Formula 370: Best Wishes

There’s a genie in the bottle.

Here's a boat that tops 60 MPH on twin 420-hp Volvo Penta 8.1 GSi/DP motors, planes in less than six seconds, and makes 50-mph slalom passes so cleanly I wished we could have taken a photograph of the S patterns left in its wake. No wonder I forgot for a moment that I was at the helm of a wide-beam cruiser with seating for 8-to-10 people, sleeping quarters for four, and enough stowage for nearly everything under the sun. It feels like a hot-rod sportboat.

It shouldn't surprise you that the Formula 370 Super Sport is so capable, so versatile. After all, its big sister, the Formula 400 SS was BOATING Magazine's 1998 Boat of the Year. The 400 SS was the first design to combine the performance of a twin-stepped hull with the layout of an express cruiser. It was the ultimate dayboat.

To describe the 370 SS, it's best to start at the bottom. At 2" high, the 370 SS' twin steps are among the tallest I've seen. They need to be. This ain't no pencil-thin, single-purpose, offshore go-fast. The 370 SS' steps are in proportion to the boat's 10'6" beam and 14,400-pound displacement. By comparison, Formula's 382 FAS3Tech, what I call a single-purpose, offshore go-fast, is 8'3" wide and weighs 10,450 pounds. Its 1 1/2"-tall steps provide plenty of lift.

In addition to being taller, the steps on the 370 SS are spaced farther apart than they are on the 382 FAS3 Tech - 8' compared to 5'. Why? The taller the steps, the farther apart they need to be to ensure longitudinal stability. Otherwise too much air would be pushed under too small of a section on the bottom. Taller steps also mean the water hits farther aft on the bottom, helping to level the 370 SS' ride. Once our test boat was on plane, my inclinometer never read above two degrees.

THE HIGHS: Handles like a svelte sportboat. Shaded dash ahead of helm effectively kills glare. Armrest for throttle hand pampers driver. Smart use of space in cabin, especially fridge location.** **

THE LOWS: Engine hatch takes too long to raise and should be supported with backup gas shocks. Drive trim pumps difficult to get to. Bowrail is too low to be effective.

With the 420-hp Volvos, we cruised comfortably at 42.1 mph at 3500 rpm, burning a stingy 26.4 gph. Even at wide open throttle, the fuel consumption was on the low side for the category - 62.4 gph. Optional Corsa Captain's Call exhaust cutouts ($3,460) kept the decibel level nice and low until we opened them up at 3000 rpm.

When it comes to competition, well, there isn't any - yet. Fountain plans to unveil a 37-footer at the Miami Boat Show this month. The boat will be built on the same twin-stepped bottom currently used for a 37' center console. If history is anything to go by, the Fountain will have a speed edge, whereas the Formula will be more luxurious and comfortable. In about the same size range but not stepped is the Cobalt 360 Express Cruiser, which retails for $217,905 with twin 315-hp Volvo Penta 5.7 GXi/SX engines.

MOD SQUAD. Because stepped-hull boats are subject to more punishment, Formula uses the grid construction technology from the FAS3Tech line for the 370 SS. The stringers and frames are formed in a one-piece fiberglass grid that's bonded into the hull with Plexus. The hull bottom, sides, and deck are made from solid fiberglass laminates. To enhance fit and finish, Formula includes the cockpit sole as part of the deck mold. The cabin sole is its own liner. The cockpit wetbar, seat bases, and dash modules are single pieces, as are the head and galley belowdecks. All parts are bonded in place with Plexus.

Check out the engine compartment's extra-stout motor mounts. A large flat piece of aluminum is welded to the tops of the horseshoe-like brackets that cap the bearers and bolt through them. This creates a wide platform through which the motor-mounting bolts are fastened. A folding diamond-plate step at the front of the engine bay provides a convenient perch for making repairs.

The triple batteries, charger, and water heater are conveniently located to port; the starboard water tank is also within reach. All the wires and hoses are secured in stainless-steel cushioned clamps. The transom-mount drive trim pumps, however, are difficult to access. Also the power hatch took its sweet time raising and should have been additionally supported with gas struts.

LOUNGE AROUND. Once you close the engine hatch, a process that takes a few minutes, it forms the aft section of the horseshoe-shaped cockpit lounge. In this base are a stowage locker and a lid that raises to provide access for routine engine maintenance items. There's also stowage along the starboard side of the lounge.

The triple batteries, charger, and water heater are conveniently located to port; the starboard water tank is also within reach. All the wires and hoses are secured in stainless-steel cushioned clamps. The transom-mount drive trim pumps, however, are difficult to access. Also the power hatch took its sweet time raising and should have been additionally supported with gas struts.

LOUNGE AROUND. Once you close the engine hatch, a process that takes a few minutes, it forms the aft section of the horseshoe-shaped cockpit lounge. In this base are a stowage locker and a lid that raises to provide access for routine engine maintenance items. There's also stowage along the starboard side of the lounge.

At the swim platform, a large trunk-style locker offers the most topside capacity with dedicated fender stowage. It also houses the optional ($805) cockpit tables and lounge filler cushions. Although there are nonslip steps in the tops of the gunwales near the cockpit lounge, the easiest boarding is via the swim platform, which contains a three-step ladder in its own locker. A transom gate to port opens for easy passage to the cockpit.

Just ahead of the port gate, the convenient cockpit galley has a sink with a cutting board top, perfect for lemons and limes. There, I also found one of three onboard wastebaskets - smart for all the trash a family generates - a refrigerator, and cooler. It's so much easier when you don't have to run to the cabin every time you need a drink.

If the cockpit lounges are full, don't fret. There's plenty of space to stretch out on an aft-facing lounge to port. Between the lounge and the helm, a set of molded steps and a safety rail provide passage to the deck via the walkthrough windshield. When you're on deck, there's plenty of nonslip, but the bowrails came up only to my shins, which makes them ineffective at keeping you on deck.

At the helm, the swept windshield protects you while seated. The front half of the bottom cushion flips up to create a leaning post-style perch. Equally nice is the armrest for the driver's throttling arm that creates the ideal resting place for an elbow. A tan finish on the dash abaft the windshield helps create a glare-free view for drivers. VDO engine-monitoring gauges are set up in two tiers and there's plenty of space for aftermarket electronics.

Even though Formula calls the 370 SS a dayboat, the cabin matches up well against similar cruisers. The aft bunk measures a full 6'-by-4' and the forward 6'-long lounges convert to a V-berth with filler cushions. In a clever use of belowdecks space, the refrigerator and hanging locker are next to the entry steps. This keeps the galley from feeling cluttered and helps create some privacy for the aft bunk. The compact galley is stocked with the usual fare - sink, stove, and microwave - yet ithas ample stowage, including a four-drawer cabinet. Formula also came up with a smart way to stash the cabin table when it's not in use - it slips beneath a hatch in the cabin sole.

The starboard head has a full-size feel with a commode that's comfortable to sit on and a stand-up shower. The curtain lets you shower with the door open and retain your privacy.

LAST WORD. Stepped-bottom performance in a cruiser with style.

LOA..........37'0"

Beam..........10'6" ** **

Draft..........3'0"

Displacement (lbs., approx.) .....14,400

Transom deadrise ..21°

Bridge clearance ..10'0"

Minimum cockpit depth...........2'4"

Max. cabin headroom..........6'2"

Fuel capacity (gal.)..238

Water capacity (gal.)............43 ****

Price (w/standard power) ..........$252,065 ****

Price (w/test power) ..........$252,065 ****

STANDARD POWER: Twin 420-hp MerCruiser 496 MAG MPI HO Bravo Three or Volvo Penta 8.1 GSi/DP V-8 gasoline stern drives. ****

OPTIONAL POWER: Twin MerCruiser or Volvo Penta gasoline stern drives to 840 hp total.****

TEST BOAT POWER: Twin 420-hp Volvo Penta 8.1 GSi/DP V-8 gasoline stern drives with 496 cid, 4.25" bore x 4.37" stroke, swinging F7 propsets through 1.68:1 reductions. ****

STANDARD EQUIPMENT (major items): Walkthrough windshield; ss deck hardware and rails; 4 Bomar deck hatches; aluminum radar arch; ss swim ladder; hot and cold transom shower; VDO instrumentation; Ritchie compass; Zero Effort or Gaffrig controls; tilt Dino steering wheel; trim tabs and switches; 120v shorepower; cockpit wetbar w/cooler, refrigerator; cabin table and filler cushions; 13" TV/VCR; Kenwood AM/FM/ CD stereo w/4 speakers; phone jack; reading lights; galley w/stove, sink, microwave, refrigerator; 120v water heater; head w/VacuFlush toilet, stand-up shower; CO detector; power engine hatch; automatic fire extinguisher; remote oil filters; batteries in boxes; 80-amp battery charger. ****