What we think: It's hard to get someone to sell their Whaler. The only reliable way to acquire a classic Dauntless is to buy one new and keep it -- for life.
The 180 is new from Whaler but a remake of one of their first craft made 50 years ago. The look is distinctively the same and dramatically modern, thanks to the way designers pulled the chines up toward the stem beginning just forward of the centerline. The effect keeps the wide, dry bow area for which Whalers are known, but softens the ride with a sharper entry.
On our Boston Harbor test, the Dauntless crushed three-foot boat wakes as sport-fishers and long-range cruisers plied the channel, riding high over them and shipping no water or spray. Nice.
To get the full performance, though, upgrade to the 150 Verado -- it's only a little over a $1,000 to do it. Digital throttle and shift were so smooth we quickly learned to operate it with our fingertips, not our fists.
Part of the Dauntless' rugged appeal also comes from the minimalist interior style. A fold-down aft bench seat opens the cockpit for angling or seats four when cruising. Forward, a casting platform can be equipped with optional bow cushions. The look and feel of the Dauntless is so strong that European Whaler fans demanded (and received) special options like a split bow rail that eases boarding Euro-style, from the dock to the bow.
It's likely the new 180 Dauntless will become tomorrow's classic -- even in France.
Who should buy it: This unsinkable brand has been at the top in boating circles for 50 years and earns the bragging rights with quality unparalleled and durability unassailable. It is for boaters who want a Whaler, not just a boat.
Vital Stats * Length Overall: 18'1" * Beam: 8'1" * Dry Weight: 2,000 lb. * Seating/Weight Capacity: 8/3,300 lb. * Fuel Capacity: 60 gal. * Max HP: 150 * MSRP: (w/ Mercury Verado DTS 135): $51,062 * NMMA certified: Yes
* Mercury Verado DTS 135 hp -- $50,604
* Mercury Verado DTS 150 hp -- $51,062
200 Dauntless** **
Max HP: 200
The 200 offers more deck space, more convenience and more unsinkable fun. This stretched 180 gives better performance for bigger crews, whether skiing, cruising or angling.
Max HP: 250
The 230 is the flagship of the Dauntless series and is ideal as a yacht tender or a family craft for big-water adventures.
Test Drive * Test Engine: Mercury Verado 135 * Test Prop: 16" Enertia 3-blade * Test Load: People (400 lb.); Fuel (50 gal.) * Top Speed: 41.2 MPH @ 5,900 RPM * Time to Plane: 3.0 sec * Time to 20 mph: 7.1 sec. * Min. Planing Speed: 21.3 MPH @ 3,500 RPM