Oh, what a lucky day: I’m out for my first test-run of the new Larson LXH 190 on a glassy-calm Sanibel Harbor, ready to throw down the throttle and see just how fast this little puppy can run with 200 Yamaha horses strapped to the transom. I nail it, watch the GPS scream past 30 MPH at 4000 RPM, then top out at 45.9 MPH at 6000 RPM. But now it's time to hold on tight because there’s a series of steep boat wakes rushing towards the bow—which means I can put this hull to a real-world smash-test.
I give the wheel a white-knuckled squeeze with both hands, wedge my feet into the base of the helm, and push my back firmly into the seat. Cringe for impact!
The LXH 190 hits the waves with a minor-league “chop, chop, cha-chop,” and we’re through them. Wait a sec—that was waaaay too easy. I crank the wheel around, reverse course, and blast through the boat wakes again to make sure it wasn’t just a fluke. Then I spend most of the rest of the sea trial looking for more and bigger boat wakes, to confirm my suspicion: this is one of the smoothest-running 19-foot monohull bowriders I’ve ever tested.
Designed to Shine
The moment I get back to the dock, I go running over to the Larson rep. “You’ve gotta let me talk to the designer,” I say. “I need to know what the deal is with this boat.”
Lucky for me Canadian yacht designer Luc St-Onge, the brain behind this boat, was standing nearby. And his comments confirmed my second suspicion about the LXH 190: that Larson’s VEC construction method gets a good deal of credit for the fabulous ride. VEC vacuum-infuses the hull and stringers, together, in a closed molding system. As a result, you get a single component—not pieces-parts that are fiberglassed together. So the usual creaks, groans, and vibrations that travel through a boat (and into your body) when fiberglassed-together-pieces-parts strike a wave at over 40 MPH are eliminated.
Of course, if the hull design isn’t ideal the construction methods won’t amount to a hill of beans. “For this particular model I adapted a 20 degree transom deadrise that sharpens to 37 degrees at the stern/keel intersection,” Luc explained. “There is nothing ‘special’ about these numbers but there’s more than hull geometry alone to ensure a perfect ride. The longitudinal center of gravity, fairness of the bottom surface, and rigidity of the hull are all important factors.”
Here’s one more important factor: Larson didn’t ruin the vibration-dampening nature of the single-piece hull and stringer grid by adding a bunch of ill-fitting or cheap components in the cockpit. Every rattle and shudder degrades the ride, so they made sure there simply weren’t any. This is easier said than done, and you can see the care taken with details like the compartment hatches, which dog down tightly. The foam-rubber seals lining the stowage bins absorb and eliminate vibration. And the gas-assist struts on larger compartment hatches help prevent excessive movement as well as easing access. In fact, the only components I saw that I didn’t like were a thin plastic cap on the pocket below the glove box (it should be beefed-up), and a spring-strut on the starboard-side cooler (these break with regularity, so it should be upgraded to a sliding or gas-assist strut).
The pickle-fork bow design also helps in seakeeping, because it not only results in a wider bow cockpit but also allows the strakes and chines to run the entire length of the hull. Stability gets a boost, and spray gets knocked down instead of blowing into the cockpit.
Take all of these construction and design traits, mix them together, and what do you get? My ability to make a very unusual statement, with zero hedging: this is one of the best riding monohulls of its size, period.
Loafing in a Larson
Anyone who buys the LXH 190, whether in its outboard incarnation (LXH 190 OB) or in the stern drive form (LXH 190 I/O), can't expect to get the cheapest deal on the water; cost with the 200 Yamaha or a similar-sized outboard is going to run in the $45,000 to $50,000 range. Since they’ll be paying top dollar, the buyers of this boat will be expecting more than a smooth ride and spiffy performance. They’ll expect a degree of luxury, too. And they’ll get it.
The Larson has an exceptionally comfy helm seat, with a flip-down bolster, thick arm rests, and copious padding. The transom and swim platform are padded with SeaDek, a closed-cell EVA that feels cushiony underfoot. And bow cockpit seating has flip-down armrests, which make stretching out up there a lot more comfortable.
Of course, you can find all of these traits in plenty of competing bowriders. What I found unusual about the LXH 190, however, was the stern bench seat. Sitting on these usually feels like, well, sitting on a bench. Not so in this case. Part of this is probably due to the fact that Larson dropped the cockpit sole two inches lower than in previous models—so the seat simply fits the human body better—and part is due to their use of thick, firm foam and heavy marine vinyls.
A few other comfort-inducing touches include a built-in cooler that’s actually well-insulated (many integrated coolers are insulated poorly or not at all), and a helm station that’s automotive in style. Gauges and the wheel are flanked by lighted rocker switches, and all are mounted on a slick black dash. It looks great and is thoroughly functional. One down-side: there’s little room for additional electronics. Finding a spot to mount a chartplotter, depthfinder, or VHF is going to be challenging.
Innie or Outie?
Larson had both the outboard and stern drive versions of the LXH 190 in the water, so I was able to run both models on the same day. Performance was close at cruising speeds, though I did manage to wring another five MPH out of the stern drive version. The stern drive also seemed a hair quieter, which I found surprising considering how hushed Yamaha four-strokes are. Kudos go to a properly fitted and insulated engine box, and MerCruiser’s new 4.5L engine, which incorporates a noise-reducing aft-facing throttle body.
Otherwise, the main differences between the boats mostly relate to the aft arrangement. With the outboard version the swim platform is split, while the stern drive’s platform runs the entire beam of the boat. The stern drive also has a big sunpad on the motorbox. But the outboard has more stowage space, with several compartments built into what would otherwise be the engine room. The outboard version also offers better slow-speed handling, eliminating that annoying no-wake-zone wandering that’s so common in single-engine stern drive runabouts.
Which one is better? That’s going to be a personal choice. But I’m betting that it won’t make one heck of a huge difference, at least not to the driver. Because once you get behind the wheel of this boat and lay that throttle down, what sits behind you isn’t going to be going through your mind. You’ll be too busy looking for boat wakes to zoom through, just to prove to yourself once again that you’re in one of the smoothest riding 19-footers on the water. Now that’s what I call good Luc.
Other Choices: Interested buyers will also look at boats like the Cruisers Sport Series 208, the Sea Ray 19 SPX, the Monterey 196 MS, and the Four Winns H190.
See Larson bowrider boats for sale.
For more information, visit Larson.
|Displacement||2,400 (OB) / 3,360 (I/O) lbs|
|Fuel capacity||34 (OB) / 37 (I/O) gal.|
|Single Yamaha F200 outboard. Test conditions: calm seas, winds 5 knots, 2 POB.|
|Single Yamaha F115 outboard. Test conditions: calm seas, winds 5 - 10 MPH, 2 POB.|
|Single MerCruiser 4.5L stern drive. Test conditions: calm seas, winds 5 knots, 2 POB.|
|All fuel burn figures are approximate. F115 performance data courtesy of Yamaha.|