The 38ZF appealed to our performance side with near 65-mph top end, our cruising side with a plush stick-built cabin, and our angling side with a 65-gallon bait well, fish lockers and rod holders. (Photo by Tom Newby)

The 38ZF appealed to our performance side with near 65-mph top end, our cruising side with a plush stick-built cabin, and our angling side with a 65-gallon bait well, fish lockers and rod holders. (Photo by Tom Newby)



This is going to sound like blasphemy to the hard-core go-fast faithful, but there will come a time when your boating tastes change. It might not be tomorrow, it might not be for years, but a day will come when white-knuckle offshore pounding will lose its appeal, a day when just cruising, diving or fishing will win out over beating yourself senseless in rough water. It's not that you'll lose your love for the performance-boating world, but that world will expand.

When that time comes—or if it already has—the 38ZF from Donzi will be all the boat you need. Ringing in at a little more than $290,000 with the three Mercury Racing OptiMax 250 XS outboard engines on its transom, the model we tested appealed to our performance side with near 65-mph top end, our cruising side with a plush stick-built cabin, and our angling side with a 65-gallon bait well, fish lockers and rod holders. A huge hardtop also provided shade for much of the cockpit, the helm station and the lounge area between the helm and the cabin.

Performance

Donzi used the hull from its award-winning 38ZX performance boat as the foundation for the 38ZF, and the 22-degree stepped bottom proved to be a fine platform for our test in Orange Beach, Ala. With its triple direct-fuel-injected outboards wound to 5,800 rpm, the boat topped out at 64.7 mph.

It would be a big reach to describe response of the outboards as "snappy," though it's worth keeping in mind that their collective 750 horsepower was responsible for moving a 6-plus-ton boat, and they did provide adequate power for the job. The 38ZF came on plane in 6.6 seconds with its tabs down and reached 58 mph in 20 seconds. Midrange acceleration performance followed similar lines. The boat ran from 30 to 50 mph in 6.9 seconds and 40 to 60 mph in 14.5 seconds.

The triple outboards made quick lock-to-lock slalom turns at low speeds impractical, but the boat carved nicely through those maneuvers at 40 and 50 mph. Full-circle turns at middle and high speeds were excellent, and the boat did not slide or hook as our lead test driver gradually tightened the radii of those turns. Tracking was true and outboard triumvirate made precise docking in close quarters easy.

Orange Beach delivered some of the surliest water we ever tested in, meaning closely spaced 3- to 6-footers with the occasional gaping hole between them. The 38ZF impressed us in those conditions with its level flight and soft landings head-on, following and quartering. More impressive still was the relative quiet of the ride, given the extensive electronic packages at the console and the multiple appliances in the cabin.

Workmanship

Tooling for the 38ZF was clean and the boat's gelcoat had strong shine. A thick plastic rubrail with a rubber insert protected the hand-laid, self-bailing model.

The builder mounted the triple outboards on the transom without jack plates or boxes of any kind, so the installation was straightforward. All control cables, lines and wires were routed through conduit and passed neatly through bulkhead fittings.

Among the most impressive elements of the 38ZF was its massive hardtop, which was fabricated from brushed aluminum tubing and incorporated acrylic electronics boxes and a number of rod holders. In seas where any kind of top would have been forgiven for a creak, groan or rattle, the hardtop proved uncommonly quiet.

Next to the top, deck hardware seemed almost inconsequential. Worth noting, however, is that the boat was outfitted with four 10-inch cleats and two 8-inch cleats, bowrails, three deck hatches, a dive ladder and a power windlass for the anchor.

Interior

Taking a cue from the yacht market, Donzi's designers outfitted the deck of the 38ZF with a long, removable sun pad and three lockers. That likely will be the hot spot for sunbathers, since the hardtop covered most of the cockpit. A complete walk-around with stainless-steel handrails provided access to the deck.

The builder used the generous space between the cabin and the console to create a lounge area with twin facing, wedge-shape seats. The cockpit area aft of the lounge was all angling business with fish lockers in the sole, rod racks along the gunwales and a bait well under the rear bench.

The console itself had no windscreen—the job of keeping wind off the driver and co-pilot fell to a performance-boat-style fairing mounted on the aft edge of the deck above the cabin. At first glance, the fairing appeared purely cosmetic. At 60-plus-mph, it proved incredibly effective.

Donzi blended bolster design into the traditional leaning-post configuration, and the result was comfortable and supportive seating for the driver and co-pilot at the console. In addition to Mercury SmartCraft gauges, the helm was outfitted with a Raymarine Electronics Package, a $24,693 option that included color radar, a fishfinder/chartplotter, GPS, and a VHF radio.

Behind a sliding acrylic door, the cabin also was outfitted with a "package," in this case a $28,564 Value Package that featured air conditioning, a refrigerator freezer, an electric stove and a flat-screen television with a DVD player. (Also included in the package were the hardtop, windlass and generator.) Naturally, the cabin had a complete head, a V-berth and facing lounges. Cabinet work, all wood-based with a high-gloss cherry veneers, was stunning.

Overall

You don't have to admit that you like fishing and diving. You don't have to confess to the occasional 40-mph cruise. The Donzi 38ZF can handle those "chores" and still deliver enough performance, and hot looks, to keep you in the game.

Hull and Propulsion Information
Deadrise at transom22 degrees
Centerline38'6"
Beam10'6"
Hull weight12,750 pounds
Engines(3) Mercury Racing OptiMax 250XS
Cylinder typeV-6
Cubic-inch displacement/horsepowere185/250
Lower-unit gear ratio1.75:1
PropellersMercury Bravo One 15 1/4" x 22"; 15 1/4" x 24"

Pricing
Base retail$216,436
Price as tested$290,478

Options on Test Boat

Value Package includes air conditioning, refrigerator and freezer, generator, electric stove, hardtop, flat-screen TV, DVD player and windlass ($28,564), Raymarine electronics package ($24,693), upgrade to triple Mercury Racing OptiMax 250XS outboards ($17,128), seat helm upgrade ($2,850) and water heater ($807).

Test Conditions
LocationOrange Beach Ala.
Temperature62 degrees
Humidity50 percent
Wind speed1 mph
Sea conditions3' to 5' chop
ElevationSea level

Acceleration
5 seconds23 mph
10 seconds41 mph
15 seconds52 mph
20 seconds58 mph

Midrange Acceleration
30-50 mph6.9 seconds
40-60 mph14.5 seconds

Rpm vs. Mph
10007 mph
150010 mph
200012 mph
250018 mph
300025 mph
350036 mph
400041 mph
450047 mph
500053 mph
550060 mph

Top Speed
Radar64.7 mph at 5800 rpm
Nordskog Performance Products GPS63 mph at 5800 rpm

Planing
Time to plane6.6 seconds
Minimum planing speed22 mph

For More Information

Donzi Marine
Dept. PB
7110 21st St. E.
Sarasota, FL 34243
941-727-0622
www.donzimarine.com.

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