By: Phil Kaberry

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Savages are revered for their build quality and reliability, and the 16ft Challenger delivers these features at an attractive entry-level price. Phil Kaberry reports.

Savage Challenger 5.0

FROM THE ARCHIVES: First published in TrailerBoat #180, May 2004 



The only game that really exists in Melbourne - apart from cricket in the summer - is Australian Rules. Expat Sydneysiders vainly flick between late-night news bulletins trying to get a few minutes on the weekend NRL scores.

This one-eyed obsession seems to extend to boat brands too. Savage has been building boats in Melbourne for more than 100 years and has become something of an institution. For many keen boaters, Savage is as much a Melbourne icon as trams, Saturday arvos at the MCG and strolls along St Kilda boulevard.

In one of the biggest changes in the company's history since being bought out by Brunswick Corporation, Savage boats are now being manufactured in the brand new Whittley factory - another Melbourne institution. So it's nice to see the company keeping its roots in the city that has given it so much success.

One of the boats being made at the new facility is the five-metre Challenger. This 16-footer is a handy, general-purpose family boat that's proven a big seller for Savage since its release a while back. It's pitched at first-time buyers on a budget, and its major selling point is Savage's reputation for good build quality - which is now enhanced by Whittley's involvement.




The boat you see here has been built to a price. While far from being scrappy or untidy, it is pretty bare with a simple interior, back-to-back helm and passenger seats, rear lounge and instrumentation for its two-stroke 90hp Mercury.

Open out the centre section of the windscreen and lift up the long hatch in the nose to get to the anchor locker, which is serviced by an optional stainless-steel bow roller. Access to the bow is excellent.

There's dry storage under the deck, but not enough has been done to secure the area: gear kept jumping out and sliding around the floor. Elastic mesh pockets or a fence would help.

Other storage existed in sidepockets and in a large, subfloor fibreglass bin that drains into the bilge - great for wet clothes, fish and ice, but not long enough to stow skis. Electrical and mechanical engineering was neatly finished.




The ergonomics of this boat are reasonable. In this job, it's easy to get spoilt by driving gorgeous 20ft bowriders all day, forgetting the $70,000 pricetag flapping merrily in the breeze.

You have to bear in mind that Savage is offering the best product it can for $27,000, which is a pretty good price for a new 16ft 'glass boat with 90hp and a trailer, drive-away.

It's a boat that the family can fish from in the morning, pull up onto a beach for lunch and ski behind in the afternoon (with optional skipole). Launch and retrieval is a snap; a midsized family car can tow the rig, and its modest LOA should mean storage won't be an issue. It's a versatile, usable, well-made boat.

However there is room for improvement, which shouldn't add a great deal to the bottom line. First up, the white dashboard top reflects glare into the windscreen, which can make it difficult to see. Some sort of non-reflective material needs to be used. The second is the throttle positioning. Because of the low driving position, it feels like the go-lever is too far forward, too high and too close to the wheel, making fine adjustment a hassle.

The third and most worrying was the steering  on the demo boat. Although the outboard pumps out 90hp, the manufacturer opted for mechanical steering, which was not adjusted properly, transmitting every bit of prop torque through the wheel and into the driver's arms.

It pulled so hard to the right that it made one-handed steering potentially dangerous. We'd recommend hydraulic steering, especially if you opt for the maximum 115hp outboard.




This boat is not big enough for use on very exposed water and is best suited to rivers, dams and protected bays. It has nice high sides and delivered a dry ride, but its relatively flat deadrise and forward seating position made blasting over larger windwaves bumpier than a boat with a deep-vee hull. Rough water and an outboard in need of a tune-up made obtaining accurate performance figures difficult, but the 90hp pushed the boat out to about 65kmh. More in-trim was needed to deliver a flatter holeshot, but once up on the plane the boat cruised along happily at around 35-40kmh and 3500-4500rpm.

You won't go too far wrong buying a Savage Challenger if it's used within its limits. Good build quality, versatility and functionality are high points, but you might need to do a bit of fiddling to get the boat working at its best. And unless you're planning to be the next Arnie, consider ordering a hydraulic steering system!






Price as tested (BMT): $27,990 drive-away
Options fitted: Stainless-steel bow roller, safety-gear pack, 27meg radio, Navman colour sounder, canopy, single-axle trailer with spare, engine instruments, battery box, navigation lights, two tote tanks, registrations
Priced from: $26,000 BMT minus some options




Material: GRP
Length overall: 5.9m incl. sprit
Beam: 2.29m
Deadrise: 16°
Rec/max hp: 90/115
Towing weight (dry): 1000kg




Fuel: Optional 60lt underfloor or twin 25lt tote tanks
Water: n/a
Berths: n/a
Passengers: Five




Make/model: Mercury 90
Type: Three-cylinder oil-injected two-stroke
Rated hp: 90 @ 5000rpm
Displacement: 1386cc
Weight: 138kg
Drive (make/ratio): Mercury outboard 2.30:1
Propeller: Standard alloy




Boronia Marine, Dorset Rd, Boronia, Vic, tel (03) 9760 2222, email or visit




Affordable entry into boating
Strong build and neat finish




Mechanical steering system on test rig was inadequate
Bow storage needs securing
Throttle positioning wants attention


Story: Phil Kaberry Photos: Ellen Dewar
First published in TrailerBoat #180

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