Boat Test: 2023 Donzi 39 VRZ

This boat can deliver top speeds from the 70s to the 90s, depending on the power chosen.
Donzi 39 VRZ running fast
The 39 VRZ combines aggressive handling with amazing top speed. Courtesy Donzi Marine


The new Donzi 39 VRZ opens a new chapter in the history of a storied boating nameplate that has been the property of Iconic Marine Group since 2017. This 38-foot-8-inch performance-luxury center-console represents a brand reboot, the first in a new generation of Donzi models being developed under the guidance of a team assembled by former Cigarette Racing and Statement Marine marketing maven Craig Barrie and built at Caldwell Marine Designs in North Carolina. Versatility makes center-consoles the most popular segment of the performance-boat market right now. A plush center-console is simply a great dayboat for its abundant space and the easy movement around the boat the layout affords. This Donzi will vie for boatbuyers’ dollars along with premium models like the 39-foot Nor-Tech 390 Sport ($664,395 base price with triple Mercury Racing 300R outboards) and the 38-foot-7-inch Mystic M3800 ($775,000 base price with triple 300R outboards), each a luxurious 12,000-pound step-hull that owners can rig with as much Mercury Racing outboard horsepower as they care to pay for. The Nor-Tech offers a “hidden fishing package,” while the Mystic makes no pretense to angling.

Donzi 39 VRZ with triple outboards
Triple Mercury outboards power the 39 VRZ to a comfortable, smooth ride. Courtesy Donzi Marine


You also won’t find a rod holder on the Donzi 39 VRZ. The ­mission is confident performance. Barrie told us he wants an owner to take the helm of the 39 VRZ and feel immediately comfortable at any speed, in any ­water condition. That was exactly our experience running hull No. 1, a blazing orange beauty ordered by a Canadian customer who specified triple Racing 300R outboards. Top speed was a tick over 70 mph, fast enough to keep up with the poker-run fleet and as fast as this customer wants to run with the family. We were unfamiliar with this Donzi but ­discovered it was instantly fun. It does not require trim tabs, carving turns at speed with absolute confidence and no hint of step-hull skipping or bobbing. We could execute a pretty aggressive 180-degree turnaround maneuver without trimming down the outboards. More power is always available. Barrie estimates this will be a 90 mph boat with triple Mercury ­Racing 500R motors, a different experience for a different kind of owner.

Donzi 39 VRZ matching outboards
Color-matched outboards are a nice touch. Courtesy Donzi Marine

Credit goes to the hull design for this boat’s easygoing personality. Pete Caldwell and pro racer Billy Moore consulted on the modification of the Fluid Diversion Technology twin-step hull originally created in 2001 by the late Jim Caldwell (Pete’s father) for the Donzi 38 ZRC, one of the first sit-down performance boats and a champion in offshore competition. To convert that hull to outboard power and a center-console layout, the deadrise was changed from the midstep aft, and the angles of each step were also modified. The hull is laid up with bi- and quad-axial fiberglass, with a high-density foam core vacuum-bagged over the layup with vinylester resin. Plexus methyl methacrylate adhesive bonds the hull-deck joint and the deck to stringers. The transom is cored with Coosa composite.

Donzi 39 VRZ helm
Our test boat had an optional throttle console that places the controls between port and starboard seating positions. Courtesy Donzi Marine

Interior and Accessories

The interior is laid out to maximize space and create social areas. The four-wide aft seat is divided by a walk-through to a 24-inch-deep transom platform. More than 4 feet of deck space—room for dancing or big coolers—separates the aft seat from the first console, which holds a three-across seat with a footrest and a grab bar. Forward on the center console is a lounge with room for two. The bow lounge features angled ­forward-facing ­backrests and stowage below the main cushions.

Donzi 39 VRZ bow seating
The bow lounge features angled forward-facing backrests. Courtesy Donzi Marine

At the helm, our test boat had an optional throttle console that places the controls between port and starboard seating positions and directly under the captain’s left hand, race-boat-style. This blocks passage through the helm area, and the standard helm has the controls on the main console with a three-wide seat, if that’s your preference. A pair of 16-inch ­Garmin 8616 multifunction displays offer boat and navigation data.

Donzi 39 VRZ cockpit seating
Plush seating options are found throughout. Courtesy Donzi Marine

Aerodynamics does not often factor into pleasure-boat design, but note the details in the Donzi 39 VRZ’s hardtop. It angles down a few degrees when the boat is at rest so it is horizontal to reduce drag when the boat is running. A vent in the top forward windshield relieves air pressure at speed; without the vent, a parachute effect occurs, wanting to pull the boat back against its roll into a turn. To further improve handling and stability, the top is formed of carbon fiber to reduce weight high on the boat, reportedly weighing only 160 pounds.

The top, the central control location, and the fine-tuning of the hull are examples of a racer’s influence on the design of this new Donzi, but this is no race boat. This is a center-console built purely for pleasure, for an owner who wants to be seen at the scene at the wheel of a boat that’s fast but never demanding. Donzi is back, baby.

Donzi 39 VRZ head
There’s a well-appointed head tucked in the console. Courtesy Donzi Marine

How We Tested

  • Engines: Triple Mercury Racing 300R
  • Drive/Props: Outboard/Mercury Racing 5.44 HD gear case/Mercury Racing Bravo I FS 15.25″ x 28″ 4-blade stainless steel
  • Gear Ratio: 1.85:1 Fuel Load: 140 gal. Water on Board: NA Crew Weight: 850 lb.

High Points

  • Well-balanced and well-designed, the boat inspires instant confidence from the helm, with no hint of handling quirks.
  • Standard Fusion and JL Audio system could power a Rolling Stones concert, with 20 speakers, four subs and four 900-watt amps.
  • Room for your entire poker-run entourage.

Low Points

  • Windshield does not open for ventilation.
  • No ventilation in the head compartment.
  • No grab handles at the console lounge position.

Pricing and Specs

Price:$573,000 (base with test power)
Draft (max):2’6″
Displacement (approx):12,000 lb.
Transom Deadrise:21.5 degrees
Bridge Clearance:10’5″
Max Cabin Headroom:5’9″
Fuel Capacity:320 gal.
Water Capacity:15 gal.
Max Horsepower:1,350
Available Power:Triple Mercury or Mercury Racing outboards to 1,500 hp total

Speed, Efficiency, Operation

Donzi 39 VRZ performance data
Donzi 39 VRZ Certified Test Results Boating Magazine

Donzi Marine – Washington, North Carolina;