, which has a telescopic ladder that swings down from the side to allow boarding away from the prop. You don’t lose the comfy bucket seats with flip-up bolsters. And you don’t lose the safety features usually found on Cruisers’ much larger models, like the automatic engine compartment fire extinguishing systems and the secondary bilge pump back-up float switch.

Honey, I Shrunk The Boat
Of course, you simply can’t cram 25’ or 28’ of boat into a 20’ package. So, what do you have to sacrifice on the 208? The head, for starters. Other models in the Sport Series have a walk-in head compartment in the passenger’s console, but there just isn't room for it on this model. Another trade-off comes in the aft lounger; on other Sport Series models it’s a flip-back lounge which faces forward, aft, or folds flat to become a huge sun lounge. Again, due to space constraints it simply doesn't fit on the 208. But Cruisers designed in a nifty replacement in the form of a side-facing lounge, with a backrest that pops up and rests on a strut.

208 bowrider lounge

The aft lounge is different, and yes it's smaller than those on other Sport Series models - but it still allows for plenty of fun in the sun.

Performance is another area where size doesn’t matter. In fact, in this case the 208’s svelte form is an asset. Not only does this peppy little puppy break 52-mph, it does so with just 260 horses, in the form of a MerCruiser stern drive. That keeps fuel consumption down to a mere 11 gallons per hour at cruise (39-mph, 4000 rpm). You’ll be getting 3.5 miles to the gallon at this rate, but if you take the throttle back a tick and run at 3000 rpm, economy jumps up to an eye-opening 4.1 miles to the gallon. You say you like Volvo-Penta powerplants? No problem, Cruisers rigs ‘em both ways. (For more on this debate, see Stern Drive Engines: Mercruiser vs. Volvo-Penta).

Size Matters – Not
One thing you've got to love about the Cruisers line is that no matter how small you get, this company brings the big-boat construction attitude along for the ride. The first example is those yacht-quality safety features we talked about earlier. But don’t take my word for it—click below and check out the construction segment of the Cruisers 208 Video Boat Review, at 2:40.


And there’s a lot more to consider. Poke your head into the engine compartment, and check out the motor mounts. Have you ever seen aluminum plates like those in a boat this small? We doubt it. Same goes for the backing plates behind all hinges and deck hardware, although you can’t lay an eyeball on these because they’re laminated right into the fiberglass. Hatches and small parts, meanwhile, are RTM (resin transfer molded), which means they’re maximum strength but minimum weight and are fully finished on both sides.
Deadrise19 degrees
Displacement3,100 lbs
Fuel capacity35 gal.

Another sign of how well the boat is built comes when you start punching through a chop. We had a stiff 15-knot breeze when I ran the 208, and once I left the protected water and ran out in the open, there was a significant chop. The boat handled it well, with no rattles or vibrations. Naturally, it was a bit bumpier than the larger boats in the Sport Series, but that’s to be expected. And I’m willing to bet that when you go for a sea trial in the 208 you won’t be one bit disappointed in how it takes the waves compared to other boats of this size. Then, when you crank the wheel over hard, I’ll also bet you fall in love with the way the boat handles. The 208 has notches in the chines that are akin to steps. They only run part of the way under the hull so the usual issues associated with stepped hulls (aerating the drive, feeling loose and skittish in turns) aren’t present. But those notches do grab the water and help carve out tight, controlled turns.
Performance Data
Test conditions: 1 foot chop, winds 10 - 15 knots, 2 POB
PowerSingle 260-hp MerCruiser 5.0L stern drive, swinging a 21" Alpha One propset.

The bottom line? If you’re in the market for a small bowrider that features the comfort, performance, and construction of larger boats, the Sport Series 208 is one you’ll want to put on the short-list. And that’s particularly true if your main goal is to find a bowrider that makes boating fun, fun, and fun.

For more information, visit Cruisers Yachts.

Written by: Lenny Rudow
With over two decades of experience in marine journalism, Lenny Rudow has contributed to publications including YachtWorld, boats.com, Boating Magazine, Marlin Magazine, Boating World, Saltwater Sportsman, Texas Fish & Game, and many others. Lenny is a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design, and he has won numerous BWI and OWAA writing awards.