Sometimes I feel guilty about the way we test powerboats. We warm them up, firewall the throttles, spin the helm for some hard-over turns, and once we’ve made a few, we steer back over the doubled-up wakes to see if the boat can handle the rollers without rattling the screws and fasteners. It’s not so much “rode hard and put away wet” as it is put away panting.
But the 385SE barely noticed our abusive handling, and when we finished, it was like a horse still too frisky to walk to the paddock.
It’s cause to pause when a boat like this can jump up on plane (in about 4.5 seconds) and hit a top speed of over 57 mph, but that’s what the three Yamaha F300 outboards did to this sleek day cruiser. The connection to the water was sports-car crisp thanks to the Optimus 360 power steering and Yamaha electronic throttle and shift. As we accelerated, we thumbed the trim switch, raising the drives to lift the vessel higher, freer from the drag of the sea. At full throttle, the chines astern were nearly clear of the spray and the 385 felt like it was about to lift off. Yet it stayed hooked up, and even accepted some authoritative steering input and responded to it without complaint.
In port, the Optimus 360 Joystick steering gives confidence to dock this boat like a runabout: Nudge the stick in the direction of travel and the boat crabs sideways, or twist it and the boat pivots steadily. I can’t imagine owning a boat in this class without this popular electronic control system.
Read Next: Yamaha-Powered Boats
BMW is credited with the term “sport sedan,” and it changed the way car builders market their wheels. The 385 makes its mark on the vessels called sport cruisers and will likely force competitive brands to step up their game.
The deck design gives this cruiser a sporty feel of luxury, and exciting seating for the largest of crews. After viewing its profile and noting the cabin windows below the rub rail, stepping to the dock reveals a surprise — an open-bow seating area. And it’s enormous.
On the starboard-side, there is a doublewide sun lounge with a fold-down armrest. A filler cushion, included, covers the synthetic teak sole to complete a doublewide sun pad. There’s a single-width lounge with folding armrest on the port side too. Without the center cushion, the entire area could seat six to eight without crowding, and the cup holders are tucked in back behind the cushions (under the bolster pads so they won’t be jostled by boisterous passengers).
Seating in the cockpit is even more generous. First, for the first mate, there is a double seat. A folding step deploys below to rest feet, or leave it stowed with the bolster up and enjoy a stand-up view over the bow.
An L-shaped lounge begins behind that seat, and as it turns the corner to the transom, the seat bottom widens aft to a nearly 6-by-6-foot sun pad. In cruising mode, it is divided into forward- and aft-facing seating by a movable backrest. For sunbathing, slide the seat back forward and you’ve got a cool sun lounge with a view of the water behind.
On outboard cruisers, the transom area is usually so compromised that there is little use to it, but that wasn’t the case in the 385. A clear path between port and starboard quarters ties the corners together. The boarding ladder deploys from the side, keeping toes clear of the props upon reboarding.
Outboard offerings are expanding among cruiser and bowrider makers — and the 385SE has merits in both categories. Sea Ray also offers cruising bowriders but straddles this 37-foot class with a 35 and a 40 called the 400 SLX. The latter offers 2 feet more centerline length and an additional foot of beam. It uses the space well with spacious living quarters.
If the deck plan is made for fun and games, the cabin below is made for romantic interludes. Step through the passage at the helm console and you’re greeted with a TV lounge for an easy escape from the sun. Air-condition the cabin — we would — and there’s where a cozy night can be had in the doublewide aft berth. We didn’t expect that much space below, nor did we expect it to be so practically laid out.
The head compartment is equally impressive on the port side. The usual appointments are there in a compartment that is roomy, well-illuminated and easy to access.
The Monterey 385SE with Yamaha power is as exciting at top speed as it is at rest, whether you are relaxing to a powerful factory-installed stereo or knifing into the water in a perfectly executed dive from the transom.
- Electric cockpit shade (optional) offers sun protection to the whole cockpit if deployed.
- Cockpit galley is the ideal spot for prepping snacks, drinks and refreshments.
- Side-mounted boarding ladder keeps swimmers clear of the props.
- Outboard power does reduce swim-platform access but improves onboard space.
- Most owners will be satisfied with the fuel capacity for dayboat activities.
Price: $441,631 (with test power)
Available Power: Outboard
How We Tested
Engine: Triple Yamaha F300s
Drive/Prop: Saltwater Series II 19″
Gear Ratio: 1.75:1
Fuel Load: 125 gal.
Water on Board: 7 gal.
Crew Weight: 350 lb.
Monterey Boats – Williston, Florida; 352-528-2628; montereyboats.com