Captain's ReportWhen Construction and Design MatterBy Captain Keith BurtonPontoon boats are seeing resurgence among people buying boats. Pontoon boats offer a tremendous value for waterborne fun, their large deck area, and amenities like entertainment stations, plenty of storage and low fuel use make for a compelling reason to purchase, and today, more power and performance enable pontoon boats to rival the performance of many runabouts. A great example of this is the 2006 Bentley 243 Cruise. ConstructionTri-tube pontoons are generally the performance models for all pontoon boats but here in the Bentley 243 the Bentley engineers made some changes. They designed a center tube with a stern lifting pad, which helps this pontoon get up on plane and accelerate more quickly. The idea is fairly simple, the trailing two feet or so of the center tube is flattened instead of round as on most pontoon boats. Looking somewhat triangular in shape, the lifting pad helps lift the boat to get the side tubes out of the water and provide more speed. With an affordable 150-horsepower Mercury Optimax, we saw a top speed of 39.8 mph, which is plenty strong for skiers.Bentley also builds the 243 Cruise to last for years. The entire boat is either welded or bolted together; no screws are used. The bolts and nuts are corrosion proof stainless steel. The deck is built from specially treated wood, but it is sheathed beneath with aluminum from bow to stern. The deck is warranted for 10 years and is fully transferable if the boat is sold.Style and FunctionUnlike many other pontoon builders, Bentley styled the 243 Cruise to stand out. All of the railings on deck have powder-coated paint and the metal rail covers are mounted to the exterior of the rails. This gives the 243 Cruise a sleek and more refined appearance than many other pontoons that have unpainted rails and rail covers mounted on the inside edge of the rails.At the bow on each tube are stout cast aluminum ties and on the deck corners are strong cast aluminum bumpers. This is a pontoon boat that can take a bit of a beating while docking and still look good, something novice captains would appreciate. As you would expect in a 24-foot pontoon boat, the deck space is expansive and includes three boarding doors: one at the bow and amidships at port and starboard. The bow door is wheel-chair accessible in width. Two huge sun lounges are found port and starboard at the bow, each has fully lined storage beneath. We particularly like the stainless steel hinges that are used. The workmanship on the sun lounges is noticeable as we saw no ripples in the material, uneven stitching or misaligned piping. Bentley’s designers angled the base of the sun lounges underneath to allow room for toes while standing near them, the effect looks good and provides a way to mount deck lighting to angles toward the deck and not at your ankles. A full entertainment station is on the port side amidships and is complete with a freshwater sink, two stainless steel drinkholders, a built-in cooler and a storage compartment.At the ControlsThe helm is attractively laid out with black on white gauges set within a gold bezel and surrounded by a convincing burl-wood dash. The instrument panel is easy to see. Auxiliary electrics are controlled by toggle switches. Nearby is a good-sounding AM/FM/CD radio protected by a sliding cover.The captain’s chair is unusually wide, with almost room for two. Underneath is a small storage compartment.The rear seating is a large L-shaped bench with more lined storage compartments below. A removable table is available as well. At the stern on the starboard side is a changing station that opens to provide a small bit of privacy. Unlike some other changing stations, this one only rises to just over waist high. A large stern sun pad is also part of the package. It opens to provide access to the boat’s battery and outboard connections as well as the built-in fuel tank.RidePerformance over the water is remarkable. The Bentley 243 Cruise gets on plane quickly and turns well. It is certainly not a sport boat, you still get the flat-turning characteristic that pontoons are known for, but it is easy to steer. It handles rough water and sharp chop without pounding. Overall, the ride is quite pleasant, even at high speed.The Bentley 243 Cruise is a step above the average pontoon boat with excellent build quality and very good styling. It also shows that the company is listening to its customers who want a rugged pontoon boat with the performance needed to provide years of low-maintenance fun on the water.
Test Result Highlights
- Top speed for the Bentley 243 Cruise Tritube (2006-) is 39.8 mph (64.1 kph), burning 14.5 gallons per hour (gph) or 54.88 liters per hour (lph).
- Best cruise for the Bentley 243 Cruise Tritube (2006-) is 15.1 mph (24.3 kph), and the boat gets 5.59 miles per gallon (mpg) or 2.38 kilometers per liter (kpl), giving the boat a cruising range of 121 miles (194.73 kilometers).
- Tested power is 1 x 150-hp Mercury Optimax.
Standard and Optional Features
Full Warranty Information on this brand coming soon!