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Pontoon Boat Power: Sterndrive vs Outboard
For our performance tests we pitted a Bennington 2575 QCW I/O Sport Tower against a QCW powered by a Yamaha F350.
We sat aboard the sleek black boat and listened to the rumbling 430 hp MerCruiser 8.2L HO engine under the hatch. We flipped on the Captain’s Call and amplified the exhaust to create a sound loved by performance boaters throughout the world. We throttled up and felt the engine rev as we sprinted across the water at over 50 mph. Were we on an offshore performance boat? Nope, a Bennington 2575 QCW I/O Sport Tower. That’s right, a pontoon.
You may be reading this and saying, huh? Based on common perceptions of pontoons as boxy, slow-moving entertainment platforms, the earlier scenario doesn’t make sense. Neither, to most, does the idea of powering pontoon boats with sterndrives. Outboards have long been the ’toon power of choice because of their superior power-to-weight ratios that match well with lightweight aluminum hulls. And they can be mounted all the way aft, freeing up deck space that is a pontoon staple.
It seems like every day, though, that pontoons are becoming more performance-oriented, adding third tubes and bigger power packages to propel them to ever-faster speeds. As some ’toon builders are adding performance strakes and rigging boats with 350 hp outboards, adding a sterndrive into the mix doesn’t seem far-fetched. Builders such as PlayCraft, Tahoe and Avalon also offer sterndrive-powered pontoons.
What are the pros and cons of equipping a pontoon with a sterndrive versus an outboard? We compared the performance of a 2575 QCW I/O Sport Tower to a QCW powered by a Yamaha F350. Here’s a look at what we found.