The farmlands of South Georgia may be the last place you would expect to find a major pleasureboat company, but tucked amongst the fields of cotton and other crops is the home of Chaparral Boats Inc., and we were there to try out the company's newest creation, the 215 SS cuddy cabin.
Chaparral's sprawling complex covers 44 acres (with about 770,000 square feet of manufacturing space) at a small industrial park outside Nashville, a rural farming community in South Georgia. However, it is not near water, so we had to drive south nearly 40 miles to Twin Lakes near Valdosta, Georgia, for our test.
The trip was well worth it. We had the lake to ourselves, and we had the time to put Chaparral's latest through our gauntlet of tests.
Right off the bat, the 215 SS is a striking boat that should please boat owners. Chaparral engineers have designed a boat that should appeal to day-trippers both here in the United States and in Europe, where cuddy cabin boats are especially popular. (Chaparral exports nearly 15 percent of its boats to dealers in Europe.)
The cuddy cabin is roomy and remarkably bright and airy inside, thanks to a large safety glass hatch on the roof. The hatch is also ideally located to allow easy access to an outside bow storage compartment where the anchor is stowed.
The cabin is fully carpeted, floor to ceiling (our test boat had a light tan), and Chaparral backs the carpet with a thin layer of insulation. A portable head is stored in a niche near the stairs that lead into the cabin and rolls out on its own tracks for use. The location allows for plenty of room, and you don't have to remove any of the cushions on the V-berth as in some other boats.
The boat's fit and finish is excellent, and the choices of materials feel and look good. All of the electrical circuits are protected by marine-quality circuit breakers — not fuses — and are easy to access. Stainless steel fittings are used throughout, and the whole boat is clearly designed for years of heavy use.
"The boat has to last," said Dennis Ashley, Chaparral's marketing director. "If customers feel like they bought a piece of junk, they don't come back."
A large folding door makes it easy to enter the cabin. There is another door at the stern, much like what is found on deckboats and larger cabin cruisers, which provides access to a large ski platform. The bow deck above the cabin is also easy to get to. Steps leading to the center opening windshield are built into the port side of the command console.
"It's a big sell item for us," Ashley said. "The steps provide easy access to the bow and anchor."
At the Controls
Chaparral's designers clearly spent some time on the command console. The instruments were laid out logically and were all easy to read at a glance.
We especially liked the darker flat tan finish of the dash cover and how it prevented glare on the instrument panel. We also noted that the woodgrain surface surrounding the instruments is not made of a cheap plastic. Instead, it has been molded onto aluminum for durability and to prevent cracking and peeling.
Enjoying the ride is also part of Chaparral's engineering appeal. Chaparral's extended V-hull cuts the water easily and provides a smooth ride over the water, even in choppy conditions, much like that in a high-performance bass boat.
Handling proved to be a surprise. We anticipated somewhat of a sluggish turn in, but that was not the case. With the standard power steering, the 215 SS takes turns crisply with little effort, which is ideal for sharp turns in narrow waterways while pulling a skier.
The hull is part of the performance design that allows the boat to get on plane quickly. Skiers will find the 215 SS a joy as the boat leaves behind little wake; however, a ski pylon is not available.
Comfort and Room
Passengers will enjoy plenty of room on board. A variety of seats options are available. The captain's seat is adjustable for standing or sitting. A bench seat that runs the full width at the stern is optional.
A sink located behind the captain's chair is also part of the package, as is a 25-quart cooler, which stores under the sink. A nice touch is a removable container for the water supply. You can take it out and fill it onshore.
Our test boat came with the optional snap-in carpet, but if it is something you can do without, you will be happy to know that the deck is finished with an anti-skid surface.
At the stern, just in front of the extended ski platform, is a large storage bin much like the trunk on a car. It is large enough to stow all of your skiing gear. Overall, storage is plentiful on board.
The 215 SS can be equipped with a wide choice of stern drives from MerCruiser and Volvo, ranging in power from 190 to 300 hp, including Volvo's twin-prop stern drive. Our test boat was equipped with a powerful Volvo GL 260 hp 5.7L V-8.
Low-end pull with this engine package was impressive, with the boat reaching plane in about 5.6 seconds. Chaparral has no plans to make an outboard version.
For those who like a lot of wind in their hair, we saw a top speed of nearly 50 mph at full throttle. Our boat was equipped with a 19 inch prop, which Chaparral said was just right for this boat.
Acceleration was smooth and linear. Cruising at a comfortable and quiet 3,000 rpm gave us a fairly brisk 30.4 mph over the water at a reasonable 4.3 mpg.
Access to the engine was excellent. The sturdy cover was easy to raise and lower and provided ample space to reach all sides of the engine. The battery is located in its own compartment on the starboard side at the stern while the hydraulics for the power tilt and trim were in an opposite compartment.
The 215 SS has a lot going for it. The boat is nicely styled, roomy and comfortable for up to 11 passengers. The cuddy cabin can comfortably sleep two for those overnight adventures, so it's worth a hard look for buyers seeking a multi-purpose family boat. The quality of construction and attention to details are clearly part of the package Chaparral put together and should provide years of fun for any purchaser.
Chaparral 215 SS Specifications
|Draft (Drive down||2'|
|Dry weight||3,495 pounds|
|Fuel capacity||56 gallons|
|Maximum power||300 hp|
|Base price with MerCruiser 190 hp 4.3L V-6 engine||$29,168|
|Price as tested with Volvo GL 260-hp 5.7L V-8 engine||$33,834|
|Top speed||49.6 mph|
|Cruising speed||30.4 mph|
|Miles per gallon at 30.4-mph cruising speed||4.0|
|Estimated fuel cost for 100 miles||$37.50|
|Range at 30.4-mph cruising speed||213 miles|
(Estimated fuel cost based on a fuel price of $1.50 per gallon.)
Bimini top with windscreen and boot, deck hatch with screen and shade, oversized extended swim platform, full instrumentation with glass lenses, brushed aluminum faces and stainless steel bezels, power steering, AM/FM CD player, wood-grain dashboard, walk-through transom door, wrap-around walk-through three-piece windshield.
Cruise pack (includes compass, depth finder and tilt wheel), snap-in carpet, wood-grain steering wheel, portable head, removable table.
For More Information
Chaparral Boats Inc.
300 Industrial Park Blvd.< br>
Nashville, GA 31639