BOAT TEST: LARSON LX205S

By: JOHN FORD, Photography by: JOHN FORD


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John Ford was so impressed with Larson’s LX205S bowrider, he was tempted to sign up for one on the spot.

BOAT TEST: LARSON LX205S
No shortage of performance and handling on the Larson LX205S bowrider.

Not long into this test, I realised the Larson I was in was something special. I had left Derek from Sydney's Good Times Marine in the camera boat and headed off on my own for some speed and handling runs. When I came back, he surmised from my big grin that I was enjoying the drive.

"Should I get my order book out?" he asked, ever the salesman. And I have to confess: if I was in the market for a bowrider sportsboat I probably would have signed on the dotted line then and there.



TICKING THE BOXES

Oftentimes, bowriders from the US can be somewhat similar and even a little, dare I say it, ho-hum. Not that they aren't fun and a great way to get the mates and family out on the water, but they can just lack a bit of zing. Sportsboats, however, need to have a bit of, well, sport about them, in addition to being comfortable and easy to get around. Ticks across the board for the Larson LX205S bowrider.

The boat has performance and handling by the bucket load, and the 'glass finish and upholstery are a cut above pretty much anything else in its price range. It's not often that a boat scores maximum points on the TrailerBoat rating scale in terms of value for money, but at $49,990 (as tested), this baby deserved its full five.

Constructed in the US, Larsons are built in a computer-managed closed-mould process that delivers hulls of exact tolerances, along with a controlled balance of strength and weight. No contaminants or air bubbles can enter the automated mix and the temperature is set to the optimum level during the curing phase.

Once the hull is set, the hand-laid floor liner, deck and under-floor grid system are all bonded to the hull to create an extremely strong timber-free monocoque structure. Cavities are then foam-infused for buoyancy and sound dampening.



USE OF SPACE

While the layout is no major departure from the norm for a bowrider, the LX205S makes maximum use of its 19ft 6in for storage and passenger space, and its efficient design gives it a bigger feel than many boats in its class.

Seating in the bow section is the usual U-shaped lounge, where the tan / charcoal over white upholstery provides a quality feel, further enhanced by the rich gelcoat. Seats lift to reveal a moulded starboard anchor locker and a drained icebox to port. Passengers get grab rails and cup holders, as well as a nifty storage bin under each backrest for smaller items. An opening central section of the tempered glass windscreen leads to the cockpit, while a simple press-stud keeps the screen open and rubber stops keep it from rattling, preventing damage.

This 2013 model has a new, more compact dash, which provides more room in the cockpit. A charcoal fabric brow shades the instruments and there are cup holders on each side. Three dials give readouts for revs, oil pressure and trim on the left, temperature in the centre and speed, fuel and voltage to the right. A small depth sounder sits to the right on top of the dash. All gauges are well placed and easy to read, and a Jensen stereo, 12V outlet and a switch panel for lights and bilge pump complete the dash.

The tilt-adjustable steering wheel features a grippy rubber surface, and the comfortable bolster seat slides to allow drivers of various size plenty of room. Small items can be stored in the nets in the driver and passenger footwells, and the passenger gets a glovebox and a grab handle. More storage space is provided in side pockets and to the sides of the rear lounge.

Clip-out brown rubber-backed marine carpet covers the cockpit and extends up into the bow and, along with the colours of the upholstery, pulls the interior together for a modern, well integrated feel.

Down the back, a full-width lounge can fit up to four adults and comes with seats that lift to reveal a drained icebox and storage bins, while the sun pad over the engine has a hinged section that lifts to create a recliner, or to open the starboard space as a walkthrough to the swim platform. But that's not all. Another section of the sun pad can be raised to make a rear-facing love seat.

The swim platform extending across the width of the boat features a built-in ladder and a well-positioned grab handle. A stainless steel ski hook is standard, as are rear, central and bow cleats along each side of the hull. A huge engine bay, with plenty of room either side of the motor for easy maintenance and more storage, is housed underneath the sun pad.



LET'S GET MOVING

As comfortable as the boat is - and it was certainly pleasant to sit in the warm sun admiring its lines and features - it was time to get moving because the real nature of this vessel is to plant the throttle and hurtle up the river. It's a boat that's so easy to drive it will inspire confidence and make a novice boatie right at home within a short time.

The LX205S's power is provided by a Mercury V8 sterndrive, which pumps out 260hp and drives through an Alpha One leg. Mercury engines drive the majority of US bowriders and are known for their reliability and long life. Their electronic fuel injection also makes the big 5L V8 a more economical proposition.

The well-designed hull combines a 21° deadrise with pronounced chines to allow a soft ride over waves, but keeps the hull firmly planted to the water at speed and at rest. The boat gets onto the plane at 2000rpm and 9kts (17kmh), but by 2500rpm it's already hitting 22kts (41kmh).

From there it's a steady increase in speed through the rev range until near the top end, where it rises up onto the rear section of the hull and, with less water resistance, picks up extra pace to top out at nearly 47kts (87kmh). At this speed, and with most of the hull out of the water, it naturally tends to get a bit lighter in the steering, but without any undue chine walking or loss of stability.

All-round visibility is very good and I had no trouble seeing through the screen or sitting up on the bolster for a full-on blast of fresh air over the screen. Handling is equally good. The boat leans into turns until the side rails bite in for a smooth progression in the desired direction. Pushed hard, the boat would not break away at the rear and showed no sign of digging in at the bow.

Full lock at 30kts (55kmh) turned the boat predictably and smoothly, albeit with a lot of sideways force. These high-speed manoeuvres are fine into a port turn, where the boat wants to weld you to the side console, but in a starboard turn the lateral force is such that the boat wants to throw you out of the seat and onto the floor, so be prepared - and give passengers plenty of warning.

At more sedate speeds the exhaust rumble and fun of driving the boat are enough to satisfy the soul. The boat is a very capable tower and the optional wake tower would appeal to many families.

Seating throughout is comfortable and there is enough room for seven to stretch out and enjoy the ride.



THE WRAP

Based in Minnesota in the US, Larson Boats has been in the marine business for more than a century. And while it is one of the oldest boat builders in the world, the company remains at the forefront of cutting-edge technology. This technical mind is very evident in the LX205S, which is a well-presented and very capable boat - fast and fun to drive.

Starting at $43,990 (with a V6 engine), it represents great value. But for $6000 more, the V8 is brought in with a list of "standard" options, including a bimini, stainless-steel package, tilt steering, snap-in carpet, bolster seats and the rear love seat, which make an even more attractive proposition.



ON THE PLANE...

· Exceptional handling

· Fast and safe

· Good value



DRAGGING THE CHAIN...

· The glovebox is a bit small



PERFORMANCE

9kts (16.7kmh) @ 2100rpm - on the plane

22kts (41kmh) @ 2500rpm

25kts (46kmh) @ 3000rpm

30kts (55.5kmh) @ 3500rpm

36kts (66.5kmh) @ 4000rpm

39kts (72kmh) @ 4500rpm

46.3kts (85.7kmh) @ 5000rpm - wide open throttle



Specs: Larson Lx205S

HOW MUCH

Price as tested: $49,990

Options fitted: Engine upgrade; "Australian Options" pack

Priced from: $43,990



GENERAL

Type: Monohull bowrider

Material: Fibreglass

Length: 6.24 LOA

Beam: 2.44m

Weight: 1850kg BMT

Deadrise: 21°



CAPACITIES

People: 7

Rec. HP: 260

Max. HP: 260

Fuel: 114L

Water: No



ENGINE

Make/model: Mercury 5L MPI

Type: Fuel-injected V8 four-stroke

Weight: 433kg

Displacement: 5000cc

Gear ratio: 1.62:1

Propeller: 21in



MANUFACTURED BY

Larson Boats

Little Falls, Minnesota

USA



SUPPLIED BY

Good Times Marine

2 Toorak Avenue

Tarren Point, NSW 2299

Tel: (02) 9524 6999

Web: www.goodtimesmarine.com.au



Originally published in TrailerBoat #290, January 2013

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