When a company that is known for making high-quality aluminum pontoon boats turns out its first-ever fiberglass boat — a deck boat, at that — eyebrows get raised. Hence, both boat dealers and deck boat enthusiasts have been asking, "What's going on here?"
Well, after a full test, we can report that Benninton's new RL210 is a successful first effort. This boat performs and is built like Bennington has been in the deck boat business for years.
Our test began at Bennington's Destin, Florida distributor, Sunrise Marine, on a bright Monday morning. Just looking at the RL210 on the trailer, we were struck by how sleek this boat is compared to other deck boats, which are often designed rather thick at the stern. Here was a boat that looked more like a roomy runabout than a stodgy deck boat.
"We set out not to build a ?me-too' style of deck boat," said Tom Cooper of Bennington Marine. "We don't do anything half way. We are using our years of experience to build something we all are proud of."
For Sunrise Marine owner Peter Kozak, the decision to stock Benninton's new deck boat was easy.
"We had always been impressed with the quality of Bennington's aluminum pontoon boats, but this was more than even we expected," Kozak said.
The RL210's hull is an original work — not a copy of some other manufacturer — and the results are truly amazing. The boat is stable, fast and smooth over the water — even rough water. The kicker is that it also shows that Bennington did its homework before offering this boat to the public.
"We saw a need in the marketplace for a fiberglass V-hull boat that has the style and features of both a deck boat and a runabout," Cooper said.
The key issue for most deck boat owners is seating space, and the 21 foot, 6 inch RL210 does not disappoint in this area. The wrap-around seating fore and aft makes room for 11 people.
"We are known for our seating in our pontoon boats and wanted our deck boat to reflect that," Cooper said.
The backrests of the bow lounge seats near the control binnacle and the sink are inclined slightly, to offer extra comfort while soaking up the sun. It's a nice touch where some manufacturers just leave those seats with vertical backs.
However, there is more to the RL210 than seats. Boat owners in saltwater environments now have another outboard-powered choice in deck boats. While many deck boats feature inboard engines, many people in saltwater areas have wanted more choices for an outboard-powered deck boat for their ease of maintenance in saltwater conditions.
Attention to Detail
There is a remarkable attention to detail and quality throughout the RL210, making it appear more upscale than you would expect. Functional features throughout the RL210 are designed for easy use and durability.
There is no wood used in the boat, and even the backing for the seats is made of a composite material that will last for years. Stainless steel fittings are used throughout the boat, and all storage tubs under the seats are constructed of fiberglass and drained, unlike some boats that leave those areas as unfinished bins or carpeted in such a way that they often remain wet.
The Bimini top is easy to open and close, and its cover installs with simple smooth-operating nylon zippers. The frame is also stoutly constructed and proved free of rattles and shakes, even at high speeds.
Under the center stern seat is a privacy enclosure that opens with hydraulic lifts. A fabric enclosure provides a space for changing bathing suits and can be had with a portable marine toilet. When not in use, it closes easily and consumes no seating space. Bennington says its 21 foot deck boat provides the seating space of many 23-footers.
The captain will enjoy a completely instrumented helm, complete with a burled wood fascia trimmed in gold. An optional faux-burled wood steering wheel is available and was part of our test boat's package. The captain's seat features a cushion that can be raised to allow for standup operation.
Standard equipment includes a digital depth gauge, recessed halogen docking lights, a sink with a 5 gallon freshwater supply tank, a Sony CD player with four speakers, and telescoping bow and stern ladders. The bow ladder position is notable for its huge area for storing the anchor and rope.
A small table with cup holders is also included with the package, as is a portable ice chest, which has its own spot under the portside rear seats.
We also liked the optional snap-in molded carpet under foot. If you don't want to use it, just unsnap it and leave it onshore.
Bennington recommends no less than a 115 hp motor for the RL210. Our test boat was outfitted with a 200 hp Yamaha four-stroke, which proved to be a good choice for this boat, though Bennington says the RL210 can handle up to 225 horsepower.
The Yamaha F200 provides an abundance of power for skiing and more than enough for our cruise across the emerald-green waters surrounding Destin. We saw a top speed just over 46 mph (at 6,000 rpm), but more speed would be easily possible with a more aggressive prop. Our boat was rigged with a 17 inch prop but a 19 inch prop would be a better choice. Bennington officials say they have seen speeds of 55 mph with a bigger prop.
Fuel use with the Yamaha F200 four-stroke is better than what you would get with a two-stroke outboard. We saw a high of 4.7 mpg at 3,500 rpm at a speed of 25 mph. But even zipping along at 5,000 rpm and 37 mph, we saw a reasonable 3.8 mpg.
Just to see how people would react to Bennington's new deck boat, we cruised slowly by boaters at Crab Island, a submerged sandbar where hundreds of boaters gather to enjoy playing in the crystal-clear water near the Destin bridge. While we didn't have time to visit, the Bennington RL210 did draw a lot of admiring gazes.
Bennington set out to build a high-value, quality deck boat with the RL210 and we believe the company met its objective. However, folks shopping for a new deck boat will find that the RL210 is not the least expensive model on the market. In fact, it is priced just under some premium deck boats.
Base price of an RL210 equipped with a 115 hp Yamaha two-stroke motor is $30,370. Our tester, which had a variety of options and the Yamaha F200, retailed at $40,905, with the bulk of the extra money tied up in the smooth-running Yamaha.
But there is more than just how much money a boat costs, such as what goes into a boat and how it is made. In this we think Bennington's years of understanding of its customer's demands has resulted in another fine product for the company and a good value for its customers.
Now, you may ask if Bennington plans include additional fiberglass deck boats. A full-windshield version of the RL210 is in the works and should be displayed this fall. That version, called the RL211, will have stern-drive power, but the company says an outboard version will soon follow.
— Keith Burton
Bennington RL210 Specifications
|Dry weight||2500 pounds|
|Fuel capacity||50 gallons|
|Maximum power||225 hp|
|Base price with Yamaha 115-hp two-stroke outboard engine||$25,790|
|Base price with Yamaha four-stroke F200 outboard engine||$33,995|
|Price as tested with Yamaha four-stroke F200 outboard engine||$36,238|
|Top speed||48.8 mph|
|Cruising speed||25 mph|
|Estimated miles per gallon at 25 mph||4.8|
|Estimated fuel cost for 100 miles||$31.25|
|Estimated range at 25 mph||235 miles|
(Estimated fuel cost based on a fuel price of $1.50 per gallon.)
|Model||Yamaha F200 Four-stroke|
|Maximum engine speed||6,000 rpm|
Bimini top and boot, digital depth gauge, recessed halogen docking lights, removable waste container, lift-up privacy enclosure, sink with 5 gallon fresh water supply, Sony CD player w/four speakers, telescoping bow and stern ladders, stern dinette table, suspension helm seat with flop up bolster, three chaise lounges with storage, tilt steering.
20 gallon livewell, Infinity Aquatrac snap-in carpet, bow pedestal fishing seats, built-in rod storage, portable head, stainless steel competition-style ski tow pylon.
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