By: David Lockwood, Photography by: John Ford, Coastcolour

It’s going to be a long hot summer, so the forecasts say, and ideal weather to get into the outdoor action of the American-built Four Winns Horizon 200 and 200HSS bowriders, writes David Lockwood

It’s right about now, as the days lengthen and, depending on where you live, daylight savings kicks in; as the heady smells of summer — salt air, fresh-cut grass and barbecues — take over from the dank mushroom aromas; and as the water sheds its icy-green winter hues and turns invitingly blue and warm that our thoughts turn to summer-savvy boats.
Cast your eyes around the waterways and, no prizes for guessing, bowriders are the craft most likely to been seen skipping from bay to bay on a summer fun run, towing the tykes on a steely bend of a big river, or anchored fore and aft off a beach with the sun-kissed crew doing lunch ashore.
A long-time player in the burgeoning bowrider market, American giant Four Winns makes its fair share of summer boats to go. But the big American, which is part of the Genmar group that owns some 13 different boat brands, separates itself from the pack by way of its sparkling showroom finish and fitout that goes beyond what others offer. Things like docking lights are standard, for example, as is a neat Clarion stereo system with iPod jack. Then come the options…
In respect of this double Four Winns bowrider test, there really is some eye candy to tempt you. With optional tow tower, lunch table and stainless steel bow scuff plate, and on a blue-sky day, the Horizon 200 (the primary focus of this test) looked keen. Needless to say, it didn’t pull any punches when we turned the key of its top-of-the-range upgraded 260hp MerCruiser 5.0 MPI petrol inboard instead of standard 190hp or 220hp V6 donk.
However, the 200SS based on the same hull but, as tested, with an upgraded 300hp 350MPI MerCruiser, plus switchable exhaust, racy low-profile windscreen, groovy graphics and even smarter wakeboarding tower, took us to new places. Crack that exhaust and the unmistakable V8 note announces your presence and is, well, sure to attract attention.
You pay a price for the extra bling, bigger motor and subsequent blatt — some $10,000 over the 200 Horizon — but Four Winns is banking on avid watersports buffs going wobbly at the knees, going delirious and considering it money well spent. 

It’s nice to know Four Winns backs its hulls with a lifetime warranty for all structural components of the hull and deck, and two years for non-structural parts. Construction is plain old fibreglass or GRP, with fibreglass stringers and moulded fibreglass cockpit and engine room liners. The rub rail has a stainless steel insert and, in fact, there appears a good deal of stainless steel aboard to handle saltwater use.
The Sure-Load trailers manufactured by Four Winns are done so to suit each boat and its hull shape. Construction is closed box-section steel but, sensibly, the Sydney Four Winns dealer ticked some of the trailer-option boxes including the one that reads Galvanised and Gatorhyde, the latter a secondary protective coating. The single-axle trailers were also bundled with optional heavy-duty towing kits including electric brakes, and better tyres, plus spare wheel.
Though it doesn’t break any design moulds, the Horizon 200 appeared well assembled. On the engineering front, the 5.0MPI was easy to access in an engine room whose lid lifts (manually) with the aid of gas struts. There were moulded storage bins either side of the small-block V8 as part of the engineroom liner, good access to the battery and steering fluid reservoir, and I could easily check fluid levels, belts and get my hand into the bilge…. about the sum total of what you need to do before setting out on a turnkey boat like this.
The hull, meanwhile, is a moderate-vee number with 19º of deadrise. Four Winns calls it a Stable-Vee hull, which goes some way to describing the way in which it’s a compromise between a deep-vee and a flatter or more moderate shape necessary for stability at rest and when hanging out. The hull has a rounded plank, a couple of strakes each side and prominent reverse chines.
The after pod or moulded sections under the boarding platform, either side of the sterndrive leg, provide additional buoyancy and lift when the boat jumps onto the plane, while the stepped running surface reduced drag once up and running. The 200 and 200SS turned nice and flat as intended, and there was nothing untoward about their handling. And with towers, both boats are bound to be on the shopping list as summer tow craft.

Naturally, my tour of duty began at the blunt end where many a summer’s day is bound to be enjoyed. But for some extra bling, a different windscreen and upgraded wakeboarding tower, and some graphics and gelcoat, the Horizon 200 and its racy sistership, the 200SS, have the same layout. So let’s look at them as one…
The boarding platform, which is an integral part of the boat, has a deep-reach swim ladder, subtle non-skid finish, centre ski hook and nearby pop-up cleats. In fact, all the cleats are the pop-up type, which is a listed option that helps keep the decks clean and uncluttered. As touched on, it was nice to see docking lights as standard as well as solid stainless steel handrails instead of plastic ones.
The upholstered enginebox lid doubles as a decent sunpad, while providing sound insulation. With a hinged section of sunpad (but no means of keeping it open) and a removable section of aft lounge you can create a walk-through transom so the tykes can trounce into the cockpit when wet without having to tread on the upholstery.
Such is the wide-beam, which measures 2.54m and may necessitate a wide-load permit that, with the lounge infill in place, is long enough to function as a daybed. In fact, if you tug on the lounge base it slides out some more to make a deeper and yet more-accommodating captain’s bed.
There is storage under the lounge, plus two small sidepockets, a rubber-backed underfloor ski/wakeboarding locker, and stainless steel drinkholders and grabrails within reach of the rear lounge. Another nice thing is the way that the windscreen extends well aft back to provide additional spray protection for crew.
But the best feature is the lift-up centre section of lounge base that reveals the supplied Igloo portable cooler for the refreshments and/or lunch. The optional supplied lunch table, clip-in carpets and bimini for shade, plus swivel helm bucket seats, complete the setting. The boat was supplied with optional cockpit and bow covers, too.
Then comes the sound systems: a four-speaker Clarion on the Horizon 200, but a more serious upgraded stereo with sub-woofer, tweeters and additional tower-mounted speakers on the 200SS. The optional tower on the 200SS was, in fact, an upgraded Deluxe model with four-board racks. It just needed some pre-delivery work to make sure it was better mounted, as there was some disconcerting movement on the demo boat.

The bowrider area is adult compatible, meaning there is enough freeboard and the seating sufficiently long enough to accommodate two grownups without shipping water at low speed. Besides sub-seat and pocket storage behind the backrests, and back under the helm pods, there was a dedicated anchor holder with sufficient space for a short length of rope for the inevitable off-the-beach anchoring.
The optional walkthough door on both boats was a smart addition for year-round boating and, once closed, and with a bow cover fitted, you can create a runabout with terrific wind protection. Either way, the co-pilot gets a lockable glovebox plus an icebox for storing a few drinks aboard, while the helm is a sporty number.
With race-red accent panels, the dash on the 200SS really looked the bomb. Yet even the Horizon 200 had a nice spread of Faria gauges including tacho, speedo, depth and combo gauge showing fuel/oil/volts/engine temp. The new push-button stainless steel switches are smart, as is the storage pocket for personal effects like phones and wallets.
The bucket seats are nice and supportive and, with flip-up bolsters, you are assured great sight lines when sitting up and close-quarters manoeuvring. Last but not least, the race-style windscreen on the 200SS did, in fact, work as a windbreak, and along with upgraded V8, race wheel and through exhaust, this racy bowrider was rearing to go.

With the biggest engine option, that of the 260hp MerCruiser 5.0 MPI with Alpha One sterndrive leg, the Horizon 200 hit an impressive 43.7kts top speed at top revs of 5000. But it was how the boat got there that was just as important — acceleration is snappy, with just some fleeting moments of bow lift.
Low-speed plane on the Horizon 200 was clocked at 2250rpm and 15kts, skiing speed was around 20kts at 2500rpm, while 3000rpm gave a 25-knot cruise. The hull was, however, a bit porpoisy at higher revs. With a touch negative trim to help glue the bow to the water, the 200 ran well at 3500rpm at 32kts, but maximum continuous revs of 4500rpm and 40 to 41kts is for flat-water only.
Interestingly, the 200SS with biggest engine option of 300hp MerCruiser 350 MPI and Bravo One sterndrive leg returned a top speed of 45.1kts at 6000rpm after we cracked the Quick and Quiet through-hull exhaust to milk the last few hundred revs. In other words, it’s just a knot and a half quicker, though it sounds faster than that.
With plenty of get up and go, nice wide stable hulls, lots of plush seating and a decent spread of amenities, Four Winns are bowriders built on a popular recipe. And judging by the forecasts, it‘s going to be a long hot summer where a decent boat to go and a bunch of watersports gear is as essential as cold drink and a swim somewhere.

Nice packaged boats with nothing left wanting
Well-known badge in Australia
Wide-beamed hulls are stable with plenty of seating
Nice spread of stainless steel fittings
Great engine access
The optional towing towers for plenty of summer fun
Keen to jump out of the blocks
Nice cornering

No catch or strut on the fold-back sunpad cushion, so it’s likely to blow shut when a walkthrough cockpit
Both towers vibrated at speed and the tower on the 200SS needed to be refixed
Ride from the wide-bodied hulls with V8s was quite flighty
Fuel capacity of 132lt is limiting for the 200SS especially
While the finish was good, it wasn’t exceptional
It’s now time for Four Winns to invest in a redesign phase
Like a lot of American boats with bling, you will need to baby these bowriders to keep them looking their best


Specifications: Four Winns Horizon 200/200SS

Price as tested: The Horizon 200 was selling for $68,000 with 260hp MerCruiser 5.0 MPI, select options, trailer, safety gear and registrations
The 200SS was selling for $78,000 with 300hp 350 MPI, select options, trailer, safety gear and regos
Options fitted: The Horizon 200 had optional tow tower, bow infill cushion, bow scuff plate, walkthrough door, pull-up cleats, table, iPod port, cockpit and forward cover, upgraded galvanised trailer with brakes, safety equipment package and regos
The 200SS had optional Deluxe tow tower, stereo upgrade, bow infill cushion, bow scuff plate, walkthrough door, pull-up cleats, table, iPod port, cockpit and forward cover, upgraded galvanised trailer with brakes, safety equipment package and regos

Material: GRP hull and stringers, and vinylester resin
Length (overall): 6.0m
Beam: 2.54m
Draft: 0.81m
Deadrise: 19º
Weight: Approx 1390kg (hull and motor)

Rec/max HP: 260/300
Fuel: 132lt
Water: n/a
Passengers: 635kg (max)
Accommodation: Camp on deck

Make/model: 5.0 MPI MerCruiser/350 MPI MerCruiser
Type: Injected V8 petrol four-stroke engines
Rated Hp: 260 at 4400 to 4800rpm/300 at 5800 to 6000rpm
Displacement: 5.0lt/5.8lt
Weight: Approx 390kg/420kg
Drive (make/ratio): Alpha One/Bravo One
Props: Alloy, S/S

Sydney Power Centre,
97 Darley Street,
Mona Vale, 2103, NSW
Phone: (02) 9997 7797

Originally published in TrailerBoat #224


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