The 23 XTi was the first Malibu product with a center-mounted sun pad behind the observer's lounge and driver's bucket, and a U-shape lounge aft.

The 23 XTi was the first Malibu product with a center-mounted sun pad behind the observer's lounge and driver's bucket, and a U-shape lounge aft.

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Refinement is an integral part of excellence, even for a product that already has achieved it. Take the direct-drive Malibu Wakesetter 23 XTi, which earned this magazine's Tow Boat of the Year honor in 2002. The boat, which was spectacular when we first tested it, didn't need tweaking, much less significant change. But the people at Malibu thought otherwise, and outfitted the 2004 version with a beamier hull, upgraded upholstery, a redesigned dash and a hot new wakeboard tower with internally routed speaker and light wires.

The result? An even better Wakesetter 23 XTi, our 2004 Tow Boat of the Year.

For boarding, the Wakesetter 23 XTi we tested was nothing short of phenomenal. Keep the Wedge hydrofoil up and the Malibu Launch System water-ballast tanks empty, and the boat produces gradually sloped wakes that won't intimidate beginners, but will inspire intermediates to—pardon the word play—greater heights. Drop the Wedge, via a hinged trapdoor in the fiberglass swim platform, fill the ballast system and the boat cranks out jacking crests that will please the most demanding professional.

Of course, you can water-ski behind the Wakesetter 23 XTi—that's what the center pylon is for—and with the Wedge and ballast system out of action the boat was more than fine for intermediate slalom buffs. A tow-eye on the transom also was provided for pulling water toys.

The precision and shine of the Wakesetter 23 XTi's black, red and gray gelcoat rivaled the gelcoat work we've seen from custom builders. So, too, did the 23-footer's unblemished mold work. Adding brawn to the boat was ceramic coring in the hull and deck, as well as honeycomb aluminum in the center section of the sole. Like all Malibu offerings, the 23 XTi featured the company's chassis for unitizing the hull and deck, as well as providing a solid mounting platform for the 380-hp engine.

The 23 XTi was the first Malibu product with a center-mounted sun pad behind the observer's lounge and driver's bucket, and a U-shape lounge aft. The trade-off in that layout is open sole space, but widening the beam of the boat made it more spacious. It's still not a model that takes well to boarders who like to leave their gear wherever they drop it. The good news is the 23 XTi has lockers—under the rear sun pad, under the center sun pad, under the aft and bow lounges, behind the observer's seat—just about everywhere.

We didn't think the 23 XTi could get any better. Good thing we don't do the thinking at Malibu.

Malibu Wakesetter 23 XTi Performance Test Results

Centerline25'3" with swim platform
Beam8'4"
Weight as tested3,800 pounds
Price as tested$49,570
Engine model and horsepowerIndmar Hammerhead 380/380
PropellerAcme Nibral 13" x 12"
Acceleration: zero to 15 seconds47 mph
Top speed47.1 mph at 5400 rpm
Manufacturer contact209-383-7469, www.malibuboats.com

For the Performance Report on the Malibu Wakesetter 23 XTi, see "Lap of Luxury," December 2003, Page 94.

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