BOAT TEST - Chaparral 330 Signature

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  • Trade-A-Boat

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The thrill of the ride and family virtues are hallmarks of the Chaparral 330 Signature sportscruiser. JOHN ZAMMIT takes the wheel for a hi-octane test

BOAT TEST - Chaparral 330 Signature
BOAT TEST — Chaparral 330 Signature

Awesome isn’t a word that crops up all that often in my vocabulary, but in this instance I think it’s probably the most appropriate. I get to see and drive a lot of different boats and every now and then I come across one that’s so much fun I just don’t want to give it back. The Chaparral 330 Signature sportscruiser is case in point.

You can feel the awesome power as you push the throttles forward, the engines firing into life and propelling you out of the hole with a kick-arse burble sound. The sense of speed is exhilarating as you wind her up to a point where you’re skimming across the water at more than 40kts. Then the adrenalin rush kicks into overdrive as you throw the 330 into a full-speed full-lock turn, fighting the G-forces that are trying to eject you over the side. As she comes round so predictably and precisely, without the slightest sign of "coming loose", you get a sense of great confidence in her handling abilities that are just — well, need I say — awesome!

But before I get too far ahead of myself, I’ll stop here and come back to the handling later.

Chaparral is not exactly a household name in Australia but I’m sure it’s one we’ll be hearing a lot more of in the future. Founded in 1965 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and now based in Nashville, Georgia, the company manufactures a range of 29 different sportsboats and cruisers from 18ft to 42ft.

A public company listed on the New York Stock exchange, Chaparral Boats Inc. was founded by William "Buck" Pegg. He’s still actively involved in Chaparral and all 82 staff on the senior management team hold stock in the company. With six plants totaling 104,000m² located on one site, the boatbuilder has the capacity to produce 7500 boats per year. In its segment it’s among the top three boat manufacturers in the US.

The 330 sits squarely in the middle of Chaparral’s Signature range of seven luxury sportscruisers that start at the 270 and top at the 370. It’s all-new for 2011 and features an array of innovative, user-friendly features that make it a comfortable and sporty family cruiser. Think skiing or towing watertoys one weekend and an intimate luxury overnighter the next.

Fitted with a hardtop as standard, the Chaparral 330 is a stylish, roomy and social boat, with plenty of seating and lounging options underway or at rest. I liked the layout, especially at the helm. It’s comfortable with good vision all round.

The dash is non-glare light grey in colour and nicely laid out, with plenty of room for the large 12in Garmin touchscreen (Chaparral has chosen Garmin as their electronics partner) and an array of Chaparral analogue gauges either side, rocker switches and a sporty fully adjustable steering wheel. Chaparral has designed its own gauges to work with both Mercury SmartCraft and Volvo Penta systems. I’m not sure that I’m a fan though, I found them hard to read and distracting at speed, but I think it might be one of those things that you probably would get familiar with in time. I like my numbers big, bold and digital these days; might be a sign of age, perhaps.

There’s a single, fully adjustable and bolstered skipper’s chair and beside that a double companion seat. This is a nice layout and a sociable one to boot.

Behind in the cockpit is a U-shaped seating with a removable table and, aft of that, more seating on the stern. The latter is a nice spot that takes advantage of the wide moulded swimplatform (with inbuilt ladder) by making it a great area for enjoying the sunshine and taking the occasional cooling dip. There’s a handy transom shower nearby, too, with hot and cold water and the seat also converts to a sunpad at the flick of a switch.

You don’t need to go far for a cool drink or a snack either, a wetbar located in the cockpit along the portside features a solid counter top, inbuilt sink with hot and cold water, plus fridge and storage underneath.

Access to the foredeck is via the walkthrough windscreen with non-skid integrated steps built into the dash and convenient railings to hold on to. The fibreglass hardtop has a clever central hatch in the front, and as it’s raised there’s no chance of banging your head as you go through.

The Chaparral 330 Signature features a Wide Tech hull design that provides noticeably more space on the foredeck and, internally, a wider forward cabin. The builder has achieved this by widening the boat at the bow with a small batwing shape, all the while maintaining the deep-vee hull. This effectively provides more space forward, similar to a deckboat, but without compromising performance.

Out on the foredeck, nice, high siderails allow safe passage to the bow, where the anchor is housed in a well. It’s under a hatch and means any mud or such coming up with the anchor doesn’t end up on deck. However, having said that, what’s missing here is a deckwash, which is something I’d be looking into. There’s a remote spotlight on the bow plus space on the foredeck for fitting an optional sunpad, which connects into a sail track and keeps it secure underway.

The accommodation is accessed via a sliding portside door in the helm bulkhead and just inside this entryway to port is the conveniently located AC/DC panel. It’s easy to get to and incorporates the holding tank indicator, antenna gain control, and the controls for the optional Kohler 4.5kW generator fitted to our test boat.

Below decks, the feeling is one of light and space in the luxury saloon and galley, giving the impression the Chaparral 330 is much bigger than its 33 feet. That’s primarily due to the number of portholes and a large overhead hatch, as well as a clever forward berth that partly folds and converts to seating. The seating can revert back to a full-size bed in less than a minute and, together with the large mid cabin that’s also convertible, the 330 can sleep five or six comfortably between the two cabins.

The galley features a single-burner ceramic cooktop and stainless steel sink in a stone bench top. There’s a microwave housed overhead and an under-bench fridge-freezer, plus plenty of storage cupboards and drawers throughout. Although missing an inverter, the Chaparral has an optional generator, so preparing meals or snacks away from shorepower isn’t a problem.

The fully enclosed full-height shower/head located to starboard features a Vacuflush toilet, mirrored vanity with solid countertop and stainless steel sink and an opening frosted portlight with screen.

The Chaparral 330 Signature is a boat that oozes style and sophistication and it’s all the little things, some noticeable and some not, that make the difference. Take the LED mood lighting overhead and, at floor level, the diamond-stitched cabin upholstery that’s Scotchguarded, electrically adjustable TV in saloon, cedar-lined clothes lockers, three carbon monoxide detectors, and hand and grab rails in all the right places.

Fitted with twin 350hp MerCruiser 350 MAG DTS petrol engines driving Bravo III legs, the sportscruiser also has the added convenience of the Axius joystick docking control. So along with loads of power is the ability to dock this boat into the tightest of berths.

Engine access is via an electrically actuated hatch that lifts part of the cockpit floor and when raised, doesn’t hinder getting on and off the boat. A handy step leads down into the spacious engineroom where there’s plenty of room. The generator is also housed here, as is the 40lt hot-water service that operates on either 240V or the heat exchanger. The engine and house batteries are conveniently placed, too, and a battery charger comes standard.

The aluminum fuel tank is housed forward of the engines, near the centre of gravity, and its fillers are located either side of the hull so you can pull-up either side of the pump. No sight gauge on the fuel tank, though, and you will have to rely on the fuel gauge located at the helm.

While it’s hard to fault the fixtures and fittings, it’s the performance and handling that sets Chaparral 330 Signature apart.

Together with a traditional deep-vee running surface, Chapparal uses what it calls Extended V-Plane, in other words a running surface on bottom of the boat that extends farther aft either side of the drive unit. Stretching the hull like this results in the boat coming "over" faster when getting on the plane, while the aft section of the hull acts in a similar way to a giant trim tab. Not only does the 330 plane faster, in our case we had her out of the hole at 3000rpm doing 17kts, but she stays on the plane at slower speeds.

The engines are rated to 5200rpm and, when I was able to contain myself for a short while, I found that a nice cruise speed was around 3600rpm for 25kts. At this speed the engines feel and sound about right and you’ve got plenty of reaction time.


The water on the day was as flat as a pancake and we spent a lot of time running the Chaparral 330 Signature around at various speeds, throwing her into full-lock turns, serpentines and generally having a wow of a time. WOT had the sportscruiser recording 41kts. The handling off the wheel throughout the speed range is superb, fun and sporty… and the ride is soft and silky smooth.


Twin 300hp MerCruiser 5.7lt MAG DTS petrol engines

















* Sea-trial data supplied by the author. Fuel burn is combined for both engines.

Twin 300hp MerCruiser 5.7lt MAG DTS engines with Bravo III legs, Axius joystick docking, electric anchor winch, stainless steel anchor, premium speaker upgrade with amp, underwater lights, teak cabin flooring, cabin door screen,
aft cabin table, macerator,
remote spotlight, foredeck sunpad, generator, air-con, heating, air mattress in saloon, opening portlights to galley and saloon, cockpit refrigerator, Lexan windscreen package and cockpit cover, innerspring mattress with manchester pack, aft stateroom TV-DVD, VHF radio and Garmin GPS, fire-protection system, clip-in carpet, and wide-band blue hull colour.


MATERIAL: Foam-filled GRP with Kevlar reinforcement
TYPE: Planing monohull
BEAM: 3.2m
WEIGHT: 5851kg
DRAFT: 1.04 m (legs down); 0.66m (legs up)

BERTHS: 4 + 2
FUEL: 662lt
WATER: 189lt

MAKE/MODEL: Twin MerCruiser MAG 350 w/ Bravo III legs
TYPE: V8 petrol
RATED HP: 300 (each)
DISPLACEMENT: 5.7lt (each)

460kg (each)

Chaparral Australia,
34 The Strand,
Williamstown, Vic, 3016
Phone: (03) 9397 6977
Website: www.chaparral

Tradeaboat says…
This is one great luxury sportscruiser that combines style and substance with fun performance and handling. Ideally, this is a dayboat and an occasional overnighter. As such, there’s enough water and refrigeration onboard to cater for those social days and there’s even a handy little portable icebox with its own dedicated storage, that you can take onto the beach.

The Chaparral 330 Signature is a boat you can spend the day aboard, entertaining family and friends, towing wakeboards and water toys, or just anchored somewhere in a secluded cove enjoying lunch, catching a few rays and swimming off the stern. And with a boat like this you’ll get there quicker, stay longer and make the most of the day, and when it’s tine to head home you’ll get back in no time.


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