Jaw-dropping performance from a pontoon boat
As a manufacturer that has been building boats since 1903, Starcraft has learned a thing or two about making boaters happy. Much of that knowledge has been gained the hard way – partly by talking with owners, and by sending company engineers out on the water to learn first-hand what works best.
Nowhere is that vast body of knowledge more evident than in the company’s pontoon boats, as evidenced by the jaw-dropping performance of its SLS 5 Sport.
Along with its slightly smaller SLS 3 sibling, the SLS 5 Sport represents the high performance element in Starcraft’s extensive pontoon lineup, and especially so for the 2017 model year. Start with cutting-edge pontoon designs with every performance tweak possible. Add snug upholstery specifically designed to hold you close. Strap up to 300 horsepower on the transom, and you have a pontoon that goes like a rocket yet handles like a motorcycle, taking 90-degree turns at full throttle without a second thought. If this boat won’t leave you feeling exhilarated, it’s time for a lobotomy.
The real beauty of the SLS 5 Sport is that it’s such an unassuming ride. That’s especially true when you step aboard and note the elegant, plush interior upholstery, with full-length twin lounges front and back, and a pair of swiveling Captain’s chairs with fold-down arm rests amidships for the driver and navigator. Our review boat, decked out in a sporty black exterior, sported a dove grey interior with saucy lime green accents and boasted Starcraft’s maintenance-free Sea Weave flooring from bow to stern. Sea Weave flooring is a sensible choice for a family boat as it not only repels water and dries faster than carpet, but provides a neat, contemporary look besides. It fit really well with the new four-step, telescoping stainless steel boarding ladder and the centerline-mounted ski tow, hinting at this boat’s propensity for fun.
The lounge seats front and aft are the perfect spot to stretch out and dry off after a swim. A removable, pedestal-mount table with integral beverage holders fits between either the front or rear loungers. There’s also a convenient fold-out change room located in the rear face of the port-side front lounger, so you can simply swap your wet swimming gear for dry clothes. There’s even a cut-out provided so this space can accept an optional portable toilet.
The driver’s helm console houses the control head for the Infinity AM/FM stereo, as well as a small sink with faucet. The helm itself is pretty straight-forward, with the classic black-on-white analogue gauges surrounding a Humminbird Helix 5 multi-function display and graph. The helm seat has a useful slider function, just like your car, so you can adjust the reach to where it fits you best. Overhead, a Bimini top mounted to the elegant black sport arch provids a welcome escape from the sun.
But the unique engineering that really sets the SLS apart lies below the floor. It rides on three 25-inch pontoons, the centre one providing a convenient in-floor storage well for large, bulky gear, like wakeboards or water skis. Both SLS models come with Starcraft’s HMX performance package as standard equipment, which includes lifting strakes on both the outsides and insides of each outboard pontoon. Along with several other tweaks, the HMX package is what gives the SLS 5 Sport its fighter jet-like ride. Well, that and the 250 horsepower Yamaha SHO V-Max bolted to the transom.
In straight-line acceleration, the three big tubes pop this boat up on plane in no time, easily pushing it to the 50 mph mark. But with its HMX performance package, the real fun starts when you need to turn. It digs right in like a V-hull performance boat, delivering a fighter plane-like ride that’s thoroughly astonishing and crazy fun. I have to confess, I had a great time putting the boat through all sorts of turns and figure-eights. It really does drive more like a bike than a boat – you just point it and it goes. Crank the wheel hard and even when you’re going too fast, it just leans in and turns, without effort, without fuss, and without losing its grip. I was grinning like a little kid the whole time.
Looking for a boat with the luxurious appointments and heart-stopping performance of a high-end sports car? Starcraft’s SLS 5 Sport might just be what you want. With its creature comforts, exhilarating handling and Lifetime Plus 6 warranty, this is a boat that can’t help but delight even the most discriminating buyer.
Starcraft SLS 5 Sport
- LOA: 26’10”
- Beam: 8’6”
- Weight: 2,471 lbs.
- Passenger capacity: 14
- Pontoon Diameter: 25”
- Fuel capacity: 60 gal
- Maximum Power: 300 hp