Each year, Boating editors test over 100 different powerboats of just about every description in just about every category. At each test, our tech team notes the standout features of the boats, as well as any features we believe require remediation. These are catalogued as the “High Points” and “Low Points” published with each boat test. Often these points relate to construction, design, and safety in accordance with published standards, such as those of the American Boat and Yacht Council, the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Marine Manufacturers Association. At a minimum, the Boat of the Year must not exhibit violations of such standards. To avoid comparing apples and oranges — because what is acceptable for an inshore runabout may not be for an offshore fishing boat — we utilize considered opinion along with the hard data. We compare the test boat to other boats in the same category, asking not just “How well does this boat fulfill its intended mission?” but also “How much better does this boat fulfill its intended mission compared to other similar boats?” The boats are viewed through the lens of an experienced team possessing over 150 years of combined time on the water, both personally and assessing boats for a living. Ultimately, the winner is the boat that stands out in its category more than any other boat tested stands out in any other category. After a year’s testing, much debate and heated discussion, here are Boating’s Boat of the Year finalists for 2017. The Boat of the Year winner will be announced in our January 2018 issue of the magazine, and the trophy will be awarded at the Progressive Miami International Boat Show in February 2018.
Everglades 253 CC (May 2017)
Our test team was impressed by the Everglades 253 CC’s, and we quote, “blend of unsinkable durability, hardcore fishability, and family comfort.” We can add that Everglades builds its own tops and produces its own wire harnesses, and its metalwork and electrical systems are worthy to use as standards by which to judge those installed aboard other boats. As with our other Boat of the Year finalists, the fit and finish aboard the Everglades 253 CC rank among the best we’ve seen.
Formula 430 Super Sport Crossover (July 2017)
This quad-outboard performer delivered high-performance speed and handling during our test, qualities we’ve come to expect from a Formula Super Sport. Its layout proves unique, with a full windshield and portside access to the open bow. Structural highlights include a hull-to-deck joint that’s both chemically bonded and through-bolted. Crossover? This boat can be a weekend getaway for a couple or a fun island for grandparents wishing to bring aboard the clan for the day.
Grady-White Freedom 235 (March 2017)
Grady-White’s Freedom 235 represents the finest execution of a dual console boat we’ve seen, blending the best elements of a bowrider, fishing boat and watersports boat into one easily trailerable craft that can ply an inland canal with as much aplomb as it can run through a coastal inlet. Structurally, one of many design elements to note is that, like its cockpit, every single compartment drains overboard. That’s a great safety feature.
Sea Ray SLX 400 (October 2017)
Our tester termed Sea Ray’s SLX 400 “your own floating water park,” in reference to this boat’s abundant versatility. This “cruiser” handles nimbly at 40 knots, makes a great weekender, and boasts many design innovations, not the least of which is the expandable swim platform known as the swim terrace. It will be available with outboard power by the time you read this. Dedicated stowage for a stand-up paddleboard is just one example that reflects a builder in touch with the current wishes of many boaters.
Supra SE 550 (June 2017)
That this was the boat that pulled the Pro Tour comes as no surprise. It creates wakes that are not just large (did we mention “humongous”?) but can be shaped to suit using a variety of proprietary devices and systems. Integrating technology into the total boat, its Vision Dash delivers touchscreen control of not only wakes and waves but also engine status, navigation and entertainment. A unique tower design makes garage stowage or low-bridge situations easy to handle, while innovative seating allows the cockpit to work for sunset cruises as well as wakesurfing sessions.