BOAT TEST FOUR WINNS HORIZON 210 & 230

By: David Lockwood


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If you reckon 18-footers have ceased to cut the mustard, it might be time you looked toward new horizons. David Lockwood's shootout compares a couple of Four Winns 20-somethings that will set you apart from the pack in more ways than one.

BOAT TEST FOUR WINNS HORIZON 210 & 230
Four Winns Horizon 210 & 230

The 18ft bowrider is the most popular trailerboat for summer-loving families. Take a cursory glance of your local waterway on a blue-sky Sunday: doubtless you'll find fleets of them carrying families towing tykes on watertoys, with dad wetting a line for a flathead or the bow pulled up on the shore at some shaded lunch spot.

Problem is, all those summer-loving boats make for a busy waterway. Add some passing ferries or commercial craft, a yacht race or two, the ubiquitous tinnies and toss in a good summer seabreeze, and what have you got? A washing machine upon which that 18-footer is suddenly feeling a tad short.

Enter Four Winns' 210 and 230 Horizons. This brace of racy bowriders is the next step up. Look on the duo as a pair of harbour crunchers, bay busters and wave chompers for crossing busy waterways and high-tailing it home at the end of the day - all with your spine in one piece.

A broad range of factors such as ride comfort, interior space and safety make these superior to the "little" 18s - for a price, of course. But the 2004 model 210 and 230 Four Winns Horizons are significant for something else. The company calls it "cross-stream" architecture.

Cross-stream architecture is a fancy handle for Four Winns' hybridisation of the deck-style bowrider and the sportsboat-type bowrider. The resulting crossover has features like the bow ladder and walkthrough transom with the amenities centre of a deck boat. But the trained eye will note a better finish and some genuine innovation to make these boats shine in the super-competitive bowrider market. Build quality isn't half bad either.

ELEVEN STAGES OF QUALITY

A division of US marine giant Genmar, Four Winns uses an 11-stage lamination process to lay up its boats. This involves up to three layers of woven rovings in high-load areas, selective use of coring materials and foam flotation.

The hulls have a lifetime warranty for structural components; five years on osmosis; three years on non-structural parts; and one year on cracking of gelcoat.

The hull and deck are joined with stainless-steel fasteners and adhesive. The rubbing strip is stainless steel, as is all the through-bolted hardware. The boats come in a choice of six gelcoat colours. The optional solid black hulls that were tested looked smart. A fully-moulded internal liner is designed primarily with passengers in mind.

But it's the details that put these boats in the upper echelons of bowriders. You get snap-in cockpit carpet, bucket seats with built-in innerspring shock absorbers, soft vinyl upholstery, a luxury-boat Corian counter on the 230, deep-reach boarding ladders and rubber mats in the underfloor wet locker.

The 210 and 230 also carried a few options: engines were upgraded from the standard motor to a 300hp 350 MPI with Bravo One and Bravo Three drives; there were wood-grain wheels; full canvas packs; and each boat had a cockpit table. The 230 also had a stainless pack comprising pop-up cleats, bow scuff plate and docking lights.

Despite being fully cocked, both rigs remained safely trailerable. The 210 weighed in at about 2200kg onroad, and the 230 was around 2500kg. For fuss-free launching, I'd hitch them to a four-wheeler that can crawl up and down a slippery city ramp at low tide without incident.

The so-called Stable-Vee hulls carry 19 and 20° of deadrise in their transoms respectively. This puts the boats in the deep-vee category. A wide beam of 2.59m, boarding platforms with hull beneath them and big chines provide stability. The boats are certainly a lot more sure-footed at rest than a run-of-the-mill 18-footer.

Considering that the 210, 230 and even the 250 Four Winns Horizons share the same beam, the smaller boat is an especially fat boat for it length. However, the extra length overall of the 230 - some 0.61m or two feet - leads to a lot more legroom compared to the 210. You also get some extra flash features on the bigger rig.

INSIDE OUTSIDE

Essentially, both boats boast the same layouts; however the bigger 230 has an enclosed head, deck shower and amenities centre with 30lt of pressurised fresh water. There is also a lot of extra storage space in lined compartments under the bow seats and back under the dash.

Fuel capacity of 189lt and 219lt should be sufficient for a full day of summer boating on both boats. The 230 can carry a 909kg load, which is 70kg more than the 210, or one lithe passenger more.

Seating in both boats is generous and easily accessed via a central cockpit walkthrough. Infills can be used to cover the walkthrough, and if you snap the hinged aft sunlounges back you can turn the entire transom area into a great big sunpad. Time to work on the tan!

The U-shaped aft lounges of both boats can seat four and five people respectively. The 210's bow seating is big enough for two adults, but on the 230 you really get to stretch out up there. This boat's extra freeboard makes it especially dry even when idling over steep wake or a quartering breeze.

At the blunt ends you will find excellent integrated boarding platforms with a deep-reach ladder to starboard. At the sharp end of each boat is another deep-reach ladder for snappy ship-to-shore access. And, hooray, both boats have dedicated anchor lockers.

Optional cockpit tables were stowed underfloor. Assembled in the main cockpit area, the moulded tables and surround seating make for a neat lunch setting.

Cold drinks and chicken drumsticks aren't far away. Look under the portside lounge and you will find a dedicated hold with a lift-out Igloo cooler. Drinkholders are also handy.

TRICK FITTINGS

The advantage enjoyed by owners of the 230 is that the Corian-topped amenities centre behind the helm seat can be used for food preparation, as you can cut on it. There's also a neat sink with the pressurised freshwater and a small, concealed garbage bin - post-lunch cleanups made easy.

A small moulded head exists on the 230 just in front of the co-pilot's seat. It contains a moulded liner, opening porthole, lighting and loo. But an extractor fan would be a useful addition. And perhaps the styling maestros could do something about all that white fibreglass, even if the door is nicely curved.

Underfloor of both boats is a massive, rubber-lined wet locker in which you can stow skis and wakeboards. There are also small sidepockets and wing lockers either side of the engine bay. Pre-start engine checks are made easy thanks to an electric riser under the moulded, insulated lid.

The two big holds accessed from the bow area - located back under the moulded dash - are big enough to take soft carry bags and picnic sets, dry goods and extra clothing just in case the weather turns turtle. The bi-fold doors over the walkthrough and bow canopy will come in handy in winter. Sturdy stainless-steel struts supported the safety-glass windscreens.

Overall attention to detail is something to note. Despite being rushed into the water, and the odd pre-delivery quirk, Four Winns has lifted its game. There were no visible staples under the seat bases, good sturdy hinges, nicely-sculptured upholstery, solid stainless grabrails, and dedicated front-to-back storage for everyone's personals.

Of course, the boats had more comfortable seating and greater legroom than any 18-footer, greater freeboard and internal safety, and their central thoroughfares made for easy boats to get around. The only remaining consideration is an optional tow tower. The Deluxe version has tubby speakers, amplifier, subwoofer and board racks.

Too cool for school.

DRIVE TIME

The dash wasn't too dissimilar on the 210 and 230. You get mock burlwood trim, a drinkholder, emergency engine shutoff and a full spread of fog-resistant Faria gauges, which relay everything from oil pressure and fuel level to trim. A compass, temperature gauge and stereo remote for the Clarion sound system are part of the package.

An adjustable helm seat and steering wheel, big wraparound windscreen and a throttle that falls to hand make for comfortable driving stations. However, there wasn't much room between the throttle and the upholstered side panel on the 230. In fact, my fingers only just squeezed past when advancing the lever.

On the water, I thought both the 210 and the 230 Horizon could do with a bit more in-trim. Legs in, the boats were riding not far past neutral or level trim. At times I would have liked to really button the bow down for low-speed planing into the wind waves - not to improve hole shot, but to eliminate that (brief) moment of lost vision as the bow jumps skywards.

Still, these were streets ahead of the little league. The 210 cruised contently anywhere from 38kmh at 2500rpm to 58.5kmh at 3500rpm. Top speed was 77kmh at 4600rpm spinning a 21in stainless prop. In circuit work, straight runs and bumpy water, the 21-footer felt pretty good. I liked it.

The 230 wasn't as far ahead of the 210 in terms of ride comfort as I expected. I think the answer to that lay in the prop selection. Top revs were, according to the tacho, 3950rpm. The MerCruiser brochure says the full-throttle rev range should be 4600-5000rpm. Hmmm.

As it was, the 2300 had a handy cruise between 2200rpm and 2600rpm of 39-50kmh. Top speed was 77.2kmh. But with a better prop selection, the low-speed performance will improve to the point where the bow sits down and you tackle rough inshore water with ease.

THE VERDICT

So is the extra $13,000 a good investment for the bigger boat? Depends. The 23-footer is a big boat to tow and it might be a better dry-stacked proposition. The 21 hasn't a loo, a sink or as much legroom, but it sure leaves those 18-footers floundering in its wake.

Either way, the Four Winns mid-sized Horizons are well-priced tickets to a long, hot summer's day afloat.

SPECIFICATIONS

FOUR WINNS HORIZON 210 & 230
Price as tested: $64,135/$77,462 w/ 300hp 350 MPI MerCruiser, tandem trailer, select options and registrations
Options fitted: Engine upgrades, hull colour, wood-grain wheels, full canvas packs and cockpit table. The 230 had a stainless pack with pop-up cleats, bow scuff plate and docking lights
Priced from: About $59,900/$71,000 w/260hp 5.0 MPI MerCruiser and trailer

GENERAL
Material: GRP hull and stringers with vinylester resin
Length (overall): 6.71m/7.32m
Beam: 2.59m
Deadrise: Deep-vee 19/20°
Rec/max hp: 220-300/260-320
Weight: 1750/1950kg hull & motor only

CAPACITIES
Fuel: 189/219lt
Water: 30lt on 230
Passengers: 863/909kg
Accommodation: Camp on deck

ENGINE
Make/model: 350 MAG MPI MerCruiser
Type: Injected V8 petrol four-stroke
Rated hp: 300 @ 4600-5000rpm
Displacement: 5.7lt
Weight: About 465/475kg
Drive (make/ratio): Bravo I/ Bravo III
Props: 21in counter-rotating s/s

SUPPLIED BY
7 Seas Motor Cruisers, d'Albora Marinas, The Spit, Mosman, NSW, tel (02) 9960 1999. Also contact Boatarama Cruiser Sales Gold Coast, tel (07) 5537 5955; Fleet Marine, Dandenong South, tel (03) 9768 2774, or visit www.fourwinns.com.au

HIGHS
Styling, finish and engine installation 
Innovative seating arrangement 
Sturdy deck fittings and deck-boat features, especially on the 230

LOWS
Some pre-delivery items needed work
Prop selection was wrong on the 230 
Boats ride high and need more in-trim

Story: David Lockwood Photos: John Ford
Source: TrailerBoat #176

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