BOAT TEST: CROWNLINE 206 LS

By: David Lockwood, Photography by: John Ford


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Crownline, it its relatively short history, has seized a staggering share of the recreational boating kingdom worldwide. David Lockwood finds out why.

BOAT TEST: CROWNLINE 206 LS
CROWNLINE 206 LS

The first Crownline boats to be launched Down Under with the backing of state dealers debuted at the Melbourne and Sydney boat shows earlier this year. It's not hyperbole to say that they walked off the floor. In fact, the response was so impressive that the dealers remain quietly overwhelmed.

At the time of writing, more than 50 Crownlines were on a ship sailing for Australia. And like those new owners who signed their cheques before so much as a water test, I too found some impressive facts behind this new American badge.
In this age of multinational marine giants, Crownline is a relatively new family-owned company. Colossal growth during the past 10 years has seen the boatbuilder achieve a top-five position in America. Perhaps that isn't surprising.
Crownline's founder, one Fred Claxton, was a former executive with another big-boat manufacturer who, presumably, has secreted away some ideas on how to make better boats. He also headhunted a lot of top talent in the US boatbuilding market before setting his handpicked team loose.
A key part of Claxton's philosophy was to be entirely customer driven, from pricing to quality and after-sales support. As such, his boats won hearts in America as well as in export markets like Russia. Before long, they were being referred to as Crownies.
Next, an annual regional Crowndezvous became part of the calendar. Aside from lake trips with Crownie owners, there were saltwater sorties and Poker Runs, where owners race from location to location, collecting a card along the way and finishing with a poker hand.
The company's website was established as a source of information for boat owners registered with the Owner's Club. There are forums for technical talk, chat rooms for general boating discussions and lots of merchandise and background information.
Crownline's faithful following was created thus. The success of the company overseas reflects what modern-day boat owners demand from their craft. Besides the boat, they want a ticket to a ready-made lifestyle. With 50 Crownies heading Down Under, who knows - maybe there'll be a rendezvous here before too long.

 

 

NICE SPREAD


Of the 23 Crownline models from 18-29ft, 15 are bowriders. There are also deckboats, cuddies and nifty cruisers; but the bread-and-butter boats are the bowriders. They don't break the mould so much as reflect commonsense design.
One of the newer models heralding new-look Crownline styling, the 206 LS appeared as a fair lump of boat on its Aussie-made tandem trailer. With the standard extended boarding platform, it measures 6.6m (21ft 6in) overall. There is 5.9m (19ft 6in) of true hull.
That hull, incidentally, has 21° of deadrise. This equates to a deep-vee that should be good over rough water.
The 206 LS also has what Crownline calls a Fast Tab hull. It has been designed to "stop the stern-wander problem". I'm not sure what problem that is, but I can say that when idling around, the boat still wanders as every sterndrive-powered boat will do. It's not a problem.
The hull also has a Delta Pad, which helps it stay on an even keel at high speed. Maybe that's what they mean...
Interestingly, the boat is built traditionally - that is, using 'glass-encapsulated timber bearers. None of that fancy closed-moulded stuff or foam construction for Crownline. But there is one of those modish midway chine cutouts in the hull that makes the boat look contemporary.
Amazingly, the company offers a lifetime warranty on its hulls. Constrained by environmental factory controls, the Crownline nerve centre is running at full capacity of about 22 boats a day.
Something called Cook's Base gelcoat is used below the waterline to provide blister resistance, while Armorcote gelcolour is used above for colour fastness. Following the gelcoat applications, two vinylester barrier coats are added for further protection against osmosis.
All laminates are applied by hand according to the specifications for each model. Boats over 20ft come with a fibreglass liner and snap-in carpet. Those models over 19ft are also equipped with superbly comfortable shock-absorbing bucket seats at the helm.
In fact, if the 206 LS is anything to go by, Crownline fitouts are impressive. I noted a top-shelf Sony stereo/CD sound system (upgrade with a subwoofer if you can), superb stainless-steel bimini-top framework, chrome-over-brass through-hull fittings and a solid brass drain plug.
Bowrails are 25mm welded 316-grade stainless, as is the stern-mounted rail with ski tow-eye. Thick rubber-backed carpet is installed in one piece, and is guaranteed to be UV resistant for up to 3000 hours.
Seat and cushion upholstery is covered for five years against manufacturer defects, and there's even a lifetime warranty on the Faria engine gauges.
The demo boat also had a few options: a stainless-steel rub rail, colour-moulded engine vents, bow ladder, and a local Breeze dual-axle trailer with manual override brakes courtesy of the dealer. In other words, it basically left the factory as a turnkey package even without options.

 

 

ROOM TO ROAST


The boat's 2.59m beam - which may or may not necessitate that you acquire a permit for daylight-only towing, depending on which state you live in and how serious the authorities are about enforcing the rule - results in abundant internal space.
Crownline has taken the inner mouldings right to the hull sides, reducing wasted space by way of gunwales, and fitted an extremely accommodating seating plan in the cockpit.
In fact, the 900mm-wide aft sunlounge is one of the biggest I've tried on for size. Unlike small lounges created by relocating aft swab seats, this is a permanent number that's almost as broad as the boat. There is a hinged infill cushion and a removable lounge cushion on the starboard side over the non-skid companionway leading to and from the transom.
Cushions down, you can recline on the deep lounge-cum-daybed without fear of rolling into the water at the behest of others' boat wake. The hinged and removable sections are handy when the kids are diving off the boarding platform, climbing the swim ladder, jumping aboard for a drink, diving off the boarding platform, climbing the swim ladder, jumping aboard for chips, diving off... as little summer-mad Vegemites are known to do.
Internally, the boat has a full-width aft lounge at the foot of the sunlounge which, despite there being no grabs in the middle seats, is truly big enough to seat four people. I also tested its horizontal comforts and consider the lounge big enough to double as a second daybed.
Both the aft sunlounge and that adjoining internal lounge swallow up a fair bit of the cockpit. As such, it is wide rather than long. But there is legroom and, well, this is a very comfortable boat for sitting in and lounging about, rather than one for running amuck on the carpeted floor.
The helm seats on the 206 LS are simply excellent. They have flip-up bolsters for better vision over the windscreen when parking and retrieving your rig.
Unlike some of the jump seats in American boats that are akin to stools, these are deep buckets designed to retain their occupants - which is just as well, as we were subjected to some tight cornering and silly-bugger boat testing courtesy of you-know-who.
The bow seating is also deep and spacious, gathered around the sides of a beamy bowpit, where stainless grabrails and plastic grab handles can be found. There is room for two adults to sit or stretch the legs and lean against the sculptured backrests. Drinkholders are handy.
Due to its wide beam and voluminous hull, the 206 LS had a lot of freeboard and flotation right along its length. As such, it's not one to ship water on the bay or harbour, or when hauling in the anchor.
Speaking of which, there was a small anchor well with a deadeye, which isn't always the case on American lake boats.
I also found a lined box under the forward seat cushion section that could be used to store the rope or drinks on ice.
Sensibly, there is diamond-print non- skid on the foredeck and anchor locker lid. This allows you to disembark safely on the beach. This is made doubly easy thanks to the test boat's brilliant optional bow ladder. Equipped this way, the 206 LS borrows a little something from the sundeck concept.

 

 

ROLL YOUR OWN WAY


The 206 LS is especially well endowed with storage for toting everything from safety gear and watersports apparatus to personal effects.
Most hatch lids lift on gas struts; some have double-moulded lids with nice smooth undersides; and there are rubber mats to protect skis, wakeboards and suchlike where needed.
Some rummaging revealed sub-seat storage in the bow; handy mini sidepockets beside the helm seats for storing mobiles, wallets and so on; a cavernous lined subfloor cockpit locker with lockable hatch for holding watersports gear; and a lockable glovebox.
I counted eight drinkholders and, under a hinged aft lounge seat base, discovered the supplied 23lt portable cooler sitting snug in its own moulded recess. Alongside was another lift-back seat base granting access to yet another storage area.
There are spare storage voids either side of the V6 4.3 MPI 220hp MerCruiser and a zip-up watertight sleeve for, presumably, stowing manuals. The weighty tome that came with the Crownline took up a fair portion of the glovebox.
The dash, meanwhile, is a modern-looking number with carbon-fibre panels, a tilt wheel and non-glare surface facing the armourplate windscreen. The gauges include a trim switch and Lowrance numerical depthsounder. The rocker switches have easily discernible icons denoting their functions for things such as the bilge pumps, blower and optional (not fitted) washdown. I also noted a 12V outlet jack.
The boat was also fitted with courtesy lights, non-skid tread steps in the cockpit, recessed cleats and above-deck cleats where you need them. In some ways, though, it wasn't the easiest boat to board without stepping on some vinyl lounge cushions. At least that vinyl is a heavy-duty material backed by a five-year warranty.
Back on the website you'll find a provision whereby you can build your own Crownline using a base boat and options list. Among the options are graphics packs, cover kits, bow filler cushions, wood-grain kit but not much more.

 

 

DRIVE TIME


The engine installation appeared nice and professional; the lay-up in out-of-the-way paces none too daggy; and there was plenty of room in the white bay to upgrade to a 5.0L 260hp V8 motor should you seek more torque.
That, or a smaller pitch propeller, would certainly have helped with holeshot.
Spinning a 19in three-blade stainless prop, the Crownline 206 LS was a little "doughy" coming out of the hole, and I sensed that there was some unwanted propeller slip or cavitation - though I could be wrong.
The boat held plane down to 2600rpm, which was showing about 20mph (34kmh) on the supplied speedo. Another run with a 17in prop will tell a different story.
I noted a casual cruise at 3000rpm of 27mph (46kmh) on the speedo, which is also pretty much social skiing speed. Fast cruise with the leg trimmed so the boat was running free was recorded at 3500rpm and 38mph (65kmh) and 4000rpm and 45mph (77kmh) on the speedo.
The speedo showed a top speed of 56mph (95kmh), though speedos have been known to be out by up to 10 per cent. In any case, this is a 50mph-plus boat, which is the benchmark of what I consider a sporty bowrider.
Handling was excellent at high speeds, and the standard Alpha One leg and the 19in prop didn't let go or cavitate in fast turns. I glanced at the fuel gauge and figured I didn't have the range to make it down to some more open water.
I did have plenty of opportunity on Middle Harbour to tackle passing boat wake, however. The boat's full bow sections offset its deadrise to some degree. But I think the ride will improve with more weight in the boat and a smaller prop.
Not that my opinions count for much: clearly, many of you have already made your minds up!
If nothing else, 50 Crownlines on a ship bound for Australia is a vote of confidence. And when that ship arrives, expect to read a lot more about the new Crownies making waves Down Under.

 

 

HIGHS


• Well-made product with excellent finish
• Strong company backing
• Abundant and comfortable seating
• Wide beam and deep freeboard
• Sporty handling

 

 

LOWS


• Sluggish out of the blocks and in need of a smaller-pitch prop
• Difficult coming aboard without stepping on the vinyl upholstery
• Local buyers haven't the same support and rendezvous (yet) offered to US customers
• Need daylight towing permit in some states

 

 

 


Specifications: Crownline 206 LS

 

 

HOW MUCH?


Price as tested: $59,950 w/ 4.3MPI MerCruiser, local Breeze trailer and options
Options fitted: Stainless-steel rub rail, colour-matched engine vents, bow anchor and local trailer
Priced from: About $58,500 w/ 4.3MPI MerCruiser and trailer

 

 

GENERAL


Material: GRP hull with 'glass-encapsulated timber stringers and full structural liner
Length (overall): 6.60m
Beam: 2.59m
Deadrise: 21°
Rec/max hp: 220/280hp
Weight: About 1500kg dry

 

 

CAPACITIES


Fuel: 151lt
Water: n/a
Passengers: Eight adults/850kg capacity
Accommodation: Daybeds

 

 

ENGINE


Make/model: MerCruiser 4.3MPI
Type: Four-stroke petrol inboard
Rated hp: 220 @ 4400-4800rpm
Displacement: 4.3lt
Weight: About 390kg dry
Drive (make/ratio): Alpha I, 1.62:1
Prop: 19in stainless steel

 

 

SUPPLIED BY


TR Marine, 4 Curtis Road, McGrath's Hill, NSW, tel (02) 4577 3522 or visit www.trmarine.com.au

 

Originally published in TrailerBoat #186

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