By Capt. Steve Larivee
So What’s So Innovative?
We counted four innovative features on our out-of-water walk around. Just what were they? For starters, looking up at the bow was pretty revealing. Chaparral calls it their “Wide Tech” bow. It appears that they have successfully found a way to combine a pickle fork and “V” into one hull. In other words, the hull has a conventional deep-V forefoot at the waterline with a pickle fork on deck. This gives you the usual handling and performance of a sportboat, with the roomier bow of a deck boat. What else? Moving aft I noticed all of the through hull fittings are solid stainless. Not stainless capped plastic, or chrome over bronze... stainless. And there were a lot of them, not only for the bilge pumps, but for the drains of the compartment lid channels as well. The outdrive sits in a transom notch and the hull carries back past the drive. This gives a longer riding surface and the hull has more buoyancy aft, both of which should mean that the boat will come up on plane sooner and with less bow rise. We’ll see about that during our test. It also means that the integral swim platform can easily extend beyond the sterndrive lower unit and prop so that swimmers can slide off the platform without worrying about getting cut. From an aesthetic standpoint, by recessing the lower unit into her transom the 284 has pleasing, flowing lines. In order to have the swim platform extend beyond the props, many builders resort to an extended platform that is not in proportion with the rest of the boat, and often is not particularly pretty. Score a big one for Chaparral for this design. Lastly, the hull is Kevlar reinforced, with dual lifting strakes on both sides leading up to a reversed chine and a 22-degree deadrise. All of which say “good handling” to me, and combined should prove to be exactly that. Again, we’ll see.
Performance and Handling
For starters, I wanted to check out the bow rise situation. I’ve tested boats with a bow rise as high as 16-degrees... the 284 Sunesta managed to pull off a 7-degree bow rise. Evidently, the extended V-Plane hull seems to be doing its job. Minimum planing speed was just about 16 mph and 2500 rpm, which isn't bad. That means you can save more fuel by going slower, but in this boat, the target audience is not likely to be too concerned with saving a couple of bucks on gasoline. Putting the wheel hard over and firewalling the throttle showed a 10-degree bank and no ventilation from the prop. I had full control of the turn radius by simply giving minor adjustments to the throttle and the boat showed no tendency to fall off the turn or respond adversely in any way. Because of the reverse chines, when you put the 284 Sunesta into a hard turn at speed, it really grabs onto the water and cranks around like it’s on rails. You need to make sure everyone is hanging on, or slow the boat down before turning, because you won’t find that the 284 will slow down for you in a turn, nor will it skid out to the side. It’s really quite exhilarating.
The boat was powered by a 375-hp MerCruiser 496 MAG engine. Top speed came in at 4800 rpm and 49.1 mph. At that speed we were burning 30.1 gph and getting 1.63 mpg for a range of 154 miles. Dialed back to a more economical cruise of 3500 rpm found us running at 33.8 mph with a 13.3 gph fuel burn. That meant that we were getting 2.55 mpg and a range of 241 miles with a 10% reserve. Time to plane was 4.6 seconds and we accelerated through 30 mph in 10 seconds.
The Layout at the Stern
The 284 Sunesta has a lot going on so let’s take a walkthrough of the layout and see how Chaparral makes a difference in their boats.
Starting at the swim platform, there are two hatches in the deck. To starboard is a reboarding ladder, directly in line of sight of the helm. We like to see these ladders recessed into the top of the deck as they’re much easier to deploy than when residing underneath. They also don’t have a tendency to deploy by themselves this way. To port is an in-deck insulated cooler. We’ve all seen the hockey puck stereo remotes at the transom, but here is a built-in remote mounted in a stainless plate in conjunction with an outdrive trim switch. The transom shower is attached to a stainless hose that will not kink, and retracts into a containment bag so it won’t catch on anything either.
There is a comfortable aft facing rumble seat that seems to be mounted at just the right height, as my feet were comfortably on the deck while sitting normally. Stainless grab handles are to either side, but don’t look at them as a means to promote utilizing this seat while underway. It’s strictly an “on the hook” feature, or perhaps even when beached. With the touch of a rocker switch at the helm, the dual aft seats lay flat to form a sun pad, and then the inboard section lifts up to become a chaise lounge. The swim platform also has non-skid laid across its entire length, and pull-up cleats are low in the corners to keep crossed dock lines out of the trip zone.
Entry to the cockpit is via a starboard side gate that I was happy to see opened inward. This prevents falling out should you find yourself falling into the gate. Off to port is roomy L-shaped seating with thick "Dura-Life Max" premium expanded vinyl upholstery secured with triple-French stitching. That’s right... triple, once in a center seam, and then twice more to either side. I also noticed that under each cushion, there are no staples showing that another seam is laid over to finish the cushion off. The seat bases are Starlight to prevent rotting, and the foam is Flow Foam to remain dry.
To starboard is an entertainment center with a sink, and a stainless basin for dropping “stuff” into. This basin can be replaced with an electric grill and I’d recommend that route. Just past that is a trash chute that leads to the wastebasket below. Beneath is a pull out cooler in a drawer that it shares with the aforementioned wastebasket. By the way, that sink I mentioned… it lacks the standard J-hook faucet we usually see in boats and instead goes with a pull out sprayer that is also on a stainless hose, and can be used to rinse off the cockpit deck if desired. Neat trick. A cockpit table with a side mounted base will allow for snacks, or if you opt for the grill, full meals.
Helm and Observer
The helm and observer's seats are referred to as Chaparral Premium bucket seats and they’re pretty slick for a couple of reasons. One, they do not wrap around you. Instead of sliding your body forward and out, something you rarely have room to do, you can simply rotate your body to the side and out. Secondly, gone are the days of fumbling around trying to feel for your seat adjustments under the seat, and then grabbing the slide adjustment when you want to swivel. The adjustments for these seats are right next to your knees in the form of pull-up handles, and they’re clearly marked.
The helm is nicely laid out with large rectangular gauges for speed and tach with a multi-function digital readout beneath the tach. A standard Garmin GPS MAP 530c lies to center stage. The rocker switches to either side of the panel have dual LED lights, one to see the international symbol, and the other to show when activated. Next to the ignition is a dimmer control. Way over to the right and below are the standard trim switches. I never touched the tabs during my test. That's a testament to the hull design I mentioned in the beginning.
To the Bow
The walkthrough windshield is supported with solid stainless rods, rather than the ball and socket setup that typically becomes the number one maintenance replacement item. Putting my hands on each windshield allowed me to lift myself up without affecting the windshield. A side hatch opens up to block off the wind when the windshield is closed off, and I was happy to see that this didn’t leave a wide open space leading to the under console storage.
At the bow, a very roomy layout awaits you. I could absolutely see the adults gathering here while the kids yell and scream off the stern. There is a starboard side filler cushion as an option, and without it, you can set up a table and have booth style seating. The forward facing seat ahead of the helm also electrically extends into the center of the bow to become a double wide seat.
The bow beach boarding ladder shares a compartment with the anchor storage, and when deployed, the forward combined navigation light flips over to a flush mounted stainless steel plate to avoid tripping over the light.
If you took this boat and stood it side-by side with the competition, you could start checking off the list of upgrades that Chaparral includes as standard on this boat. As a matter of fact, if you go to a dealer, that’s probably exactly what he’ll do, and with good reason. As I said in the beginning, these boats are a bit more expensive than some others, but you get what you pay for. In the case of the 284 Sunesta, because of the hull design and some of the details mentioned, I think you may even get a good deal more.
Test Result Highlights
- Top speed for the Chaparral 284 Sunesta (2011-) is 49.1 mph (79 kph), burning 30.1 gallons per hour (gph) or 113.93 liters per hour (lph).
- Best cruise for the Chaparral 284 Sunesta (2011-) is 33.8 mph (54.4 kph), and the boat gets 2.55 miles per gallon (mpg) or 1.08 kilometers per liter (kpl), giving the boat a cruising range of 241 miles (387.85 kilometers).
- Tested power is 1 x 375-hp MerCruiser 496 MAG.
Standard and Optional Features
|Outlet: 12-Volt Acc||Standard|