Berkshire 220 CL

Premium amenities and towboat performance come together at an attractive price in Berkshire’s new 220CL.

Berkshire might be a new name in the boating market, but its parent company, Forest River, is one of the nation's leading builders of RVs and pontoons. For 2009, the company is introducing the Berkshire brand, which includes 13 models from 20 to 26 feet, all designed to provide buyers with a range of premium features at a midrange price.

Our dockside inspection of the company's new 220 CL confirmed a level of quality and workmanship that one would expect aboard an upmarket pontoon. Captain and crew will enjoy premium seating, great tunes, a full range of creature comforts and ample storage, both above and below deck. Swimmers will appreciate the extended, vinyl-clad rear platform, and watersports enthusiasts will be pleased to know that the beefy tow bar isn't just for looks.

In an era of hyperpowered pontoons, a near-40 mph boat won't make headlines. But it will pull skiers and take the crew across open water with a chop-softening ride. The 220's performance comes courtesy of lifting strakes and a spray-deflecting underbody. Pontoon boats can't technically come on plane, but this boat climbed out of the water as speeds increased during our test ride. It also banked into predictable medium-radius curves while cutting through our own chop.

Like other Forest River pontoon products, the Berkshire models ride on pressurized pontoons that are specially welded for a sleeker profile. These practices make for a boat that should prove as durable as it is attractive.

Key Note: The 220CL edges into the luxury end of the pontoon spectrum, but comes in at less than $40,000, even in a three-log version.

Standout Features
• Underskin is designed to not only deflect spray, but also to increase transom lift to offset the weight of larger four-stroke engines.
• Sectionalized pontoon chambers are pressurized to 3 psi to increase rigidity.
• Large fuel tank and efficient four-stroke power allow for extended outings at fun speeds.

Vital Stats
* Length Overall: 22'4"
* Beam: 8'6"
* Dry Weight: 2,650 lb.
* Seating/Weight Capacity: 13/1,765 lb.
* Fuel Capacity: 54 gal.
* Maximum HP: 150
* MSRP: See local dealer
* NMMA Certified: Yes

Test Drive
* Test Engine: Yamaha F150 EFI 4-stroke
* Test Prop: 14.5 x 15 Reliance, stainless
* Test Load: People (400 lb.); Fuel (40 gal.)
* Top Speed: 39.3 mph @ 5,800 rpm
* Time to 30 MPH: 6.7 sec.