You can order Sea Ray’s 290 Sundancer with a single diesel stern drive, but I wouldn’t. You’d give up docking ease and redundant security. Plus, the single draws 6″ more water – twin drives are set to either side of the keel instead of right on it, so twins give you a greater margin of operation in coastal bays and shallow coves.
My test revealed that this boat is as much a dayboat as it is a cruiser. Topside, there’s a long, flat cockpit so the largest crew possible can enjoy the ride and the fun. Below, there’s a head, galley, and V-berth providing roomy overnighting for two. But the V-berth converts into an aft-facing sofa by way of clever hinging. I’d leave it set this way – I’d prefer to use the area to wait out a shower rather than spend the night. In fact, I’d bet that most boaters who choose this boat would leave the berth in its sofa configuration most of the time. There’s an aft cabin with a twin berth, but the 290 Sundancer’s low, sleek freeboard means headroom is nil. Relegation as stowage is likely, despite the convenient center entry.
Cruising amenities aside, topside fun is why you’d buy this ride. Performance matched those racy lines, which are capped by a flat, angular windshield. Punch the keyless ignitions, throw the levers, and the 290 Sundancer races to 47-plus mph. Dial it back to the 30s and you can cut, weave, and carve at will. Efficiency? It holds plane at 12.8 mph and gets better than 1.5 mpg while cruising.
Done with the run? Drop the hook and chill. There’s a windlass with footswitch to help you. Coming aft through the split windshield – there are no sidedecks, a design deletion that adds cabin width – enjoy the cockpit amenities. I discovered a neat aft lounge with a hinged cushion that covers drinkholders – similar to many home sofas. A wetbar is abaft the helm and the oversize swim platform features a four-step ladder mounted underneath. At rest or underway, fun is the order of the day.
High Points: Arch-mounted grabrail eases walking through the split windshield; grabrails are copious throughout. Nonslip coverage complete, not just in patches, on gunwales and bow. Three-way cabin light switches are a thoughtful convenience.
Low Points: Ground bus terminals in bilge aren’t sealed. Anchor rode locker access is poor. Test boat’s bowrail was higher on the port side than starboard- closely eyeball the one aboard the boat you sea trial to ensure this has been corrected.
Toughest Competitors: Monterey’s 298 SC is a racy dayboat with a cockpit sunpad, versus the extra walking space aboard the 290 Sundancer, and no aft cabin. It’s available with larger engines, up to twin 320 hp, and has a larger fuel supply. It costs $114,019 when powered like our test boat. Chaparral’s 290 Signature is a pure cruiser – bigger, deeper, with a generous aft cabin and more conservatively styling. It costs $133,853 powered like our test boat.
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Draft (max.): 3’3″
Displacement (lbs., approx.): 9,250
Transom deadrise: 21°
Bridge clearance: 8’10”
Max. cabin headroom: 6’2″
Fuel capacity (gal.): 125
Water capacity (gal.): 28
Price (w/standard power): $134,194
Price (w/test boat power): $138,152
STANDARD POWER: Twin 220-hp MerCruiser 4.3L MPI V-6 Bravo One gasoline stern drives.
OPTIONAL POWER: Twin MerCruiser gasoline stern drives to 520 hp total; single 310-bhp Volvo Penta D6 DuoProp diesel stern drive.
TEST BOAT POWER: Twin 260-hp MerCruiser 5.0L MPI V-8 gasoline Bravo Three stern drives with 305 cid, swinging 24″-pitch ss propsets through 2.2:1 reductions.
STANDARD EQUIPMENT _(major items)_Radar arch w/canvas sunshade; aft, front, side curtains; ski-tow-eye; 4-step swim ladder; wetbar w/sink, trashcan, bottle rack; flip-bolster helm seat; electronic engine hatch; satellite-ready AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo w/4 speakers and remote; microwave oven; refrigerator; single-burner stove; enclosed head w/vacuum-flush commode; VHF radio; battery charger; galvanic isolator; 30a shorepower; water heater.