Midsize express cruisers around 35' are hot sellers. They're not too big for handling solo, are roomy, and won't break the bank. We picked four models with prices ranging from $220,000 to $279,000 and gave them our usual fine-toothed inspection. Not all are available with the same power, so to keep it close, we tested each with twin stern drives totaling between 600 hp and 640 hp. Inboards and diesels are available, but gas stern drives are still the most popular.
CROWNLINE 340 CR, www.crownlineboats.com 618-937-6426
|Displacement (lbs., approx.):||16,300|
|Max. cabin headroom:||6'5"|
|Fuel capacity (gal.):||193|
|Water capacity (gal.):||38|
|Price (twin 300-hp MerCruiser 350 MAG MPI DTS Bravo Three stern drives:||$279,000|
HOT STANDARDS: Hardtop; windlass; vacuum-flush commode; 7.3kW genset; 16,000-Btu a/c; galvanic isolator; MerCruiser DTS controls; camper canvas; 48-quart carry-on cooler.
PERFORMANCE: Even though it has the least power and is the heaviest of the group, it hit a top speed of 43.3 mph. That's within 1 mph of the others, denoting an efficient hull. At 30 mph, it burned 28 gph, a shade over 1 mpg, for a range of 186 miles. Excessive bowrise while getting on plane required the use of tabs to maintain forward visibility. It docked like a champ with the drives alone. The optional Axius joystick control made it even easier.
CRUISEABILITY: After a day on deck, the standard mahogany cabin sole makes this cabin cozy-and easy to clean. It has the largest genset, ensuring plenty of power at anchor, and its galvanic isolator protects against corrosion while plugged into its dual 30-amp shorepower. Hardtop means less canvas to deal with.
HIGHS & LOWS:
HIGHS: High cabin trunk, no side-decks, and a slab master bunk (instead of an island berth) make this cabin biggest in class. Excellent mechanical rigging and installation.
LOWS: No sidedecks makes deploying fenders and spring lines tricky. Hardtop requires you to duck when going forward to the bow. High cabin trunk makes you reach way down to tie off to a cleat.
FOUR WINNS V 338, www.fourwinns.com 231-775-1343
|Displacement (lbs., approx.):||12,090|
|Max. cabin headroom||6'8"|
|Fuel capacity (gal.):||200|
|Water capacity (gal.):||45|
|Price (twin 320-hp MerCruiser 6.2 MPI DTS Sea Core Bravo Three stern drives:||$235,085|
HOT STANDARDS: Hinged radar arch; 5.0kW genset; 12,000-Btu a/c; windlass; vacuum-flush commode; cockpit icemaker; cockpit refrigerator; port and starboard windshield wipers.
PERFORMANCE: This boat lifted onto plane more smoothly than the rest, with little noticeable hump and no loss of forward visibility. Credit the after-pods incorporated into its Stable-Vee hull. It topped out at 44.8 mph-and that's with the full camper canvas up. At 30 mph, it burned 26 gph, or 1.1 mpg for a range of 204 miles. I had no trouble laying it side-to a dock while pointing into the wind-without turning on the thruster. It's the loudest boat, posting higher decibels at all rpm.
CRUISEABILITY: Standard cockpit icemaker and refrigerator help you be a great host and provide extra cold stowage for cruising. Its 10.5-gallon water heater keeps the shower going. Folding arch gets you in where others can't go. Companionway screen lets in air and repels bugs, so you can enjoy sleeping without the AC on.
HIGHS & LOWS
HIGHS: Swanky decor includes glass-fronted cabinets and grainy leather upholstery. The bowrail features a mid-height safety rail per ABYC. Handles well at all speeds.
LOWS: The head seacock is hard to reach. Bow thruster should have easier service access from within the boat.
MONTEREY 330 SY, www.montereyboats.com 352-528-2628
|Displacement (lbs., approx.; w/o power):||14,200|
|Max. cabin headroom (lbs., approx.; w/o power):||5'6"|
|Fuel capacity (gal.):||210|
|Water capacity (gal.):||42|
|Price (twin 320-hp Volvo Penta 5.7 OSXi/XDP DuoProp stern drives:||$224,790|
HOT STANDARDS: Bow sunpad; 40a battery charger; dual 30a shorepower; galvanic isolator; vacuum-flush commode.
PERFORMANCE: The 45-mph top speed this boat posted makes it the fastest of the group. It planed smoothly, without loss of visibility over the bow. Cruising at 30 mph, it burned 26.2 gph for a range of 216 miles. Boasting a fiberglass stringer grid, it has a firmer feel coursing through waves. At the dock, it was more responsive than the rest, possibly due to its 38" engine spacing, which is 4" wider than typical.
CRUISEABILITY: Standard aft convertible U-lounge/sunpad, bow sunpad, and cockpit chaise make this boat a hit for those who want to tan at the cove. The 40-amp battery charger is the biggest in this group and it has dual 30-amp shorepower protected by a galvanic isolator.
HIGHS & LOWS ****
HIGHS: Wonderful helm, featuring a sporty "muscle car" gauge array and dual flip-up bolster seats. Excellent engine compartment rigging. Loved the cabin interior as much as the cockpit sun island.
LOWS: Access to the bow thruster and the starboard side fuel tank's supply line should be improved. Wires running into the arch not chafe-protected.
RINKER EC 330, www.rinkerboats.com 574-457-5731
|Displacement (lbs., approx.):||14,100|
|Max. cabin headroom:||6'6"|
|Fuel capacity (gal.):||168|
|Water capacity (gal.):||40|
|Price (twin 320-hp Volvo Penta 5.7 OSXi/XDP DuoProp stern drives):||$220,028|
HOT STANDARDS: Camper canvas; windlass; cockpit blender; cockpit icemaker; cockpit refrigerator; 12,000-Btu a/c; 5kW genset; dual-sided shorepower inlets; auto. fire extinguisher system; 30a battery charger; Lowrance GPS; spotlight.
PERFORMANCE: This boat's 43.8-mph top speed was preceded by a smooth transition onto plane and no loss of visibility over the bow. Powering along at 30 mph, it burned 23.8 gph, with a 1.3 mpg that gave a range of 190.5 miles. This was the lowest fuel burn at cruise, along with the smallest fuel tank. It delivered excellent docking control-without relying on the thruster-despite gusty winds.
CRUISEABILITY: Cockpit blender, cockpit icemaker, and cockpit refrigerator keep the party going and provide enough cold stowage for extended weekends. Rumble seat is the perfect place for a "sun-downer." Fiddled counters keep goods in place. Standard GPS-hey, you need it. Port and starboard shorepower inlets are convenient.
HIGHS & LOWS ****
HIGHS: Attention to serviceability: There's a support pole to keep that engine hatch up if the lift fails. Fiddled countertops and a wastebasket in the head prove Rinker's designers are boaters themselves. ****
LOWS: The other boats feature split flip-up bolster helm seats. Here only the skipper can stand and lean. Single 30-amp shorepower may not be enough for a boat with standard air conditioning.
The Bottom Line
Not one of these boats is a tub. The Rinker offers the most standard equipment and is rich with practicality, but its decor isn't as plush and its styling isn't as exciting as the others. The Crownline wowed us with style and substance, but we didn't like that it needed trim tabs to see ahead while getting on plane. The Monterey is great looking and fast-always good things. But it's short on standard equipment, despite its amped-up electrical system. We think an express cruiser should possess style, luxury, performance, a long standards list, and dollops of practicality. Which model does all that? The Four Winns 338 Vista. Put it at the top of your list.