Recently, we had the chance to test three new Sport Cruiser models from Monterey. There was the trailer-friendly 260 SCR and the fully appointed twin-engine 320 SY. And in between was one of the most interesting new models we've seen this season: the 280 SCR.
After spending several hours aboard cruising the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, we determined that the 280 occupies a real sweet spot in the family-friendly cruiser market. As a linebacker-size boater, I can be hard to please when it comes to interior space. I'd have no such problems spending a long weekend with three others on the 280. Yet it maintains an unusually compact simplicity (and lower cost) of a single-engine design, and can even be stored on a trailer and transported with a standard overwide permit.
The credit for this boat's best-of-both capabilities goes to Monterey's design team. As we've noted in the past, the company's research and development efforts are among the best in the industry. Extensive computer modeling is just the start of a process that includes full-scale mock-ups and extensive prototype testing and refinement. In the case of the 280 SCR, this process before full production resulted in major and minor adjustments to ensure not only a roomy cockpit for a boat this size, but also a sweet-running hull capable of riding efficiently on that single big-block engine.
Up top, the 280 delivers a full helping of seating and lounging areas with features suited for the marina lifestyle, like a wet bar, removable cockpit table and forward sun lounge. But as we quickly discovered when the dock lines were slipped, this is also a driver's boat. It can reach speeds in the high 40s with 375 horsepower and at the same time has a "big boat" ride as it cuts through chop. Anyone accustomed to handling a big runabout should be comfortable docking the 280, because the Duoprop drive eases control in low-speed maneuvering situations.
The 280 also hits a sweet spot in terms of accommodations. It's just large enough to provide true live-aboard capabilities in the cabin. The bunks and the head are all proportioned for an adult my size, and the designers reconfigured the cabinets to create that extra inch or two of elbowroom that makes all the difference between snug and cramped.
The 280 can be equipped with air conditioning and a full-canvas package, making it truly self-sufficient for weekends at remote anchorages. And if you keep cruise speeds around 30 mph, you'll have a range of better than 150 miles (60 miles out, 60 miles back, with room to spare).
Key Note: Monterey rearranged the cabinetry and bulkheads to increase open space. A family of four could comfortably enjoy a weekend on board.
• Extended brow on the radar arch shades the helm and provides attachment points for front curtains.
• The big-boat performance and features come without the cost of twin engines.
• Helmsperson enjoys unrestricted views across a well-appointed console.
• Large, low swim platform makes entry from the water or dock safe and easy.
• Wide, molded steps on the cabin hatch give sure-footed access to bow lines and the forward sun pad.
* Length Overall: 29'
* Beam: 9'2"
* Weight(w/engine): 8,200 lb.
* Fuel Capacity: 90 gal.
* Water Capacity: 30 gal.
* Holding Tank Capacity: 21 gal.
* MSRP (w/ Volvo 8.1Gi EVC DP, 375 hp): $125,962
* NMMA Certified: Yes
* Test Engine: Volvo 8.1GI EVC DP, 375 HP
* Top Speed: 47.5 mph @ 4,680 rpm
* Time to Plane: 4.9 sec.
* Time to 30 mph: 13.1 sec.