Pontoons are kind of the new black in the world of boating, and the more popular they become the more we get to go out and test them. Usually, after taking a close look, it's easy to find features and performance characteristics that set one pontoon apart from another. When we walk to the dock and see a pontoon with a wakeboard tower bolted on, however, we know right away to expect something different.
In this case we were looking at an Avalon Somerset L Elite 24 CTS/HPP. The alphabet soup at the end stands for Center Tube System/High Performance Pontoons. The CTS includes a center-mounted third pontoon with a built-in motor mount, and the HPP includes lifting strakes on the pontoons. Taken together, it means this pontoon can handle more horsepower (225 instead of the maximum 135 on the two-tube version), which gives that shiny wakeboard tower a whole new wad of potential.
Even though this pontoon has some interesting things going for it under the deck, there's plenty to take a look at topside as well. Forward of the playpen is a huge exposed carpeted length of deck that can be used as a swim platform or even a lounge area — and recessed docking and navigation lights in the corners of the rails keep the deck clear. The furniture topside provides plenty of seating for a large crew, and under all the seats is storage with expanded rubber mats on the floor to protect your gear and keep rattling to a minimum.
The helm pod has a removable windscreen for quick cleanup, and there's a small sink and faucet built into the end of the pod. On the starboard side of the helm is a small glove box and door that opens to provide enough room for a 36-quart cooler. Our test boat had the optional Clarion Marine Sirius-ready AM/FM CD and an MP3 player plug-in. We were glad to learn that the Humminbird GPS/depth/fish finder comes standard.
While we were stoked to test a pontoon with so many performance enhancements, we were surprised to see that our test boat only had a Yamaha F115 mounted on the stern. We were hoping for something closer to 225 hp, so we could really put the Somerset L Elite 24 through the paces.
Our test took place on Lake Wawasee in Indiana with a slight bubble of surface chop present, but not enough to be felt very much. We had two people on board and a half tank of fuel (18 gallons — about 113 pounds), and our Yamaha F115 was equipped with a three-blade aluminum prop.
Pushing the throttle all the way forward gave us a top end of 28.8 mph at 6,200 rpm, which is a tad past this engine's top rated rpm — a slight increase in prop pitch should take care of it. We were actually surprised to see 28.8 mph from the 115 hp motor — this is a good-size 'toon with some weight to it. We wouldn't be at all surprised to see speeds in excess of 40 mph with more horsepower.
Our most efficient cruising speed was 18.4 mph at 3500 rpm, which yielded 4.49 mpg for an estimated cruising range of 145 miles.
The Avalon Somerset L Elite 24 CTS/HPP is poised to be a real performer — all you have to do is add some more power, and there are plenty of engines to choose from.
Our test setup would run a little over $30,000, which isn't bad for an upper-end 'toon like this. You'll want to figure in an additional few thousand for some more ponies and the tower, which will leave you with what will probably be one of the most impressive pontoons on your lake.
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Manufacturer Contact Information
P.O. Box 698
Alma, MI 48801