Who says boating has to be expensive? The capable Ultra 180 Cruise costs just over $15,000 with our test power. It possesses the oomph to move around the lake at a stately pace and enough in reserve to give tube-riding kids the giggles. Everything a family needs to go boating is included, even the trailer.
A forward boarding deck makes anchoring easy, and three gates, one forward, one aft and one amidships, offer ample access no matter the docking situation. The gates are solid to avoid pinching while under power. Side panels are pressed in with adhesive for a rattle-free ride.
Underway, a forward bench offers a chaise-lounge back for reclined seating. Side-by-side lounges port and starboard allow several passengers to ride comfortably. A swivel bucket seat for the skipper and first mate provides two more seats, and the aft bench offers several more. All told, Lowe calculates that nine passengers can enjoy the cruise, and, after our test, we agree.
Storage compartments underneath feature drainage gutters at the top and bottom to carry moisture away from your gear. We’d choose the vinyl deck option ($133) to ease cleanup at the end of the day, but only $93 will get the tidier cruisers an upgraded plush carpet. To add ritz, go with the sea mat. We didn’t deploy the standard Bimini top in our test, but it will be welcome in warmer climes — you may never want to tuck it away in its included boot.
At such a comfortable price, you might expect the Ultra 180 Cruise to have a Spartan exterior, but we noticed a nice gleam to the colored side panels, and you can choose from eight different color schemes. Rails were shaped and then anodized for a corrosion-resistant and finely finished look. Underdeck connections were solid, evidenced by the feel of the vessel on the rough water on test day. The protective rub rail surrounding the deck enhanced the sleekness. This one is definitely champagne pontooning on a beer budget.
*Full-size boarding ladder on the stern platform
*Spacers hold gates one-quarter inch above the deck for fast draining and drying.
*Fiberglass helm station is rot-proof.
*Mercury FourStroke is quiet for easy conversation.
*Portable fuel tank is convenient for trailer boaters.
How We Tested
Engine: Mercury 40 hp
Drive/Prop: Outboard/13.8″ x 11″ 3-blade aluminum
Gear Ratio: 2.33:1
Fuel Load: 6 gal.
Crew Weight: 375 lb.
$15,810 (as tested)
Lowe Boats Lebanon, Missouri; 417-532-9101; loweboats.com