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John "The Bear" Willis has set the challenge: build a boat with the size, sophistication and price of the Chaparral 225 SSi Sports Cabin and he'll get his kit off in Melbourne’s CBD. You've been warned!

Chaparral 225 SSi Sports Cabin

We live in a cut-throat world these days, and boats simply have to be good to survive. If they're not, they have to be cheap - and cheap and quality seem to be mutually exclusive concepts when it comes to boating.

But what if you discovered that a luxury boating package was available at a bargain-basement price? Impossible? Yeah, that's what I thought. But then I came across the new Chaparral 225 SSi Sports Cabin.



Boats are generally regarded as having a female gender. Not this Chaparral - it's got balls, and big ones at that! Here's a sprint race contender weighing over one-and-a-half tonnes, rated for 10 people and able to reach speeds of nearly 48kts (90kmh), care of its MerCruiser 350 Magnum and standard Alpha One leg. The combination of a thumping big 5.7lt V8, an exceptionally well-designed (and foam-filled) hull and a sturdy build has produced one of the quietest and yet most exciting family boats on the market. This Chaparral is undoubtedly a thoroughbred.

Upon returning to the serenity of the marina, this American beauty will steal your heart with its pure opulence - its presentation and layout is simply superb. Bowriders are great for outdoor entertaining but many boaters prefer the security and flexibility of a cabin, especially those with a family. The Chaparral "Wide Tech" bow design and full 2.59m beam (check your State's "Wide Load" towing requirements) produce a very comfortable vee-berth with an innovative design. The small "pickle fork" in the bow adds extra volume to the front of the cabin. You can have an intimate party with a few friends when the lift-out table is assembled, and then quickly convert the entire cabin space to a huge, thickly cushioned bed if the mood strikes you (and maybe your partner). Chaparral has solved the old problem of where to store a bulky bunk infill, too - the vee-berth seats and backrests are fitted with sliding cantilevers that conveniently fold down into place to make the full bed. It's a clever and slick solution. A slide-out Porta Potti fits snugly into a recess under the cockpit, giving full privacy in your time of need, and although the cabin is sleek and low there's still plenty of headroom.

Both the interior and exterior upholstery have that "five star" feel and the entry to the cabin is quite large, via a pair of cantilevered doors. They work well, are lockable and don't rattle. The actual entry is perhaps just a little awkward, but that's getting overly critical.

Moulded steps in the dashboard bulkhead allow easy access to the big bow platform through a centre-opening windscreen. The bow area is large enough for sunbaking and features a non-skid deck, pop-up mooring cleats and a large anchorwell. Our test boat had just been sold and was to be fitted with an optional "Stress Free" cotton-reel-style anchor. It's nice to see an American boat with a sensible approach to mooring design, with enough space to retrofit a winch of this size. Chaparral also offers a factory-fit winch option, if desired.

I like the simple look, feel and layout of Chaparral dashboards - they're reminiscent of a Camero, Cadillac or Buick, with a sporty edge. The optional Garmin 521 GPS map was a little difficult to see behind the tilting sports steering wheel, but hey - it's immediately within sight and easy to reach and use, as are all of the analogue and digital instruments. Our test boat also sported a factory-fitted Clarion sound system, with remote controls at the dashboard and swim platform.

Chaparral's pedestal bolster seats are brilliant - they look great, they're comfortable and they're convertible. Furthermore, they have slide and swivel adjusters conveniently located in their armrests, which saves you from fiddling around looking for underseat levers. The flush-mounted throttle is placed okay, but it's not quite as good as the comfortable armrest configuration of my favourite sistership, the 216 SSi. Sorry Mr Chaparral, spoil me once and I expect it every time. Throttle control, however, is smooth and positive from go to whoa.




The layout of the selfdraining deck is big, functional and sociable. You can entertain in style with the port-side L-shaped lounge and its plug-in table, which conveniently stores in a recess under the seat. This recess also houses the electrical switchgear and isolators. The rear corner cushion lifts off to reveal easy access to the battery, but the real winner on the 225 is the double-sided rear seat, which folds down to become a full sunlounge. It has quality gas-strut actuators, making the conversion easy for all.

There are drinkholders everywhere - we don't want to dehydrate now, do we? - as well as a sink unit with pressurised fresh water on the starboard side.

The sunlounge support doubles as a tilting enginebox lid. Your mechanic will love you forever for the huge engine bay, which makes servicing the big MerCruiser 350 MAG a dream. You could just about throw a party in the engine bay. There's also a fire extinguisher system, bilgepump and blower as standard, as well as a 38lt freshwater tank.

The deck mould incorporates a full internal liner with a fresh and practical fibreglass finish. Part of this liner forms a starboard walkway, giving instant and convenient access to the launching-pad-sized rear platform. A hatch in the floor of the walkway disguises a lift-out 23lt Esky-type cooler. There's also a huge wetbox area under the floor that can be used for anything from diving gear to a killtank. The deck then drains directly overboard through a pair of tidy stainless scuppers - a boon for anyone contemplating mooring this boat over longer periods.

Chaparral dealers have fitted wake towers to the 225 SSi Sports Cabin to give it even more functionality. It's certainly a big-wake boat when you want it to be, but it also trims out to throw surprisingly small wakes when travelling at ski speeds.



We started performance testing and my eyes almost popped out when I looked down at the speedo and discovered we were suddenly jetting across a smooth Port Phillip Bay at 47kts - that's 87kmh (or 54mph in the old scale). Part of the surprise was that I had eased us up to that speed whilst still carrying on a conversation with Dani, our passenger and a driving force behind Chaparral in Australia. This is one hell of a quiet hull, with excellent acoustic control that heightens the surreal experience. It's not quite like the feel of driving a hybrid, as you know you still have the power of a grunty V8 under the bonnet, but it remains really quiet throughout the entire rev range.

The Wide Tech hull is a winner too. This boat is just short of 7m (LOA), taking it into the realm of the sportscruiser, but its handling and flexibility say otherwise. It turns, it cuts, it weaves and it's truly a joy to drive, with an amazingly flat attitude and confident power. I was surprised to find an Alpha One leg as the transmitter, as it gripped well in the tightest of turns without any hint of cavitation. It also has very good trim control with minimal bow rise and terrific vision at all speeds.

There's an ever so slight "Alpha wander" at very low speed, but I don't think that will present a huge problem. This sports machine just loves to get up and boogie, so forget the trim tabs - unless for some strange reason the whole crew decides to move to one side of the boat - they're just not needed.

Chaparral finishes off the 225 SSi Sports Cabin with its traditional array of premium fittings and accessories. There are eight large pop-up bollards that are big enough for 12mm ropes. The water and fuel fillers are conveniently placed either side of the swim platform, but make sure you don't get them mixed up. There are grabrails in all the right places, double-stitched upholstery, and quality clip-in carpet throughout. The transom platform has a strong fold-down ladder, internal lighting and tonnes of storage, and the deck speakers have attractive stainless covers.




Now for the best bit - the price. I would have expected this magnificent package to carry a price tag of over $100,000. Wrong again, Mr Bear! This comprehensive package with all of the options as tested comes in at under $80,000, and that includes a tandem trailer built to Australian registration standards. Other fittings include a bimini and full canvas package, safety equipment, registration - the lot. In fact, packages with a MerCruiser 4.3lt V6 start from as low as $65,000. Try to beat that - if you can, I'll bare my backside in Melbourne's Bourke Street.



On the plane...

Brilliant price for the package
Great layout
Premium build quality
Tonnes of standard features
V8 performance
Meticulous attention to detail


Dragging the chain...

Over standard towing width in some States
Small "Alpha wander" at low speed
GPS a little hard to see through the steering wheel






Price as tested: $76,000
Options fitted:  Premium package, Explorer package, Porta Potti, removable table, cockpit table, premium bucket seats, snap-in carpet, digital gauge package, steering wheel upgrade, anchor, canvas pack (side and aft curtains), swim platform logo mat, auto fire extinguisher, deluxe aluminium tandem trailer
Priced from: $65,000




Type: V-hull sports cabin
Material: Fibreglass
Length: 6.86m
Beam: 2.59m
Weight (dry hull only): 1588kg
Deadrise: 20°




People: 10
Rec. HP: 300
Min. HP: 220
Max. HP: 300
Fuel: 208lt
Water: 38lt




Make/model: MerCruiser 5.7lt 350 MAG (Volvo also available)
Type: Multipoint EFI, 5.7lt, V8 four-stroke
Weight: 389kg engine, 38kg Alpha One sterndrive
Displacement: 5.7lt
Drive: Alpha One
Propeller: Stainless three-blade




Chaparral Boats
Nashville, GA, USA




Aussie Boat Sales
34 The Strand
Williamstown Vic 3016
Tel: (03) 9397 6977

First published in TrailerBoat #278

Find Chaparral boats for sale.


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