BOAT TEST: CHAPARRAL 257SSX

By: JOHN WILLIS, Photography by: ELLEN DEWAR & JOHN WILLIS


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In an Aussie first, John Willis gets a drive in the brand-spanking-new Chaparral 257SSX Bowrider. And he’s impressed.

BOAT TEST: CHAPARRAL 257SSX
The Chaparral 257SSX. The Americans really do excel at bowriders.

We found something special during our recent trip to Aussie Boat Sales at Williamstown's Anchorage Marina, the Melbourne home of Chaparral Boats: we were was the first to get a sneak peak, and a drive, of the new 257SSX Bowrider, the smallest in the SSX range of luxury sports machines.

This boat is the first of the new models to make it to the land of Oz, but it certainly won't be the last. It's no secret that we're big fans of Chaparrals at this magazine. These boats hail from one of America's largest and most successful boat manufacturers, which boasts a career spanning nearly five decades.

The company's motto, "The boats are the stars", rings true with the new 257SSX, its big 8.2L MerCruiser MAG DTS V8 pushing 380 horses for thumping acceleration and exhilaration.



BE OUR GUEST

Chaparral's 257SSX is a big social entertainer that's born to party, and on the water she'll rock your world. The boat has a strong and very attractive moulded Targa arch / wakeboard tower that accentuates the flowing lines of the deep and soft-riding, yet extremely stable, SSX hull. Deep shoulders mean the boat can carry a load of revellers safely in the bow, while a number of seating options allows room for the rest of the gang in the cockpit.

There's a fresh, clean feel to the upholstered layout, with some very innovative convertible ideas, including a surprisingly spacious toilet below the passenger console, touch-button layback rear lounges and the new woven graphite-look vinyl dash.

The 257SSX is an on-water freedom machine with comfort, style and grace that turns into an unleashed vixen when you pump the throttle and let her fly. She will fill you with confidence on the water, whether in the slop or the sweetwater. The big 8.2L MAG V8 MerCruiser has a very pleasing rumble with a deep, throaty note that is still low enough to allow a normal conversation in the cockpit.

The boat drives through the Bravo 3X duo-prop drive with instantaneous power, a very torquey mid-range, and an exhilarating top-end. It also offers precise low-speed manoeuvring and easily controlled reversing.

To be really critical, there is a small amount of wander back and forward in a straight line at low speed, but just that's me being a bit picky.

Flying over the surface is also quiet due to the strength and efficiency of the Chaparral construction and foam-filled hull. The 257SSX is very nimble for a big hull and should carry the maximum capacity of up to 14 passengers with ease. There was no prop slip from a standing start or when my passengers started screaming with delight as I threw her into some tight turns and manoeuvres.

We boaties can sometimes forget that people need facilities when spending long hours on the water, but the 257SSX's hidden toilet is just the thing to keep everyone happy. It's tucked very neatly under the passenger console, with a large pivoting doorway providing easy access. The roof is a little low for big blokes, but my 6ft frame could still use it if necessary. A pressurised freshwater system is standard and feeds the small hand basin. Our test boat had the optional VHT vacuflush unit with macerator.



BEHIND THE WHEEL

The 257SSX's console lives up to Chaparral's premium standards. The company has used a new woven graphite-look vinyl for the dash, and I must say it presents beautifully with the walnut wood grain accents. The integrated digital and analogue instruments - Garmin 720s GPS / sounder / plotter - and all operating controls are right where they should be. The adjustable-tilt sports steering wheel is gorgeous.

The dash has twin six-gang waterproof switch panels and controls for the optional Lenco trim tabs. I generally try to use trim tabs as little as possible in boat tests so I can properly evaluate the hull characteristics, but with the weight and load capacity of the big bowrider, as well as a crew, I found a quick touch on the tabs levelled the ride instantly.

Driver and passenger are treated to some of the best bolster seats in the industry. These babies have quick swivel and length adjustment levers actuated from the armrests - no more fiddling around looking for levers under seats. The driver's position allows terrific vision through the windscreen, or just over it when up on the bolster. While most would love the ergonomics of the 257SSX, I was previously spoiled by the comfort of the armrest of the smaller 216SSi, and once spoilt it's hard to go back.

The head unit for the up-spec Clarion six-speaker sound system is mounted behind the two-way door that separates the cockpit and the bow. There are remote repeaters on the dash and the stern.

There is a huge storage area under the driver's dash and this thing is seriously big - a real advantage in open bowriders. There is another so-called ski locker under the floor, which the guys at Aussie Boat Sales say can fit five people (although they might complain a bit).



THE POINTY END

Up front, there is a reasonably large anchor locker with plenty of room for rope and chain, as well as a retainer for the sand anchor. I really liked the fold-out stainless boarding ladder for easy riverbank access, and the small reversible navigation light that rotates to a flush mount and pops out when needed.

The bowrider seating is richly upholstered and features sloping backrests and a fold-out armrest for each side. These armrests, along with suitably placed hand rails, make your passengers feel more secure in the bounciest part of the boat. A small insulated wet box under the forward cushion helps keep the bow revellers refreshed.

The centre-opening safety glass windscreen is of the highest standard, and back in the cockpit the party really gets going with the convertible seating options. A console box with hinged upholstered lid behind the driver houses a lift-out 35L cooler.

Directly opposite on the passenger's side is another "transition lounge" that swivels into a number of lockable positions to provide sideways seating, or when rotated 90° actually becomes the second seat for a dinette. This is a unique combination that comes together with the rear lounge to make a face-to-face dinette for four people. The removable tabletop is stored in its own drawer under the floor and can also be used in the bow.

The rear lounge and centre walkway setup really appeals to me. It's great to be able to walk all the way through the middle of the seats from the rear platform, eliminating wet and dirty feet all over the upholstery. And this is a sports boat, after all, so people are supposed to get wet and dirty.

There's still more. Not only do the back-to-back rear lounges provide seating for rear- and forward-facing passengers, but they convert into full-length sun lounges with adjustable head rests at the touch of a button.

The back is home to a well-proportioned deck that is a terrific staging area for watersports, as well as an easy access route for dockside boarding. It it is home to a folding four-step telescopic ladder in an enclosed compartment and a long stainless grab handle with tow point. The platform has a non-slip finish and is beautifully moulded into the attractive transom.



MAKE IT GO

Chaparral has included many big-boat features in its 257SSX. Access to the huge engine bay is via a touch of a button, where hydraulic rams lift the entire rear lounge to reveal the MerCruiser. It's a mechanic's dream for easy servicing and all of the electrical components are high above the bilge.

A quick scan reveals the water tank and pressure pump, in-built fire extinguisher system, twin batteries and a terrific display of plumbing and electrical circuitry.

The big MerCruiser is an 8.2L
MAG with a Bravo 3X duo-prop drive pushing out 380hp. It features multi-point fuel injection with digital throttle and shift, and combo analogue / digital SmartCraft gauges.

For saltwater applications it has an enclosed cooling system as standard and brass housing for the water pump.

The engine and drive are a well-matched selection for a package that would be caught short with anything less, although the optional 5.7L - or maybe 6.2L - engine would still be suitable for fewer passengers in a cruising environment.

But for confirmed petrol heads, Chaparral also offers a whopping MerCruiser MAG HO punching out 430hp, or if you prefer a Volvo there is an equivalent range from 300-380hp.

To finish, Chaparral has moulded one of the most attractive Targa arches on the market. The arch is optional for those who have a boat storage (height) problem, but in my opinion you should either get it, or get yourself a bigger shed. The beautiful black arch provides the framework for overhead lighting and a strong Sunbrella bimini. On a sunny summer's day we didn't get baked.

There's a long list of other features and options like clip-in carpet and cup holders in all the right places, plus some awesome blue feature lighting around the cockpit, in the arch, under the engine vents and on the stern quarter.

Our test boat had underwater lights and was finished in high-gloss ebony and ivory gelcoat, featuring a moulded powerline with a silver accent. Tasteful decals and badges enhanced its premium demeanour and sophisticated feel.

Unlike many competitors, Chaparral dealers offer a range of trailers from custom US aluminium options through to locally-built powder-coated Easytow trailers. The whole package comes in at less than 3500kg wet, so a standard large 4WD will do the job comfortably.



THE WRAP

I have got to stop taking my family on these Chaparral boat tests; it's going to cost me a fortune one day. They've been spoilt and now expect no less for our own boating exploits.

But for that matter, why should any of us expect any less? The 257SSX is the benchmark.



ON THE PLANE...

· Premium presentation

· Handles beautifully

· Soft-riding and quiet, but stable, hull

· Convertible seating and dinette

· Sporty Targa arch



DRAGGING THE CHAIN...

· Over-size towing restrictions

· My family keeps nagging me to buy one





PERFORMANCE

12.3kts (22.7kmh) @ 2200rpm - on the plane

17kts (31.5kmh) @ 2500rpm

23.5kts (43.5kmh) @ 3000rpm

30kts (55.5kmh) @ 3500rpm

35.8kts (66.3kmh) @ 4000rpm

40kts (74kmh) @ 4500rpm

47.5kts (88kmh) @ 4950rpm



Specifications: CHAPARRAL 257SSX BOWRIDER



HOW MUCH?

Price as tested: $138,000

Options fitted: 8.2L MerCruiser Mag DTS with Bravo 3X; Garmin 720S; sound system with amp and sub-woofer; Targa arch with bimini and front clears; fire extinguisher; Magic Tilt aluminium tandem trailer; dual batteries; trim tabs; 12V air pump; underwater lights; cockpit and bow cover; vacuflush head with macerator; snap-in carpet; swim platform mat; transom tilt switch and stereo remote; powerline; safety pack; mooring pack; oversize towing kit.

Priced from: $98,000



GENERAL

Type: Luxury fibreglass bowrider

Material: Fibreglass (Kevlar-reinforced)

Length: 7.77m

Beam: 2.59m

Weight: 2132kg dry (boat only)

Deadrise: 22.5°



CAPACITIES

People: 14 (US manufacturer's rating)

Rec. HP: 380

Max. HP: 430

Fuel: 273L

Water: 51L



ENGINE

Make/model: MerCruiser MAG 8.2L

Type: Multi-point electronic fuel injection (EFI) 8.2L V8 with digital throttle and shift (DTS), enclosed cooling and Bravo 3X duo-prop stern drive

Weight: Engine 490kg,
drive unit 67kg

Displacement: 8200cc

Gear ratio: 2:1

Propeller: 26in

 

MANUFACTURED BY

Chaparral Boats

Nashville

Georgia, USA



SUPPLIED BY

Aussie Boat Sales

34 The Strand

Williamstown

Victoria 3016

Tel: (03) 9397 6977

Web: www.chaparralaustralia.com.au

 

Originally published in TrailerBoat #292, March 2013.

Find Chaparral boats for sale.

 


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