We had high expectations for Chaparral's 216 Sunesta deckboat. With 2005 marking the company's 40th year as a boat builder, we figured it has learned a few things along the way. With high marks for the company this year from J.D. Power and Associates, we thought it fair to anticipate a high level of comfort, performance and quality. And, with Chaparral's reputation for building boats that win awards, we figured we had the right to enter into the test of the 216 with high demands.
Unlike a deep-V runabout or cruiser, a deckboat, with its modified-V hull, focuses its energy on creating a platform with more comfortable room for more people and their gear while still being able to venture into a little chop. Like many other companies, Chaparral was quick to get into the deckboat business back when it became obvious boaters were interested in a craft with an expanded deck like a pontoon that also had sporty handling and looks.
The first year we're aware of that Chaparral produced a Sunesta deckboat was 1993, with 22-foot and 25-foot models. Things have only gotten better since then as the lines between deckboats and runabouts continue to blur with additional emphasis being placed on deckboat style and performance. In fact, the 216 is brand-new for 2005 and is the smallest of Chaparral's line of six deckboats, with the largest measuring a little over 28 feet.
With all this in mind, our mission with the 216 was to determine how well it met the basic needs of a deckboat while looking to see how Chaparral is working to bring innovation in style, comfort and performance to the table.
A common feature to the bow areas of most deckboats is a medium-size swim platform and a boarding ladder. The 216 has both, and the three-rung ladder folds out of the way under a fiberglass hatch when not in use. This is where we first really noticed Chaparral's attention to detail. Stainless steel hardware everywhere, nice parallel lines around hatches and hinges that glide open and closed — quality materials and quality craftsmanship.
The bow on our test boat also housed an optional stereo remote and an optional washdown pull-out shower.
The bow seating area is where you can really tell this is a deckboat. Two sizable chaise lounges run parallel along the sides with a not-too-narrow passageway in between. This is where the modified-V hull comes in to allow the beam of the boat to be carried forward for the large bow space. Large glassed-in coolers with drains are under each of the chaise lounge seats and there is another small cooler with a hatch under the forward passageway between the two lounges. One small touch we liked was the little finger-hole notches in the ledges under the seats that make it easy to lift the seats off.
A walk-through windshield accesses the cockpit. To port is the head, which has a locking door. There's a good amount of headroom inside along with a small port light and a standard Porta Potti. A pumpout Porta Potti is an option. This is also where the stereo is located.
Just aft of the head back up in the cockpit is a small refreshment center. A pressurized sink, integrated ice chest with drain, cupholder, trash receptacle and storage will make easy work of serving drinks.
Across is the driver's helm. We found all the customary gauges as well as an optional depth finder and a standard remote for the stereo (remember the actual stereo unit itself is in the head). Our test boat had the mahogany tilt wheel. The captain's chair is one of Chaparral's DuraFlex pedestal seats, which swivels, is adjustable forward and aft and has a flip-up bolster. There's another one of these chairs set back to port. Between the seats is a large ski locker with an expanded rubber pad. There's also a cupped ledge around the hatch to catch water and direct it to drain rather than let it get down into the ski locker — nice touch.
Rounding out the seating is a wrap-around bench in the stern. There's another glassed in storage cooler under the starboard bench and dedicated space under the port seat for a portable cooler. The center section lifts to reveal the engine compartment, which has respectable room for routine maintenance, although the batteries are a bit tough to reach.
Aft of the rear seat is a sunpad — and to starboard a small wedge of a seat and seat back lift out to reveal a walk-through transom.
There's a small integrated swim step at the transom as well as a large attached swim platform, which has another folding, telescoping boarding ladder. We were happy to see the swim platform come standard. There is also another optional stereo remote and washdown shower, as well as an optional trim switch for the engine, which is handy while at the dock.
Our test boat was loaded with two people, no water and a little more than a quarter tank of fuel (about 16 gallons) — we would consider this a pretty light test load. Our test power was a carbureted 220 hp 5.0 GL Volvo Penta spinning a stainless steel F4 dual-prop.
Our location was Lake Castaic, which is about 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles. The lake's elevation is 1,055 feet, so we figured the slight altitude might cause a minor decrease in our top end.
Putting the throttle to the wall, we pulled on plane in just over 4 seconds. Our 0 to 30 mph time was 7.5 seconds. At full throttle and trimmed out for top speed our GPS read 43.1 mph with 4,700 rpm showing on the tachometer, not too bad considering the modest horsepower and slight altitude.
We calculated our ideal cruising speed to be 26.5 mph with a fuel consumption rate of 3.23 mpg, which would yield a maximum range of about 184 miles. Our top-speed fuel consumption was 2.08 mpg, which would yield a top-speed range of about 120 miles.
The lake was calm, which was ideal for putting the 216 through some aggressive cornering. Even with the modified-V hull, the craft stuck it well in the corners. Really tight turns would scrub off some speed, but there was plenty of throttle left to power through and out of the turns.
Our test conditions were surprisingly calm, so we didn't have an opportunity to evaluate the craft?s rough-water capabilities. With a deadrise of 16 degrees, however, we imagine the 216 would be fine in a little choppy water.
A 216 with our 220 hp carbureted test engine and no optional features would cost almost $41,000. With some additional power, a few goodies and the trailer, we would expect this boat to come in around $45,000, which some might consider somewhat stiff for a smaller deckboat like this. Unless, of course, you're looking for a top-shelf smaller deckboat, then it makes sense.
Chaparral's reputation for attention to detail and quality is well deserved. The company knows that charging a higher price demands higher standards, and that's what we found with the 216. The storage areas, the seats, the hatches, etc. — every corner we looked in we found solid construction and a clean finish.
There's a boat out there for everyone, and this one appeals to a person looking for big room in small versatile boat who is also a stickler for high quality and willing to pay
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Manufacturer Contact Information
Chaparral Boats Inc.
P.O. Drawer 928, 300 Industrial Park Blvd.
Nashville, GA 31639