I've run enough performance boats to expect that Eliminator's 300 Eagle XP would be fast with a 470-hp engine under the hatch. But I was caught off-guard when at 40 mph, the boat suddenly felt as if someone had hit the turbo button. Instinctively, I pulled back on the throttle, figuring that I had accidentally nudged it forward after launching off a wave. As I came to a stop I advanced the throttle again, making sure I didn't goose it. After hitting 40 mph the boat took off, nailing 50 in 5 seconds, 60 in 10 seconds-and just under 70 in 15.
The 300 Eagle XP has been out for a couple of years, and it seemed to me too big to be powered by only one engine. Evidently, some recent bottom tweaks gave it the get-up-and-go it needed. Not only does the twin-stepped hull (1"-tall steps angle aft from the chine) have a notched transom, it also has a notched pad farther forward on the bottom. In hard starts the first notch makes sure that clean water is delivered to the prop. When the boat squats again at about 40 mph, the second notch levels the stern, gives the prop good bite, and thrusts the 300 Eagle XP forward.
Steps generally enable the water to get aerated and become less dense, making the strakes less effective at lifting the boat. To compensate, Eliminator moved the inboard and outboard strakes farther in on the bottom abaft the first step to ensure that they're in more solid water.
THE HIGHS: Plant-you-in-the-bolster midrange acceleration. Exceptional execution of graphics. Love the dash wiring. Cabin is quite large for a boat in this size and class.
THE LOWS: Needs an anchor locker and cleats at bow. All cleats should be larger. Should have a second ram or at least back-up gas struts on engine hatch. Can't lie down on sunlounge.
In wind-whipped whitecaps and two-foot swells, the 300 Eagle XP made the most of the single 470-hp Mercury Racing HP500EFI Bravo One, running 72.3 mph at wide open and 52.5 at 4000 rpm. The boat rode so well in these conditions that I could run close to top speed and still keep it nice and level without trim tabs. During my test the boat handled 50-mph slalom passes and high-speed circle turns with confidence.
You'll get the same rush aboard the Advantage 30' Victory ($111,900 with an HP500EFI Bravo One), which runs in the low 70s. It also handles well in sloppy water. As is usually the case, Fountain's 29' Fever ($124,455 powered as our test boat) enjoys a speed advantage of a couple mph because its deeper integrated swim platform and extended bow result in a running surface about 26' long. The tradeoff: The shorter Fountain is at a disadvantage in rough water. Also of note, the Fountain comes standard with hydraulic steering, K-plane trim tabs, and power drop-out bolsters, all of which are options on the 300 Eagle XP and the Advantage 30'.
PERFORMANCE ART. If you've only boated on the East Coast, take a close look at boats built on the left side of the country. These builders, including Eliminator, have raised applying multicolored gel coats to an art form. Our test model's smoothly transitioned fades and crisp separations between colors were flawlessly executed.
Behind the gloss, Eliminator lays up the boat with Baltek balsa coring up to 3/4" thick, depending on stress loads, and multidirectional 1708 Knytex fiberglass. The hull and deck are bonded together from the inside with fiberglass all the way around the perimeter.
The attention to detail continued in the engine compartment, where the fuel-injected big block was installed on aluminum L-angles through-bolted to the stringers and with a Mercury Racing heavy-duty transom mount. Inspection panels in the sole on each side of the motor make it easy to check the backing nuts after a hard ocean run. Abaft the batteries in Gil Marine boxes to starboard, the wire harnesses, throttle, and shift cables exit a PVC tube in the gunwale. They are supported by stainless-steel cushioned clamps along the transom, stringers, and firewall bulkhead.
One gripe: The engine hatch needs two rams instead of a single unit to port, or a single ram centrally mounted with a gas strut on each side. As it is, the hatch was cockeyed when opened and felt wobbly.
REGIONAL NEEDS. Although its graphics will grab anyone's attention anywhere, the 300 Eagle XP's minimal deck hardware won't play well on the East Coast. That's why the St. Petersburg, Florida-based dealer Lightning Bay Performance says it will order future models with what it calls an East Coast Package, which includes an anchor locker, bow cleats, and angled footrests at no additional charge. Unfortunately, my test boat lacked this package.
The 300 Eagle XP does have a swim platform ladder-another unusual item for a West Coast boat. The sunlounge, however, is poorly set up. The three large headrests on the aft bench take up so much space on the sunlounge that sunbathers can't stretch out. I couldn't even lay comfortably on it with my feet dangling over the transom. But passengers on the aft bench do get good support from those headrests.
Heavy-duty hook-and-loop fastening holds down the bench-seat bottom cushion, which pulls out of the way to uncover stowage. Advantage also uses the Velcro-like fastener, but seat hinges, such as those used by Fountain, would work better.
The 300 Eagle XP feels wide because Eliminator carries the cockpit out to the full girth of the inwales rather than losing about a half foot on each side by installing stowage trays. Yet you don't get shortchanged on stowage. This boat has expandable map pockets and cupholders on each side. I also liked the depth of the cockpit on my test boat, 3'5" at its lowest point. That helps keep the kids and the dog in the boat when you're bouncing through waves.
Stainless-steel rails tie the bolsters into the inwales, and the frames are through-bolted to the sole. There are more map pockets alongside both bolsters. To starboard at the helm all the Beede instruments are in clear sight lines and the Bluewater Performance drive trim indicator is ahead of the Zero Effort controls, which have a trim button built into the throttle.
Ahead of the walkway between the bolsters, duck down and enter the cabin through the sliding hatch. Thanks to its 5'1" of headroom, the 300 Eagle XP feels larger belowdecks than its competitors, but it lacks the Fountain's luxury-oriented amenities.
Aft to starboard in our test boat's cabin is a molded galley with a sink and stowage in the base. Above on the aft bulkhead, a pair of cabinet doors access the impeccable dash wiring. All the runs are perfectly parallel with the leads secured in bus strips, making it easy to trace problems.
Ahead to starboard is a lounge for one, while the couch to port has space for three people. A ring bulkhead separates the lounges and forward berth, which is 6' long with a 5' average width and has 2'6" of rollover height. There's a huge stowage locker in the berth base, but the pad is too large-it's hard to wrestle it out of the way to get to the contents. Eliminator would be wise to install a hatch in the bottom of the bulkhead to make it easier to get to your gear.
LAST WORD. Exhilarating acceleration, awesome graphics, and a surprisingly large cabin put this boat on your to-die-for list.
Displacement (lbs., approx.)......5,800
Minimum cockpit depth...........3'5"
Max. cabin headroom.....5'1"
Fuel capacity (gal.)...........100
Water capacity (gal.)...........10
Price (w/standard power)......$78,440
Price (w/test power) ................$112,040
STANDARD POWER: Single 250-hp MerCruiser 5.7L MPI Bravo One V-8 gasoline stern drive.
OPTIONAL POWER: Single gasoline V-8 stern drive up to 550 hp or twin gasoline V-8 stern drives up to 1,100 hp total.
TEST BOAT POWER: Single 470-hp Mercury Racing HP500EFI Bravo One V-8 gasoline stern drive with 502 cid, 4.47" bore x 4.0" stroke, swinging a 14 5/8" x 23" four-bladed Mercury Revolution ss prop through a 1.5:1 reduction.
STANDARD EQUIPMENT (major items): Five-color gel coat; bilge pump and blower; powder-coated instrument bezels; Beede performance instrumentation; Bluewater Performance trim indicator and accessory switch panel; 2 deck hatches; portable head, swim platform ladder; sink; ice chest, batteries w/hold down trays; Kenwood AM/FM/CD stereo w/4 speakers.