REVIEW: GLASTRON GXL 205

By: DAVID LOCKWOOD, Photography by: JOHN FORD


The GXL 205 from Glastron is evidence that the company continues to improve it product with each new release

Glastron is your consummate American high-volume manufacturer of boats to go. Naturally, most of the turnkey consumer craft are bowriders, 18-20-odd feet in length, with inboard petrol power. The company has a range of pricepoints from the basic MX to the GT and GXL series. A boat for every middle-class American.
Nothing wrong with that only I have been disappointed in the past when, those entry-level MX boats, which sell for under US$10,000 drive-away, end-up nudging $30,000 here. And still they are very much basic boats with a robotic kind of finish.
Not so the Glastron GXL 205. Pitched as a top-shelf bowrider, this 20-footer had the kind of attention to detail, fitout and considerate design that you wouldn't neccesarily associate with a computer-rolled, mass-produced, boat manufacturer.
What's more, it was pleasing to find the fitout embraced mainly sturdy stainless-steel deck fittings that will stand-up to saltwater use Down Under. And as always the performance, which is what Glastron touts as its strength, was impressive. But not noisy like some of the MX boats I've driven in the past.
Specifically, where the GXL series differs, at least if this 20-footer is any indication, is with things like the instrument panel, the centre rear walkthrough in the transom, the snap-in cockpit carpet and the plush upholstery with contoured cushioning and mindfully accommodating bow to stern lounges.
To which you can go further and add optional wake-boarding tower, upgraded engines from the base 5.0L 220hp inboard to an eye-watering 300hp 350 Magnum, Captains Call throaty through-hull exhaust and more. The demo boat was fitted with a perky 5.0L 260hp MerCruiser good for 50mph-plus, the performance benchmark for a bowrider.
There was also an optional stainless-steel upgrade kit for the deck gear, docking lights, bow and stern filler cushions and a full canvas kit that collectively took the boat to a level that seemed well suited to our climate. To which you can add an extended - much welcomed - boarding platform to add to the waterfront real estate and transom sterndrive trailer trim switch and stereo remote,
Think of it as a bit like a Ghia or Calais upgrade, but stopping short of an LTD. Guests will be impressed and, on the amenities front, there's plenty to ensure your day of pleasure boating is comfy. Which is one reason why, I guess, this $65,000 boat is in a market that is still hot, while the $20,000-$30,000 entry-level arena is quiet. Boatbuyers want more and, providing the boat delivers, are happy to pay for it.

VEC HULL
Considered one of Genmar's, the giant multinational American marine company's, most efficient badges, Glastron was among the first boatbuilders anywhere to introduce closed-moulded manufacturing. The so-called VEC process leads to what are essentially two-piece boats, with liquid foam squirted in between the hull and deck for rigidity, floatation and, as an added bonus, sound deadening.
You won't find a splinter of timber in these cutting-edge plastic boats, that start as a project on a computer-aided design (CAD) program, and pass through manufacturing processes involving more than 500 monitoring processes. This way, the ingredients are kept in check and every boat is popped out within the tightest of tolerances.
More importantly for the boatbuyer, Glastron backs its VEC hulls with lifetime limited structural warranties. On top of which, the local dealers have been selling Glastrons for at least five years now, winning international dealer awards, and thus buyers can expect great support at ground level.

PACKAGED TO GO
Arriving on an American dual-axle Ezy Loader drive-on trailer with manual override brakes and a spare tyre, the GXL 205 hasn't an overly wide beam but a useful 2.44m girth that therefore doesn't require a wide-load towing permit. That kicks in with the next GXL model, the 235. All-up towing weight is about 1900kg, well within the capabilities of the V6 sedan or mid-range 4WD.
As far as fitout is concerned, the GXL 205 has a lot of good gear and some clever integral design. Starting at the blunt end, the family friendly layout included the aforesaid extended boarding platform, which provides somewhere extra to hangout, a fold-down deep-reach swim ladder, stainless steel grab and trick ski hook, plus that optional transom stereo remote - the boat comes with a four-speakers CD/radio - so you can dial-up your iPod playlist before taking a dip.
The boat had popup aft cleats and a walkthrough transom. Cleverly, the centre upholstered cushion that creates a continuous rear lounge folds up and out of the way. This way, kiddies can trounce through the boat without destroying the premium upholstery.
The two exterior aft moulded wet storage wells were a clever addition, providing somewhere to store the togs, wetsuit, mask and snorkel, or even create a temporary icebox for drinks.
Inside the cockpit itself, the rear lounge is actually a U-shaped number that can seat four, which also had an optional aftermarket dealer-fitted table for doing lunch. With the (optional) stern cushion there was a giant rear sunpad big enough for three.
Under the lounge lived a portable 36-can Igloo esky, while six drink holders were dotted about the place, and I noted cockpit courtesy lights plus clip-in carpet. The internal fibreglass moulded liner was well finished, too. And there was a 12V aft accessory plug for the mobile phone or, better still, the video camera when in watersports towing mode.
All the hatches lift on gas struts, there are stainless-steel grab rails, and while the seating layout is generous, because it's a walkthrough design, the cockpit remains uncluttered. All up seating can cater for six adults, with a load capacity listed as 669kg.
Storage exists in a big subfloor lined ski and wakeboarding locker - without a gas strut - and in the bow in various lined lockers. There's a glovebox, albeit not lockable, ahead of the copilot, plus the boat has a dedicated anchor well with clips to store a plough anchor (though limited room for rope). Still, an anchor locker isn't a given on an American-made bowrider.
The windscreen was a solid wraparound safety-glass number held up with stainless-steel struts. The centre-opening section falls back on a stopper. The seating in the bow is big enough to accommodate two adults with legs outstretched. More drinkholders and stainless-steel grabs, too.
And with the infill you have a sunpad. Cool docking lights add to the GXL 205's upmarket appearance.
Back aft, the engine box lid/sunlounge lifts on a gas strut to reveal good access around the 5.0L v8 block to the basic servicing and predeparture items. The boat has a single battery and room left over to stow a tub or two of gear beside the motor. For a closed-moulded boat, storage wasn't too bad at all.

AT THE HELM
The twin helms seats, with flip-up bolsters, built-in suspension, rotomoulded seat bases, and Springfield mechanisms were fittingly comfortable. Though there's no timber in the boat, there's faux walnut on the dash. Give me carbon fibre any day.
There was a full spread of Faria gauges from tacho and speedo to fuel and trim, a dash stereo remote, numerical depth sounder, and switches for blower, bilge pump, lights, horn and 12V accessory. The sports wheel was a tilt number. Together, the ergonomics and vision when seated were enough to score a few ticks on my notepad.
But for all the improvements the drive still rated as the highlight. The GXL 205 has plenty of acceleration, was super smooth, agreeable and sporty. Without doubt that foam between hull and deck helps to quell to noise. But a sharp 21-degree transom angle in the hull doesn't go astray, either.
With the Alpha One sterndrive leg trimmed in all the way the boat planed at 9.3 knots at 2000rpm. But it wasn't until 2500rpm that the boat cruised level and efficiently for a handy 20.7 knots. Cruise came in about mid-20 knots at 3000rpm where the small-block V8 sounded throaty and there was nominal trim on the leg.
At 3500rpm, I hit a fast cruise of 32 knots and high-speed cruise was clocked at 37.5 knots at 4000rpm. But at 4500rpm the MerCruiser sounded a tad harsh for 41.5 knots, while top speed was a dashing 46.5 knots at WOT of 5100rpm. Thus, the boat reaches the 50mph bowrider benchmark.
One of Glastron's newest boats, the 2007 GXL 205 proves that you can build boats fast, in great numbers, using robots and automated assembly lines, and build them well. The GXL costs a premium on the entry-level Glastrons but it delivers. And, in the long run, that will save you money.
In short, a nice summer bowrider that packs a lot of comforts, clever design and an enjoyable ride aboard an easily handled package. A boat to go with some brains and, as I jotted down on my notepad, possibly the best Glastron yet.

WHAT WE LIKED
Polished finish and great attention to detail
Clever deck design
Seating is generous
Anchor well and stainless-steel deck gear
A great performer

NOT SO MUCH
Bow is quite low to the water below planing speeds
Glovebox not lockable
High-quality finish will require maintenance
Aft iceboxes/wet storage wells drain into bilge, not overboard

 

Specifications: Glastron GXL 205

HOW MUCH?
Price as tested: $65,000 w/ 5.0L MerCruiser MPI, dual-axle braked trailer, options and regos and safety gear.
Options fitted: Engine upgrades, transom stereo remote, extended boarding platform, bow and stern seating infills, docking lights, canvas package and dealer-fitted table.
Priced from: About $60,000 w/5.0L MerCruiser 220hp and as basic package

GENERAL
Material: GRP or fibreglass with foam-filled VEC closed-moulded built hull
Type: Deep-vee planing hull
Length Overall: 6.07m plus extended swim platform
Beam: 2.44m
Deadrise: 21°
Weight: Around 1475kg (base motor and dry), plus about 500kg for trailer.

CAPACITIES
Berths: Camp on deck
Fuel Capacity:  132lt

ENGINE
Make/Model: MerCruiser 5.0L MPI
Type: V8 petrol four-stroke inboard motor.
Rated HP: 260@5000rpm max.
Displacement: 5.0L
Weight: About 430kg
Gearboxes (Make/ratio): Alpha One sterndrive 1.02:1
Props: 21in alloy

SUPPLIED BY
Webbe Marine,
Ph: 02 9521 7944
www.webbemarine.com.au,
www.glastron.com

Originally published in TrailerBoat #214

 


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