A gentleman's high-performance boat, Cobalt's 343 is a posh dayboat offering speeds in the mid-70s with the right power. Of course, being the fastest kid on the dock doesn't necessarily mean you're the coolest. That takes something more, something unique, which is why we tested the 343 in its Concept Boat configuration. Powered by twin 480-bhp Yanmar 6LY3 diesels turning surface-piercing props through innovative ZF Ring Drives, the 343 Concept Boat posted 62.5 mph at full throttle. More impressive is the extraordinary range this package delivers. The 343 Concept Boat will run twice as far as big-block gas-powered go-boats of similar weight and size. Plus it has that cool Ring Drive.
What's a Ring Drive? It's a surface drive turning through a two-speed, V-drive transmission. This shortens the installation, placing the engine above the drive unit and, unlike other surface drives, placing the props right at the transom instead of several feet aft. That's my explanation anyway. Engineers say that the ring in Ring Drive refers to the robust mounting of this innovative system. Each transmission is bolted directly to the surface drive forward. Aft is a shaft bracket that supports the shaft strut and bearing. The engines are bolted directly to their corresponding transmission and shaft bracket. That's the ring: engine, gearbox, shaft bracket. Since the shaft bracket and transmissions are mounted to a tunnel molded into the hull, no extra stringers are needed, which frees up engine space. And because all three drive train components are tied directly together-floating independently, if you will-keeping everything in alignment is a lot more likely than it might be on a fast boat with the 343's rough-water joie de vivre.
What's it like on the water? It's slower to plane than a stern drive boat, but I kicked it into high gear at 2000 rpm and it was like switching the nitrous bottle open in a muscle car: Whoosh! Handling was crisp at all speeds, confirming that Cobalt's stepped hull, with its flat keel pad, is user friendly. (I can't say that about all stepped hulls.) Docking was a surprise. Docking a surface drive boat always gives me the willies, but with prop torque right at the transom, the Ring Drives allowed me to neatly spin the 343 into its slip. Goodbye Willies. Hello future?