The runabout is still a staple of the American boating family, although now they come in many more shapes and sizes. Be it a 16-footer or a 30-footer, the mission is still the same. That holds true whether it’s powered via outboards, sterndrives or even jet engines. These selections we present to you are some of the best runabout boats for 2017.
Bayliner Element E21
The new Element E21 is a fresh expression of the Bayliner mission: create boats that are affordable to buy and easy to own. Priced as low as $25,500, the 20-foot-8-inch E21 is a wide-open, dual-console deck boat that in its base configuration has no windshield — a glass windshield is a $1,271 option.
Formula 310 BR
Formula’s boats have always been solid and satisfying, and the 310 BR, the company’s flagship bowrider, continues that tradition. Twin MerCruiser 6.2L 300 hp V-8s fitted with Bravo Three drives provided a 51 mph top speed, with zero to 30 mph acceleration in a hair over seven seconds.
Four Winns HD 220 OB
The new Four Winns HD 220 OB has a trunk for your junk. When the Michigan boatbuilder converted its 22-foot HD 220 from sterndrive to outboard power, it was left with an empty space where the engine used to be. After considering a number of options, Four Winns decided to simply throw down a floor and let the owner figure out how to best use a space bigger than the trunk of a Buick Electra.
The Glastron GT-180 entry-level bowrider can be described in one word: fun. It might be entry-level due to its size and attractive price, but in a world filled with bowriders, this is one that stands out for finish, quality construction and, yes, because it’s just plain fun.
Jeanneau New Concept 795
The Jeanneau New Concept 795 is a French import that introduces the notion of the “pocket cruiser” to North American waters and, indeed, to North American boaters. This is an immensely popular European-style boat because it does a number of things surprisingly well.
During our test run, the Monterey M45 was quick to plane, fearless in turns and rewarding in top speed. And quiet? No wonder outboards are gaining ground among runabout enthusiasts.
Princecraft Ventura 220 WS
One of the few aluminum deck boats, the Ventura 220 WS features sleek lines, seating for 12 and a contoured wraparound windshield. Swing open the windshield walk-through to access the inviting loungers in the bowrider area.
Scarab 195 Open
The Scarab 195 Open has a center console steering station, and it’s water-jet-powered. These two features combine to help make this new boat a sport utility for the water: wakeboard, dive, fish, water-ski, tube and just have fun with your family.
Sea-Doo Spark TRIXX
With its light weight and playful hull, Sea-Doo’s Spark is a natural trickster. The new Trixx model boosts that freestyle orientation with a few modifications to showcase the boat’s full potential. The highlight is Sea-Doo’s variable electric trim, retooled for the Trixx to more than double the directional nozzle’s range of motion.
Starcraft MDX 191 OB
The MDX 191 outboard from Starcraft is a family craft that’s also light on the checkbook. It’s a well-mannered boat that’s easy to trailer, launch, start and pilot — great for newbies as well as seasoned salts. With its low freeboard, boarding and debarking are no hassle for the family either. The styling is sweet and sleek, with a curvaceous foredeck that cheats the wind.
Starcraft MDX 201 EIO
Starcraft hasn’t forgotten the original appeal of deck boats. The MDX 201 EIO’s family-friendly open design encourages socializing in the cockpit, but it retains the handling attributes of a V-hull below.
Starcraft MDX 201 IO
Starcraft put together a genuine “family truckster” of a rig in this MDX 201 IO deck boat, without the geeky looks of the Griswolds’ ride. To the contrary, the MDX 201 has sleek and incredibly sporty lines that are not normally associated with a family platform. Its performance reflected its style.
Starcraft MDX 211 E OB
The appeal of a deck boat, such as the Starcraft MDX 211 E OB we tested, resides in the unfettered space provided by a minimalist helm, a broad bow and clever seating, combined with unparalleled boarding and water access that fore ’n’ aft swim platforms with ladders provide.
Starcraft SCX 210 OB EXT
Starcraft’s SCX 210 is a cool family craft with an aggressive look and a nice turn of speed. Our tester, fitted with Yamaha’s lightweight, four-cylinder F200 XB four-stroke outboard and 14.5-inch-by-17-inch stainless-steel Yamaha propeller, turned in a 48 mph top speed and a most economical cruising speed of 22.4 mph at 3,500 rpm, where we achieved 4.8 mpg.
Stingray 186 CC
The 186 CC is built to cruise, with comfortable beam-to-beam seating at the stern. All the cushions stow away, converting these areas into casting decks — all except for the folding jump seats at the stern. This arrangement means there is still seating for five (two astern, two at the helm and one forward) while rigged for fishing.
The letter X is legendary in American lore. Planes like X-15, autos like the XKE, and even rockets like SpaceX bear “X” in their name. It denotes special designs, skunkworks performance and mystique. Yamaha’s 212X follows that trend.
Yamaha AR 210
Look closely at the Yamaha AR 210. Compare it to any performance runabout you wish. We did when we tested it at Yamaha’s press introduction on Lake Oconee in Georgia.
Yamaha EX Series
Yamaha’s EX Series Waverunners are designed to give personal-watercraft fans the best return on investment possible in both performance and long-lasting good looks. After spending a day on the water with all three trim-level models, we agree.
When we climbed aboard the GP1800, we’d already learned it was the new PWC of choice for the racing circuit and for technical advisers like Brian Baldwin. So when we pulled the throttle trigger on the stock GP1800 and hit over 70 mph, we weren’t surprised. But the dizzy feeling in our belly as the boat accelerated to top speed blew us away.
Yamaha SX 195
Even though the SX 195 is an entry point into the Yamaha jet-boat line, it includes “cruise assist,” an automated speed control that activates at any speed at the touch of a button. Once it’s switched on, speed can be adjusted up or down in small increments by tapping the button.