I expected to see razor wire and armed guards at the entrance to MarineMax Pompano, considering the CIA-Grade One security that had preceded our testing of the new Aviara AV32 from MasterCraft. No pictures, no specs, and I think my home was watched before I was cleared, along with Boating’s Randy Vance, to check out this debut.
A collaboration between MarineMax, the 900-pound gorilla of boat dealerships, and MasterCraft, which builds uncounted thousands of luxury high-performance boats a year for the wakesports market, the AV32 is a big surprise: a non-trailerable 32-footer aimed directly at family fun on the water.
This is one very cool boat that will never be mistaken for another, from the snubbed bow to the rakish T-top (standard) to the wide, wide swim platform. Represented exclusively by MarineMax dealers and with larger Aviaras on the way (oops, they may come for me after that slip), they started with a blank sheet of paper and asked the question: “How do people really use their boats?”
The answer is a bowrider on steroids with what Aviara calls “us” and “them” zones. Us zones are where people face each other to hang out, like the bowrider seating and the main cockpit seating. Them zones are where people are facing aft, talking with people in the water or rafting up at a sandbar.
The bow has very comfy seating and high coamings (making it child-safe), with all the amenities: cup holders, USB outlets, removable table, built-in cooler and lounge backrests. Access past the helm console is wide through the hinged windshield with a lower door, so nothing blocks the flow.
The cockpit has luxurious CoolFeel wrap-around seating, another hidden cooler plus a very clever vacuum-sealed 42-quart cooler drawer (an option but a no-brainer), and a wet bar with oversized sink and stowage for three wine bottles (red, white, Mt. Gay?). An electric fridge is an option, but you’ve already got three coolers (two removable) aboard.
Tucked inside the helm console is a beautifully finished head compartment with more than 5 feet 8 inches of headroom. Standard is an electric toilet, sink and holding tank, although the absence of a shower was a surprise. I’d bet that will appear on production models.
The skipper gets a low-profile triple-display dash with a 7-inch engine monitor, 12-inch Garmin nav screen, and a 10-inch boat-control panel. In the case of our Ilmor-powered boat, the engine monitor showed more than I could want to know — from position of the drives to power being applied — but this is from its racing heritage with NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula One.
The them zone aft is very — very! — cool. First, there is a sun pad with infinite combinations of hinged backrests and seating. What appears to be a raised backrest is actually a trio of either electric or gas-assist “barstools” that rise about the lower seating, creating a mezzanine from which to watch friends get big air in the wake or to interact with people swimming or wading in the water. Add to that an underwater platform that unfolds from under the wide transom platform (sterndrive only) to create a third level of seating in the water with the transom being your backrest.
Ummm — sterndrive? Are there other power options? Yessiree! We tested two AV32s — one with twin Merc 300 outboards on the stern, the other with a pair of Ilmor sterndrives. Delivered with their OneTouch Pro joystick, the Ilmors had the smoothest shifting I’ve encountered with either sterndrives or outboards. In fact, I had to check the shifter to see if I was in neutral. Smooth and silent … ahhh. Hydraulic cone clutches eliminate the clunk of shifting, as fast as twice a second! The drive is a Yanmar extra-tough diesel unit built for Ilmor, with dual props and both active and passive corrosion protection.
Even better, Ilmor has removed sterndrive engine corrosion problems with closed-cooling systems, including a uniquely closed-cooled exhaust manifold. In the process, it knocked the sound level way down. The joystick is a knife in soft butter — move the boat sideways, mosey at an angle, or engage the position hold for GPS anchoring.
We had the standard twin Ilmor MV8 6.0Ls of 380 hp, but you can up the ante to 430 hp with 6.2L versions of these bulletproof GM blocks used in Suburbans and Silverado pickups. These are quiet engines, and Ilmor gets big points for putting every service point at the front of the engine where you can easily check oil, coolant, and steering fluid.
Once out of the hole and on plane—in 3.7 seconds–the AV32 ran to 48.8 miles per hour, fast and flat even in lumpy cross-seas. It made 30 miles per hour in 8.7 seconds—an impressive rate of acceleration for a 12,000 pound boat.
If you’re shopping, check out the Sea Ray SLX 310 (about $238,000), which is one foot shorter, similar in layout and 10 mph slower with twin Merc 250 hp sterndrives.
Our verdict on the AV32: All the secrecy was worthwhile. This stealth offering from two big guns in the boating biz checks all the boxes for family fun, and it does so with style, speed, and quality. Get your security clearance to see one now.
- Anchor locker has raw-water washdown and optional windlass with remote.
- Dedicated stowage for tables and supports, plus a locker with holders for fenders.
- All fiberglass construction (no wood to rot) and easy-clean gelcoated engine compartment.
- They are tweaking the helm seat position for more ideal leg room.
- No glove box or shelf in the dash for sunglasses, sunscreen, junk.
- No shower in the head, but this may be remedied in production versions.
- No barbecue grill seems an odd omission, but easily remedied
Price: $342,000 (sterndrive) $336,540 (outboard)
Available Power: Ilmor sterndrives, Mercury Verado outboards to 700 hp
How We Tested
Engine: Twin 380 hp Ilmor MV8 6.0L MPI Drive/Prop: Dual Bravo III 26″ pitch stainless steel Gear Ratio: 2.18:1 Fuel Load: 125 gal. Water on Board: 0 gal. Crew Weight: 450 lb.
Aviara Boats – Vonore, Tennessee; aviaraboats.com; marinemax.com