While many boat manufacturers jumped onto the pontoon bandwagon over the last several years as this category experienced unprecedented growth, Sylvan Boats has focused on pontoons since the company was founded in the 1940s on Sylvan Lake, near Wolcottville, Indiana. That heritage and knowledge base led to the company being purchased in the early 1970s by Smoker Craft, who continue to build Sylvan pontoons today. Among its most popular models is the top-of-the-line Sylvan Mandalay 8525 LZ Port.
This is a boat made for family fun, as evidenced by its enormous rear swim platform, decked in an attractive faux teak finish that provides a solid grip on wet feet. With its standard ski tow mast and telescoping four-step boarding ladder to starboard, the big swim platform speaks to this boat’s taste for fun on the water. That’s also evident by the Yamaha F300 bolted to the transom, but more on that in a bit.
Step through the transom door and its impossible to miss the twin rear-facing lounge chairs. They’re long and wide, and perfect for watching skiers, boarders or tubers having fun in the wake. The plush, pillowtop upholstery is so inviting you don’t immediately notice that there’s more to these seats than meets the eye, for the seat back continues down each side and across the stern, allowing forward-facing seating as well.
Mid-ships is dominated by the spectacularly sculpted raised helm console, complete with LED courtesy lights. The Captain is treated to a luxuriously comfortable, fully adjustable throne with fold-down arm rests and a slider base, allowing perfect positioning when at the helm. The co-pilot gets an equally comfortable lounge seat to port, allowing the rider to sit facing forward or sideways. The adjacent helm console provides additional beverage holders (there are 25 in total) plus cavernous storage beneath. Overhead, a standard Bimini top keeps the sun at bay.
The helm itself is a work of art, with its primary displays clustered neatly around a center-mounted Humminbird 386Ci GPS/fishfinder. As our review boat was rigged with a Yamaha F300, twin Yamaha digital multi-gauges dominate the dash, while a row of neatly designed toggles below provide controls for lighting and other functions.
The forward face of the helm console supports the seat back for the forward-facing starboard-side lounger, with its comfy flip-down arm rests. This seat extends all the way forward to the front entry door; pop the removable pedestal table into place and you have the perfect lunch spot. Opposite to port, a pair of swiveling Captain’s chairs with a Y-shaped fibreglass console between them replace the expected port-side lounger (and contributing the “Port” designation to the model name). These seats are super-comfortable, and the perfect place to catch a few rays with a favorite book. Underfoot, super-soft 28-ounce carpet throughout the cockpit feels luxurious on the toes, and extends onto the short front deck ahead of the fencing.
Because our review boat featured an optional third center tube, a large floor hatch up front provided access to an enormous in-floor storage locker.
The Mandalay 8525 LZ Port rides on Sylvan’s performance-enhancing RPT tube system. Introduced in 2010, RPT tubes incorporate a V-hulled lower surface with a pronounced keel and chines, which lift the tube on top of its own bow wave. The tube displaces less water, which creates less resistance and drag, and produces far greater speed with less horsepower than a traditional tube shape. The increase in efficiency allows better acceleration and fuel economy, while also providing an enhanced grip for improved handling. At wide-open throttle, the Yamaha F300 easily pushes the boat past 40 mph, which is plenty impressive for a 27-foot pontoon!
But the RPT tubes really come into their own when you turn, and the boat simply leans in like a traditional V-hull, without any hint of sliding or skidding whatsoever. Pull the throttle back to a more reasonable cruising speed and the handling remains unchanged, which speaks to the remarkable engineering that goes into those tubes.
Another major factor in the Mandalay’s stellar handling comes from its heavy-duty cross channel construction, which produces a stiff, solid foundation that doesn’t flex under strain. It’s a unique design, and allows Sylvan to confidently back the Mandalay with its Lifetime Plus 6 limited warranty, which provides lifetime coverage on major structures plus providing six full years of coverage on components, including marine grade carpet and upholstery – all of which is fully transferable to the second owner.
Sylvan Mandalay 8525 LZ Port
LOA: 26’ 10”
Beam: 8′ 6″
Dry Weight: 2,542 lbs.
Tube diameter: 27”
Passenger Capacity: 14
Fuel Capacity: 114L/30 gal.
Power (Max, 2/3 tubes): 200 hp/300 hp
Power (as reviewed): Yamaha F300