The Four Winns Horizon 350 OB offers wide-beam elbow room and all the space you’d want for two dayboating essentials: friends and coolers. The big, new Horizon is more seaworthy and sexier than a pontoon yet not nearly as fishy as a glammed-up center console, which are two other options if your main priority is simply fun in the sun.
The OB on the end of model name stands for outboard but might as well stand for “only better.” By converting its Horizon 350 from sterndrive to outboard power, Four Winns has improved this boat in several ways. Performance of the OB version with twin 350 hp Mercury Verado motors is almost identical to the Horizon 350 we tested in 2015 with 760 sterndrive horsepower, with a top speed of 49.1 mph and best cruising economy of about 1.3 mpg. The big difference is sound level. Measured at the helm, the twin Verado outboards produce just 79 dBA at 4,500 rpm cruising speed compared to 90 dBA for the sterndrive boat at 3,500 rpm. Let’s also note that outboards can be tilted completely clear of the water at the dock to limit corrosion and marine growth. Servicing the engines is easier and less expensive. And there’s now a big empty space for dive tanks, floating toys or more coolers where the sterndrive engines used to be. Flip a switch and the aft seat section of the Horizon 350 OB lifts on rams to reveal a space 1 foot 6 inches deep to a flat floor, which has two hatches to reach 2 feet 6 inches deep to the finished bilge.
A key objection to outboard power will be that the motors clutter the transom. So instead of a nice view of the bay or the marina from the aft-facing lounge seat, you have a view of the Verados. Outboards also don’t look very “yachty” and upscale to some people. Despite the outboards, the Horizon 350 offers an expansive transom platform that wraps around the aft corners of the hull to ease dockside boarding, with 1 foot 8 inches of passageway in front of the motors. The Verado outboards also have a single prop, while available sterndrives have dual props that really help lift a heavy boat onto plane. With a light load, our test boat was no rocket, but it achieved plane with little bow lift.
A similar dayboat to consider is the Sea Ray SLX 350 Outboard ($354,999 with triple Verado 300 motors).
From the transom forward, the Horizon 350 OB is identical to its sterndrive-powered sistership. There are three social zones aboard the boat: the bow, the cockpit, and the transom. Up front, sunny seating wraps around to starboard, with deep supportive cushions and audio speakers. Seats in the hardtop-shaded cockpit wrap around to port, and doublewide pedestal seats at the helm and port console swivel so everyone can socialize; eight to 10 people can be seated in the cockpit. Sliding open the sunroof in the hardtop lets more light into the cockpit. The aft-facing lounge has an adjustable bottom cushion that angles up for Barcalounger comfort.
This is a dayboat with a cabin, of sorts. Entry is through a sliding hatch in the port console. The roomy head compartment is at the bottom of the steps and features a VacuFlush head, a big vanity with a sink, and a large portlight that brightens up the space. The walk-through to the bow naturally intrudes belowdecks, so duck your head to get to the cabin settee to starboard. There’s more natural light here, with a full-size berth aft below the cockpit deck.
The helm features two 7-by-9-inch Simrad screens. One was devoted to engine and boat data, the other set up for navigation. All of the Mercury SmartCraft features, including Active Trim and scrolling messages from the Engine Guardian, display through the Simrad. Mercury Joystick Control for Outboards is standard.
Drop the throttles and the supercharged outboards do their thing. Thrust is urgent and, as mentioned, planing performance is fine. It takes 4,500 rpm to really hold plane, and that’s about 33 mph, a nice cruising speed on smooth water, but it would be even better to cruise efficiently at a slightly slower speed. With the bonus blade area of its twin-prop drives, the Horizon 350 with sterndrives will cruise at 28 mph, a benefit when seas are choppy. Which is not to say the Horizon is a rough ride. We charged through a stiff Great Lakes chop with minimal drama and stayed dry. Sometimes it’s just nice to throttle back and relax.
The Horizon 350 OB makes the most of its power choice. This boat combines classy style with well-conceived function, perfect as a family weekender or an entertainment platform. Outboards are the logical choice, after all.
* Versatile layout is good for socializing, coving and light cruising.
* Outboard power is easy to maintain, smooth and so quiet.
* Luxurious appointments include premium upholstery and beautiful wood trim in the cockpit and cabin.
* Nice that the head is belowdecks so guests don’t have to emerge directly to a public space.
* Screens larger than 9 by 7 inches will not fit the dash.
* Only one brand of outboards is available.
* It costs $4,400 to “upgrade” to white outboards.
Available Power: Outboard
How We Tested
Engines: Twin Mercury Verado 350
Drive/Props: Outboard/14.625″ x 17″ Mercury Revolution 4 stainless steel
Gear Ratio: 1.75:1 FUEL LOAD: 150 gal.
Water on Board: 0 gal.
Crew Weight: 760 lb.
Four Winns Boats – Cadillac, Michigan; 231-775-1351; fourwinns.com