Chaparral’s new big bowrider enters a category flush with competition in size and power, but few competitors deliver the 287 SSX’s panache. The Georgia boatbuilder continually brings home customer-satisfaction awards for its boats and the customer service that supports them.
How did mega runabouts become the rage? They are ideal for weekend entertaining at the lake cottage or condo and handle big crowds with comfort.
Foremost, the 287 SSX’s ride is exemplary, making it ideal on the largest bays like the Chesapeake and sprawling impoundments like North Carolina’s Lake Norman. At 29 feet long with a 9-foot beam, it’s not an easily trailerable boat, but that’s no matter to the weekenders who want it. What they like, and what we noticed the second we doubled back over our ploughed-up wakes, is how the 22-degree deadrise creased those mountains and barely rippled our soft drink in the cup holder. You need that kind of wave-breaking power to comfortably cruise these big waters at an enjoyable breeze-stirring pace that keeps passengers cool and enthused. The 287 may be a brute in size and in power with our test engine, a Merc 8.2-liter block with a Bravo Three dual-prop drive, but it’s as nimble as a dancer in a “Missouri Waltz” competition — which brings up another place this Chaparral will rock the waves: Lake of the Ozarks.
We liked the smooth feel of it in turns; with nearly full speed, we could fling it into skirt-flaring turns, but with balance so well-centered, your crew will squeal with pleasure, not fear.
And while we put the 287 through these wake-crushing maneuvers, we kept an ear tuned to the hatches, latches and other potential rattlers on board. There were none. Even the wakeboard arch and built-in Bimini stood firm, lacking most of the beam-to-beam flexing you’d experience on lesser towers. And this one maintained its firm position even though it is hinged and electrically powered to go up and down to increase bridge clearance, open more doors to more waters, and ease dry storage during winter months.
I pitied potential 287 owners who struggle with modesty. Bringing this vessel to local dock-and-dine venues will turn heads and fight to puff your chest. We picture smiles that broaden as crew in evening wear glide to the dock via the transom walkway and easy steps ashore.
Others might question why you’d leave the boat. We did when we took stock of the wraparound seating in the cockpit. It begins just behind the passenger bucket seat and makes the right-angle turn at the transom, spreading comfort to the transom walkway. At first, we wondered why there wasn’t a filler cushion to cover the walkway, then we realized that without it seating was generous, not just sufficient. Even the helm and passenger bucket seats are generously wide, perhaps making room for a companion to share. Chaparral’s hardware is always exemplary, and the swivel and slide controls of these seats are real standouts. You can reach the chrome levers at each hip and pull them to release the mechanisms to swivel or adjust legroom. Nobody in a boat this luxurious should have to crawl under the seat to do that — as is the case with the seats in nearly all the competition.
And just who is the competition for the 287 SSX? I suggest you look at Monterey’s 298 SS to find a comparably stylish 29-footer. But you’ll find some differences. Like the treatment of the helm deck. Both the passenger and helm seats are adjustable benches with flip-down armrests. They don’t swivel but are fully wide enough for two cozy adults. Wraparound cockpit seating is comparable, but Monterey’s transom seating sits farther forward, offering a wider, deeper sun pad between the aft seats and transom platform.
The glass helm on our Chaparral was optional, but we’d be hard-pressed to go the distance on this opulent boat and try to save a few bucks here. Monterey offers factory-installed GPS displays as well, and today most are capable of displaying all engine functions normally reserved for circular analog gauges. That’s all wrapped in a custom dash with double-stitched vinyl.
It’s easy to get caught up in the luxury of this day cruiser, but what makes it a bargain at its luxury price is the sleek but durable hardware, the proven all-fiberglass construction, plus a warranty and service network of which few boatbuilders can boast.
* Glass-cockpit helm design is handsome, more durable and more functional than multigauge helm displays.
* Optional wakeboard arch lifts and lowers electronically to reduce bridge clearance in moments.
* Swivel and slide levers are on the tops of the seat fronts, not hidden beneath.
* The 9-foot beam requires a permit to trailer but is ideal for big lakes and bays.
* Protruding styled “fins” from the transom platform that wrap around the hull are rub-rail-protected but could strike a piling when docking.
Price: $158,317 (with test power)
Available Power: Sterndrive
How We Tested
Engine: Single 380 hp MerCruiser 8.2
Drive/Prop: Bravo Three sterndrive/24" pitch stainless-steel propset
Gear Ratio: 2.00:1
Fuel Load: 15 gal.
Water on Board: 0 gal.
Crew Weight: 400 lb.
Chaparral Boats Nashville, Georgia; 229-686-7481; chaparralboats.com