BOAT TEST: CROWNLINE 200LS

By: David Lockwood, Photography by: John Ford


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Crownline’s beamy 200LS has a smooth finish and dry ride. It’s a high-volume chariot built for the saltwater, as David Lockwood found out

BOAT TEST: CROWNLINE 200LS
CROWNLINE 200LS

 

There's an argument that says American-made boats aren't the best for Australian waterways because so many of them are intended for the Great Lakes, where boaties are lucky to see a wavelet let alone a white horse, where you don't anchor but moor to a pontoon, and where there's fresh rather than saltwater mixed with sunshine and serious UVs.
But Crownline puts a sock in the gobs of anyone silly enough to espouse such a pitch. The 200LS is an American boat made by an independent, family-owned company that puts the emphasis on the finer points such as the finish, where stainless steel fittings are in abundance - 2.5cm-diameter 316 grade grabrails - the deadrise is a sharp 19 degrees and, yes, you get a dedicated anchor locker for starters.
Indeed, rather than release a swag of new models, Crownline has refined its 2006/07 sterndrive bowriders, deck and cabin-cruiser boats so they're more universally appealing. The gas struts on the hatches, the drinkholders, and the struts holding up the windscreen are all stainless steel. Not only does this give the brand a premium appearance, but it adds considerably to their longevity and, therefore, badge loyalty.
Hardly surprising, then, that the Sydney agent, who travelled the length of the sprawling city and the bumpy harbour to deliver the 200LS for water testing, said Crownlines really stood out at boat shows when they're stacked up against other American competition, especially those brands that don't build boats for rough-and-tumble coastal boating.

 


 
SOUND FOUNDATIONS


But beside the saltwater build quality reflected in the stainless steel fittings, the construction is no less impressive. Crownline uses a six-layer process from a vinylester barrier coat to bi-direction handlaid rovings, woven rovings to Cormat, and handlaid bi-direction rovings again, with a final Armocote buffable gelcoat. All of which is backed by some pretty impressive warranties, including lifetime backing on the hull, deck and transom, the stringer system, and even the gauges. There's a five-year warranty on the upholstery, canvass and those stainless steel fittings, with two to five years on the engine and drive. However, the warranties are academic, says the agent, who reckons there have been no issues of any consequence at all.
The 200LS is an interesting boat for other reasons, not least being its wide beam. At 2.59m - that's the same beam on Crownline boats right up to the 270CR cruiser model - you will need a wide-load permit to tow the 200LS to the ramp. And at a touch over 2000kg on road, you also need electric brakes, which the Dunbier wide-load trailer carrying this boat had.
But towing wide-beamed boats is no big deal these days and, on the water, the upsides - the huge interior volume, load-carrying capacity and stability of this bowrider - are there to embrace. The downside on a relatively short 20-footer was, predictably, some porpoising over the messy harbour.
However, you can't have everything and, by and large, the 200LS was a dynamic dayboat bound to assuage and mollycoddle its owners and guests. I, for one, find it hard to argue with the full-width aft lounge, which is long enough to sleep on. And did I mention the finish?

 


 
ATTENTION TO DETAIL


I came aboard the Crownline 200LS by planting my not inconsiderable hoof on the top of the anchor locker lid, which was covered in diamond-pattern non-skid - not always the case on bowriders. The boat had a split navigation light, stainless steel horn and pop-up cleats (six in total).
The anchor locker was nice and deep, with room for a reasonable amount of rope, so you can anchor in deep waterways. And just as welcome will be the optional bow ladder. It was tucked into the anchor locker for those occasions when you want to beach the boat and pick up guests or stretch the legs.
The grabrails tracing the bow seating were sturdy stainless steel numbers, alongside matching drinkholders. The upholstery was what I consider, after 20 or more years of assessing such things, to be premium quality with excellent stitching.
Having said that, the blue-and-white colour scheme was pretty conservative, but there are plenty of graphics and trim upgrades if you want a sexier, sportier look. Importantly, the seat bases are timber free, with no obvious sign of staples, and the foam cushions are sculptured for comfort.
For a 20-footer, storage on this boat is nothing short of wonderful, with all lined sub-seat areas in the bow. The main holds are lined with polypropylene, but the centre compartment is GRP lined and has a drain so as to double as an icebox. This way, the kids in the bow have their own supply of refreshments.
However, such is the freeboard, the buoyancy, and the length of the cushions in the bow that the 200LS can carry a couple of adults up front without unduly affecting trim or running the risk of shipping water. And thank heavens for that, as the harbour was a wind-swept mess and, at times, presented a drive-to-stay-alive scenario.

 

 

COCKPIT CAPERS


I mentioned the stainless steel gas struts on all the hatches, but let's not forget the sturdy stainless steel struts holding up the wraparound windscreen. Being the first place that people lean when coming through to the cockpit, the windscreen was intentionally well supported.
The cockpit was fitted with clip-in rubber-backed carpet and there was the obligatory sub-floor wakeboard and ski locker, which was also lockable and rubber-lined. But different were the twin luxury bucket helm seats, each with flip-up bolsters to assist with close-quarters driving and docking.
Crownline calls them Tri-Tech Seats after the built-in, three-level shock-absorption system that includes fore and aft leaf springs. Dropping into both the navigator's and skipper's seats was a real pleasure and the vision through the windscreen was great when the boat was riding level.
Ahead of the navigator was a lockable glovebox that, with overboard drain, can double as the boat's second icebox. The skipper and navigator are supplied with drinkholders and storage nooks for personals such as mobile phone, wallet and keys, too. The 200LS also comes with a bimini (and matching bow and cockpit covers) with stainless steel framework, of course.
Guests riding aft on the full-width rear lounge aren't forgotten, either. Once again, there are stainless steel grabrails, great upholstery and, as mentioned, the full-width aft lounge that doubles as a daybed. Its seat bases also hinge, so you're not left holding in-fill cushions when accessing the dry storage, which includes scope to create another (third) icebox.
When in watersports or swimming mode, the infill, which creates a full-width aft sunpad, folds open to create a non-skid thoroughfare, so you don't have step on the cushions with wet feet. But when in sunbaking mode, that same infill can be fixed at an angle to create a headrest for the aft lounge. Either way, thanks to the wide beam, it's a huge aft sunpad.

 


 
REAL ESTATE AND GARAGE


The wide beam adds considerably to the waterfront real estate, giving you an exceptionally large, extended boarding platform, which comes standard on the 200LS. It had moulded steps in the corners and plenty of places to sit and hang out.
Of course, there was a swim ladder, aft grabrail and ski hook. But how many other 20ft bowriders can boast a freshwater handheld shower? It will be appreciated greatly after a big day of watersports, if only to wash the salt from your face and sunnies.
The engine bay, which lifts on dual stainless steel struts, has plenty of room around the 260hp MerCruiser 5.0L MPI. In fact, there's dedicated storage back here for picnic gear and personals, plus dual batteries, a 12V circuit breaker, good access to the primary engine servicing items, and some sound insulation on top of the foam-backed sunpad.
Additionally, all the through-hull fittings are chrome brass, there are cockpit courtesy lights, and the boat comes with a fire extinguisher, to which you can add the dealer-supplied safety pack.

 


 
DRIVE TIME


More attention to the details was evident on the car-like dash with mock-walnut facias, adjustable seat and wheel, and four-speaker Sony stereo. All the Faria gauges are branded Crownline including, as standard, a supplied depth and water/air temp gauge.
The boat comes with a 12V accessory plug, with Captains Call straight-through exhaust optional. But it's superfluous given the nature of this wide-beamed chariot. This boat excels with a crowd, some calm bends on a river for skiing or (optional tower available) boarding, and a stop by the beach for lunch.
Given the state of the harbour, the ferries and rebounding wash around the harbour bridge, and the big wind, this was a rough-water test. But we more than survived it and, because we didn't do anything silly, the boat carried us competently from one end of the harbour to the better end near Manly.
There was some bow lift at 2500rpm when the boat was getting onto the plane, which was desirable when confronting the tsunamis on the harbour, but the so-called FAST-Tab vented hull with reverse chines and Delta planing plank settled down to a level low-speed cruise of 21.5kts at 2800rpm.
Cruise speed was fast - 27.5kts at 3400rpm - and too much for the bumpy harbour. Fast cruise, or what I regard as maximum continuous, was clocked at 35.7kts at 4000rpm, with a rocketing top speed of 42.9kts at 5000rpm.
While it was fitted with the maximum horsepower, the 260hp MerCruiser was the right power match. Yes, there are better American boats for chomping through the chop and better Crownline models with more waterline length for the same 2.59m beam. But as a high-volume chariot made for saltwater use, the 200LS was just great.
I'm going so far as to say these really are superlative boats to go and, given the $62,990 price tag, the wide-beamed 200LS is a lot of bowrider for your buck. Whoever said American-made boats were second rate was talking through their hat.
This one is a very nice summer getaway.

 


 
WHAT WE LIKED


Wide beam gives you a lot of bowrider for your buck
Deep freeboard and high buoyancy keeps the water out and lets you carry a big load
Exceptional build quality for serious saltwater boating
Wonderful attention to detail
Fully-lined lockers
Lots of storage and extra amenities over its competitors
Great engineering and engine fitout leads to a quiet sterndrive boat

 

 

NOT SO MUCH


Bow points skywards during the transition to planing speed
Porpoised somewhat in rough water due to its wide beam forward
Upholstery, graphics and colour scheme weren't as dazzling as the finish in general
A relatively new player in the huge American bowrider market that might not be as easy to sell as the household names
Towing permit and electric braked required

 

 


 


Specifications: Crownline 200LS

 


 
HOW MUCH?


Price as tested: $62,990 w/ MerCruiser 5.0L MPI inboard, dual-axle braked Dunbier trailer, options, safety gear and registrations
Options fitted: Dual-axle trailer with electric brakes, forward boarding ladder, rear freshwater shower

 


 
GENERAL


Material: GRP with Coremat and fully moulded cockpit liner
Length overall: 6.3m
Beam: 2.59m
Deadrise: 19°
Weight: Approx 1634kg dry hull with MerCruiser 5.0L MPI inboard; just over 2000kg dry on trailer on road

 


 
CAPACITIES


Berths: One daybed, one sunpad  
Fuel capacity: 140lt
Passengers: Seven adults
Rec/max HP: 260 w/Bravo sterndrive
Rec/min hp: 220

 


 
ENGINE


Make/model: MerCruiser 5.0L MPI petrol inboard
Type: Injected four-stroke petrol V8 inboard motor
Weight: 433kg
Rated HP: 260hp
Displacement: 5.0L
Drive: Sterndrive Alpha One
Propeller: 17-19-inch stainless steel

 


 
SUPPLIED BY


TR MarineWorld,
4 Curtis Road, McGrath's Hill, NSW, 2756
Phone: (02) 4577 3522
Websites: www.trmarine.com.au, www.crownline.com

 

Originally published in TrailerBoat #213

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