Airship R8

The Airship R8 mixes great speed with top notch performance.

We Say: Here's an American-made, European-style rigid inflatable boat with better speed and performance than any RIB made on this side of the Atlantic.

Manufactured by a group of veteran offshore racers, its design makes this 27-by-8-foot inflatable unique — it's a looker. Thanks to infused core construction, the whole boat, including a hefty 635-pound Mercury Verado 300, weighs a mere 2,800 pounds. If there ever was proof that the two most critical factors in speed are weight and power, this is it. Match this with its twin-stepped hull and you've got a lot of velocity from not much force. While our test boat reached 68.1 mph, the engine never spun all the way to its maximum 6,400 rpm. With a better prop it could easily top 70 mph. Acceleration is quick, another feature of low weight. As with most stepped hulls, the ride is level but can be tricky in turns — there's a tendency for the hull to catch rather than slide if you don’t drive sensibly.

Even with all this speed, there’s plenty of sound protection behind the dash and in the aft seat — enough so you can talk under way without yelling. Finish and fit are excellent, with draining stowage lockers, aggressive nonskid, and through-bolted hinges and accessories.

Who'd Want One: Those who love blowing the pants off of other 27-footers, using less power and with more style.

Another Choice: Zodiac's Medline IV is built more for lounging than speed. It's heavier and wider and costs more.

Bottom Line: $74,175; www.airshipribs.com