There’s a reason why pontoon boats are still the fastest growing segment in all of boating. Pontoons appeal to people because of their unmatched ability to provide space and stability to boaters looking to spend a day on the water. But if you still think pontoons are merely floating living rooms, think again. This next generation of pontoons features plenty of power, plus performance packages designed to help them handle and corner like fiberglass V-hull boats, and design elements that give them serious dockside appeal. Some of them even sport fiberglass components, blurring the lines between boat styles as we know them. Interested in cruising, entertaining, fishing and water sports? All of the above? As our detailed boat reviews show, there’s a ’toon out there for you.
Avalon Windjammer 2585 ENT
Though the differences are subtle at times, Avalon, a top builder of pontoon boats, is known for breaking from the norm when it comes to the brand’s pontoon lineup. Start with the exterior appearance.
Bennington 21 SLX Premium Saltwater
One of Bennington’s most affordable models, the 21 SLX gets a makeover for 2016 with new furniture and console accents. Seating, split between 6- and 4-foot-long bow lounges, a helm seat and a nearly 9-foot-long L-shaped aft lounge, is swathed in the supple, soft-touch vinyl.
Bennington 2250 GSR
Bennington refers to the G Series pontoons as the company’s best-kept secret, offering a mix of performance, styling and craftsmanship at affordable price points. The 2250 GSR certainly fits the bill.
Bennington 2552 QCWWA I/O
Though its perimeter is ringed with classic pontoon-boat fencing, Bennington’s 2552 QCWWA I/O has much in common with a luxury bowrider. Check out the full wrap-around windshield. It spans twin consoles with a familiar center walk-through. Forward, the fencing slopes down to the deck in a radius, rather than an abrupt vertical wall. Overhead, our test boat featured a clad, forward-sloping sport arch.
Bennington 2575 QCWA I/O
Bennington’s 2575 QCWA takes aim at the discriminating buyer with a multitude of features. They start on the exterior where angled, curved corners add a stylish touch. Sculpted fencing and two-tone aluminum perimeter panels continue the image from bow to stern, and the optional cladded sport arch overhead looks like it’s borrowed directly from an express cruiser. Simple yet elegant aft stainless-steel railings finish things off.
Berkshire 231 RFC STS
This fishing-friendly pontoon has plenty of features for anglers and nonfishing passengers alike. Those not wetting a line aboard the new Berkshire 231 RFC STS will appreciate the comfortable, deeply padded seating with two lounge configurations and a quality Clarion four-speaker stereo system with Bluetooth capabilities.
Cypress Cay Cabana 220
Every seat is the best in the house aboard the socially oriented Cabana 220. Seating rings nearly the entire perimeter. Forward, twin parallel couches straddle the center walk-through, each with a forward-facing backrest. Aft, another set does likewise, this time with rear-facing backrests for those who want to stretch out and recline.
Cypress Cay Cayman LE 250
Cypress Cay’s Cayman Series LE 250 distinguishes itself with seven different floor plans. Our test boat’s dual, rear-facing lounge layout is a perennial favorite. Each lounge features a reclined seat back for ultimate comfort along with quick access to the stereo remote, 12-volt outlet and requisite cup holders.
Harris Crowne SL 250
The Crowne SL 250’s most distinguishing characteristic continues to be its not-very-pontoonlike exterior. Looking for that familiar aluminum, party-barge fencing? It’s nowhere to be found, replaced by curvaceous fiberglass seating modules that shape both the bow and stern, which gives the boat a seamless exterior.
Harris Grand Mariner SL 250
The Grand Mariner has all the features you’d expect from a plush cruiser. Forward, twin 4-foot-7-inch-long lounges can pack ’em in party style or allow just a few to stretch out in total comfort. Flip down the armrests, toss a cold one in the integrated cup holder and relax. Backrest cushions feature diamond-stitched accents in the lumbar region and optional pillow-top seat backs.
Lowe Infinity 230 WT
This was one of the first pontoons our team tested for this Boat Buyers Guide, and when we saw it, it snapped our heads around so fast that it wasn’t easy to see other boats. When we ran it, the soft, Lincoln-like ride lulled us into a new sense of comfortable reality that was jarred when we stepped aboard other pontoons.
Lowe SS 230 WT
Lowe’s SS pontoon series is designed to bring a higher level of luxury to the boater while conserving both investment and operating costs. Sure, you could pop more horsepower on the transom, but why do it when our tests show that the boat steps up to brisk cruising and snappy hole shots for water sports? And Mercury’s fuel-sipping 90 hp outboard with its 24-gallon fuel capacity means you could run all weekend without fueling up.
Lowe Ultra 180 Cruise
Who says boating has to be expensive? The capable Ultra 180 Cruise costs just over $15,000 with our test power. It possesses the oomph to move around the lake at a stately pace and enough in reserve to give tube-riding kids the giggles. Everything a family needs to go boating is included, even the trailer.
Manitou 23 XT X-Plode
With Manitou’s patent-winning V-Toon design, and surrounded by high-tech looks and premium features topside, it’s easy to see — and feel — why this X-Plode series is going to be a popular performance pontoon.
Marker One ML4
The Marker One ML4 is the latest edition of the revolutionary Platform Series concept from the maker of Cobalt Boats. Yes, it’s a Platform Series boat, not a pontoon, even though it runs atop three aluminum hulls. What’s the difference? In a word: fiberglass. The ML4 has a fiberglass deck attached to those aluminum hulls, which means its seat bases and components are molded fiberglass. It’s really a hybrid boat with the space and utility of a pontoon boat.
PlayCraft Powertoon Coppertone Special 2800
Leave it to PlayCraft to blur the lines between high-speed performance boating and the stately cruising of pontoon boats. It was first to open the pontoon category in the national Lake Rescue Shootout at Lake of the Ozarks, helping to bring attention to this new category. If pontoons weren’t flashy enough before, this new Powertoon Coppertone Special 2800 is certainly raising the bar today.
PlayCraft Powertoon X-Treme 2700 I/O
The first thing we did when we boarded this beauty was to lift the engine hatch beneath the stern sun pad. The gleaming 520 hp Mercury Racing 8.6L sterndrive motor was exactly the same red as the powder-coated engine compartment, and we thought that was a fitting PlayCraft tribute to the heritage of the renowned racing brand. And for after-hours admirers, the engine compartment is lit softly with red LEDs.
Premier 310 Dodici
The Premier 310 Dodici is the company’s new flagship pontoon that packs a lot inside its 31-foot deck length and nearly 12-foot beam. (The beam is responsible for the nickname because in Italian dodici means “12.”) It’s a monster pontoon boat with copious amenities and the capacity for serious horsepower.
Princecraft Jazz 180
With a 60 hp Mercury outboard providing the power, Princecraft’s Jazz 180 propels you across the lake fast enough to create a breeze and carries you to and from your fishing hole before lunch, plus it allows you to pull some kids on a tube. What it doesn’t do is have you make a beeline for the fuel dock.
Princecraft Vogue 29 SE
A “prestige” model, this pontoon featured standard niceties that other boats normally list as options. Check out the LED lights installed on the “logs,” in the drink holders and behind the stereo speakers. When the sun goes down, the lights ramp up the fun aboard the Vogue 29 SE.
South Bay 925 Super Sport
Decked out in a pristine pearl white with contrasting black and in-your-face lime-green accents, South Bay’s 925 Super Sport is definitely not your father’s pontoon. At both the bow and stern, stylish fiberglass seating modules break from traditional aluminum-panel-and-fence construction, using the familiar anodized rails and fence panels only to seamlessly link the bow and stern.
Starcraft MX 25 DL
A trio of 25-inch-diameter tubes forms a high-performance running surface for the remarkable new MX 25 DL pontoon model from Starcraft Marine. Between each of the three tubes is an arched aluminum performance shield that reduces drag and quiets the ride while enhancing fuel efficiency, speed and handling.
SunChaser Eclipse 8523 LR DH
The new 24-foot Eclipse 8523 LR DH represents a great value for families seeking a high-performance pontoon boat that offers top-of-the-line features and excellent handling. With SunChaser’s X-treme PR25 performance package, which includes three 25-inch-diameter tubes, the performance of this pontoon is impressive.
Sylvan Mandalay 8525 Sportlounger
Sylvan nailed it when it set out to offer a boat that boasts the performance characteristics of a runabout with the creature comforts of a luxe pontoon. The Revolutionary Planing Technology (RPT) package, which includes V-shaped, 27-inch-diameter outboard tubes with chines and a 25-inch-diameter center tube to create a tri-toon design, allows this pontoon to replicate the handling of a monohull.