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2021 Cobalt R8 Outboard

This new runabout takes advantage of outboard power in more ways than one.

August 25, 2021
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Cobalt R8 Outboard running near shore with a family on board
The R8 offers a comfortable and responsive ride. Courtesy Cobalt Boats

Overview

As outboards grow in popularity, many builders have capitalized by just hanging such engines on existing hulls.

Cobalt took a different route and started with a new hull designed for outboards, and a new interior that takes advantage of every inch of space to create a delightful family runabout, part of the R Series of Cobalts that the builder terms as the “ultimate runabouts.”

Cobalt R8 Outboard helm
The dash has plenty of acreage for twin ­10-inch Garmin 8610 MFDs. Courtesy Cobalt Boats

The facts: At just 2 inches shy of 28 feet in length overall, the boat is designed for all-day outings. There is an enclosed (and quite civilized) head compartment for you-know-why (more later), easily enough seating for an 11-person soccer team, luxurious appointments (check out the yummy quilted upholstery), and a lot of thoughtful touches, from phone chargers to a removable cooler.

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Engines

More facts: Our R8 test boat boasted twin Yamaha 300s (singles and doubles from Yamaha or Merc to 425 hp are available), and these kicked us along at a top speed of over 64 mph. Chopping the throttles to 43 mph, the R8 gets 1.8 mpg, and it registered a quiet 86 dB(A). Why outboards? They require minimal winterizing, and because the outboards lift entirely clear of the water, the R8 proves well-adapted to salt water.

Cobalt R8 Outboard cockpit seating
Flip-back seats grants fore- or aft-viewing from the two settees on each side. Courtesy Cobalt Boats

Interior and Accessories

You’ll spend most of your time in the cockpit, where flip-back seats grants fore- or aft-viewing from the two settees on each side. I noticed the coamings are high, which not only makes good backrests, but is also a safety feature for kiddies aboard. An optional table mounts for dining. A galley console with sink and grill is available.

The skipper’s office is comfy, with the optional bucket seat that moves in every conceivable direction. A bolster allows raised seating to look over the windshield. The dash has plenty of acreage for twin -10-inch Garmin 8610 MFDs above the rows of lighted and labeled push buttons for systems. Even better, the Yamaha Helm Master joystick fell exactly to hand when I wasn’t using the shift and throttle levers.

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Cobalt R8 Outboard console head
The head has 50 inches of headroom and enough space for a sink, counter, and choice of a portable marine head or electric porcelain toilet. Courtesy Cobalt Boats

The companion seat offers a flip-flop backrest for either looking forward or joining others around the table, and the two rear-most seats’ backrests can create forward-facing lounges or rear-facing seating.

Despite the outboards, the R8 offers plenty of room to walk back and forth, plus there is the Cobalt patented fold-down swim platform that makes getting in and out of the water easy.

The walk-through windshield leads to wraparound seating, which again converts to an expansive sun pad or can be used for meals with an available table. Cobalt earns big points for the huge stowage bins under the seats. The anchor windlass is tucked under a foredeck hatch and, with an all-chain rode, can be run from either forward or at the helm. An oversize water-ski locker (5-plus feet) is in the sole between the consoles.

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About the head: It has 50 inches of headroom (pun intended) and enough space for a sink, counter, and choice of a portable marine head or electric porcelain toilet. There’s no shower (that’s optional on the stern), but plenty of room to change clothes. In the console, under the helm with its forward hatch, lies a cavernous space that could include a cushion for a kiddie nap.

Cobalt R8 Outboard aft storage
Gelcoated storage is located throughout the R8 Outboard. Courtesy Cobalt Boats

You can’t fault Cobalt on construction, with no wood whatsoever in the hull to rot. Foam coring, fiberglass stringers, 16 layers of hand-laid fiberglass at the keel, Kevlar reinforcing, and impeccable mold work are markers of this builder.

Access to systems is also great, with the batteries directly under hatches, neatly loomed and secured wiring, and the fuel tank’s plumbing under another hatch. That fuel tank, by the way, is directly over the center of gravity so that the balance of the R8 doesn’t change whether you have a full or empty tank.

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Families need sun protection, and Cobalt offers several choices, including a powder-coated aluminum tower with slide-out aft shade, another that folds flat for trailering (or low bridges), and even a simple Bimini.

Sitting in the bow of the Cobalt R8 Outboard
Multiple options are available for shading the cockpit. Courtesy Cobalt Boats

Underway, the R8 is just plain fun. The SeaStar power-assist steering eases handling, and reduces the turns for low-speed maneuvering or docking while making the response more accurate at higher speeds. Lenco trim tabs have the Auto Glide feature, which automatically compensates for load and power settings. Just set the throttle, and the tabs adjust perfectly. You can override the setting if Aunt Edna decides to change sides, but I slalomed up and down Lake Maitland in central Florida without a hint of cavitation, even in sharp turns. And with a 21-degree deadrise in the hull plus twin full-length strakes, the R8 was soft-riding and well-behaved when I ran across our wake.

Shopping? Check Chapparal’s 280 OSX ($224,215 with twin Yamaha 250s).

Thoughtfully designed, elegantly outfitted and impeccably built, the Cobalt R8 Outboard lives up to its “ultimate runabout” cachet. This is one that will be fun now and will stay in the family for a long time.

How We Tested

  • Engines: Twin Yamaha 300 XCA
  • Drive/Prop: Outboard/Saltwater Series II 15″ x 21″ 3-blade stainless steel
  • Gear Ratio: 1.75:1 Fuel Load: 80 gal. Water On Board: 0 gal. Crew Weight: 650 lb.

High Points

  • Stow 5-foot skis under the sole and utilize the gelcoated stowage under every seat and in cubbyholes.
  • Hinges on lockers and the engine hatch are oversize and sturdy; many hatches boast a gas assist.
  • Deep gutters with rubber gaskets keep water out of lockers and help muffle engine noise as well.

Low Points

  • Unlike comparable craft, there’s no opening port in the head.
  • Grab rails for crew using the aft rumble seat would be appreciated.

Pricing and Specs

Price: $153,307 (with test power)
LOA: 27’10”
Beam: 8’6″
Draft (max): 2’6″
Displacement (approx.): 6,500 lb.
Transom Deadrise: 21 degrees
Bridge Clearance: Bimini 5’3″; without tower 8’10”
Max Cabin Headroom: 4’2″
Fuel Capacity: 125 gal.
Water Capacity: 10 gal.
Max Horsepower: 700
Available Power: Single or twin Yamaha or Mercury outboards to 700 hp total

Speed, Efficiency, Operation

Cobalt R8 Outboard performance data chart
Cobalt R8 Outboard Certified Test Results Boating Magazine

Cobalt Boats – Neodesha, Kansas; 620-325-2653; cobaltboats.com

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