The Yamaha 230 series is not just the best-selling jet boat in America, it's the most popular 23-foot fiberglass boat model sold here, and for three seasons it has out-sold all other fiberglass models from 22 to 24 feet, regardless of propulsion system. The jet-drive system is one element of this boat's success, but buyers are also attracted by the outstanding quality, creative design, and a price that's significantly lower — by up to $20,000 — than other boats in this class.
The 232 Limited S is a new addition to the four-boat collection of 23-foot models Yamaha will offer for 2009. It's based on the 232 Limited that was introduced last season as an upscale interpretation of the base SX230 High Output. Each of these boats has in common the same 23-foot hull, the same basic cockpit layout with a head compartment in the port console, and the same drivetrain — a pair of 160-hp Yamaha four-cylinder, fuel-injected engines mated to jet drives. The 232 models both feature a freshwater transom shower, premium vinyl upholstery, snap-in Berber cockpit carpet, wood grain dash trim, and stainless steel cup holders, pull-up cleats and rub rail insert. To this package, the Limited S adds an a swoopy new forward-sweeping aluminum water sports tower with built-in speakers and spreader lights, and an exclusive Yacht Blue color. Base price on the SX230 High Output is $38,099. The 232 Limited starts at $41,199, while the tower bumps the price of the 232 Limited S up to $43,199. That's a great value. I've seen other runabout builders add on $4,000 for a similar tower. Note that the price of each Yamaha model includes a trailer.
The one feature that really sets these Yamaha boats apart from crowd in the runabout category is the design of the stern area. Arranged on two levels, the aft platform extends more than four feet forward from the rear of the boat. The vertical surfaces surrounding the upper platform are curved and padded to act as a back rest. The platform surfaces are covered in soft HydroTurf material that's easy on the feet and knees. There's a compartment for wet gear stowage in the upper level, while the lower level has a pedestal socket for a small table. Use the built-in stereo remote to crank up the tunes, lean back, and you've got a waterfront patio. It's the perfect perch for a family with kids who like to swim off the back of the boat, whether anchored or beached. The long, low profile of the Yamaha jet drive train makes this layout possible, and makes it impossible for builders of sterndrive-powered boats to produce a design that works as well.
It's hard to mention beaching and swimming without thinking about propellers, which of course are missing from the Yamaha boat. Dealers tell me that this is a big sales point at boat shows, especially for boating moms. Because the entire propulsion system of the jet drive is located within the boat, it implies safety. It also inspires confidence in beginning boaters, who don't have to be concerned about drive trim or dinging a prop with jet drives. The 232 Limited S draws just 16 inches at rest, and less than that at plane.
Jet propulsion has its disadvantages, however. The lack or drive trim means that speed and efficiency are compromised compared to a sterndrive-powered boat - the 232 Limited S tops out at about 50 mph - because you can't trim the bow up to reduce drag at speed. And because there's no rudder effect, the boat does not hold a course well at no-wake speeds, and handling around the dock takes some practice. Once on plane, the Yamaha tracks well and responds instantly to steering input.
To reach that top speed, these engines, which are derived from a motorcycle design, need to rev to 10,000 rpm and create quite a bit of high-frequency noise. Acceleration, however, is great. The 232 Limited S will zip from zero to 30 mph in less than five seconds.
The Yamaha cockpit is standard runabout, except for the privacy compartment, which is a feature seldom seen on a boat of this size. It has three feet seven inches of headroom and a fiberglass pan that will be easy to clean. It will hold a portable head, another big selling point for mom and the kids. A bench seat on a fiberglass base molded as part of the liner wraps around the cockpit, ending at the port console, where the cushion can lie flat or fold up to create a seat back. The bow seat bases are also molded with the liner, and the base to port is drained and insulated to double as a 36-quart cooler.
Over the years Yamaha has constantly worked to improve the quality of its boats, and the materials and fit-and-finish of the 232 Limited S are excellent. The boat feels solid in the water. In fact, it feels like a best-seller.
For more information, visit Yamaha.