Our five favorite boats of the past year
With the recession of 2008 squarely in the past and the North American economy firing on all cylinders again, boat manufacturers had a banner year in 2016, introducing the widest and most diverse range of new models yet. No longer content to touch up older models with a new graphics package or slightly different seats, many of the new 2016 models boast tremendous innovations that set them far apart from boats of even a few years ago.
Here’s a look at five of our favorite boats of the year for 2016, which you’ll see on display at this winter’s boat shows.
Scarab 195 Open
Scarab took a perfectly nice 19-foot jet boat, looked past its plush seats, comfortable amenities and sporty styling, and gave it a shot of utility that’s opened eyes around the world. Like a giant floating pickup truck, they gave it a tail gate.
Thanks to some brilliant engineering and the space-saving qualities of the boat’s standard Rotax jet power, the entire transom on the Open 195 and Open 195 Fish can be easily lowered like a pickup’s tailgate, swinging outward till its flush with the floor. This immediately creates all manner of inviting possibilities – an extended swim platform, a roomy casting deck, or just the perfect spot to hang out and enjoy the lake under the summer sun.
With both sport and fish models offered in 2016, watch for this series to grow as the design gains traction with boaters.
Smoker Craft Pro Mag
Completely redesigned from the keels up, Smoker Craft’s three-model Pro Mag series sets a new standard for aluminum fishing boat performance. Consisting of 16-, 17- and 18-foot hulls, each available in both single-console and dual-console models, the all-new Pro Mag line now features an all-new integrated track system that allows accessories like rod holders and fish finders to be mounted anywhere, plus an available ventilation system (called the ‘Yarblow System’) that helps dry any gear that’s put away wet, reducing mildew and protecting expensive tackle from rust damage.
Raised casting decks in the bow and stern, a ton of internal storage space, an all-new console that accepts large multi-function displays without blocking forward visibility, an impeccable fit and finish and Smoker Craft’s high performance Hydra-Lift hull put the new Pro Mags on a level of their own.
Crownline Eclipse E4 XS
Putting an outboard on Crownline’s popular E4 sterndrive model gave one of the company’s most popular boats even greater capabilities and appeal. Weighing less than the stern drive it replaced and freeing up a pile of cockpit space, the outboard-powered Eclipse E4 seats up to 13 passengers while offering blistering acceleration and shocking fuel economy.
The restyled stern allows for more storage space than ever, giving the E4 more capability and versatility than ever. But all the great features that made the original E4 such a winner – the luxuriously soft seating, the thoughtful head compartment concealed in the passenger console and the oversized boa seats that can accept a filler cushion to form a huge sunpad – remain in the outboard-powered boat.
With Crownline’s F.A.S.T. Tab vented hull and the ability to handle outboards up to 300 horsepower, the Eclipse goes as quick as it looks.
Campion 645I BR Watersports Edition
Canadian boatbuilder Campion Marine introduced a prototype watersports boat last year based on Volvo Penta’s revolutionary Forward Drive system, and the fruit of that experimentation is the remarkable 645I BR Watersports Edition – a remarkable 25-foot, three-inch wonder that does everything the traditional family bowrider can do, plus deliver just what the doctor ordered for watersports. Need a massive wall of water for wake surfing? No problem. Want a longer wall with a generous sweet spot for wakeboarding? Check. Need a flatter wake for waterskiing? No problem. Or just a bit of bump for the kids giggling away on a tube? Easy.
The tremendous versatility of its design and capabilities and its tremendous fit ad finish set the Campion apart from traditional tow boats, which can be notoriously tough to maneuver at low speeds and hard on fuel when run at speed. Standard features include a Samson Blade wake tower, a premium stereo, a 1,300-pound ballast system, Zero Off GPS speed control, seating for nine and the blazing performance of Campion’s proven Apex hull design. For the family who wants to enjoy watersports and everything else, the 645I BR sets a high standard.
Starcraft MX Series
It used to be that there were two distinct schools of thought where pontoon boats were concerned. You could buy one that was opulent and luxurious, or you could buy one that was built for watersports. It was always either-or, and people who wanted both comfort and performance were always forced to compromise one way or another.
That’s no longer the case, as evidenced by Starcraft’s new MX pontoon series. With more than a dozen different models from 23 to 25 feet, the MX series combines all the opulent appointments of Starcraft’s top-of-the-line Majestic pontoon line, with the heart-stopping performance of its exhilarating SLS performance pontoons in a single, versatile package.
As a premium product in the company’s pontoon lineup, Starcraft’s MX models offer a wide variety of seating options, each with an extensive list of standard features including docking lights, courtesy lights, a color-coordinated Bimini top with storage boot, a great-sounding Polk Audio AM/FM stereo with MP3 input, and a playpen cover.
In terms of performance and value, these pontoons can’t be beat.