REVIEW: HARRIS CROWNE AND SOLSTICE PONTOON BOATS

By: JOHN WILLIS, Photography by: JOHN WILLIS

Presented by
  • Trade-A-Boat

Harris Crowne At Rest Rear On Harris Crowne At Rest Rear Harris Crowne At Rest Rear On
Harris Crowne At Rest Harris Crowne At Rest Rear Harris Crowne At Rest
Harris Crowne At Speed Harris Crowne At Speed Harris Crowne At Speed
Harris Crowne Bow Close Up Harris Crowne Bow Close Up Harris Crowne Bow Close Up
Harris Crowne Bow Up Running Harris Crowne Bow Up Running Harris Crowne Bow Up Running
Harris Crowne Dash and Captains Chair Harris Crowne Dash and Captains Chair Harris Crowne Dash and Captains Chair
Harris Crowne Internal Layout From Bow Harris Crowne Internal Layout From Bow Harris Crowne Internal Layout From Bow
Harris Crowne Stern Close Up Harris Crowne Stern Close Up Harris Crowne Stern Close Up
Harris Crowne Underway Harris Crowne Underway Harris Crowne Underway
Harris Solistice Internal Layout From Bow Harris Solistice Internal Layout From Bow Harris Solistice Internal Layout From Bow
Harris Solstice Dual Consoles Harris Solstice Dual Console Harris Solstice Dual Consoles
Harris Solstice Front On Underway Harris Solstice Front On Underway Harris Solstice Front On Underway
Harris Solstice On Trailer Harris Solstice On Trailer Harris Solstice On Trailer
Harris Solstice Pop Up Privacy Harris Solstice Pop Up Privacy Harris Solstice Pop Up Privacy
Harris Solstice Rear On Harris Solstice Rear On Harris Solstice Rear On
Harris Solstice Underside Up Close Harris Solstice Underside Up Close Harris Solstice Underside Up Close

Step aside sports boats – Harris trailerable pontoon boats are here and they’re luxurious and entertaining. Plus they do 50mph! It’s time for a magic carpet ride

REVIEW: HARRIS CROWNE AND SOLSTICE PONTOON BOATS
The top-spec Harris Crowne is more than just luxurious - it's fast!

 

I’ve often dreamed of slowly meandering down a beautiful sweetwater environment on a party barge, maybe with a group of friends or perhaps just a special one. Add a barbecue, a drink (or a few), maybe some fishing or sunbathing, perhaps just relaxing with a book or magazine on a total aquatic escape.

Party barges certainly provide a stage for sun-filled carefree days lapping up life’s pleasures in the stability and comfort of a large platform. Houseboats are fun but you need another boat to add some thrills and flexibility. So it was with great excitement that I discovered the many advantages of Harris Pontoons. What a great surprise!

I’m no expert on these things. Give me virtually any boat and I’ll make a considered comparison but I’m not too proud to admit that pontoon boats are a bit new to me – especially ones capable of 80km/h and the handling characteristics to match. But now I love these magnificent craft – you have to try one to feel their glory.

Harris Pontoons is a long-established American manufacturer distributed in Australia by Paul Eade of Harris Australia in Echuca, Victoria. It’s an ideal location on the mighty Murray River, providing a terrific environment for these beautiful craft. Harris has not only mastered premium boatbuilding techniques in its aluminium pontoon hulls but combined it with an innovative design that bestows these party craft with exceptional speed and handling on smooth or surprisingly rough water, in safety. The boats feature fibreglass and aluminium in their deck components and they’re trimmed beautifully with rich, comfortable layouts enhanced by the assembly of quality materials, componentry and workmanship.

Is it possible for a pontoon boat to look sleek and aesthetically appealing? You bet it is! Take a look at the pair we tested on Australia’s most iconic river and I’m sure they’ll whet your appetite for watery adventures. Harris pontoons will get the party started and keep raging on the river all night long.

 

HARRIS CROWNE 25

The Harris Crowne 25 is one of the world’s most highly rated pontoon boats, as recognised with a coveted NMMA (National Marine Manufacturers Assoc) Innovation Award in 2013. This is one of Harris’s premium pontoon offerings, defined by sleek and attractive fibreglass sides that portray total sophistication, with internal appeal to match.

The Crowne’s deep ebony gelcoat looks sensational on the water, especially when you consider its curvaceous lines were previously unheard of on pontoon boats. The deep colour is offset by white two-tone finishes and the combination of the raw aluminium hull, triple-tone upholstery, synthetic teak flooring and premium stainless steel fittings that are only outdone by the very sexy – but totally functional – electrically actuated folding Sports Targa. The Targa has a broadened roof with tinted glass windows, LED overhead lighting and even a tow point for watersports.

Perhaps best of all, the Harris Crowne 250 DC is built to carry 16 people, and keep the crowd cosy and comfy while still leaving room to dance. There is a huge array of seating and lounging options with twin lounges at the front and a stainless steel gate leading to a bow platform that’s the perfect staging point for aquatic antics in or out of the water.

Harris Crowne Internal Layout From Bow

There’s a handy side-access door in the port mid-section of the craft and a further three-seater lounge facing the helm. The driver is treated to an array of inviting creature comforts with thickly upholstered and fully adjustable skipper’s seat plus a dashboard that seems lifted directly from a luxury sports vehicle. Faria gauges, digital depth and GPS are all standard on the Crowne yet the navigator in me would prefer some space for a small sounder/GPS screen rather than just the digital display. A combination chartplotter is irreplaceable at night when the reflections play havoc with your vision and Harris offers the option in a revised dash.

Out back is a pair of rear facing chaise lounges that complete the premium luxury package in the Crowne. There are fold-down armrests and of course no shortage of refreshment holders for all. Entertaining demands cool storage and there is a fully lined multi-use cool box under every seat. There’s tons more storage under the helm console, which also provides access to the back of the dash for servicing. When the sun beats down, twin biminis off either side of the Targa provide shade, and an optional JL Audio Diamond sound system with subwoofer, amp and Bluetooth connectivity supplies the booming vibes to rock the river. There’s also a removable barbecue and even a nifty fold-out amenity tent with Porta Potti for when nature calls.

I moved from bow to stern imagining life with such a beautiful craft in so many destinations, but my feelings turned to awe when I stepped out back to find the gutsy 300hp Mercury Verado four-stroke outboard purring like a panther ready to strike. Jumping into the helm chair, I planted the throttles and she skimmed easily onto the plane with terrific acceleration and very little bow lift jetting me upstream as if on a magic carpet. To my great surprise she turned easily, skipped oncoming wakes with ease and rocketed through to an exhilarating 80km/h (50mph) at wide-open throttle. "Wow! How good is this?" I thought – and then remembered that Harris offers a twin-outboard option.

The Verado’s digital throttle and power-assist steering make driving a breeze and dealer Paul explained that the secrets to the ride are in the construction. Firstly Harris’s Total Torsion Reduction System with full-length underbelly lining keeps chop slap down, and our demonstration package was optioned with the Performance Package 3, featuring vented strakes on the pontoons assisting the tracking and lift. The other big secret is that the central pontoon is 25mm lower than the outside pair, giving the hull reduced drag surfaces and creating greater control at speed while also assisting the turning ability.

Harris Crowne Stern Close Up

Harris offers a plethora of options – a ‘build your own layout’ design service, performance and saltwater packages, and a wide selection of colours, textures and trims, all in a trailerable package, though at just over 2.5m beam, wide load regulations apply.

It’s so quiet, so comfortable and so smooth – I never imagined you could have such performance and enjoyment in a pontoon boat. Harris claims: "We define the essence of relaxed boating." Yep, and they also pack a punch when you want it.

 

 

SOLSTICE DC250

The Harris Solstice DC250 is just one of the many alternatives in Harris’s world of pontoon boats. While the Solstice is considerably cheaper than the premium Crowne it’s just as functional and comfortable, and in a dual-console layout I find most appealing.

While it isn’t as curvaceous as the moulded fibreglass finish of the Crowne – two-tone powder-coated aluminium panels line the artfully sculpted sidewall frames in a more traditional pontoon boat presentation – it still has great visual appeal and a lavish interior.

Harris Solstice Front On Underway

I really liked the sporty demeanour of the dual-console with its full-width tinted windscreen and opening centre walkthrough. Sure, it separates the party just a bit, but it also makes great sense when the weather turns sour and you need protection on the trip home.

The Solstice has a slightly smaller bow platform but retains the large lounges up front, as well as the handy side access that makes boarding from a pontoon just so easy. The consoles and dashboard are both beautifully appointed, similar in style to any premium American bowrider and with luxurious bolster-style swivel seats to match.

Our demo boat had the sports windscreen, which looked great but I found a little low so I would choose the higher option. Underneath each console a pair of innovative cantilevered hatches provides access to cavernous storage. Overhead is a basic arch/Targa that folds manually. Other than a mount for the anchor light and a secure frame for the optional biminis this has little function, though you could mount a pair of tower speakers and some water toy brackets if you needed to.

Harris Solstice Dual Consoles

Out back is another dual-side lounge area with chaise-style rear-facing backrests. The leatherette upholstery is single-tone but beautifully trimmed, thickly padded and includes armrests, refreshment holders and storage. Another doorway leads to a rear deck with a stainless steel tow point and a drop-down ladder. I really liked the synthetic woven-look flooring that flows through the boat – it’s simple, attractive, hard wearing and practical. The Solstice also included the ingenious fold-out amenity tent with Porta Potti.

Xtreme Marine had chosen a Mercury Verado Pro 200hp FourStroke outboard for the 250DC and its overall power on the Performance Package 2 hull was most pleasing. It obviously lacked the extra 100hp of the Crowne but its grunt was more than competent and still great fun – she produced a pleasing 34kt at WOT. The helm also features flush-mount controls and Faria gauges, with optional VesselView and GPS.

 

THE WRAP

The Harris brochure claims it "delivers exceptional performance combined with a stable and safe platform. Incredible manoeuvrability and control are at your fingertips on every one of our models." I’d add thrilling performance and a magic-carpet ride. On this test, I enjoyed a pair of the most inviting, comfortable, quiet and thrilling aquatic entertainers I have ever had the pleasure to experience. Take the time out to go for a run – then you’ll know you are living!

 

HARRIS CROWNE 250SL 

PRICED FROM  A$105,000

 

Harris Crowne At Rest Rear On

 

OPTIONS FITTED

Change room, Double bimini, Stereo upgrade, Engine upgrade

 

PRICE AS TESTED

A$159,000

 

GENERAL

MATERIAL Aluminium pontoons, fibreglass sides      

LENGTH 8.28m (27ft 2in)

BEAM 2.59m (8ft 6in)

WEIGHT 1950kg dry (hull only)

CAPACITIES

PEOPLE (DAY) 16

FUEL 181L

 

ENGINE

MAKE/MODEL Mercury Verado Pro 300hp

TYPE Supercharged inline six-cylinder four-stroke outboard

DISPLACEMENT 2598cc

WEIGHT 288kg

GEAR RATIO 1.75:1

PROPELLER Enertia stainless steel 16in pitch

 

 

HARRIS SOLSTICE 250DC

PRICED FROM  A$79,000

Harris Solstice Rear On

OPTIONS FITTED

Lighting package, seagrass flooring, low tinted windscreen, change room, ski pole, sport double bimini, Engine upgrade

 

PRICE AS TESTED

A$109,000

 

GENERAL

MATERIAL Aluminium

TYPE Pontoon boat

LENGTH 8.28m (27ft 2in)

BEAM 2.59 m (8ft 6in)

WEIGHT 1623kg dry (hull only)     

PEOPLE (DAY) 14

FUEL 181L

 

ENGINE

MAKE/MODEL Mercury Verado Pro 200hp

TYPE Supercharged inline six-cylinder four-stroke outboard

DISPLACEMENT 2598cc

WEIGHT 288kg

GEAR RATIO 1.85:1

PROPELLER Enertia stainless steel SST 15x15in

 

SUPPLIED BY

Eades Xtreme Marine

24 Sturt Street, Echuca, Vic 3564

PHONE (03) 5482 2333

WEB www.xtrememarine.net.au

EMAIL info@xtrememarine.net.au

 


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