The Malibu Wakesetter XTi impressed every member of the Powerboat magazine test team. (Photo by Tom Newby)

The Malibu Wakesetter XTi impressed every member of the Powerboat magazine test team. (Photo by Tom Newby)

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Competition drives innovation. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the tow-boat industry, where the relatively low number of units sold each year makes for a fierce battle among the companies that build them. Tow-boat manufacturers always search for an edge, some large or small enhancement that gives them an advantage over the competition.

For the direct-drive Malibu Wakesetter XTi, that edge is abundant seating. You read that correctly, a direct-drive tow boat with abundant seating. The company's designers thought outside the box—make that the motor box—to create a seating layout with a midcockpit sunpad and an aft U-shape lounge in the 24'1"-long, 8'1"-wide model.

Loaded with goodies, including a Malibu Launch System, a Wedge, Perfect Pass speed control, a tower, front and rear heating and more, the Wakesetter XTi came to us at a reasonable $43,290. Base price for the boat is $39,900.

Skiing

Wedge up or down, Malibu launch system tanks (there were three) full or empty, the Wakesetter XTi impressed our water-ski and wakeboard test drivers with its acceleration, agility and tracking. Throttle response was perfect, and combined with the boat's Perfect Pass system that made holding an exact speed—again and again—a breeze. (Perfect Pass has been called, only partly in jest, "The Marriage Saver.") Each driver also praised the comfort of the bucket, particularly its lumbar support, and the visibility of all the gauges.

Our ski tester gave the boat's wakes straight-A grades at all speeds—even the lower ones—and rope lengths. He described entry and exit through the wakes as smooth, non-jarring and, in a rare comment from someone who skis for a living, "just plain fun."

But he wasn't the only test-team member who admitted to having fun. Our expert wakeboarder had a blast launching off the Wakesetter XTi's hefty crests kicked up by the Wedge and MLS ballast setup. About the only thing the wakes, which looked huge from the observer's seat, lacked was a "kicker" lip, but that didn't stop our boarder from launching high and landing softly.

When it came to tracking with an aggressive boarder or skier in tow, the Malibu XTi was an immovable object. Not only could neither one of them yank it off course, but neither driver could feel them trying.

In a traditional direct-drive tow boat, skis and boards often find a home on the sole between the motor and the starboard gunwale. This area, however, was occupied by the Wakesetter XTi's midcockpit sunpad/stowage locker. No matter—ski and board stowage options included racks and a rear trunk. (The space in the in-sole ski locker was taken by one of three bladders in the boat's MLS.)

Performance

You can get the Wakesetter XTi with up to a 365-horsepower Callaway Hammerhead MPI engine. Our test model came with the base motor, an Indmar 325-horsepower Monsoon 325 MPI with a direct drive (1:1) and a Malibu "Acme" CNC 13" x 11 1/2" three-blade nibral propeller.

The boat's 10-degree, semi-V bottom had four strakes. The inner strakes terminated roughly 10 feet from the transom and the outer strakes ran full length. Chines were approximately 4 degrees negative and two inches wide.

Given its top speed of 44.7 mph at 4,800 rpm, we'd have a hard time calling the Wakesetter XTi "fast" relative to other boats in its class. (It's only fair to note that we tested it on a 107-degree afternoon.) It was, however, quick and strong, and that's what really matters in a tow boat's performance. Time to plane was 2.4 seconds and the boat ran from 20 to 40 mph in 5.9 seconds. It reached 41 mph in 10 seconds.

Like our ski and wakeboard test drivers, our lead test driver had nothing but praise for the Wakesetter XTi's handling manners and tracking. In lock-to-lock slalom turns at 20, 30 and 40 mph, the boat didn't slide or catch, and in sweeping turns at cruising and full speed it held its line like a high-dollar sports car.

Workmanship

Except for raised Wakesetter XTi graphics, exterior colors were deftly handled in the boat's bright gelcoat. Free of flaws, the boat's mold work and colors within were protected by an expertly installed extruded plastic rubrail. Installed with equal precision was the boat's walk-through windshield.

Hardware included a nav light on the boat's nose and four Accon Pull-Up cleats. In addition to the aluminum tower supplied for wakeboarding, there was a center-mounted pylon for skiing. A removable teak swim platform, with a hinged trapdoor for access to the Wedge, was on the transom.

Like the pylon, the boat's engine was secured to Malibu's Fiberglass Engine Chassis System or "FibECS" in Malibu speak. Looking under the motor box, which had three removable side panels, our inspectors could see that the engine was through-bolted to the FibECS system. Engine compartment wiring was neatly aligned and supported with cushion clamps, and the entire installation was sanitary.

Interior

When they came up with the Wakesetter XTi, Malibu's designers must have made a list—and checked it twice—of everything naughty and nice you could want in a tow boat. The boat's plush open-bow lounges, with draining coolers under the bottom cushions, were transformed into a playpen with a filler-cushion set between them.

The dash at the helm featured a black stitched material that did an exceptional job reducing glare, though it did get too hot in the sun.

A remote for the JVC CD stereo system was located in the U-shape lounge area. In truth, to call the bench, which was aft of the one-person midcockpit sunpad, "U-shape" does it a slight disservice. The lounge actually looked like an oval missing its forward most arc section. To transform the lounge into a dining area, the manufacturer offered a pedestal table that mounted into the boat's carpeted sole.

Overall

Remember when an open-bow, direct-drive tournament ski boat was rare? Now they're more common. That's a prime example of marketplace evolution fueled by consumer demand and builder competition. We've seen and tested the next step in that evolution, and it's called the Wakesetter XTi.

Hull and Propulsion Information

Deadrise at transom10 degrees
Centerline24'1"
Beam8'1"
Hull weight3,350 pounds
EngineIndmar Monsoon 325 MPI
Cylinder typeV-8
Cubic-inch displacement/horsepower350/325
Lower-unit gear ratio1:1
PropellerMalibu "Acme" CNC 13" x 11 1/2"

Pricing
Base retail$39,900
Price as tested$43,290

(All prices are subject to change.)

Standard equipment

Indmar Monsoon 325 HP MPI engine, swivel driver?s seat with air lumbar, pop-up swivel-head pylon, flush-mounted pull-up cleats, hand-wrapped and stitched vinyl dash, Wedge-hydrofoil, three-part separately controlled MLS, custom CNC-machined propellers, 5" servo mechanical gauges, Compositech floor system, fiberglass engine chassis system, locking storage compartments, interior courtesy lights, three separate ice chests, removable refreshment table, bow-insert cushion, bow wind-block partition, leather-wrapped throttle knob, center and rear sun decks, ECI breakdown tower, three tracking fins, Zero Friction throttle, rack-and-pinion steering system and pop-up bow light.

Options on Test Boat

Upgrade to Perfect Pass Wakeboard Pro ($1,220), JVC stereo with Infinity speakers ($900), second heater in lounge ($430), wakeboard racks ($400), docking lights ($360) and additional stereo remote ($80).

Acceleration
3 seconds20 mph
5 seconds31 mph
10 seconds41 mph
15 seconds45 mph

Midrange Acceleration
20-40 mph5.9 seconds

Rpm vs. Mph
10007 mph
15009 mph
200015 mph
250024 mph
300030 mph
350035 mph
400038 mph
450041 mph

Top Speed
Speedometer45 mph at 4800 rpm
Radar44.7 mph at 4800 rpm
Nordskog Performance Products GPS43.8 mph at 4800 rpm

Planing
Time to plane2.4 seconds
Minimum planing speed15.5 mph

Fuel Economy
At 25 mph4.5 mpg
At 35 mph3.8 mpg
At WOT2.3 mpg
Fuel capacity43 gallons

Test conducted at Parker, Ariz.

For More Information

Malibu Boats
1 Malibu Court
Merced, CA 95340
209-383-7469
www.malibuboats.com.

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