During the video shoot that accompanied my sea trial of the Four Winns Vista 355 Coupe Outboard, the videographer tasked me with the job of running directly toward the camera, and then cranking the wheel hard and running off to the side. Video being video, I did this 10 times: five times cutting to port and another five cutting to starboard. In the course of so doing, this new coupe cruiser leaned over and ripped away, showing off the Vista 355’s attractive profile and the twin Mercury outboards that powered it, and leaving a streak of white water and a whooshing sound, the boat long gone before its wake could disturb the photo boat.
Maneuvering a boat that sleeps six and entertains a bunch more in climate-controlled style and luxury — like a 16-year-old who grabbed the keys when his folks weren’t looking — may not showcase the boat’s everyday operation, but I have to say it sure put a smile on this old salt’s face. Would any argue that crisp, confident handling proves an admirable trait?
Certainly not dockside, they wouldn’t. Equipped with joystick piloting, the Vista 355 slid and wriggled into its slip at the crowded marina as smoothly as oil poured down a funnel. Powering off the joystick — the JPO system is optional — proved that those who don’t buck up for the stick can still reliably maneuver this boat in close quarters in coastal conditions. Do know that, if nothing else, joystick piloting will prove helpful to skippers not tall enough to see the outboards from the helm.
The boat’s most economical cruising speed comes at 5,000 rpm and 33 mph, where you can net 1.1 mpg. If sea conditions allow, bump it up to 37 mph; you’ll only give up one-tenth of 1 percent in efficiency to the increased speed. Expect 44 mph at wide-open throttle. Not too shabby — and with that we’ll leave propulsion and delve into layout and accommodations.
Boat canvas often elicits a response similar to the one produced as a result of running aground, seabirds roosting on board, or a hike in fuel prices. Four Winns solved the problems of cantankerous canvas by eliminating the need for it altogether.
The Vista 355’s hardtop looks striking with its two-way camber, aft overhang, and the contrast between the black-framed windows and the creamy white gelcoat. It proves functional too: All those windows (many of which open) plus two opening hatches overhead contribute to the light and airy feel of the salon and cabin (an atrium area at the base of the companionway stairs allows light from above to stream belowdecks). On top of that, we discovered the ease with which we could converse with crew on the bow and hands on the dock by simply sliding open the skylight or a window. The hardtop cures the sore throat that occurs from the need to yell to be heard too.
Within is a helm area and salon, both of which combine functionality and beauty similar to the top that covers them. Notice the slot cut into the center of the main helm panel to allow the mounting of a compass properly on centerline where it can be best viewed and used. Note too the big-screen Simrad multifunction displays, the illuminated toggle switches protected from inadvertent energy distribution via brushed chrome, U-shaped guards, and that the dark color produced no glare in the windshield during our test. One can grab a spring line without leaving the helm and slide open a window, and the joystick, located to starboard, proved perfectly positioned for docking while standing and facing aft for this right-handed captain.
Aft of the helm, the sole is on one level right through the salon and out into the cockpit, the lack of a step making for seamless socializing. To port is a long lounge upholstered in plush, multitextured vinyl and served by a table. To starboard is the faux-stone counter that serves the fully equipped galley. (There’s also a second refrigerator and a grill in the cockpit.) Guests can see out and where you are taking them whether standing or seated, an attribute that not all cruisers can claim. Roll-up shades provide privacy and help defeat the heat.
Belowdecks, there are two staterooms, a head, and the huge, airy atrium, which we deemed as an ideal space for simply hanging out, thanks the supplied plush lounge. The forward double berth ingeniously hinges to provide V-shaped seating during the day (or while entertaining) before closing to form a large berth for sleeping. The midcabin, aft, is where I would hang my hat. This space offers a king-size berth and sports the full-beam width of the boat. The enclosed shower and nice appointments found in the head will surely please your crew.
Shopping? The new Regal 38 XO ($599,950 with triple 300 hp Yamaha outboards) measures 38 feet, 10 inches by 11 feet, 11 inches, displacing 2,000 pounds more than the Four Winns and can take up to three outboards to a total of 1,050 hp. Like the Vista 355, it’s also offered with sterndrive power. Take both boats — and both power types — for a ride to see them for yourself.
- Single level from cockpit through the salon to the helm makes for an amenable layout.
- Hardtop looks great, enhances cruisability, and eliminates the need for boaters to hassle with canvas.
- Amazing gull-wing forward berth.
- Shore cords and dockside water inlet plug into the aft seat base, negating one seat when in use in the aft-facing position.
- Some skippers may not be able to see the outboards from the helm, and so can’t visually check the telltales to confirm water-pump operation.
Price: $398,577 (with test power)
Available Power: Outboard
How We Tested
Engine: Twin 350 hp Mercury 350 Verados
Drive/Prop: Outboard/145/8″ x 15″ 4-blade stainless steel
Gear Ratio: 1.75:1
Fuel Load: 190 gal.
Water on Board: 20 gal.
Crew Weight: 525 lb.
Four Winns – Cadillac, Michigan; 231-775-1351; fourwinns.com