BOAT TEST: COBALT 220

By: David Lockwood, Photography by: JOHN FORD


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There are bowriders and then there are bowriders — and then there are Cobalts. David Lockwood gives you the royal tour aboard the new 220.

BOAT TEST: COBALT 220
COBALT 220

 

BLUE BLOOD


Flies, cricket, ice cream, bindi-eyes, thongs, burnt noses, scorching footpaths and bowrider boats. Yup, when summer hits and the day is young, you need a cool bowrider to beat a path to your own little patch of boating bliss. And all the better if it's a fast boat.
These days, one needs speed to beat the throng to the river bend and race back to the ramp when the day is done. One also needs grunt to tow the rug-rats on tubes, wakeboards or skis. Plus good access to the water so you can pull into a beach and stage a picnic if you're not doing lunch under the canopy on the cockpit table.
Of course, plenty of boats cater for  such flights of fancy; but not many do it quite like the Cobalt 220 bowrider. Don't take it from me, though. The boat won last year's Imported Trailerboat of the Year Award, as judged by a team of fellow boating scribes.
The 2005 version of the celebrated Cobalt 220 is an even more savvy summer boat. The most powerful 220 in Australia yet, the model driven here sported a 375hp MerCruiser MAG big-block 8.1lt motor and Captain's Call through-transom exhaust. Beat the throng? Positively outpace them, trumpeting your cause with the throaty engine note.
You can also add some visual stimuli by way of an optional three-colour hull and some aesthetic enhancements over the former 220. Typically, there is also Cobalt's signature inventory that takes in everything from a supplied toolkit to an air compressor for inflating the biscuits.

 

 

DRIVING PLEASURE


Despite being a mere 22-footer, the Cobalt feels seaworthy, safe and smooth. Its handling is a shining example of what boatbuilders strive to achieve when they use monocoque construction methods.
In other words, nothing moves, squeaks, rattles or reverberates. In fact, in some ways the Cobalt 220 feels like a bluewater boat when driven into the fray.
Put through its paces, the Cobalt 220 delivered an exhilarating tour of not only the harbour, but also the more open expanses between the Heads known as The Sound. Contained by comfortable helms seats, with clear vision ahead, the boat allows drivers to venture places where other fat-bodied bowriders would shudder to go. And at speed, too.
Among the features of the hull is an extended running surface. The aft sections of hull either side of the motor provide lift, stability at rest and underway - and buoyancy for the big-block V8 and weight of the crew seated on the  rear lounge. At 2.62m wide, it's also a beamy boat that requires a permit to tow (check state regulations). Dry weight is 1890kg, to which you will also need to add the weight of the trailer.
Measuring 24ft overall, including big boarding platform, the Cobalt 220 hull carries 20° of deadrise. This qualifies it as a deep-vee; however, I have driven more deeply veed hulls that weren't so smooth. Which is why I attribute the boat's performance as much to the monocoque construction as to the hull shape.
Cobalt uses a fibreglass stringer system attached to the hull with Plexus - an eight-layer lamination process that overlaps at the chines and keel - and additional Kevlar reinforcing. Aside from a barrier coat to help prevent osmosis, the boat is converted with something called Spraycor. This material supposedly increases stiffness as well as providing sound deadening.
A composite lay-up is used for the high-load transom, and walls of the liner feature Nida-core - a kind of high-tech honeycomb material. All the deck gear is stainless steel and through-bolted to aluminium plates. Even the bimini framework and adjustors are stainless steel. No straps whatsoever.
The Cobalt 220 is water tested and backed by a 10-year transferable hull and deck warranty. You get five years on most of the engineering including the motor and electronics, and two years on the finish - which includes an upholstered dash, flip-up bolsters on the seats, composite seat bases, leather-wrapped wheel, big stainless-steel scuff plate in the bow and built-in headlights.
All the seating, be it in the bow or the sunpad over the transom, is sculptured in such a way as to provide terrific support when cruising. There are stainless-steel grabrails, bump-free mouldings and lots of thick but accommodating stitched vinyl. No staples to be seen.
Being a deep hull contributes to the sense of security when crossing steep boat wake. Taken slow or fast, the boat doesn't ship water. Seated up front or behind, you feel as though you're in the saddle on the Cobalt 220 as opposed to riding bareback.

 

 

SPORTS DECKBOAT


If not the ride and drive, it is most certainly the details that set the Cobalts apart. A big-ticket item, the Cobalt 220 gives the impression that it has been built to last.
There's nothing glitzy, flimsy or high-maintenance other than keeping the vinyl nourished, the gelcoat clean and the stainless polished. In this way, it's very much a saltwater boat.
I noted non-skid on the bow for safe disembarkation, good-quality nav lights and stainless-steel cleats, and those two cool recessed headlights. Storage comes by way of deck hatches with nets that are intended for holding fenders, but which would be handy for personals.
There are lined under-seat holds, and a centre section - whose lid lifts on a gas strut - intended to hold the anchor. There are also storage recesses behind the backrests.
The bow seats, I should add, were beautifully sculptured. When leaning in the backrest with legs outstretched, the stainless grabrails fall instinctively to hand. Add the optional bow infill and you get a second sunpad. Swing the windbreak gate closed, pull the bow tonneau cover down and you create a runabout for winter rather than a bowrider for summer.
The centre section of the Taylor-made wraparound safety-glass windscreen can be held open using a patented stainless-steel clip. The clip prevents the windscreen slamming open when you are travelling. Windscreen supports are stainless steel, as are the rubrail, drinkholders, pop-up deck fillers, cool engine vents and horn covers, and bimini-top frame and snap-in fittings.
Lined with low-glare mock snakeskin vinyl, the dash on the passenger's side has a sturdy stainless-steel grabrail, lockable glovebox and factory-fitted premium Sony sound system with six-stacker CD player and, yes, subwoofer. So you can have your V8 note and hear that of your favourite band. Cool.

 

 

PLEASED TO BE SEATED


Both helm and co-pilot seats were wonderfully comfortable, with plenty of lumbar support, side support and flip-up bolsters for cruising. There are small pockets for storing personals, although these didn't have very pronounced retaining lips.
Storage for watertoys, wakeboards and wetsuits exists in a giant rubber-lined central underfloor locker. Its lid lifts on gas struts and carries a neat tool sleeve on its underside. The carpet throughout the boat is a really thick rubber-backed grey number. All the press-studs bear Cobalt insignias.
The transom lounge is split with a centre non-skid walkway that can be topped with filler cushions. However, having the beam that it does, the boat's aft lounge is accommodating of two couples per side without bothering about fitting the infills.
I am particularly thrilled to see stainless-steel grabrails and storage pockets for passenger personals on the back of the helm seats. There are also side grabrails, drinkholders and a sub-lounge lined icebox.
Hinged seat bases mean you aren't left holding loose cushions when retrieving a drink.
Skiers will appreciate the extended removable boarding platform and the ledge on the rear of the engine bay, where you can sit and ready yourself for getting wet. The subtle non-skid is deceptively effective, and a transom leg-trim trailer switch is nearby.
The boat had a nifty lockable swim ladder and pop-up skipole. I've mentioned it before, but there needs to be more space between the rail tracing the boarding platform so you can hang off the back of the boat when treading water.
The reversible helm seats, quick-set bimini top and snap-in optional cockpit table mean you can go from towboat to lunch boat in no time flat. Add the filler cushions and the transom converts to one big sunpad for post-lunch lounging.

 

 

ARE YOU BEING SERVICED?


The optional engine box actuator on the dash lets you access the motor and additional storage space with the flick of a switch. Despite having a big-block V8 there was plenty of room for servicing.
Nearby, I found the 12V air compressor for filling the watertoys and noted that the boat has four batteries.
Back at the dash I noted the optional wood-grain trim package and full  spread of groovy gold/black engine gauges - assumed to be re-badged Faria brand - covering engine temperature, oil pressure, fuel, revs, volts, trim and boat speed.
The switches for accessories, Captain's Call, bilge pumps, horn  and blower and lighting, which  include courtesy lights, are mostly  run through circuit breakers instead  of fuses. The spot depthsounder and  air/water temp gauge are useful if you can covert imperial measurements.
The stereo remote, tilt wheel and adjustable seat mean you can take control of most functions of the Cobalt 220 from the helm. Even with four adults and a full belly of fuel (189lt should suffice for dayboating) the boat felt agile.
Low-speed plane could be maintained at 1700rpm and 17kmh, while at 2000rpm the boat held a handy wakeboarding or trick-ski speed of about 31.5kmh. Social skiing kicked in at 2400rpm and 40kmh.
Carefree cruising was clocked at 2500rpm and 46kmh; fast cruise clip was 57-59kmh at 3000rpm; and 4000rpm gave 85kmh. I recorded a top speed of 93kmh or about 58mph in the old scale. Given time and less load, the 8.1lt block should propel the boat to 97kmh.
But the Cobalt is about more than speed. It's the smooth ride and wonderful cornering - thanks to a Bravo Three leg with double prop - that provides the most thrills.
Quality comes at a price; but while it costs a premium, at least you are dutifully rewarded. The Cobalt is a  cut above.

 

 

HIGHS


• Finish, construction, engineering, materials and workmanship
• Great performance and cornering
• Sweet V8 note courtesy of Captain's Call
• Saltwater finish will help longevity
• Comforts and safety
• Timeless lines and sporty styling

 

 

LOWS


• Not enough space between grabrail around boarding platform
• Big pricetag compared to rivals
• Wide beam may impose limitations on towing

 

 

 


Specifications: Cobalt 220

 

 

HOW MUCH?


Price as tested: $99,950 with MerCruiser 496 Mag 375hp petrol inboard motor and options (add about $8000 for dual-axle trailer to suit)
Options fitted: Engine upgrade, dinette table, wood-grain dash, swim platform, bimini top, flagstaff, bow and rear lounge sunpad cushion inserts, stainless-steel driving lights, premium sound system, air compressor, motorbox actuator, transom tilt switch, Captain's Call Exhaust and more
Priced from: $77,950 with MerCruiser 5.0 MPI

 

 

GENERAL


Material: GRP w/ Kevlar reinforcing
Length (overall): 7.30m
Beam: 2.62m
Deadrise: 20°
Weight: 1890kg hull only

 

 

CAPACITIES


Fuel: 189lt
Water: n/a
Passengers: 11
Accommodation: Daybed
Rec/max hp: 260/475

 

 

ENGINE


Make/model: MerCruiser 496 MAG
Type: Fuel-injected V8 petrol four-stroke inboard
Rated hp: 375 @ 4800rpm
Displacement: 8.1lt
Weight: About 555kg dry
Drive (make/ratio): Bravo Three sterndrive
Props: Duoprop

 

 

SUPPLIED BY


JD's Boatshed, Caringbah, NSW tel (02) 9525 3166

 

 

MORE INFORMATION


Cobalt Boats Australia,  tel (02) 6290 2738 or visit  www.cobaltboats.com.au

 

 

Originally published in TrailerBoat #187

Find Cobalt boats for sale.

 


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