BOAT TEST: MASTERCRAFT X-15
Kevin Smith savours the flavours of MasterCraft’s latest watersports missile.
MASTERCRAFT X-15 TEST
It may or may not be a coincidence that the MasterCraft X-15 takes its name from a famous rocket-powered experimental plane of the '60s. It's a new waterskiing, wakeboarding and "Big Fun Factor" machine from this US-based boatbuilder, boasting 2.54m of beam, plenty of room to seat three families with their gear, and of course maximum bling.
They say change is always as good as a holiday, and this was indeed the case when it came to winding up the skiing clock on what I can only describe as the new generation of Back To The Future fun boats. In fact, I almost expected Marty McFly to walk the red wake on this one. In the past I've done my fair share of waterskiing plus a bit of wakeboarding, and naturally, when you compare the boats we used to ski behind with the offerings of today, the difference is astounding.
Honestly, I was going get behind this machine, cut a few wakes in rhythm to the music blaring from the tower, then pop a few acrobatic tricks. Unfortunately that would have ended in a call to 000, so not this time. Next time though for sure.
MOTOR AND CONTROLS
The X-15 is fitted with MasterCraft's MCX, its most powerful 5.7lt/350hp saltwater series engine, and an Indmar V-drive. The MCX is derived from GM's classic Vortec 5700, featuring Indmar's custom high-performance, multi-port fuel-injection intake manifold with longer, more efficient runners, producing stronger bottom-to-mid-range torque. The MCX also has a closed cooling system and a certified Four Star Super Ultra-Low Emission rating. At the helm, hydraulic-steering, combined with Indmar's electronic throttle and cruise system, makes driving this baby so sweet.
When it comes to skiing you need plenty of grunt out of the hole to get your riders up, plus a reasonable top speed. With a four-blade, OJ 14.25 x 14.5in prop, this boat had all the torque necessary, but was still smooth and quiet all the way to 5150rpm and 67kmh. Hovering around the 3000rpm mark produced 35kmh, which I reckon was the ideal cruise speed, and is economical to boot.
Cranking it into turns, the hull handling was responsive and tight at high speeds on the rudder system, as well as smooth and soft within the flat waterways of the canals. Running back on the outside was a bit of a different story though, because we had a nice 25-knot south-easter to smash into. The ride comfort changed accordingly and was a tad on the bumpy side when sticking to cruise speed. Winding it up to far higher speeds actually improved the ride and kept us on top of the chop rather than dipping into it. Even so, it stayed quite dry (but let's not forget that boating in these conditions is only for the desperate or dumb).
Anyway, you could possibly improve it a touch by filling the ballast tanks to create more weight. The X-15 has a triple-ballast system - port, starboard and centre - filled with the flick of a switch and monitored via the BIG (Boat Instrumentation Gauge).
Collectively, the ballasts and optional surf tab can be set to create the perfect wakes for standard skiing, wakeboarding, or even the new wake surfing, and that's something I'll be giving a bash at some stage. Once you have your speeds and wake set you log into the BIG system so that next time you're on the water there's no time wasted in setting up.
You don't find many boats like this with a sufficiently spacious layout to seat 14 people, but no matter where you position yourself in this boat, you'll be comfortable. In the stern the boarding platform is huge, low to the water, far from the prop, and presumably very easy to get on and off. There's a rear skipole-hook and step platform, and on top of that, access to a rear-mount stereo remote, so passengers too can adjust the volume.
There's a fully-padded stern-top and dual-storage compartments either side of the interior, with the centre-mount MCX V8 purring quietly beneath. There's also another midrange ski-pole.
The lounge begins right behind the helm and wraps back around to the passenger side-console, with upholstery as fashionably blinged as the rest of the craft. Here you can seat the masses, or stretch out with your feet up if there are fewer onboard.
Both port and starboard seating have recessed cupholders, gear storage compartments, a pull-out icebox for the cold ones, inner grabrails, and pop-up cleats on the rear gunwales.
The captain's office was definitely the most "bling" part of this boat, and it got me going. It comprised an adjustable swivel seat and a dash setup that made me feel as if I was in some sort of souped-up Subaru rally car. I liked the adjustable sports-steering wheel, the dual-switch panels on either side, and heater switches ready to go.
The dash incorporated full analogue gauges on either side of the interactive BIG system, which runs a set of page options ranging from standard operating through to personalised rider ballast and tab settings, working off another remote.
On the side is the slick control box/armrest, incorporating a tab setting and ballast switch panel, stereo remote, USB docking port and stereo speakers, and all with the protection of a full wraparound, lightly-tinted screen. Above the screen is a wide-angle rearview mirror, so you can keep an eye on skiers. It's a great feature but this one seemed to vibrate and lose its setting during the test. On the passenger side is a large glovebox, with the Clarion stereo system inside, and a backrest in which to get comfy while watching riders.
Above the console is a wakeboard tower consisting of dual-swivel boardracks with a bimini cover, serious rear-facing audio speakers for the rider, and a tower skipole. Access to the bow is through a hinged door and screen, which can be left open or closed. It's another area to pack the masses into, with seats aplenty, more storage below, grabrails, its own audio speakers, and of course a bunch of cupholders.
On a good day offshore I could see myself hauling a few snapper or tuna onto the beautiful vinyl seats and carpets (only kidding). Although, if you really had to, or wanted to, you could mount a few rodholders and grab a day's fishing. The carpets unclip so you could leave them out and not worry so much about the mess, and hey, the water-level boarding platform would be a great place to gaff a fish.
IN THE END
I don't profess to be a guru of the skiboat world but I have to say I would have loved my old man to have had one of these when we were younger. The MasterCraft X-15 is one of those boats primarily built to perform for the skier, with additional high-tech looks and a precise finish. You'd definitely be the envy of the many who don't have one. There is a price tag involved, a big one, but if you're seriously in the game, does price really matter?
Specifications: MasterCraft X-15
Price as tested: $114,800
Options fitted: Tower speakers, saltwater-series motor, bimini, boat cover, fibreglass platform, attitude plate, freshwater washdown
Priced from: $99,500
Material: GRP composites
Deadrise: 7° (transom); 20° (midships)
People: 14 (yep, fourteen)
Max HP: 350
Make/model: MasterCraft MCX
Type: V8 V-drive
Fuel system: MPFI
MasterCraft Boats Australia
2810 Ipswich Rd
Darra, Qld, 4076
Phone: 0404 473 375
100 Cherokee Cove Drive
Vonore, TN, United States
Originally published in TrailerBoat 258.
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