Forget everything you thought you knew about pontoon boats from growing up with twin logs topped with folding beach chairs. Today's pontoons are every bit as nautical as the fiberglass and wooden boats that previously did the most to capture our fancy. Here are some of the best pontoon boats available on the market for 2017.
Cypress Cay Seabreeze 211
The Seabreeze 211 is an entry-level model with the added pull of low, nationally advertised pricing. That could suggest a stripped-down boat with no frills, but Cypress Cay isn’t one to scrimp on the details. Step aboard the Seabreeze 211 and you’ll note comfortable furniture with two-tone, supple vinyl and attractive style lines.
G3 SunCatcher V322 SS
It is no surprise that the V322 SS pontoon works so well with its compact Yamaha 150 hp outboard; G3 has been a Yamaha-owned boat brand for years, and the combination of quality power and sturdy, handsome aluminum-boat construction means this is an attractive package.
Regency 220 DL3
Regency plays rough among the competitors in high-quality performance pontoons, and its secret weapon is a handsome, protective powder coating on its tubes, rails and Bimini hardware. We anticipated a stiff price for this unique quality, but Regency offers the DL3 series to give boaters a foothold in Regency luxury — complete with a long list of standard features and a game-changing warranty — all for an attractive price.
Bennington’s 23GSBA is a great value, with plenty of room and power for a reasonable price. Traditional exterior styling helps keep the cost down without skimping on amenities, features and muscle.
Cypress Cay Seabreeze 233
Like the majority of pontoons, the Cypress Cay Seabreeze 233 follows a predictable pattern in the forward seating area. Matching 4-foot-6-inch couches span the port and starboard sides, with forward-facing backrests, low-maintenance roto-molded storage below — and in our test boat’s case, plump pillow-top upholstery with quilted lumbar region, contrasting piping and generous bolster behind the knee.
Lowe Retreat 230 RFL
Price tags for triple-tube performance pontoons can easily leap north of $50,000, so we weren’t surprised at the luxury on the Retreat 230 RFL’s spacious deck and the amenities for comfort and fun. We weren’t surprised it had a standard Bimini top to shade the cockpit. We were surprised, though, that the tow pylon was a standard since it is so often an option.
Starcraft EX 23 C SG
Much of the popularity of Starcraft’s EX 23 C SG is traced to its additional starboard gate. Located right in front of the helm, it increases the docking options for those who don’t always pull up portside. That gate isn’t a skinny afterthought, but a full 2 feet 6 inches wide, just like the gate across the aisle. That dimension not only makes it more usable, but it is also wide enough to handle passengers in wheelchairs.
Tahoe 2385 Cascade
Tahoe’s 2385 Cascade is a new model for 2017, and a solid contender in the midrange performance pontoon boat segment. It shows and performs well and, in our opinion, the 2385 Cascade is on par with other pontoon boats that sell for more money.
Trifecta 23RF T 2.75
Trifecta’s 23RF T 2.75 neatly combines current trends with old-school pontoon functionality. The former is seen in the boat’s blacked-out rails, fence panels, rub rail and Bimini hardware, along with an LED-lighting package that shines below the deck, under the water and along the exterior rail. The latter is evident in the RF’s emphasis on passengers and interior space.
Bennington SX 24 Swingback
Bennington calls the SX 24 a “premium entry-level” boat, so it’s a step up from the basics. The amenities show just how it gets there — they’re anything but sparse. The exterior styling might be classic, but inside, where you’ll spend your time, this boat is advanced and elegant.
South Bay 523 RS DC
Sporting a trendy blackout-trim package, dual fiberglass consoles and unique, deeply tinted windshield, South Bay’s 523 RS DC makes a statement before it even leaves the dock. The appearance package pairs Black Onyx fence panels with swooping, art deco-inspired rails, matching black rub rail and Bimini top. Black also shows up on that windshield frame.
Bennington 25 QX Fastback
Molded fiberglass, not conventional aluminum fencing or panels, constructs the look of Bennington’s 25 QX Fastback Windscreen Sport Arch. Forward, it wraps the sides before curving stylishly to the deck, incorporating dual storage compartments into the real estate created at the bow.
Bennington’s 25RSFBA is a big pontoon boat inside and out. It makes an ideal platform for hosting huge parties out on the lake, and with the Elliptical Sport Package and Yamaha’s 300 hp outboard, it reacts to steering, throttle and trim input like a much smaller, nimbler craft.
Berkshire 25 Sport RFX9 3.0+
Berkshire’s 25 Sport RFX9 is a quick-performing pontoon boat with the Mercury Verado 300; we dropped the throttle handle and had it planing at 14 mph in just 3.75 seconds, and we hit 30 from a dead idle in just 6.9 seconds. Ours was a 50 mph performer, and we achieved our most economical cruise at 3,500 rpm, 22.5 mph and 7.7 mpg.
Harris Crowne SL 250
Big pontoons like this Crowne SL 250 bring out the curiosity in just about everybody around the dock, sandbar or marina — it looks like no other. True to form, this Harris piqued everyone’s interest, and it didn’t fail to win approval.
Harris Grand Mariner 250
The Harris Grand Mariner 250 offers a classic example of the upscale furniture found aboard today’s luxury pontoons. Couchlike seating features plump pillow tops, with diamond-pattern lumbar regions and generously bolstered support at the bottom cushion’s edge.
Manitou 25 X-Plode XT SHP
Manitou is known to push the performance limits of luxury pontoons, and the 25 X-Plode XT SHP doesn’t disappoint. Equipped with twin Evinrude 300 E-Tec outboards, our test version of the 25 X-Plode jumped onto plane in a quick 3.3 seconds, passed 30 mph a mere two seconds later, and topped out at a blazing 62.8 mph. Handling is equally impressive.
Premier 250 Solaris RF
Life is not a popularity contest, but choosing the right pontoon boat can be. Case in point: The 250 Solaris RF is Premier’s most popular pontoon model, which shows you that, despite all the innovations in speed, size, shape and handling, a lot of people are just looking for a ’toon to take a crew on a relaxing ride.
Premier 250 Velocity
What do you get when you hang 250 hp off the back of a pontoon with Premier’s triple-tube PTX package? Start with the lifting pad and outer strakes, add in the 30-inch center tube that extends farther forward of the outer 25-inch tubes, and you get a boat worthy of the performance-oriented name that Premier uses, Velocity.
Princecraft Vectra 25 LT
With a layout built around a lunch table in the aft deck that will seat five people (the captain’s chair swivels to become part of the ensemble), the Princecraft Vectra 25 LT is all about relaxing afloat. It accommodates up to 12 people in all.
Regency 254 LE3
Every Regency boasts a 10-year bow-to-stern warranty for everything the company installed on board including lights and electronics, and there’s a lifetime structural warranty, transferable to the next owner. The ultimate luxury from the LE3 is peace of mind for your boating investment.
Regency 254 LE3 Sport
This new 254 LE3 Sport boasts so many amenities, so much eye candy and so much luxury, yet it still elicited even more oohs and aahs after delivering a solid, sporty ride. On our overcast test day, the light was dusky under the covered dock, so instead of hitting the Verado ignition button, we tapped on the LED courtesy lights. A candy-colored blue light glowed along the seat bases and around cup-holder rims.
SunChaser Eclipse 8525 Entertainer
SunChaser’s Eclipse 8525 Entertainer is aptly named. This is a pontoon that, though wildly versatile, hasn’t forgotten how to party. In fact, the aft half of the boat is practically dedicated to it.
Premier 260 Grand Entertainer
Let’s face it: No matter how well a pontoon performs, you’re probably buying one because you can bring a party on the water with you. Perhaps no other boat can fulfill that mission quite like the Premier 260 Grand Entertainer, a massive pontoon with a full bar built into the aft section.
Sylvan Mandalay 8525 Sportlounger
Sylvan builds this Mandalay pontoon as a specialty hull, one that provides the ability to haul big loads without sacrificing ride, performance and fuel economy. Our tester had a Yamaha 150 installed, but the max power rating is 300 ponies; with double the power, performance would surely be exhilarating.
Bennington QR27 10 Wide
Bennington has a sure winner with this new Q Series 27. The QR27 10 Wide is a huge craft with huge power: Twin 250 Yamaha four-strokes give it low-end power that rivals some of the quickest bass and performance boats.
Lowe Infinity 270 RFL
We get only so much time with each boat we test for this guide, but when we climbed aboard this Infinity 270 RFL, we pushed the deadline as long as we could. We did that so we could continue to enjoy the air-cushioned soft ride as the three tubes slid over the chop. And no matter where we sat, the thick upholstery dampened the vibration even more.
PlayCraft Powertoon X-Treme 3110
Everything about the PlayCraft Powertoon X-Treme 3110 screams “Winner!” Livorsi controls and gauges give the helm the performance edge. Twin Mercury Racing 400 hp outboards respond to every twist of the power-assist helm, and every degree of throttle rewards with more speed.