BOAT TEST: CHAPARRAL 327 SSX
The Chaparral 327 SSX bowrider-sportsboat-cruiser is a new breed of carbon-positive hybrid. JOHN ZAMMIT explains….
Size doesn't matter, big or small, some boats just have it and some don't. It's not easily achieved and difficult to define but when it all comes together, the result is… Wow! And that's what I'm talking about, the wow factor, which the Chaparral 327 SSX has in spades. It's not just the looks, which are really sporty, or the performance, because that's just sensational, or even the layout, which is very social, but it's the sum of all these parts and more.
We tested the 327 SSX on Sydney Harbour on what was the perfect day for this boat - bright sunshine, clear water and plenty of open space. We had a wow of a time and when it was time to give the boat back, we did so reluctantly
But the 327 SSX is not easily defined - it's primarily a dayboat, a family bowrider with a social layout, but it's also a performance sportsboat that gets up around 50kts, and then again, it's an overnighter featuring a unique double cabin and a separate head.
The uniqueness of this boat was recognised at the Miami International Boat Show earlier this year, where it was awarded the National Marine Manufacturer's Association Innovation Award for 2011. The category was the highly competitive 25- to 60-foot cruiser class, including both sport and fishing boats.
The 327 SSX is one of the most revolutionary boats released by Chaparral since it commenced operations in 1965.
"Innovation and new product development is one of the four cornerstones of Chaparral," said company president Jim Lane. "We rank the new 327 SSX among the most exciting boats we've ever developed. With its never-before-seen cabin design, the 327 is equal parts bowrider, sportboat and cruiser."
Chaparral has a patent pending for the cockpit-cabin layout, a unique design whereby the cabin is cleverly accommodated forward and spans the full beam of the boat. At 32ft6in overall, there's plenty of room for family and guests to spread out and find their own space onboard.
The standard hardtop over the cockpit provides protection from the elements and I like what they've done in terms of supporting the hardtop with a targa arch amidships and two simple struts forward to the windscreen. These supports double as grabrails as you move between cockpit and the bow section. It's clever engineering combined with good design. A pop-up hatch forward and centre in the hardtop means you still get plenty of fresh air even if fitted with the optional Lexan (rigid anti-clouding) clears that slide into a sail track here.
The cockpit features a comfortable L-shaped lounge along the portside and across the transom with an optional table that slots in when needed. Opposite to starboard is a compact utility bar housing an under-bench stainless steel fridge, a sink with a pullout tap and a small refuse chute. There is also an option to incorporate an electric griddle in the bench top.
A vast storage locker in the cockpit sole makes the perfect place to store skis, wakeboards, water toys, even a dive compressor. There are twin batteries, too, dedicated to the amp that drives the wet stereo system (waterproof speakers are fitted throughout the boat). Also located here is a battery charger and plenty of room left for an optional inverter and/or generator, neither of which was fitted to our test boat.
Forward to starboard is the helm and a comfortable twin helm seat (bolstered, adjustable and with storage underneath) facing a custom moulded dash in non-glare silver grey. It's reminiscent of a sports car, with the leather wrapped wheel with polished spokes and a self-centering Chaparral logo in the hub complementing the look.
A Garmin 8in screen takes centre stage in the dash, with columns of waterproof rocker switches either side, and an array of Chaparral gauges alongside. Chaparral manufactures its own gauges, fitted standard to all its boats and suit Mercury SmartCraft and Volvo Penta. The gauges are nitrogen pressurised, fog free and water resistant, so at day's end, you can take out the snap-lock carpets and hose the whole boat down inside and out.
Across to port a twin companion seat faces a stylish glove compartment with a removable 34lt icebox housed under the seat. Handy grabrails in all the right places mean you can comfortably move around while underway.
Move forward through the split windscreen (with fold-back centre pane) to the bow and you arrive at comfortable all-round seating. As in the cockpit, there's provision for a removable table, while lifting the snap-lock carpet accesses another large storage bin, which is self-draining and can also be used as an icebox. At the bow are a large spotlight and a hatch covering the anchor winch and substantial chain locker, with remote anchor controls located nearby.
The bow isn't the only place that you can relax in the sun. There's more seating aft of the cockpit, outside of the transom, by way of a rear-facing settee looking out over the swimplatform - it's a great spot to relax in the sun, take a cooling dip or to sit and watch the kids frolic in the water.
At the flick of a switch, this seat folds down to join with the cockpit lounge forming a large sunpad. Drinkholders and remote stereo controls are within easy reach and another icebox built into the swimplatform means that cool drinks are close at hand, too. A foldout swimladder and a hot-and-cold transom shower are nearby. Meanwhile, a hatch on the transom houses the shorepower lead plus more storage and the cleats used everywhere on this boat are the pop-up kind and out of the way when not in use.
The aft end of the cockpit rises on an electric ram to provide access to the twin 380hp MerCruiser 8.2-litre engines. Access around the engines is good and blowers are fitted, along with a fire-suppressant system. Nearby are house and engine batteries, a hot-water service (240V and heat exchange) and the holding tank. If you require more room to the engine bay, just disconnect the ram and roll over the hinged hatch.
THE BIG SURPRISE
If you stepped onboard the Chaparral 327 SSX without anyone telling you there was accommodation, you'd easily miss it. The moulded dash section forward of the companion seat is hinged and opens for a big surprise. Down a couple of steps you'll be stunned by the amount of space available.
The AC/DC panel is located just inside the entryway and a bench along the portside has storage underneath and cupboards above where a microwave is housed. To starboard an L-shaped lounge easily converts to a double bed with more storage and cedar-lined hanging space aft of that. While it's certainly compact, it's an excellent use of space and you don't feel crowded thanks to three opening portholes providing light and cross-flow ventilation.
At the front of the cabin is a three-quarter door to the fully enclosed head/shower. Within is a mirrored vanity unit and solid counter top incorporating stainless steel sink with pull-out shower wand doubling as a tap, and a vacuflush head under a hinged shower seat. While it's not exactly standing height, the head has all the basics and is sufficient enough to do the job. A handy grabrail, 12V lighting, extractor fan and an opening frosted portlight complete the picture.
As stated, the Chaparral 327 SSX is primarily a dayboat, with the added advantage of being an occasional overnighter. As such, the accommodation is more than adequate, as is the freshwater capacity of 114lt. The small fridge in the cockpit is the only one onboard, but given the number of iceboxes spread around the boat, that too is probably adequate. The only other things you might consider adding is an inverter to power the microwave and a couple of power points so you can prepare a light meal or possibly breakfast in the morning.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
This is a real mean fun machine, reminiscent of a tricked-up muscle car. The Chaparral 327 SSX looks like she can perform and, in that regard, doesn't disappoint. The deep burble coming from the exhaust on start-up is the first hint of what to expect. Push forward on the throttles and you're up and out of the hole before you know it.
Chaparral uses a traditional deep-vee-forward hull design with Extended V-Plane aft where the hull extends either side of the sterdrives. This allows the boat to get on the plane quicker, stay there at slower speeds and, because there's more running surface on the water, remain stable even when turning at high speed. And, on the day, we really put that to the test.
The 327 is boat that likes to be driven hard and that we did - sports car-like handling that's responsive off the wheel, fun to drive and so predictable. Even when we threw her into full-lock turns at more than 40kts, she turned as if on rails - a bit like driving a 33ft go-kart.
I found the helm comfortable, particularly the bolstered seat because I like to stand at the wheel going flat out. The sea on the day was calm and the Chaparral, being a bowrider, is not the boat you'd take out in one-metre seas. Having said that, Chaparral does sell itself as "saltwater tough" and claim these boats can take a bit of rough stuff. I'll take their word for it!
Chaparral 327 SSX
BEHIND THE WHEEL
The engines are rated to 4800rpm and on the day, according to the gauges, the 327 SSX managed a speed of 53kts (62mph). But these big-block V8s are probably most efficient at about 3000rpm, which produces a speed of around 30kts using approximately 88lt/h of fuel. At that rate you're covering good ground without breaking the bank.
Fuel capacity is 568lt, stored in twin tanks (interconnected), so leaving a bit in reserve the Chaparral has a comfortable cruise range of around 165nm. With her turn of speed, and in the right weather, there's no reason you couldn't head off down the coast, maybe from Sydney to Pittwater, Melbourne to Queenscliff, or anywhere else that takes your fancy in around an hour or so. Have a leisurely lunch or spend some time anchored off a quiet cove before heading back. Of course, if the company's right and the mood takes you, there's no reason you couldn't stay the night.
PRICE AS TESTED
Twin 380hp MerCruiser 8.2L MAG petrol V8
RPM SPEED FUEL BURN RANGE
1000 6.26kts 18.7lt/h 176nm
1500 7.91kts 32.5lt/h 124nm
2000 11.4kts 49.9lt/h 99nm
2500 24.1kts 69.6lt/h 177nm
3000 31.1kts 87.8lt/h 181nm
3500 36.5kts 124.1lt/h 150nm
4000 41.8kts 175.6lt/h 122nm
4500 45.8kts 252.8lt/h 93nm
4900 49.7kts 277.8lt/h 91nm
* Official sea-trial data supplied by Chaparral.
Engine upgrade, electric anchor winch, stainless steel anchor, underwater lights, remote spotlight, cockpit fridge,
Lexan clears package, LCD TV, VHF radio, Garmin GPS-plotter, fire protection system, snap-in carpet, stereo, cockpit and bow covers, hot-water service, and more
TYPE: Planing monohull
Draft: 0.94 m (legs down); 0.56m (legs up)
PEOPLE (NIGHT): 2
HOLDING TANK: 57lt
MAKE/MODEL : 2 X MerCruiser 8.2L MAG
TYPE: Petrol V8
RATED HP: 380 (each)
DISPLACEMENT: 8.2lt (each)
WEIGHT: 488kg (each)
A really impressive number! Chaparral sure does fit out its boats well. It's all the little things like LED mood lighting, fuel fillers on both sides of the hull, drinkholders everywhere (we counted 17 on this boat), carbon monoxide detector as standard, premium sound system with remotes throughout, Dura Life Max vinyl upholstery, and more that combine into one neat package. And that's before you get to enjoy the ride and performance, which are exceptional.
I think this boat would particularly suit young couples and families with kids (of all ages). There's plenty of room to entertain family and friends with loads of space to sit and lounge about. The Chaparral 327 SSX has the performance and handling to tow wakeboards, and a turn of speed to get to your playground fast for a longer stay. And when you're having this much fun, you can always stay over.
From Trade-a-Boat magazine (issue 420) Photos: Ellen Dewar
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