Put aside the style and the long list of standards and remember this: Crownline’s E23 XS is pure fun to drive. Sure, our test boat’s whisper-quiet Mercury 250 Verado had something to do with it, but the true magic is in Crownline’s F.A.S.T. Tab hull. The design vents the chines in order to aerate the running surface and reduce drag. It follows that vent with a subtle chine fin to aid in handling. Fire-walling the throttle quickly affirmed the first claim, putting the E23 XS on plane in a mere 3.4 seconds with no loss of forward visibility. Keeping that throttle pinned, the boat shot past 30 mph in 7 seconds, en route to a 54.5 mph top speed. What really put a silly grin on our faces, however, was the aggressive handling. Repeatedly, we cranked the wheel hard over and felt the hull nimbly roll into the turn with absolute precision, the prop not once losing its bite as we continued to push the boat’s limits.
Looks match the performance. In profile, the E23 XS evokes an outboard-powered sport boat, with racy style lines molded into the hull sides. Look closer and subtle deck-boat details emerge, particularly in the bow. Rather than draw to the classic V, Crownline expands the cockpit by squaring off the bow. The choice makes it realistic for more than two passengers to share the space in comfort. A 3-foot-wide recessed boarding area is covered in nonslip EVA matting. Open the hatch and extend a four-step boarding ladder for loading while nosed into your favorite beach. The main cockpit adds dual captain’s chairs, a starboard jump seat and a generous L-shaped lounge. Behind, a secondary lounge faces the swim platform. Their shared seat back is electronically controlled with dual actuators, allowing it to be set at virtually any angle of repose. Pivot it fully forward and create a 5-foot-deep sun pad.
The list of standards is long. That electric backrest is one. So, too, is a set of silky-smooth drawers that organize what is normally a cavernous, free-for-all storage area under the helm. (Like open storage? There’s still plenty of space left under that helm, accessed via the bow.) We also give high marks to the articulating scissor hinges found on many cushions; they allow access to the storage below without requiring that the cushion be held or removed.
* Head compartment includes a solid-surface countertop, hand-held shower, portable marine head, and opening port light with screen for welcome ventilation.
* Premium Kicker waterproof stereo system features Bluetooth, USB input and eight Wet Sounds speakers.
* Generous ski locker with woven matting includes extensions fore and aft for longer items.
* Battery access requires opening multiple compartments; even then, there’s minimal room to work.
* Analog gauges don’t take advantage of the info provided by today’s high-tech engines.
* Rough, unfinished interior of port console door seems out of place given the overall attention to detail.
Chaparral’s 22-foot-10-inch Suncoast 230 ($60,950 with Yamaha F250XCA/digital throttle and shift) features the brand’s Extended V-Plane hull, a roomy, square bow cockpit, a head and a walk-through transom. Max horsepower is 250, 50 hp less than the Crownline.
Price: $79,257 (with test power)
Available Power: Outboard
How We Tested
Engine: Single Mercury 250 Verado
Prop: 141/2" x 17" Mercury Enertia 3-blade stainless steel
Gear Ratio: 1.85:1
Fuel Load: 14
Crew Weight: 350 lb.
Crownline Boats - West Frankfort, Illinois; 618-937-6426; crownline.com