You'd expect a 24' mid-cabin cruiser to sleep two comfortably (four in a pinch), have plenty of cockpit seating, mucho drinkholders and enough pep to pull up a skier or a pair of kids on a tube. What you might not expect is a truly sporty open-water ride, outstanding access to engine and mechanicals and top-notch construction methods. But that's exactly what you'd get if you were to spend $49,534 (as tested) for Chris-Craft's new 240 Express Cruiser. At that price it's not inexpensive, but, like many things in life, you get what you pay for.
A VIEW FROM THE BILGE. Access to the engine compartment has gotten to be a real point of contention with me. Euro-transoms, combined with the quest for more dry stowage and the trend toward U-shaped aft settees, have made changing the oil or the plugs - never mind replacing a riser - difficult at best aboard many smaller boats. Not so with the new Chris-Craft. Its electrically powered hatch lifts with the flick of a switch, revealing an engine compartment that held the test boat's optional eight-cylinder Volvo Penta 5.7L GSi/DP ($2,077), myself and two suitcase-sized boxes of test gear with wrench-swinging room to spare. My hands easily found the oil pan's drain and the bilge pump's float switch, for in-stance. Needless to say, removing the optional dual batteries ($193) for winter storage, replacing a filter or checking the output of the optional battery charger (part of the $1,800 Convenience Package) can be performed with ease. The hatch can be manually operated as well, a feature that many builders using the now ubiquitous powered hatch fail to incorporate. While powering-up the hatch, the only flaw I found was some flex across the deck where the motorbox's full-length hinge was fastened. Some stiffening gussets are in order to prevent stress cracks from developing over time. This aside, mechanical access aboard the 240 Express is as good as it gets for a 24-footer.
THE HIGHS: Sportboat ride makes getting there as fun as being there. Best-in-class engine access allows easy and convenient maintenance. Color-coded wiring a troubleshooter's dream.
THE LOWS: Helm seat is a calf-scraper while standing. Mid-cabin cushion is a bit on the slim side. Motorbox hinge attachment point needs shoring up.
How'd they do it? By exercising balance in design. The aft bench allows two to sit comfortably facing forward, not four in a U-shape, so access to the engine's sides is good once the hatch comes up. Plus its molded glass base will hold a dockbox full of gear and a 36-quart standard Igloo cooler complete with hold-down chocks, so you aren't forced to cram the spaces abeam of the engine with gear - a necessary evil aboard other small cruisers.
Since I could actually get into the engine compartment, not just reach in, I was afforded a good look at how the boat is put together. Wiring is bundled, chafe-protected, and supported every 6" with rubber-cushioned clamps to forestall premature failure due to broken insulation. But stuff still happens, thus Chris-Craft has color-coded, numbered and labeled each wire so repairs can be made expeditiously. The engine is securely bolted to aluminum angles, these being bolted through the stringers - a solid departure from the more common practice of just using lag screws. Cleats, rails and the ski-tow eye are bolted and backed. In all, the view from the bilge is a good one.