Round 3: Performance
In terms of performance, each type of propulsion has its strengths and weaknesses. With no appendage drag from a drive, no slip, less weight aft and the propulsion in a direct line, a jet typically exhibits quicker hole shot with less bow rise.
This contention was reinforced by our testing, although with only a single engine to work with(see "Twin It to Win It?"), the advantage was not as dramatic as we’ve seen on twin-engine jets. With its single 255 hp supercharged engine, the Sea-Doo planed in 4.1 seconds; with its 220 hp sterndrive, the Chaparral required 4.25 seconds. As expected, the jet achieved plane with slightly less bow rise. The Sea-Doo also enjoyed an edge to 30 mph, covering the gap in 7.6 seconds to the Chaparral’s 7.96 seconds.
Once on plane, the sterndrive shines. Its ability to trim reduces the wetted surface of the hull and produces a more optimal running angle, reducing resistance, increasing efficiency and resulting in a softer ride in rough conditions. Despite a 35 hp disadvantage, the Chaparral peaked at 51.4 mph. The Sea-Doo topped out nearly 8 mph slower, posting 43.7 mph.
Fuel economy? At 25 mph, the jet burned 8 gph for 3.1 mpg, while the sterndrive consumed 4.7 gph, netting 5.3 mpg. Above 40 mph, the Sea-Doo consumed 16 gph, the Chaparral under 11 gph. At full throttle both consumed 19.5 gph, but the Chaparral ran nearly 8 mph faster, boosting its economy.
Twin It to Win It?
While we tested a single-engine jet versus a single-engine sterndrive, this comparison is not indicative of what’s occurring in the market. Twins have long been more popular in jet boats, for their brutal power delivery, almost nonexistent bow rise and ability to reach higher top speeds. Naturally, twins cost more to buy and own.