When you speak, Tahoe listens. In 2005, the Missouri-based boat builder introduced the Tahoe Q8i, which was well received thanks to its upscale attitude and modest price. One comment many people had, however, was they would like all the "stuff" that's in the Q8i, but in a slightly smaller and easier to trailer and manage package.
Thus we have the brand-new Tahoe Q7i. At 20 feet, 6 inches in length and 8 feet in beam, it's over a foot shorter and 6 inches narrower than the Q8i, which definitely makes it a more compact package that's easier to get around the docks, easier to fit in the garage and, at about 500 pounds lighter than the Q8i, is easier on your tow vehicle.
In this case, however, smaller doesn't mean less. Tahoe insiders like to say the "i" in Q7i stands for "incredible." What they mean is that Tahoe's i series boats are built to impress with a comprehensive suite of standard features, including a trailer, while still keeping the price out of the red zone.
A quick look around the boat will show you what we're talking about. At the stern you'll find an oversized integrated swim platform that really reaches out over the drive. The platform has a top-folding boarding ladder that's angled away from the drive for an added measure of safety. There's also a small storage area built into the port side of the platform, which will be good for tow ropes, gloves and other gear — and it's insulated, so it can double as a small cooler.
A step-through transom leads into the cockpit, and a cushion pulls out to go over the step in the cockpit to create a true full-beam bench seat. All the seating is covered in Extra Plush vinyl with reinforced backing and special top coatings to resist most stains and UV rays. Both the driver and passenger swivel bucket seats have flip-up bolsters and built-in suspension systems to keep things smooth when the ride gets rough.
The helm is the definition of sporty, especially the steering wheel. You'll find full instrumentation as well as a standard Lowrance depth finder. The port console includes two cupholders and a built-in draining cooler designed to be filled with ice, drinks and snacks. In the glove compartment there's a premium AM/FM CD stereo with MP3 plug-in — another nice touch.
In the bow there's more finished storage under the seats as well as a top-folding boarding ladder and an area for an anchor along with a dedicated cleat to secure it to. The center seat in the bow lifts out to reveal a step, so you won't trash your cushion getting in and out of the boat. We can honestly say that the Q7i comes standard with everything you'd need and then some for a successful day out on the water.
We had two people aboard for our test and a full tank of fuel (45 gallons or about 282 pounds). For power we had a 260 hp 5.0 MPI MerCruiser with an Alpha I drive spinning a 19-inch Vengeance 3-blade stainless steel prop. You can go as high as 320 hp or as low as 190 hp with the Q7i, so we were right in the middle of the available power range.
Acceleration was decent at 4.5 seconds to plane and a 0-to-30-mph time of 10 seconds. Top speed was 51.5 mph at 5,200 rpm, which is slightly over the 5.0 MPI's maximum limit of 5,000 rpm. A slightly taller prop would probably bring the rpm down closer to where it should be, but it probably wouldn't do you any favors in terms of acceleration. You can expect about 97 miles of range at top speed. Our sound meter registered 92 dBa at top speed, which is normal for this kind of boat.
Our most efficient cruising speed was 25.6 mph at 3,000 rpm, which will yield a cruising range of about 156 miles. Our sound meter picked up 89 dBa at cruising speed, which is just a point or two higher than what we're used to with small and mid-sized runabouts.
The Q7i handled the turns with confidence and delivered a comfortable ride. The bolsters got our eyes up and over the windshield, and the inclined footrest made driving the boat more comfortable whether the bolster was up or down. Our first mate tested all the different seating locations while we were under way and found the stainless steel grabrails that ring the bow and the cockpit to be useful and well placed.
The Q7i certainly has enough oomph to provide plenty of watersports fun, and you can always ratchet it up with ponies if you need more speed or more power.
The Q7i lives up to its mission to be an upscale mid-sized runabout that doesn't break the bank. With a base price of $24,595 (which includes a 190 hp 4.3L MerCruiser), the Q7i is certainly within range for many who are contemplating a boat.
Our 260 hp test motor seemed to deliver plenty of power for cruising and watersports, so we don't think you'd need to go any higher unless you really have a go-fast itch that needs to be scratched.
We're glad Tahoe listened to its customers and built a smaller i-series runabout — if we're any judge of history, we're confident the new Q7i will soon become a popular model with boaters.
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