This new outboard-powered runabout restores the promise of smooth-running, reliable power that was nearly suspended by sterndrives. It was horsepower that gave sterndrives the nod back in the day, but that advantage is now gone as General Motors downsizes engine blocks and replaces them with smaller, more expensive super- and turbo-charged engines that don’t seem to marinize as well as big displacement motors.
Sure, Mercury has scored big with its Verado series, and a pair of them would be a joy to drive on this full-size luxury day boat. But Yamaha got the nod on this transom and for good reason. Yamaha’s newly refined in-line four-cylinder 200s are weight watchers on the scales but have Indy-car muscle on tap at the throttles.
Outboards! Always the luxury builder, Regal has a long tradition of top-shelf engineering, ISO-rated manufacturing processes and innovation — like bringing the first runabout to families with a safely stepped hull for maximum performance from its power plant.
At the helm, we pivoted away from the dock smoothly, a maneuver all dual-engine enthusiasts enjoy immensely. Yet with this vessel, the engines are so closely aligned to the centerline (thanks to the slim 26-inch center mounting) that the OBX would feel equally familiar to those accustomed to single-engine power. Away from the pier, we pushed the throttles forward, stepping the 29 OBX up on plane in only 4.9 seconds. In no time it achieved a 52 mph top speed and glided across the wind-riffled lake. Still holding at 50 mph, trim down, we cut back through the wake once, then cut the helm to starboard and hit the wakes from the other direction. Then, yet again, we maneuvered to aim at the taller double-up wakes and crushed them without rattling a thing on board, whether it was screwed down or, like our test gear, loose on the deck. Big-lake sterndrives beware: Here is an outboard ready to challenge the confused washboard wakes of notoriously rough impoundments, especially the temperamental waters of the Chesapeake, Florida’s Big Bend, or anywhere boaters won’t be held back by anything less than dangerous weather.
With the sea trial over, we turned to the helm itself and noted its intrigue. Where were the circular gauges long-demanded by meticulous skippers who monitor speed, rpm, engine temps and all, constantly scanning between the readings and the horizon above? In a nod to their own aviation enthusiasm, the Regal owners designed this helm with a single Garmin touchscreen display, and on it were images of both analog and digital engine gauges. As with modern airplanes so often equipped with Garmin avionics, this display provided navigation, depth and engine functions in a streamlined tribute to modern marine engineering.
And in a further nod to high tech, the OBX’s stereo system by Fusion is the first to be controlled through that very same display, allowing the skipper to adjust biaxial and subwoofer speakers at the touchscreen, and raise or lower sound levels or change tunes via Bluetooth from any iOS or Android device with equal ease.
So, when we stepped aboard the OBX, we weren’t astonished like others might be at the crisply contoured upholstery. We were impressed, sure, like we were when we noted the brushed steel color of the sea-weave sole mats. Underneath is a nonskid fiberglass sole as sharp-looking as its removable covering. And we were equally impressed by the way the sole treatment complemented the rich textures and tastefully contrasting colors of the upholstery. Then we sat at the helm and noted its BMW-like firmness with a Cadillac touch of soothing comfort. The helm seat has a flip-up bolster, making room for a standing skipper. It was wide enough for two to share the driving experience in a cozy embrace.
Let’s not waste time discussing the cavernous stowage, but let’s do note the electric lift for the center stern locker that resides where a pair of sterndrives might have. There’s an electric lift on the PowerTower as well, and it boasts a sturdy tow point.
Seats on either side of the deck convert into sun pads by flipping the bolsters forward. Another adjustment makes them forward-facing lounges, and still another makes them lean to an aft-facing position. To get to the swim platform to boot up a board, step through the walkway between these convertible seats. The platform is astonishingly wide and deep, and clear of engine rigging thanks to Regal’s design to keep it below deck. The ladder is accessible from in or out of the water, adding safety as well as convenience.
Further convenience comes from the useful changing compartment located beneath the passenger helm. Inside, a tempered-glass basin is plumbed with stainless-steel faucets, and a flushing china head nests against a vinyl-upholstered bulkhead. The dark-cherry wood accents are a nice touch.
If you are shopping, another twin-outboard day-boat runabout is the 30-foot Jeanneau Leader 10.5 (starting at $220,000 with twin Yamaha F250s). With a stepped hull, it’s no bowrider, but it features a lounge atop the cabin on its bow. Of course, schedule a demo of the Regal 29 OBX so you can make your own comparison.