Berkshire is no rookie in the performance pontoon market, and this new 23RFX Arch STS 3.0 showcases the company’s ability to build a ’toon that’s fleet of foot and amply equipped. Our tester, fitted with a new Mercury 250 FourStroke, topped out just shy of 50 mph at just over 6,000 rpm twisting a 16-pitch Mercury Enertia stainless-steel wheel through 1.75 gearing. We hit 30 mph from a dead idle in just 5.4 seconds and full bow-down planing in just 2.8 seconds. It’s a rocket of a pontoon boat, sure to be a hit for watersports and big loads.
Even with the big 250 on the transom, the Berskhire can be operated in miserly fashion, if you desire, netting 4.3 miles per gallon at 15 mph and 2,500 rpm. Even at 5,000 rpm, mileage was still nearly 3 mpg. The handling, enhanced by wide-lifting strakes on all three pontoons, was flat and fast. We experienced no bobbling or pitching even when crossing waves or turning in a tight circle.
The decking on this 23RFX is all composite; there’s no wood in the boat. The center tube is full-length and integrates the transom. The optional in-floor storage is a huge, well-dimensioned 19-by-79-inch locker that’s nicely appointed. The bright lagoon-blue accents on the perimeter enclosure, upholstery and arch remind us of Richard Petty’s NASCAR rides — it’s eye-catching and well-coordinated with the black onyx charcoal and silver carbon vinyl upholstery covering the lounges.
In the bow, cushy curved loungers dominate the floorplan. Amidships, the low-slung driver’s console is well-equipped (the easy-to-use Simrad digital info center should be standard on all boats). The captain’s chairs are super-adjustable and supportive even in the roughest wake crossings. The storage underneath all seating is clean and unobstructed, with no snaggy edges to catch unsuspecting hands. The stern seating duplicates the bow section — plush and deep padding combined with body-friendly vinyl. From the stern, it’s clear this Berkshire 23RFX Arch STS 3.0 is equipped for watersports, with the bright blue towing arch and rear-facing JL Audio can speakers that crank out a great soundtrack for fun.