With leisure time threatened and "family vacations" on the endangered-species list these days, instant escape is a hot commodity. Powerboats, especially bow riders, provide just that. Pack the family in the car, tow the boat to the lake and, at least for the day, you're in another world.
The designers at Chaparral Boats must have had that kind of escape in mind when they created the 220 SSi. New for 2001, the 23'9"-long, 8'6"-wide bow rider is trailerable and offers everything a family needs to forget the real world.
Plus, the 220 SSi is affordable. Base price for the boat with a 220-hp MerCruiser 5.0-liter V-8 engine is $28,726. The model we tested off Captiva Island, Fla., was equipped with a 300-hp MerCruiser 350 Magnum MPI engine and several additional options for a $38,190 price tag.
Top speed for the bow rider—which harnessed the 330 horsepower from the fuel-injected small-block engine with a Bravo Three drive spinning Bravo Three 15 1/4" x 26" and 14" x 26" three-blade stainless-steel propellers through a 2:1 reduction—was a radar-captured 58.8 mph at 5,200 rpm. (Drivers who must believe they're going at least 60 mph need only look at the speedometer, which during our top-speed tests read 64 mph.)
Time to plane for the 3,734-pound boat was 4.3 seconds, not extraordinary but certainly acceptable for the breed. Once hooked up, the small-block motor/twin-propeller drive setup proved efficient, as the boat reached 52 mph in 15 seconds, ran from 20 to 40 mph in 5.4 seconds and from 30 to 50 mph in 7.5 seconds.
A good portion of the bow rider's running efficiency had to do with its 20-degree Extended V-Plane hull. (In the Extended V-Plane setup, the hull has an "afterplane," much like a sponson, on each side of the boat that extends a few feet beyond the transom.) The bottom had negative chines and four strakes. The outer strakes ran the length of the hull and inner set ended 2 feet from the transom.
In handling tests, the 220 SSi was as nimble as it was well mannered. The bow rider precisely carved slalom turns at 20, 30, and 40 mph—it even sliced its way through the abrupt maneuvers without a bobble at wide-open throttle. Side-to-side transitions were clean, with the boat leaning into turns at a plant-you-in-your-seat angle and exiting them without excessive roll to the outside.
In circle turns at cruising and full speeds, the 220 SSi delivered the same hooked-up stability. Even as our test driver tightened the circles, the boat didn't skip, hook or catch.
Tracking was perfectly straight at all speeds, even during sudden deceleration. "This boat handles perfectly and is totally predictable," said our lead test driver. "That's exactly what you need in a family boat."
Mold and gelcoat work on the 220 SSi far exceeded production-boat standards. Chaparral has a knack for that—we continually see solid workmanship in the products coming out of the Nashville, Ga.-based company.
Behind the 16 to 20 mils of gelcoat was a combination of fine lamination ingredients including AME 4000 resin, 36-ounce woven roving, layers of fiberglass mat from 1 to 3 ounces and Syntactic foam. For extra strength and flotation, balsa coring was used in select areas of the hull.
Under the manually operated engine hatch, which raised on two gas struts, we found the motor installation and rigging up to production-boat standards. The engine was lag-bolted to the stringers and further secured with the standard transom assembly. Generally well supported, most of the wiring was protected in conduit. The bilge was finished with gelcoat and was easy to reach.
Padding in the bow lounges was ample and, like all seats in the boat, upholstered in marine-grade vinyl. The bottom cushions of each lounge flipped forward on hinges to reveal ample stowage space. As if that weren't enough space for gear, the bow rider also had a rubber-mat-lined in-sole locker, large enough for water skis.
Snap-in carpeting covered the nonskid sole of the cockpit. For the co-pilot and driver, the manufacturer supplied flip-up-bottom seats, which come in handy when greater forward visibility is needed. An array of features was provided at the co-pilot's station to port. Notables included a JVC CD stereo, a glove box, an in-dash cooler, a 12-volt receptacle, and a grab handle on the gunwale.
At the helm station, Teleflex gauges were set in an aluminum panel with a simulated woodgrain pattern. The gauges themselves had metallic faces and were set in chrome bezels. Flush-mounted rocker switches activated all accessories.
Our water-ski and wakeboard drivers had no major complaints about the 220 SSi. The nose of the boat rose a bit as our skier came out of the hole, but forward visibility, thanks to the flip-up-bottom seats, remained clear. Pulling up a boarder from a deep-water start did nothing to affect the attitude of the boat.
Once up, our skier ranked the wakes of the 220 SSi as "some of the best" he'd seen from a runabout during our 2001 Performance Trials. Our boarder found that the wakes provided plenty of kick without being intimidating. And both testers offered gushing praise for the easy-to-use, low-to-the-water swim platform. ("I didn't even need the ladder," said our boarder.)
We can't explain why you have less leisure time, but we can recommend a partial weekend remedy. It's called the Chaparral 220 SSi. Consider it an instant vacation.
Hull and Propulsion Information
|Deadrise at transom||20 degrees|
|Hull weight||3,734 pounds|
|Engine||MerCruiser 350 Mag MPI|
|Lower-unit gear ratio||2:1|
|Propeller||Mercury Bravo Three 15 1/4" x 26" and 14" x 26"|
|Price as tested||$38,190|
Fiberglass liner, hinged bow cushions, forward ice chest with overboard drain, lockable glove box, color-coordinated sport steering wheel, bucket seats, woodgrain dash, walk-through stowaway door, cockpit table with filler cushion, anchor locker, integrated swim platform, stainless-steel boarding ladder, bow and stern eyes, deck cleats, two-tone hull, chrome-over-brass through-hull fittings, cockpit lighting, full instrumentation, AM/FM cassette stereo.
Options on Test Boat
Upgrade to MerCruiser 350 Mag MPI engine ($5,151), Quick & Quiet through-hull exhaust ($1,475), swim platform ($555), cockpit cover ($513), convenience package ($449), snap-in carpeting ($321), premium package ($294), fire-extinguishing system ($212), battery crossover switch ($192), AM/FM CD stereo ($154), bow filler cushions ($148).
|5 seconds||21 mph|
|10 seconds||29 mph|
|15 seconds||44 mph|
|20 seconds||52 mph|
20-40 mph ,5.4 seconds
30-50 mph, 7.5 seconds
30-60 mph, NA
Rpm vs. Mph
|Radar||58.8 mph at 5100 rpm|
|Nordskog Performance Products GPS||56.4 mph at 5100 rpm|
|Time to plane||4.3 seconds|
|Minimum planing speed||16 mph|
|At 25 mph||3.9 mpg|
|At 35 mph||3.9 mpg|
|At 45 mph||3.7 mpg|
|At 55 mph||2.8 mpg|
|At WOT||2.6 mpg|
|Fuel capacity||58 gallons|
P.O. Drawer 28
Nashville, GA 31639