Everything about the open-bow 25-footer was designed to make life easy for passengers.

Everything about the open-bow 25-footer was designed to make life easy for passengers.

There are moments when, to borrow from singer/songwriter Warren Zevon, isolation can be splendid. Few of those moments, however, happen on runabouts, the true social platforms of the powerboat world. Cruising a waterway in the morning or tied up at the dock for the sunset cocktail hour, runabouts are all about entertaining family and friends.

Designed and constructed with precisely that in mind, the well-built and stable Chaparral 256 SSi is everything a runabout should be—spacious, generously equipped and comfortably appointed. Nothing less could earn this magazine's Runabout of the Year award.

Everything about the open-bow 25-footer was designed to make life easy for passengers. From a sun pad walk-through on the tiered swim platform with a remote control for the boat's JBL stereo system to a molded galley console with Corian countertops in the cockpit. The rear U-shape bench in the aft section of the cockpit offered plenty of cushy seating, without eating up valuable sole space. To keep the sole from getting cluttered with gear passengers invariably haul on board, Chaparral supplied copious stowage space under the bench, as well as in an in-sole locker and in a giant compartment in the driver's console.

To keep things even more comfy, the builder dressed the boat's sole in snap-in Berber carpet. The sectional carpet extended into the open bow, which boasted two richly padded, deep contoured lounges.

Full-size head lockers have become standard fare in most upscale 25' runabouts, but Chaparral took it to the next level. The port-side head locker in the 256 SSi included Corian countertops, a padded headliner and woodgrain accents. The builder also carried the woodgrain theme to the boat's helm with a real mahogany steering wheel and matching instrument panels.

Solidly constructed with a quad-radial lamination process for material overlap where necessary, the 256 SSi had clean mold work and bright two-tone gelcoat. For added strength, the boat's hullsides were filled with closed-cell foam. In addition to upper-end production hardware such as Accon Pull-Up cleats, the runabout was outfitted with trick retractable snaps for a mooring cover.

Although the 256 SSi easily could have handled more power—the boat topped out at 48.6 mph with a 300-hp engine providing the power—its stability and predictable handling manners were first-rate. Both are essential in a runabout, and for those—like us—who'd like a bit more up top, engine upgrades are available.

Beyond bigger power, there's really nothing you could add to the Chaparral 256 SSi. It's a complete, and completely wonderful, runabout.

Chaparral 256 SSi I Performance Test Results
Weight as tested4,950 pounds
Price as tested$57,801
Engine model and horsepowerMerCruiser 350 Mag MPI/300
PropellersMercury Bravo Three 15 1/2" x 24" and 14 1/4" x 24"
Acceleration zero to 15 seconds45 mph
Top speed48.6 mph at 5000 rpm
Manufacturer contact229-686-7481, www.chaparralboats.com

For the Performance Report on the Chaparral 256 SSi, see "More is More," April 2004, Page 92.