By: John Willis

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John Willis rated the Chaparral 216SSi so highly it surprised even him. The message is clear: if you’re looking for a top-line family boat, put this one on your list.


I love the Chaparral 216SSi and so does my family. In fact, I honestly believe it's one of the foremost bowriders in the world today. With its appearance dripping with modern luxury, enhanced by a distinct lashing of good old Yankee balls, this truly is the southern belle of the boating industry. It hails out of Nashville, Georgia and the company's patriarch, a lil' ol' fellah called Buck Pegg, certainly has a very fitting name. The name, the company and the entire Chaparral presentation spells good old Yankee strength and know how.

I recently borrowed one to take my family on a cruise along Melbourne's Yarra River. The occasion was a lovely summer's afternoon where I was hoping to refresh my product knowledge (in the selfless pursuit of business of course). My family has been spoiled by access to boats of all shapes, types and sizes, including some multi-million dollar offerings, so I was very surprised when both wife and daughter asked "can we buy one?" at the end of the day.






My first experience with the 216SSi was at the "Secret Men's Business" function (TrailerBoat #264) at Victoria's Lake Eildon last year. At this event a navy blue and white Chaparral 216SSi was possibly the least conspicuous of five Chaparral configurations kindly on offer to a bunch of media maniacs. The rest of the boats were the realm of the youngster or speedster, with flash paintjobs, high impact graphics, transformer waketowers, mobile bars with drink dispensers and ice machines, and thumping boom boxes that woke the spirits of the dead (as well as a few old boat journos).

The Chaparral 216SSi is fitted with the MerCruiser 350 Magnum V8 with an Alpha One leg although there's also an optional Volvo equivalent. Its superb handling only surpasses its performance as a fast runabout, social ski and wakeboat, or as a refined entertainer. The Chaparral has the solid feel of a Cadillac or Buick but with the sophistication and performance of a BMW. It employs the latest in safe, strong manufacturing techniques and is loaded with high-tech but easy-to-operate equipment. Chaparral incorporates Dupont Kevlar (yep, the same stuff they use for bullet proof vests, motorbike and chainsaw pants) in the Quad Radial lamination process, as well as fully foam-filled hulls, and you can instantly feel and hear the difference.

You won't need a saddle for this thoroughbred - this is a driver's boat. The helm position is very comfortable with a fully adjustable, thickly-padded bolster seat dressed in a premium, stain-resistant marine vinyl called Duralife Max.

Little things make huge differences in this highly competitive field. I'm a big bloke so I always need to adjust helm seats. The swivel locks and slide adjusters in the Chaparral are on the leading edge of the seat armrests so you don't have to fiddle around blindly under the seats to find them. There's also an armrest combined with the flush throttle controls to make things considerably more comfortable on long cruises. This even provides added support to critical speed control when powering fast through choppy waters, something that was certainly done during the test.

I took the Chaparral for a fun-filled frolic in Victoria's Port Phillip Bay, running fast through the chop as well as a few larger wakes and waves. We blew out the cobwebs, quickly reaching a very speedy 44kts (81.4kmh) at wide open throttle - just over the old 50mph - doing 4400rpm. My 15-year-old daughter was thrillseeking in the roomy Wide-Tech bow and loved the feel of the wind in her hair. Most importantly, I felt safe with her up there.

Chaparral describes the hull as having "Extended V-Plane Performance" meaning the keel extends all the way to the back of the boat so as to provide full-length bight, ride and buoyancy. Not only is it a solidly-built, foam-filled hull that transmits very little noise - it's a design that some of our bluewater experts should inspect for its excellent seakeeping abilities. It has terrific stability at rest and a pleasing rumble from the grunty V8. The 21in propeller bites hard both through immediate acceleration and in tight turns without a hint of cavitation and there was absolutely minimal bow rise from rest. The wake is quite suitable for some family skiing and the engine probably has the power for multiple slaloms, provided the maximum recommended 10 adults aren't partying onboard. Trim her out a bit and add some weight and the wake height will rise for boarding and surfing.






From bow to stern, the Chaparral has evolved into one of the most innovative bowriders on the market. The Wide-Tech bow is designed to safely carry the added weight of thrillseekers, with all seating and upholstery made to the highest possible standard. There is a separate anchor locker in the bow to keep muddy ground tackle out of the seating area, as well as storage under the seats and a couple of waterproof speakers for the Clarion remote-controlled stereo.

Coming back through the walkway into the cockpit the first thing you will notice is the strength of the safety glass windscreen, as well as little extras like a snug cushioned latch to hold the opened screen and stop it banging. The windscreen is swept up right across the front, giving terrific wind protection and maximizing forward vision. The doorway to the large storage compartment under the passenger dashboard conveniently doubles as a wind barrier in the companionway, stopping unwanted airflow through to the cockpit. A similar doorway gives access to the rear of the instrument panel on the driver's side. There's also docking, navigation and cockpit lighting that even has its own dimmer switch.

I really liked the dashboard presentations for both the driver and passenger positions. At the helm, the square set combination analogue and digital instruments are easy to read, and they reek of a tasteful, distinctly American influence, something I mean
in the nicest possible way.

There is room for a sounder / GPS /plotter to be recessed into the removable centre-section of the dash, but none were fitted to the test boat. The switch panels, Ritchie compass, Clarion remote, key start and 12V accessory plug are neat and uncluttered. There is a stylish leather-look sports steering wheel with tilt adjustment and very smooth and responsive power steering. The passenger dash has a large glovebox with separate 12V plug for accessories and a stainless Jesus bar. The passenger seating position has its own armrest, the same deluxe bolster seat, plenty of leg room, and more speakers and drinkholders.

The contoured sidepanels show an absolute devotion to quality moulding that is evident throughout the entire Chaparral range. To be honest, I don't think any other manufacturer does these small-but-important refinements this well. Just take a look at the badge inserts, stainless bar and tailored upholstery at the rear of the front swivel seats. Sure, you can buy a cheaper bowrider - but quality like this is priceless.

The combination rear lounge, enginebox, sunlounge and storage all match the rest of the boat for excellence in design. The lounges stop short of extending across the entire beam to create a walkway on the starboard side, which means no more dirty shoes and wet feet on the nice upholstery.

Lifting the hatches and cushions to inspect the quality underneath, I was pleased to find non-virgin polyethylene frames, gas struts, thick acoustic liners and double French stitched trims. There's also a huge wet and dry storage area and easy access to the engine for servicing. Perhaps the best part was a moulded recess that holds an Esky.

The side-mount table is conveniently stored under the rear lounge and my daughter loved the sunlounge at the rear. The lift-up back opens right up for the walkway; then tilts to 45° to form the chez lounge, or right back down for full-length sunlounge. During our cruise up the Yarra we couldn't get her off it.

At the stern is an integral non-skid staging platform for watersports. It has a telescopic stainless steel ladder for boarding that's enclosed with its own moulding and hatch. As with the entire cockpit, the rear platform also has a convenient stainless handle in the right place. Under the cockpit floor is a huge wet storage area that will take skis, wetsuits, fenders and all manner of boating accessories. Removable carpets are standard throughout.

Chaparral completes a premium presentation with a large bimini canopy made with Sunbrella canvass and a strong stainless steel frame, which features
some innovative breakaway fittings for easy assembly.

Finally, if you're looking for the actual sound system (as I was), it's out of harm's way under the passenger console.






Does the mere fact that Chaparral fits a fuel filler on each side of the boat - just for convenience - mean anything to you? It certainly speaks volumes to me. How many other companies do you know that display their historic balance sheet on their website?

My family and I give the Chaparral 216SSi full marks for a terrific, tasteful, inspiring and exciting presentation. Quite simply, we all just loved it!

This premium social and sports machine has exceptional value for money. Its power and handling is thrilling, and the visual appeal is simply stunning. The Chaparral 216SSi exudes individual character in a market full of imitation.







What happens when a sterndrive hits a submerged tree?

The first time I drove a Chaparral 216SSi it had a definite impact on me. Nope - not just an impact of how good it was, I mean a real impact, with a bloody great log! Editor Bazz and I were kindly invited by Scott from Chaparral Australia for a few days on beautiful Lake Eildon in rural Victoria. The trip fell just after the onslaught of the drought-breaking rains of last winter. The Lake had risen from almost empty to 70 per cent full in a matter of months, and while we were eternally thankful for the rain, we had to be wary of floating logs and branches uprooted by the rising water levels - all obstacles lurking just under the surface to snare unsuspecting speedsters.

Now we all love our illustrious editor Bazz, but it's a well known fact that he's a bit of a klutz. You know the kind, sort of like the mad professor whose obvious dedication to his talents sometimes gets in the way of better judgment. If something's going to happen, it'll happen to Bazz. He's the bloke who gets into the wrong car in a car park, scaring the daylights out of little old ladies (note: this really happened). I should have known I was taking my life in my hands by getting him to drive the wonderful Chaparral 216SSi. Sure enough, the inevitable happened: BANG!

Surprisingly, it happened while we were both gazing into the beautiful scene of glimmering reflections and early morning light that unfolded ahead. We were powering along at a speedy 40.5kts (75kmh) when a silent submerged sea monster grabbed us by the tail. Oh dear (actually, other expletives followed)! The last thing on my mind was a swim in the icy Eildon waters that combined High Country runoff with melting alpine snow. Bazz quickly turned off the boat; or maybe it stalled, I can't really remember. I quickly jumped back to inspect the bilge, fully expecting it to be filling quickly with icy water. The impact was that hard that I thought the MerCruiser Alpha One leg was somewhat behind us, firmly lodged in the teeth of the 18in diameter, 20ft long submerged hobgoblin that had just attacked us.

Surprise, surprise Gomer, no water! I climbed out to the big rear platform that had been the staging point for plenty of wakeboarding hijinks the previous day to inspect the leg, and to my surprise, it all seemed intact. There was no visible damage to the skeg or prop, and no leakage from damaged hydraulics, drive unit or gearbox. "Hey Bazz, try tilting her back down," I said. I chose to ignore his highly stressed response of "which button is that?" Eventually, the leg was tilted back down, the engine restarted and off we toddled, albeit somewhat relieved and surprised. Because unbelievably, there was no damage done!

So the sales pitch at Chaparral really does have a point. Sterndrive units are more forgiving than shaftdrives in situations where logs, submerged trees and all sorts of propmunchers lurk in waiting. I had to face facts and ask myself, "What would have happened if it had been a shaftdriven boat?"





On the plane...


Top marks in all classes



Dragging the chain...


My family wants me to buy one.







17.6kts (32.5kmh) @ 2400rpm

20kts (37.0kmh) @ 2500rpm (trimmed
up on the plane and a nice working speed)

27.5kts (50.9kmh) @ 3000rpm
(big V8 throats start working!)

33kts (61.1kmh) @ 3500rpm (really nice)

38kts (70.3kmh) @ 4000rpm (oh yeah!)

44kts (81.4kmh) @ 4500rpm
(WOT - now that's flying!)






Specifications: Chaparral 216SSi Bowrider






Price as tested: $70,000 on trailer

Options fitted: MerCruiser 5.7lt 350MAG Alpha 300hp, aluminium trailer, convenience package (compass, depth, transom tilt and remote), sunpad walkway cushion, swim platform logo mat, premium package (dock lights, pull-up cleats, scuff bowplate), and much more

Priced from: $64,999 incl. trailer






Type: Deep-vee monohull

Material: GRP composite

Length (overall): 6.55m

Beam: 2.54m

Weight: 1588kg (boat and motor)






People: 10

Rec. HP: 300

Max. HP: 300

Fuel: 151lt






Make/model: MerCruiser 350 Magnum

Type: Multi-point, fuel-injected, four-stroke V8

Weight: 390kg

Displacement: 5.7lt

Propeller: 19in stainless






Chaparral Boats

Nashville, GA, USA







Aussie Boat Sales

34 The Strand

Williamstown, Vic, 3016

Tel: (03) 9397 6977



Originally published in TrailerBoat #269.


Find Chaparral boats for sale.


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