Sea-Doo 230 Challenger SE
By Capt. Rob Smith
When most people think of bowriders, the last thing they normally consider are direct drive boats, which is probably because they have not really attacked the market in the past. That seems to be changing. I have tested direct drive boats from Sea-Doo and others over the years, but lately, it seems they are really beginning to stand out. They have more power, more features and some pretty neat innovations that are both eye-catching and useful. Outwardly, they look the same as typical sport boats, but in their hearts, or engines, they are quite a different animal.
Design and looks
Maybe head-on you wouldn’t catch any real distinctive differences from most out on the water, but in profile, the Sea-Doo 230 Challenger SE has a distinctive bond line with the rub rail following it as it plunges toward the aft quarter. You begin to see her PWC heritage. Looking underneath while she rests on her standard tandem axle trailer, you will also see something familiar to PWCs, a nozzle, skid plate and intake grate of the direct drive engines. There is nothing hanging down to catch rocks or bottom, and no propeller to do a hatchet job on any limbs. Don’t get me wrong, you still have no reason to use the drive system for a foot hold and there are some pinch points, but you aren’t going to inadvertently get caught in a trio of blades spinning 700 to several thousand rounds per minute. Never get directly behind any boat with the engine running, you could still get injured!
You will enjoy more of the lake, river or shoreline than the sterndrive competitors will, and you will find more parking available closer to shore for the same reason.
Seats for everyone
Seating and storage are some of the big advantages when you use direct drive for power. The 230 Challenger SE is rated for 12 people, or 2000 lbs. of people and gear. Knowing we aren’t all the Coast Guard’s idea of standard weight and size, what that really means is a full sized family will easily find a seat on board along with all their paraphernalia for the trip. With the 430-hp power package, you should have the power to insure fun, even fully loaded. Under the seats up front you have finished storage. The outside of the starboard seat base is labeled for the fire extinguisher inside. I prefer to mount that within arm’s reach of the driver and use this box for storage or a spare cooler since it has a drain and the fire extinguisher is mounted on the bottom of the box anyway.
In the cockpit, you have wrap around seating across the back and up to the bucket seats for the driver and companion/navigator. Both bucket seats swivel so you can spin around and enjoy your company at anchor. A carry-on cooler fits under the starboard side of the aft bench. The center cushion pulls up and becomes a step when you are using the swim platform for boarding. The starboard section of the sunpad lifts up exposing a handy walkway with anti-slip strips for sure footing. With it down, you have a comfortable pad to relax on or to sit and slip your skis on. A pop-up ski pylon is just behind the bench seat back and is standard.
Let the breeze fly!
One of the innovative features on board this model was the power windows for the helm and companion sections of the wrap-around windshields. These are optional, but very functional. Just like on your car, you can raise or lower them to infinite points along the way. Also, just like in your car, you can use them independently depending on whether you want to have the wind in your hair or not. The walk-through section on this model is also innovative. They call it the Fold ‘N Stow door. It is a pocket style door that slides out from the helm pod folded over. You flip the window up into position after locking the door open and lock the upper panel in place and you have a completely sectioned off cockpit, yet you still can see everything up front. The entire door is tempered glass (except for the frame, of course) so you can keep an eye on things and maintain that large boat feel.
Give me power!
Power on the 230 Challenger SE is delivered either with standard twin 155-hp engines or with twin 215-hp Supercharged, Intercooled engines as I tested. These 4-stroke, three cylinder engines deliver every bit of the power you might expect from her six cylinder competitors, but beat them to the punch out of the hole. You also get less bow rise as you are thrusting the boat through the water directly rather than producing thrust through a prop and drive system.
It’s in the package
The SE package adds some nice features like pull up cleats, snap in carpet, satellite ready stereo system with MP3 jack, cockpit table, burlwood accents at the dash and a stereo remote at the dash for some. The power windows I already talked about and a wakeboard tower like my test boat had are two available options added with the SE package.
The 230 Challenger SE measures 23’6” length overall with a beam of 8’9”. She weighs about 3500 lbs. dry and only draws 12”. She is rated for 12 people, or a total of 2000 lbs. people and gear combined. Fuel capacity is 53 gallons.
The 230 Challenger SE handled very nimbly underway. Once you get used to direct drives around the docks, you quickly realize you have immediate response to the shift and throttle which is likely the part that disturbs old stick and prop guys like me. She gets out of the hole fast with only a 25 degree bow rise and 2.6 second leap. She reaches 30 mph in 4.6 seconds, all with 4 adults and 5/8 tank of fuel on board. Her cruise speed was 28.7 mph at 5500 rpm for a range of 109 miles on a full tank of fuel. She reached a maximum speed of 52 mph at 7700 rpm.
The 230 Challenger SE is everything they told me it would be. It is a family oriented direct drive boat that will take a large family out with the power to deliver watersports fun. She has shallow water capability sterndrives can’t touch, and added safety with no spinning props to injure someone. Sea-Doo strives to put more features on board as standards, and challenges the competition to meet the value inside.