To inboard purists, the MasterCraft NXT20 Global Edition is a simple commission of tow-boat apostasy, but this new runabout will make perfect sense to those predisposed to outboard power. Conceived for export coastal markets where an outboard is mandated or preferred, the new NXT Global Edition should appeal to a broad section of the domestic market as well. It offers the beachable benefits of a trimmable drive, spacious cockpit, complete list of tow-sports options, and a hull form that’s been “MasterCrafted” with primo wake shape as a priority.
MasterCraft says an outboard-powered NXT was in the plans when it devised its entry-level, inboard-powered NXT20 and NXT22 models. Intended to put more boaters in a MasterCraft — best-selling models are routinely priced above $100,000 — the NXT line starts at about $60,000. Constructed like other MasterCraft boats, the NXT models achieve a lower price by offering fewer options and less technology. For example, rather than touchscreen control, ballast tanks are managed by rocker switches. Let’s keep this in perspective — one boater’s entry-level NXT could be another’s starter house. Lots of options inflated the $62,000 base price of our test boat to more than $84,000. Consider an NXT as an entry-level MasterCraft.
The NXT running surface features a wake-first design. Transom deadrise is 8.5 degrees — 21 degrees amidships to help soften chop — and the bottom has narrow lifting strakes that disappear amidships so the hull runs deeper at boarding speed. Carrying 1,500 pounds of ballast, the NXT20 Global produces a thick, rampy wake with a decent lip that’s high enough to keep strong rec wakeboarders entertained. Dump the ballast and the wake is beginner-friendly. Pick up the speed and the water flattens out to a decent ski wake that no deep-V runabout can match. The bummer with outboards is there’s no surfing allowed.
Like other MasterCraft boats, the hull layup is solid glass, but the NXT stringers are premanufactured foam and, thus, time and cost savers. We were told molded stringers persist in other MasterCraft boats only for cosmetic reasons — they look better in the engine bay.
Here’s another example of “MasterCrafting”: To create a perfectly symmetrical wake, the running surface is not symmetrical — the starboard chine has 5 degrees more angle to counter the prop torque of an inboard and the weight of the helmsperson. For this reason, the NXT20 Global Edition is rigged with a counter-rotating outboard that matches the left-hand prop rotation of an inboard. That motor hangs from a compact aluminum bracket through-bolted to a transom reinforced with fiberglass-impregnated Coosa. The NXT20 Global is rigged with a 25-inch four-cylinder Mercury Verado, but the six-cylinder Verado is a 20-inch motor (the difference in shaft length is equivalent to the extra two cylinders), so the top of the cowl is at the same height, and one rope guard can be used with either motor.
Base power is the 175 hp Verado, and the only upgrade is the Verado 225 — at $7,450, the most expensive single option on our test boat. But the fat, fun midrange power of the big six-cylinder 225 will always put a smile on your face and is perfect for towing. Other options on the test boat include a Wake Convenience Package ($10,400) that combines the tower and triple ballast tanks with a Bimini top, rope guard (not shown on our test boat), mooring cover, cleats, depth finder and Fusion audio system with four JL speakers; four additional tower speakers ($2,570); and carpet, dual batteries and a walk-through door (about $1,700 combined).
MasterCraft selected Mercury power because it’s the only outboard offered with a tow-sports speed-control system. The GPS-driven Merc Smart Tow is controlled through the SmartCraft VesselView screen that also displays the instrumentation on this boat. The driving experience is about flawless. The boat planes in a snap with no bow rise, is responsive to trim, and carves surprisingly tight turns with the motor trimmed out. Modest top speed reflects the lack of lift in this hull design. With the entire powertrain isolated out on the transom, the boat is also incredibly quiet and vibration-free, especially compared to an inboard.
The NXT20 Global cockpit is configured to maximize seating space. Ballast tanks port and starboard consume some underseat stowage, but there’s a 25-quart cooler below the starboard bench, and the aft-facing observer seat to port lifts to access huge stowage that extends below the bow seat. There’s great access to batteries and ballast pumps below rear seat cushions. Throughout the boat, from the tidy watertight wiring to clever drainage under every cover to the smooth surface on every edge, fit and finish are impeccable.
Ultimately the NXT20 Global Edition offers the essential MasterCraft experience with the benefits — and disadvantages — of outboard power. It’s a towing machine less tightly focused on that mission than an inboard boat would be, yet it’s more versatile as an all-around day boat.