It took about 30 seconds behind the helm of the newly redesigned QX26 BR to safely make the proclamation “Rinker is back.” True, the builder never really went away, but it hasn’t released a new model in nearly three years. Plus, over the past few years, Rinker has drifted away from the mission statement that made its boats so popular in the first place: Build a safe, able-performing boat equipped with everything that makes sense, and stop there. Since Bennington Pontoons bought the brand last year, though, it has made a commitment to return to its roots. Sitting at the wheel and throttling up the 300 hp MerCruiser 6.2L engine, I enjoyed handling a boat that climbed onto plane in 3.7 seconds, reached 30 mph in 7.7 seconds, and carved smooth hard-over turns at speed with no surprises. This reflected the Rinker I remembered, bolstered by 21st-century styling and amenities demanded by today’s boaters.
I noted the QX26’s classy good looks at the dock and found that observation backed by the fact that Rinker is moving away from vinyl graphics in favor of doing everything in the gelcoat. Our test boat had a blue three-tone hull with a boot stripe; Rinker presents the boat in six color choices. Instead of standard snap-in carpet, Rinker offers the QX26 with standard snap-in bamboo flooring, which dries more quickly and stands up better to the elements and mildew. Our test boat featured the optional marine mat on the swim platform, which ups the style factor and provides cushioned comfort underfoot.
As far as amenities, the QX26 meets the “everything you need” quota, even providing some smart applications you didn’t know you needed. Take a look at the molded-in stowage bin in the gunwale along the transom walk-through. It proved to be the perfect spot to stow the dock lines after casting off from our slip. Later, upon returning to the dock, we could easily access them without having to fumble around in an underseat stowage compartment. Speaking of those, all the stowage under the cockpit and bow seats is lined with Rotocast tubs that are so much easier to clean and maintain than the carpet-lined bins you find aboard some runabouts.
The large sun pad that adorns the engine hatch features the requisite aft-facing rumble seat, which easily deploys by lifting the back cushion. It slides into place via stainless-steel piping to create an aft-facing backrest for lounging while at anchor or prepping for watersports.
The main cockpit features traditional U-shaped seating along the back, with a small entertainment center behind the bucket seat at the helm. The seats are deep and comfortable, and stainless-steel grab handles sheathed in a soft-grip wrap are always within reach. A removable cooler hides under the aft bench. Both the helm and passenger bucket seats feature flip-up bolsters for standing or sitting. The helm sports an ergonomic padded rest for your throttle arm, and all the gauges are easy to read on the glare-free dash. The console itself features nifty storage forward of the helm, complete with Formica cabinetry. An enclosed head hides in the port console and serves double duty as a changing room. Anyone who chooses to use it while underway will appreciate the oversize grab handle inside.
Several builders offer similar 26-foot runabouts in their lineups, including Monterey with its 264 FS ($82,182 with a 300 hp MerCruiser 6.2L Bravo Three). It features a cockpit with L-shaped seating and a transom walk-through to starboard. Crownline has also made a comeback in recent years and offers the more expensive 255 SS ($92,350 with a 300 hp MerCruiser 6.2L Bravo Three).
The Rinker QX26’s bow cockpit is another area that sets it apart. It features seats set inside high freeboard to keep passengers protected while underway, with more oversize grab rails for them to grab hold and steady themselves. In a nod to practicality and recognizing how real boaters use their boats, Rinker built the anchor locker under the forward seat in the bow, rather than using a typical bowrider configuration and sticking it under the same hatch as the bow ladder. Anyone who’s ever had to flip out the ladder to handle an anchor line will appreciate Rinker’s setup.
While the QX26 is practical, it still exceeds any boater’s fun quotient. Just count the cup holders — there are 15 on board. Yet Rinker notes that, in another nod to practicality, unused drink holders are great places to throw a cellphone or any other small personal item. Also, note the Kicker stereo system, which features six total speakers. There are two USB ports to plug in your tunes, one wired into the head door and another in the entertainment center behind the helm. Our test model had the optional sport arch that provides an elevated towrope attachment for wakeboarding. (Use the standard stainless-steel tow point on the transom for tubing.) With all this, your fun on the water is surely covered.
Oh, you wanted to overnight on board? Rinker also offers the QX26 in a cuddy-cabin version with a V-berth belowdecks that sleeps two. Enjoy.