This is a big year for Four Winns. It's the Cadillac, Michigan, builder's 30th anniversary, it is introducing five new boats for 2006 (including the 180 Horizon) and the company announced late last year that it was looking to step things up even more in the future to give Sea Ray some serious competition. And when companies compete, consumers win with better products at lower prices.
The brand-new Four Winns 180 Horizon is the smallest offering from Four Winns, which makes it an important boat for the builder. A solid entry-level boat is one of the best ways a boat builder can earn a life-long buyer. If a boater who throws down the approximately $17,000 to $20,000 it will take to buy the 180 Horizon is totally satisfied, he or she will probably put Four Winns at the top of his or her list when it's time to look at a bigger boat, and Four Winns has many larger options. So you can see how important it is for Four Winns to get everything right with the 180.
Right away we noticed that the 180 had some fun things to offer boaters in terms of innovative seating. The standard layout includes a pair of bucket seats (bucket seats with bolsters are available for $585) and jump seats in the rear. The jump seats can be positioned for seating or brought up to make a full-beam sunpad across the transom. The cushioned jump seats are also reversible to create nonskid steps to assist with going over the transom.
The other seating configuration is called the Sunsport layout, and it only costs an additional $269. The Sunsport layout adds a full-width rear bench seat and sunpad. There's storage under the bench seat, and the sunpad lifts for access to the engine and more storage. This option makes things a little more comfortable while cruising, but it does eat into some of the roominess of the cockpit.
Both layouts include a comfortable bow seating area with storage under the seats. Under the seats you'll find glassed-in compartments with drains, which can be used as coolers, dry storage or whatever.
The main storage for the 180 is a large centerline ski locker with a wide hatch that has a hydraulic support. It offers plenty of room for skis, wakeboards and other toys.
Having room for these toys is important because a beginner boat like this is sure to be used for watersports fun as much as it will be used for anything else. All your watersports nuts will appreciate the integrated full-beam swim platform, and Four Winns took the time to make a folding ladder with really wide steps, which makes a noticeable difference after clambering aboard other boats with ladders that have pencil-thin rungs.
Another aspect of the 180 Horizon worth mentioning is that a Four Winns Sure-Load trailer comes standard with the boat. It's fair to say that an entry-level boat should come with a trailer because who would expect a first-time buyer to have a trailer. In this case you get a trailer, that has been custom designed to fit your boat's running surface, which will make launching and loading that much easier. The color-matched trailer also has brakes as well as a swing-away tongue, which will allow you to stow your new prize in your garage.
As with other Four Winns craft, the 180 Horizon is built using the company's patented Stable-Vee hull. The idea behind this hull design is to eliminate any unsteady feeling due to lateral instability associated with slow speeds, which can be a concern with smaller boats with relatively narrow beams. The hull also takes advantage of a variable deadrise hull ending with a 21-degree deadrise at the transom. This allows the craft to handle waves and rough water smoothly and still have a soft ride in calm water.
Our test on the 180 was conducted near Four Winns' headquarters in Cadillac, Michigan. We had two people aboard and a full tank of fuel (24 gallons or 150 pounds). The water was calm and smooth with a hint of wind. In the engine compartment we had a 135 hp 3.0GL Volvo Penta with an SX drive spinning a 14.25-inch, 3-blade aluminum prop.
With the throttle mashed all the way forward we were able to quickly climb up to a top speed of 41.7 mph at 4,900 rpm. The maximum rated speed for a 3.0GL Volvo Penta is 4,600 rpm, so a prop with a slight increase in pitch might be worth checking out. Cruising range at top speed is about 66 miles and, as expected with a carbureted motor, was a bit loud at top speed at 97 dBa. Our optimum cruising speed was 26.7 mph at 3,500 rpm, which was noticeably less noisy at 89 dBa — you can expect a range of about 105 miles at cruising speed.
The 180 jumped onto plane in 3.9 seconds and took 8.6 seconds to spool up to 30 mph, pointing at plenty of potential for great watersports action.
At idle we did notice that the 180 had good lateral stability, so the Stable-Vee design does live up to its name. Cornering on the calm water was a blast, and the 180 would go right where we pointed it no matter how hard we worked the wheel.
We are happy with what the Four Winns 180 Horizon offers the first-time buyer. Four Winns has taken a lot of what it knows about building larger boats and has used that knowledge to create a small, efficient package. The innovative seating, the Stable-Vee hull and impressive standard features (including a trailer) all add up to a nice out-of-the-box option for those looking for their first new boat.
In terms of options we would choose the set of bucket seats with bolsters ($585) and the Bimini top ($423) for sure. Bolsters are always great to have, and one should never be without the shade a Bimini or other top provides. Even with these options, sales tax and other charges figured in, you should be able to take this boat home for about $20,000 or less.
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Manufacturer Contact Information
925 Frisbie St.
Cadillac, MI 49601