In today’s marine world, expanding a product line can be an offensive play designed to move the game forward for boaters, or it can be a defensive move just to keep another boat-builder out of the backfield. The new Cobalt A25 is totally offensive, like an 80-yard touchdown pass or a half-court shot at the buzzer. In one fell swoop, Cobalt changed the standards for dramatic design, function and style in luxury boats.
The game play was immediately visible as I stepped up to the A25 in the showroom. Its sides were deeply scalloped for visual effect, and sharp, crisp lines were so deep it must have been laminated in a two-piece mold. Then Gavan Hunt, vice president of marketing for Cobalt, pointed out that the “fins” of the wide platform were likewise molded in place. “We had to design a five-piece mold or we wouldn’t have been able to remove the hull from it when it cured,” Hunt said. “It’s a technique we developed in our yacht designs.”
Dramatic as the integrated platform is, I thought it narrow, and an extended platform appeared to be bolted to it. Turns out, there was more than met the eye.
“Step back,” said Hunt, and after he twisted a key in a safety lock in the starboard coaming, the extended platform lowered on a hydraulic system to form a seat that would be 10 inches beneath the waterline. It would ease re-entry for swimmers and give a cool place to sit and relax when at anchor. Safety interfaces between the ignition and the lift system cause the outdrive to lower first so it doesn’t damage the platform. A warning tone alerts boaters to platform activation, helping to prevent injury as the platform moves. Very clever, and it offers a distinct advantage — though at a price — over luxury competitors like Formula’s 260 Bowrider ($124,920 with a 496 mag) with its fixed platform. Still, Formula’s aft lounges offer convertibility that we think rival our next favorite feature on the A25.
On the interior, Cobalt’s aft lounge can be converted from a forward-facing bench three persons wide to an aft-facing seat or sun pad. Most welcome, though, is the ease with which the movable backrest works. Press down on it to release a latch and slide it to the alternate position, where it automatically locks into place. Unlike many convertible lounges, a child could manipulate this, and we spotted no obvious pinch points that could do harm.
The cockpit is spacious and yachtlike. Cobalt believes the customer rarely uses the head, and eliminating it maximizes passenger space. By contrast, Sea Ray offers the 250 Select EX ($99,500) comparably appointed with quality vinyl and hardware, but its cockpit is encroached upon by the fully enclosed head, which also expands the boat’s otherwise sleek profile.
The A25’s rich look is also enhanced by the sisal-mat sole covering, which Cobalt says is its exclusive offering in the stern-drive market for 2010. It gambles that boaters will choose it over carpet for its excellent traction, easy sweeping or even easier cleaning by hose after removing the snap-out accessory from the sole. Textured leather-like vinyl upholstery adds an even richer look to the cockpit in a soft creamy color. For final accents, the console dash panels are also upholstered in vinyl that looks so much Cobalt A25 like leather you’ll have to sniff it for a reality check.
The coup de grâce in Cobalt’s design is in the forward seating area, where traffic passages are enhanced by a unique three-seat arrangement. Two can face forward, leaning against the cockpit bulkheads, while one faces aft, centered at the bow. Why not offer the typical wraparound u-seating, we thought? We lifted the bulkhead seats and flipped out hinged filler cushions that quickly united the three-piece ensemble into one.
Luxury was matched toe-to-toe with performance in our test boat, thanks to its big-block V-8. The MerCruiser was coupled to digital instruments that gave a clear readout on engine operations and included a depth finder to help keep the bottom clear of prop-munching rocks. The throttle was traditional, not digital, but the installation made control of speed and shifting smooth in our test drive. The craft cornered like Capt. Jack Sparrow’s club-hauling pirate ship. The 21-degree deadrise hull will comfortably cleave chop on popular waters like Lake of the Ozarks or the Chesapeake Bay.
While some may raise their eyebrows at the deleted head, being a Lake of the Ozarks-bred boater myself and knowing no water dogs are more than a few minutes from a watering hole (and public restroom), I can see why Cobalt held to its sexy, sleek lines. And its low profile adds at least a feeling of enhancing, if not actually improving, its strong cornering capabilities.