We tested both boats with base power. The Cruisers AZ238 tops out at 43.1 mph with the 260 hp MerCruiser for power. The AZ258 proved 14 percent faster at 49.3 mph with a 300 hp Volvo Penta sterndrive for power. If we average fuel economy across the 3,000 rpm to 4,000 rpm cruising sweet spot — where you’ll really run these boats — the AZ238 has a 10 percent advantage at 3.2 mpg, compared with 2.9 for the AZ258.
The Cruisers Sport Series AZ238 has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $63,000 with a 260 hp MerCruiser 5.0 MPI Bravo Three sterndrive. For about $8,800 more, you can move up to the longer Cruisers Sport Series AZ258 with a 300 hp Volvo Penta sterndrive, like the one we tested. If you want to crunch numbers, that’s 14 percent more cash for 6 percent more length, 14 percent more speed and 10 percent less economy.
We could have chosen boats from any number of manufacturers for this comparison, but we presupposed a scenario in which a boat buyer who is ready to step up would have settled on a builder based on a variety of factors, including the reputation of any one brand’s local dealer. (This is always a shrewd shopping strategy.)
We also didn’t address the quandary of single versus twin engines — a dilemma that two-footitis begets once you start looking at boats a bit bigger than the two Cruisers Sport Series runabouts we tested and used as an example here.
If you set your sight on still bigger boats, you’ll need to consider the pros and cons of sterndrives and outboards versus inboards and pods. Gas and diesel. Flybridge and express. And on it goes. Two-footitis is an equal opportunity affliction.
Be that as it may, here’s what we found.
The AZ238 is less expensive, more economical, lighter and thus easier to tow, and shorter and thus easier to store if you keep your boat protected in a garage, carport or barn.
The AZ258 is faster, is perhaps more comfortable in rough water, has more cockpit space and comes with a cooler. You’ll need a somewhat larger, or at least longer, building to store it in if you want it under a roof.
Do you feel the itch or not?