Sea Ray's new 680 Sun Sport looks great, runs fast - 40.4 mph during our test - and handles with the sprightly ease of a smaller boat. Thoroughly indulgent, its dual-salon accommodation plan boasts more hardwood than the Amazon and more granite than New Hampshire. Rugged, sound-deadening construction methods make it extremely quiet and virtually vibration-free. The 680 Sun Sport can be enjoyed as watersports central or simply as a sun chaser. It features the largest fuel capacity in its class, providing more range than you could possibly use in a single weekend. Oodles of redundancy, coupled with a PC-driven touchscreen, systems monitoring, and a navigation suite, allows you to island hop with confidence.
What's the catch? Price. Its $2,653,000 sticker makes it more expensive by nearly three-quarters of million dollars than Viking's V-65 Express Cruiser ($1.96 million with twin 1,300-bhp MAN 2842LE404s), and it tops Sunseeker's Predator 68 ($1.5 million also with 1,300-bhp MANs) by over a million bucks. Moreover, items that are optional aboard the 680 Sun Sport (prices for options were not set at press time), such as a bow thruster, are standard on the two British-built competitors. So the search to discover how Sea Ray spent six extra figures begins.
AQUACOUSTICS. The first step: Take the helm and push the throttles forward. A pair of strapping 1,400-bhp Caterpillar 3412E diesel inboards gets the 680 Sun Sport's big 3"-diameter shafts and 33"-by-38" five-bladed wheels turning. There's no rumble, no roar, no lurching, and so little vibration - it's more like the hum of an electric current - while achieving plane that a guest could hold a martini glass by the stem, fill it to the rim, and not spill a drop. There's some lag and a bit of a squat, until the turbos spool up at 1,500 rpm. But this is an advantage in my opinion: It makes the transition to plane silky rather than abrupt. Read that again. The 680 Sun Sport is not slow. Look at the computer screen installed in the integrated helm (an aftermarket installation aboard the Predator 68). It displays Maptech's intuitive chartplotting software and engine data. You're making 24.4 mph at 1500 rpm. But until you look out one of the power-opening side windows and see the landscape whizzing by, you'd think the high-tech, integrated helm had gone ker-blooey. The 680 Sun Sport is one smooth-running boat.
Turning? It snaps around at top speed and pivots with confidence dockside. Still, a bow thruster should be standard. A number of things are responsible for the 680 Sun Sport's quiet ride and smooth handling. Directing a 33" cone of prop thrust against large, 2'8"-tall rudders creates lots of turning leverage. Its deep-V hullform aids in tracking. Its 75,000 pounds (the V-65 Express Cruiser weighs 50,000 pounds; the Predator 68, 63,000) provides great static and running stability. Soft-mounted engines through-bolted to foam-filled fiberglass stringers, hefty shafts, and five-bladed props all combine to minimize vibration so fixtures don't rattle. Exhaust is plumbed below the waterline. And unless you push the button to open the power skylight in the hardtop, you're operating from a fully enclosed helm.
Not as readily apparent are the acoustic tiles fitted to the hull, particularly in the propeller tunnel area, engine beds, and the underside of the balsa-cored, 3"-thick salon floor. Also, the engine room's forward bulkhead - in front of the twin 511-gallon, polyurethane-coated fuel tanks - and the underside of the lower deck's structure are treated with 3/4" of Sound Down foam and lead insulation. Water noise can't get in; machinery noise can't get out. And dockside, with the 25kW Westerbeke genset - twice the output of that offered standard by Predator 68 - and all eight compressors of its 110,000-Btu air-conditioning system running, the 680 Sun Sport was so quiet I couldn't get a reading on my sound meter. You'll sleep well on the hook. So will those sharing your anchorage.
THE HIGHS: Born to run. It's as quiet and smooth as they come. The integrated helm is just one of several innovations that makes this amazing Sun Sport easy for owners to operate.** **
THE LOWS: An expensive boat. Big cockpit means there's no room for a waterbike garage. Many options, including the bow thruster, are standard on competitors' models.
PRIME TIMBER. Of course, slipping under custom covers on an innerspring mattress atop a solid mahogany and maple island berth located in a climate-controlled stateroom with more than seven feet of headroom, a plasma screen TV, enough indirect lighting, and a sound system that would put Carnegie Hall to shame doesn't hurt either. Especially after showering with a teak grate underfoot and shaving while your toes tickle a custom tile mosaic. The 680 Sun Sport ain't your daddy's Sea Ray. Each one is built from custom components in a dedicated plant.
Check the salon floors: teak and maple. Check the thresholds: Corian. Check the vanities and counters: solid granite. Check the helm and companion seats: cows gave their all. Cabinet latches feature stainless-steel flanges to prevent fingerprinting the wood's high-gloss finish (high gloss is an option, matte is standard). And on it goes. Naturally, some Sea Ray trademarks, such as hidden air-conditioning vents, freestanding high-low salon tables, and a fiberglass headliner with Ultraleather inserts, are not forgotten either. Our test boat featured the standard, three-stateroom plan, with fore and aft berths, either of which could be called master, and a portside guest stateroom with over-under berths. A submarine hatch on the transom opens to a utility room that also serves as crew quarters, with a head, the standard washer/dryer, and two berths. Pay extra for the two stateroom plan and the aft berth goes full beam, undisputedly becoming the master. Either way, you get a luxurious salon featuring a skylight with an electric shade and a galley designed to please gourmets as well as those who prefer a catered buffet.
THE WAY IT OUGHTA BE. There's no waterbike garage aboard the 680 Sun Sport as there is on the V-65 Express Cruiser and the Predator 68. The 680 Sun Sport's larger cockpit is the result of relegating your small boat to the cradle on the optional hydraulic swim platform (standard on the Predator 68). You can order the cockpit and platform covered in teak, but this, too, comes standard aboard the Predator 68. Entry is via the platform or port and starboard cockpit boarding doors. You'll never run out of stowage. Shorepower inlets are standard in the lazarette and more can be added up in the anchor locker. This lets you dock bow-to for privacy or a better view. A key fob remote lets you reel in your cords from afar. But that anchor locker hatch - gasketed, guttered, and drained, affixed by a full-length, through-bolted hinge, and opening on a stainless-steel gas-assisted strut - is a case study in how to make a hatch cover.
Drop down into the engine room (or use the videocamera installed here to pan your way around from the touchscreen helm). A ladder with 1'1"-wide rungs makes it easy. Sniff around the bilge. Electrical connectors are shrink-sealed to prevent moisture. Wiring is supported by cushioned clamps. Limber holes and the joint where the balsa-cored hull meets the deck? Sealed tight. Maintenance is minimized, service is easy, long-term durability's been addressed. Even small improvements in the design of boats as large and sophisticated as the 680 Sun Sport can be expensive and intricate. Your best bet is to test drive the boat to fully appreciate its precision and craftsmanship - qualities that are hard to put a price on.
LAST WORD. Easy to operate, this sport yacht combines performance, luxury, and pizzazz in a near-perfect blend.
LOA ........65'1" ** **
Beam ........18'6" ** **
Draft ........4'9" ** **
Displacement (lbs., approx.) ........75,000 ** **
Transom deadrise ........19° ** **
Bridge clearance ........13'6" ** **
Minimum cockpit depth...2'0"
Max. cabin headroom...7'3" ** **
Fuel capacity (gal.).1,022 ** **
Water capacity (gal.).200 ** **
Price (w/standard power) ........$2,653,000 ** **
Price (w/test power) ........$2,653,000 ** **
STANDARD POWER : Twin 1,400-bhp Caterpillar 3412E V-12 diesel inboards. ** **
OPTIONAL POWER: None. ** **
TEST BOAT POWER: Twin 1,400-bhp Caterpillar 3412E V-12 diesel inboards with 1649 cid, 5.4" bore x 6.0" stroke, swinging 33" x 38" five-bladed Nibral props through 1.75:1 reductions. ** **
STANDARD EQUIPMENT (major items): Fiberglass stringer system; windshield washer; ss companionway door; electric cockpit bench/sunpad; icemaker; hardwood salon floor; 2 SubZero refrigerators/freezers; microwave/convection oven;4-burner stove; washer/ dryer; 5 TVs/VCRs; 100-disc CD stereo system w/surround sound and subwoofer; leather helm and companion seats; retractable skylight; central vac; high-water alarm; PC-driven integrated-helm; fire suppression system with diesel shutdown and override; oil change system (50-gal. reservoir).