By: Rick Huckstepp, Photography by: Rick Huckstepp

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A number of cosmetic improvements to an already popular hull has made Quintrex’s 540 Freedom Sport one of the standout value-for-money boats this year, writes Rick Huckstepp




The recent Australian Marine Industries Federation awards held in south-east Queensland and Sydney Harbour paid tribute to a wide variety of craft from large cruisers to small dinghies, both imported and home-grown.
One particularly crowded category in the awards was Australian Dayboat of the Year, after a process of elimination, six finalists made it to the last round for the on-water tests. To take out the award, these boats had to rate better than a total average of 90 per cent when all the judges' scores were added up. Criteria considered included safety, ergonomics, performance and value for money. Quintrex's impressive 540 Freedom Sport aluminium bowrider ended up taking out this category.




With only a day to go before the start of the hectic show circuit with Sydney's Fishing Show & Outdoors Expo, I squeezed in a trip down to Coomera to see what all the hoo-haa was about. We could not have picked a colder morning (yes, it even gets cold in south-east Queensland during winter folks!) for a run down the Coomera River. With about 10 degrees ambient and 17.5 degrees in the water, we had just two chances of getting Quintrex's PR assistant Jacqui White onto a ski tube. None and bugger-all! So a run around the glassy waterway was the order of the morning.
This boat is aimed squarely at the first-time boat buyer and is rigged as an "instant boating package" featuring a 90hp Saltwater Mercury, which is the cheaper carburetted model. As we tested here, its price tag of $33,550 plus dealer delivery charges compares well to other boats in the bowrider/runabout market, although if you chose to fit an OptiMax or four-stroke, it might cost a few grand more. As a base package, it's a fair price.
With a maximum beam approaching 2.4m, the 540 can carry a payload of six adults and a decent amount of gear, and while tested with three adults aboard, the 90hp had heaps of punch so could handle another three average-sized people. But if you do plan on carrying heavy loads on a regular basis, the maximum 115hp rating would be advised.




So, what got the Freedom Sport over the line? Well for a start, it looks stunning in fire-engine red paint and canopy sock trim. Forward in the bowrider section the seating has been dramatically improved with thick, sculpted high-density cushions and thicker, more ergonomically sensitive backrests. The bowpit comfortably accommodates two adults. Under the seats there's rotaform moulded inserts for stowage, while an optional carpet-covered infill over the base (when the cushions are removed) turns this area into a good-sized casting deck.
A walk-through screen allows access to the cockpit via the companionway between the helm and passenger module, and there's also a door you can close to cut the wind - which was much appreciated on our cool test day.
A net arrangement holds your lifejackets in place under the console modules. This is a good spot to stow them, as once out of sight and out of mind below hatches, dampness eventually causes these important items to rot.
A large compartment in front of the passenger seat has room for a lot of goodies. The lid seemed a little flimsy, but it shut and locked firmly. The helm station was nicely laid out. Lowrance's X51 was fitted to the top of the dash and if you wanted to upsize, there's room for both sounder and handheld GPS. The rest of the instrumentation was neatly set out to the right of the wheel for easy viewing.




Both helm seats swivel and backrests flip to face forward or aft, so you don't have to swivel the bases. These seats are very wide and comfortable. A huge ski hatch running up forward and aft under the cockpit deck was constructed of rotaform moulding and a shorter one aft ran across the beam and is another big tick in the box when it comes to storage space.
The cockpit of this boat is fully carpeted and while the deck is not sealed, and thus not "self-draining", it does have small scuppers in the aft end allowing for drainage of water to some degree. This type of deck is referred to by Quintrex as a "Splash Deck".
A big improvement on the current model Freedom Sport is the smart-looking one-piece cockpit liners featuring a drinkholders, two rod racks and sidepocket assemblies featuring a padded "leaning" section to protect your knees when standing against the coaming.
A padded backrest wrapped around the aft corners and a drop-down lounge base collapses flush with the rear bulkhead. In this position the lounge did not allow your feet to be placed under for security when fishing over the stern. Sure, the seat could be removed easily, but what do you do with it when out on the water other than trip over it all day?




Heading down the river at full throttle pulled 5900rpm on the engine with the handheld GPS showed 60.5kmh. Backing off, the Freedom Sport held the plane until 3000rpm and 18kmh. At 4000rpm the 540 found its comfort cruise at 38.5kmh and with engine leg trimmed in, it could be thrown into a full lock for a smooth and tight turn with no ventilation at the prop. Hydraulic steering was smooth and this rig was wonderfully easy to drive off the wheel.
Featuring Quintrex's level flotation, which will allow the boat to remain level and upright should it be swamped, the 540 Freedom Sport offers safety-conscious boaties peace of mind.
The length and shape of this hull delivers a remarkably surefooted, soft and dry ride. It handles predictably, has heaps of performance with modest power, is responsive to trim and can be buttoned up to dance across a decent chop at full noise. The fullness in the bow and down-turned chines threw spray wide and kept occupants dry.
There's heaps of space internally, the comfort levels have been increased over the older models, and cosmetic refinements like the cockpit walls have really given this boat a more cohesive, attractive feel.
As well as pleasing the wife and kids with sporty performance, space and comfort, once the rear seat is taken out and bowrider cushions replaced with the casting deck, the boat would catch as many fish as the next one.
And for less than $35,000 drive-away, it's affordable buying. No wonder the judges were impressed!




Smooth, easy steering and excellent handling with modest power
Comfortable bowrider section
Rod racks and casual storage
Competitive buying
Plenty of interior space




Rear lounge bench compromises fishability
Plastic sidepockets and console modules not as classy as fibreglass




Specifications: Quintrex 540 Freedom Sport




Price as tested: $33,550
Options fitted: Hull paint
Priced from: As above with 90hp carbureted two-stroke, sounder, bimini top, lounge cushions, trailer, safety gear pack and registrations




Hull type: Aluminium monohull
Material: Pressed aluminium 4mm bottom, 2mm topsides
Length (overall): 5.62m
Beam: 2.4m
Deadrise: 12°
Weight: 595kg (boat only)



Rec/max HP: 90/115
Fuel: 95lt
Water: n/a
Passengers: Six adults



Make/model: Mercury Saltwater 90
Type: Three-cylinder carburetted oil injected
Rated hp: 90
Displacement: 1386cc
Weight: 138kg
Gearbox ratio: 2.30:1 
Propeller: 18in Vengeance



Quintrex Boats,
Phone: (07) 5585 9898



Originally published in TrailerBoat #195

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