REVIEW: MALIBU SUNSCAPE 21LSV

By: David Lockwood, Photography by: John Ford


This streamlined Malibu Sunscape 21LSV bowrider is the perfect escape vessel — great for a relaxed family day on the bay or for a thrill-seeking high-performance ski run alike

There are plenty of instances where less is more: Christmas lunch, beer-drinking games and ironing are good examples. Conversely, the Malibu Sunscape 21LSV puts a strong case forward for more being more. And with an upgraded 340hp petrol Monsoon inboard engine from Indmar with ZF Hurth vee-drive, you get a 6.55m boat that's as big as a seven-metre model.
A multipurpose bowrider that caters for the rebounding interest in waterskiing, the Sunscape 21LSV has high sides, a wide beam and an interior that's deep, safe and wonderfully accommodating. In fact, the boat is rated to carry up to 12 passengers. The bow seating and buoyancy is such that adults can stretch their legs up front, with deep freeboard so you don't have to worry about water slopping aboard on a busy waterway like Sydney Harbour, the Broadwater or Port Phillip Bay.
To better handle saltwater use, Malibu designers have fine-tuned the boats over the years at the behest of the Australian manufacturer of Malibu. The licensed plant in Albury builds more than 300 boats a year, claiming more than 30 per cent of the local trailerable watersports market. With stainless steel used wherever possible, no timber in features like seat bases, for instance, and a hull lay-up that meets the strict standards of the American company, the boats have a strong resale value these days.
The so-called SV25 Diamond-Vee hull has a modified-vee running surface with deadrise from 25 degrees in the bow to 10 degrees at the transom. There are pronounced reverse chines and deep lips on the lifting strakes. The boat was keen to get cracking with the upgraded 340hp Monsoon motor, as opposed to the standard-issue 320hp model. The 176lt fuel tank should cater for a big day of skiing and cruising broken only for lunch.
Construction comprises GRP with a mix of chopped strand and numerous types of handlaid woven rovings in the high-load areas. There's also a sound-suppression layer, GRP stringers bonded to the hull for stiffness and a composite floor and rear engine-bay covers that don't warp when you tread on them.
In the water, and presumably on the trailer, the Sunscape 21LSV looks big. In fact, compared with the 2004 model, it's 15cm longer and 18cm wider, with about 10cm more freeboard. Supplied on a custom galvanised tandem Ezy Tow trailer with electric brakes, the rig tips the scales to 2200kg and measures 7.5m long. But with the clip-off teak boarding platform and folding drawbar you can get the garaging length down to 6.80m.
By the time you read this review the new 2006 model Sunscape LSV will be hitting the water. What are the differences? New deck tape, chrome dash inserts housing a new multifunction LCD screen, a drive-by-wire throttle and a new push-button PrecisionPro speed control system as standard. New options for the 2006 model include driver's seat heater, a PowerWedge, which is an electric/hydraulic remotely operated wedge/foil for bigger wakes, and a chrome billet glove box door to match the dash.
But that's pretty much it, so you can take this review as being applicable to the new release but for some largely cosmetic surgery and the speed control unit for set-and-forget skiing and boarding.

DEVIL IN THE DETAIL
Besides the upgraded engine, the demo boat boasted optional halogen docking lights and trick stainless-steel exhaust tips. While on the subject of stainless-steel fittings, the material was evident from the windscreen frame to its support struts, the rubrail to the grabrails in the bow and trick navigation light.
The bow pit, which can be sealed off from the cockpit using the supplied wind dam, is not only deep, with adult-length seats, but you get small sidepockets for stowing personals and nylon carpet that lines the sides and underseat storage areas. The seat bases are vented and, with the supplied infill, you can turn the bow into a second sunpad.
Anchor storage is best dealt with using a loose tub kept in, say, the spare storage area beside the motor. The pillar-less three-piece windscreen, under which there are vents feeding through subfloor stringers to the engine room, is an absolute beauty, with clear vision when seated.
Storage pockets line the companionway between bow and cockpit, with more storage in sidepockets, each of which includes a moulded insert with drinkholders and a speaker. There are stainless-steel grabrails here so the ski observer has something to hold onto when powering through the turns, which is something this boat — and this writer — revelled in.

SOCIAL LAYOUT
Seating is everything in the Sunscape 21LSV. Virtually the entire cockpit is given over to U-shaped lounge tracing the peripheries of the boat. Swivel the helm seat — with mechanical lumber support and flip-up bolster, of course — to face aft and six or more adults can sit around the lift-out lunch table. With two more in the bow you really can actually carry two families of four for a big day of skiing and summer fun.
The cockpit has a veritable catacomb of storage. Besides the aforesaid sidepockets there's a deep lockable glovebox and a huge cavern ahead of the co-pilot or ski observer, plus loads of space under the cockpit lounges. The port side lounge storage area is one long four-metre compartment running back to the transom, while the starboard lounge harbours a lined icebox that drains to the bilge and more lengthy storage room.
Yet more storage exists in the lined underfloor ski locker. The lockable engine bay and aft sunpad lids have storage nets on their underside, so you can dry your swimmers, plus dedicated recesses for stowing the lunch table. I'd chuck everything from picnic settings to towels and ski ropes in here. As they say about well-designed boats: everything has a place and there's a place for everything.
Among the details that impressed were the three 12V outlets for phones and video dotted about the cockpit; the trick folding arm rest on the rear lounge that includes drinkholders; the pop-up aluminium ski pole whose swivel top will help prevent tow-rope chafe; and the aft sunpad whose comfort-factor is boosted by the broad beam. The teak swim platform is at a convenient height that you can easily clamber back aboard after a ski run. I also noted twin fuel fillers so you can grab whatever slots vacant at the servo, and a panoramic rearvision ski mirror.
The sunpad lid over the engine bay lifts on gas struts and inside are removable side service engine panels. There was a Silent Rider wet exhaust — gee, this was a quiet boat — a freshwater flush system, but freshwater cooling is an option. The dipsticks were easy to access. Engineering included a 1 1/8in shaft, ZF Hurth 1:1 FNR gearbox and a Walter 1.46:1 v-drive.
Running gear ranged from an adjustable bronze rudder on twin cutless bearings, which means 2000h service intervals, and optional wedge in case you want more wake, to twin Gorilla fins for snappy turning and, ordinarily, a four-blade 13.5in x 17.5in CNC-cut Acme prop. However, the demo boat had a lower-geared 13.5in x 16in Wakesetter prop for hauling ballast.

DRIVE TIME
The beige, black, white and stainless-steel colour and graphics combo of the Sunscape 21LSV demo boat is pretty timeless — not too contemporary, but slimming and smart. There are some 20 other gelcoat colour choices. And, as ever with this badge, I found plenty of eye candy at the helm, not least being an Italian leather-bound Issotta steering wheel and matching throttle knob on a Morse shift.
The dash had trick Medallion instruments relaying oil pressure, fuel level, volts, speed, revs, and so on. A switchable LCD display reports back on air and water temperature, engine hours, and time of day. A depth sounder is optional, but the drinkholder and storage for personal effects come standard. There were neat rocker-style switches for every accessory, from the dealer-fitted Clarion four-speaker sound system with optional iPod interface to the lights, bilge pump and blower.
Ergonomically, this boat has what I consider a model helm and I dropped into the deep bucket seat with a sense of belonging. Despite the rear-mounted motor the boat came up level and the vision through the deep windscreen was clear. At whatever speed, the wind was pleasantly out of my eyes, and there was no spray to talk of.
The boat planned at 10.7kt at 2200rpm. It ran flatter at trick ski and wakeboard speed of about 20.1kt at 2700rpm to fast ski of 29.2kt at 3700rpm. Maximum cruise was 32.5kt at 4300rpm, but this and the top speed of 38.1kt at 5300rpm can be boosted to 35kt and 40kt respectively with the standard prop, says Simon Hill from Malibu.
Two things stood out about the drive: how quiet the boat was at all speeds, thereby allowing you to hold a conversation without shouting; and how tightly it cornered without letting go. I've been aboard smoother-riding boats through the chop, but this 21-footer was a competent summer conveyance with plenty of comfort.
It didn't surprise me to discover the Sunscape 21LSV is a popular choice for slalom skiing, as the wake was pretty flat and obliging. But on home waters it will be just as adept with a couple of young families, a carry-on cooler, a picnic setting and a program that involves getting wet. The more the merrier on this big-hearted social skiboat.

WHAT WE LIKED
High volume hull with plenty of freeboard for family social skiing
A well-made boat with terrific attention to detail
High-quality fittings
Accommodating seating
Ample storage space
Great ergonomics for driving pleasure
Smooth running and great off-the-wheel steering
Excellent resale value

NOT SO MUCH
Lots of vinyl to maintain
Not the smoothest-riding bowrider in the rough
Frequently updated models mean boats are soon superseded
In some ski areas, where every second boat seems to be a Malibu, you won't be noticed
Freshwater cooling would be nice if you plan to stick with the briny


Specifications: Malibu Sunscape 21LSV

HOW MUCH?
Price as tested: $67,491 inc. options
Options Fitted: Upgraded 340hp EFI Monsoon petrol motor, stainless-steel exhaust tips, Clarion CD stereo system, stainless docking lights, painted galvanised trailer with galvanised axles and more
Priced from: $61,447 w/ 320hp petrol inboard motor, plus dealer delivery and on roads

GENERAL
Material: GRP hull with sound-deadening layer and composite floor and engine-bay covers
Type: Modified-vee planing hull
Length Overall: 6.55m plus swim platform
Beam: 2.49m
Deadrise: 10° at transom
Weight: Around 1588kg with base motor or 2200kg on road

CAPACITIES
Fuel: 174lt
Water: BYO bottled
Berths: Nap on sunpads

ENGINE
Make/Model: Indmar Monsoon 340hp MPI EFI
Type: Inboard V8 four-stroke petrol
Rated hp: 340hp at 4800-5000rpm
Displacement: 5.7lt
Weight: n/a
Gearboxes (Make/ratio): ZF Hurth 1:1 w/ Walter 1.46:1 V-drive
Props: Std four-blade ACME 13.5in x 17.5in

SUPPLIED BY
GRE Marine Sales,
Rydalmere, NSW, 2166
Phone: (02) 9898 1010.

For interstate dealers contact the manufacturer:
Malibu Boats Australia,
Albury, NSW.
Phone: (02) 6040 1174
Web: www.malibuboats.com.au

Originally published in TrailerBoat #200

 


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