few months or so we check through a couple of dozen sportboat websites to see their
latest iterations. At the same time we pick a boat size and type – this time, a
21’ bowrider with a 5.0L sterndrive engine – and compare 20 important attributes
and features on about 20 models from as many different brands. To do it right takes
about a day. The reason it takes so long is that everyone presents the material
differently and sometimes answers to basic questions are difficult to find. We have
tested about half of the models available in this size and type, so on the other
half of the boats we can only wonder how they perform. We continue to be amazed
(and so do our readers judging from the mail we get) that boat builders try to sell
$40 to $50k boats without feeling the necessity to provide performance information
from a reliable third party. Nevertheless, this week’s comparison was an eye-opener.
The 21’ to 25’ size range is the bread and butter for
many of America’s biggest boat builders. It is here that they forge lasting relationships
with satisfied customers, or for any number of reasons pass a boater onto another
brand. (Roughly 60% of boat owners in this size range who move up buy a different
The Glastron GT 225 scored high on our comparison
grid of important factors.
Before You Say “I Do”
The interesting thing about 21’ bowriders is that when
you see them at a boat show they all look pretty much the same. And, indeed, some
dealers and even builders consider them as little more than a “commodity.” But when
one drills down into the details, an incredible range of differences is discovered.
These important features can spell the difference between you loving your boat,
or growing to hate it. We’re here to help find the right match for you before you
get hitched. If you make a mistake, a divorce will be costly.
When we look at most boats for comparison purposes,
we do it in two stages. Stage I consists of 20 basic criteria. That process permits
us to distill down to a “short list” of 3 to 5 boats, which is a manageable number
to compare. It is the easiest and best method we know of to bore in on the right
boat for a given application and owner.
They’re Not Even Close
In our survey of 20 builders we were surprised about
a couple of things: 1) Displacement of these boats is not even remotely the same.
The heaviest 21’ bowrider was 39% heavier than the lightest. That’s a big difference.
2) The rated maximum load capacity also varies greatly from boat to boat, ranging
from 1200-lbs. for one popular brand to a maximum of 1800-lbs. for a number of brands,
a 50% difference.
The number of people allowed aboard “shall not exceed
the number of designated occupant positions,” according to ABYC rules. So that is
why on the manufacturer's plate by the helm one might find a different number of
occupants permitted for boats that have the same weight carrying capacity. One bowrider
we looked at had an 8-person capacity, while a second had a 12 person capacity.
That’s a big difference, but how many people do you plan to have out on your boat
at any one time?
The third most noteworthy area for divergence is fuel consumption at best cruise.
Here we look at mpg, regardless of speed, so long as the boat is comfortably on
plane. We recorded a 36% difference from the lowest mpg to the highest among all
engines tested, not just the 5.0L. That translates to 8 additional gallons per 100
miles, or an added $32 at $4 per gallon. This is where engine selection comes into
play. The engines rated for higher horsepower will burn more fuel. It can add up,
so if you don’t need the added horsepower to carry the load you anticipate, power
Proper propeller geometry is also critical to maximizing
fuel efficiency. Typically, propellers are a critical item of equipment that some
builders and dealers historically have not focused on as much as they should. However,
$4 fuel is getting their attention.
The fourth area for a great divide among builders is warranty. Of all of the data
we looked for on the builders’ websites, warranty information was often the most
elusive. Many companies now have “lifetime” limited warranties on their hulls, and
about all have at least 5 years. The engine companies offer 2-year warranties on
engines and drive trains installed by approved builders. This leaves “everything
else,” which largely boils down to components, hatches, doors, joinerwork and things
screwed or bolted on to the basic structure.
Larson appears to have the best warranty, covering
the boat’s engine and all components for 5 years, in addition to a lifetime warranty
for the hull. A couple of other companies also have five year warranties on many
components, so read the fine print. Most sportboat builders still have 1 year or
2 year warranties over “everything else.” That’s a 100% difference so it pays to
dig into this subject.
Glastron GT 225
Now, on to the boat that caught our eye as we scanned
our grid of 20 important factors on a 21’ bowrider.
At 3,000-lbs. the Glastron GT 225 was the second lightest,
just 50-lbs. more than the lightest boat in this category. Lightweight equates to
a boat that takes less power to push through the water, all other things being equal.
But sometimes being the lightest is not a good thing. It can mean that the builder
has taken hundreds of pounds of material out of the boat that may need to be there
for strength and rigidity. It can also mean that the boat will not ride as well
because it simply does not have the weight to run through little waves with authority.
Weight and Hull Shape
In the case of the Glastron GT 225 the boat is light
because it is manufactured with the VEC system which was pioneered by Genmar a decade
ago and which uses huge steel dies in which the glass and resin are infused and
cured to exacting tolerances by computer. Lightweight hulls can also be built with
conventional methods, and indeed, a couple of companies are using Kevlar in their
hulls. Because the VEC system molds the stringer grid into the hull in one process
the Glastron hull is probably as rigid and strong as they come.
The GT 225 has a deadrise of 21-degrees at the transom
which is the deepest we found in this category and was matched by only two other
boats. We like the deeper deadrise, particularly on this light boat because it will
tend to soften the ride. Most of the other hulls were not much different, and have
19 and 20-degree deadrise at the transom.
Nine different engine options are available on the GT 225, stretching all the way
from a MerCruiser 5.0L 220-hp engine to a 5.7 L GXi Volvo Penta 320-hp engine. (The
GXL 225 model has 17 engine options.) Some boat builders have as few as only 4 engine
At 1800-lbs, the 225’s load capacity is as great as any of the 21’ bowriders, and
the comfortable seating capacity looks to be about 10, which is at the high side.
Most boat builders offer either a Bimini top or a trailer as standard (only one
company makes both standard). Glastron offers the trailer as standard.
Glastron GT 225 Performance Numbers
All Performance is Not the Same
Now to the crucial area of performance. Among the dozen or so boats that we have
tested in this class, Glastron ranks #2 in fuel efficiency at best cruise, getting
4.52 mpg with the 270-hp 5.0 L engine. That was 17% better than our lowest performer
also powered by a 5.0L engine. She ranks #1 on hole shot speed of all boats in class
we have tested at 3.0 seconds to plane -- 33% faster than our slowest measurement
in class -- something that both novice and veteran skiers will appreciate. It is
important to note that this boat gets on plane without much appreciable bow rise,
which is perhaps one of its most impressive handling attributes, and another thing
that sets her apart from a number of boats.
Sound level on the dBA scale was 80 at best cruise, just one tick higher than the
quietest boat we have recorded in class and several ticks better than most. OSHA
standards are 85 dBA for an 8-hour shift. For every 3 dBA higher than 85, divide
by 2 for OSHA standards. So 88 dBA in the workplace would be approved for 4 hours
only by OSHA. A reading of 80 is very good on a runabout.
Almost the Same
So what does all of this cost? Surprisingly, the prices of these boats, generally,
are much closer to each other than other aspects. The GT 225 is not the lowest-priced
boat we looked at, nor is she the highest. She is right in the middle of the $42K-$44K
MSRP price range where most of the country’s 21’ bowriders are pegged with the 5.0L
270-hp sterndrive and trailer.
Taken together, considering her performance, physical attributes, and overall value,
the Glastron GT 225 is impressive, and certainly makes our “short list.”
Now, to the Stage II comparison. Here we look at the “small” things, some of it
eyewash, but some every important details as well. This is the place where you will
need to make a detailed list and eliminate features that you don’t care about. Zero-in
on what will be useful to you in your application. With price eliminated, as it
pretty much is in this example, you will want to both look at the details and stand
back and admire the lines and look of your dream boat.
It goes without saying that you should start your comparison process by referring
to BoatTEST.com's tests and using our "comparison" function. This will get you to
your "short list" in 10 minutes rather than hours of shuttling among builder websites.
Now is a good time to read BoatTEST.com’s member reviews of boats. On the BoatTEST
home page on the left hand “Nav Bar,” simply click on “Boat Owner Reviews.” It is
the second most popular feature on the homepage. We have received reviews for most
brands and many models. These reviews are often quite helpful in pointing out things
that are not readily apparent, both positive and negative.
Now you should have your “short list” down to two or three boats. It is time for
you to visit the local dealers for these two or three brands. Every dealer we’ve
ever met has told us that the quality of the dealer is more important than the brand
you buy. Now that you have narrowed your search to two or three models, let the
dealer enter the picture. Do you like him or her? Are you sure he has the infrastructure
to satisfy your needs and help you take care of your boat? Does he have happy customers
and employees? Does he try to steer you to another boat in his stock?
Having gone through this process, the chances of you having a satisfying relationship
with the boat you buy will be greatly enhanced. Good luck.