By Capt. Steve
Chaparral has positioned the 257 SSX as a high-end bowrider. She features innovative seating that can be used in different configurations, and has a hull with no bad habits.
Multi-function Side Bench Seat in the Cockpit.
The one to port swivels and slides so it can be used as a leg rest for the swiveled observer’s seat, same for the aft bench seat, or a standalone seat. •
Wide Aft-facing Transom Seating.
Often we see seats placed at the transom as an afterthought, but here the swim platform is destined to be a popular hangout.•
Electric Aft Lounge Seating.
The aft seats lie flat at the touch of a button and even convert to chaise lounges. •
Clever Sole Storage.
It is not only exceedingly roomy but also includes pullout drawers to the side to create storage within storage.•
Basket-weave Vinyl Wrapped Dash.
The fiberglass dash modules take on an elegant look with multiple shades of earth tones and unique basket-weave patterns. •
Sculptured Hull Sides.
Chaparral has done something rarely seen in the hull of a sportboat and that is to build in an aggressive styling relief. It can be left in the natural hull gel coat to reflect light to show off its curves, or it can be colored in a contrasting color to accent its shape. This technique is rarely seen because it is difficult to accomplish in a female mold.
With a 380-hp 6.0 L Volvo Penta V-8 powering our test boat we reached a top speed at 5960 rpm and 53.6 mph. That gave us a fuel burn of 29.25 gph for a range of 119 miles.
came in at 3500 rpm and 28.1 mph. That brought the fuel burn down to 8.9 gph which the 257 SSX could keep up for seven hours and 18 minutes and 203 miles while still maintaining a 10% reserve.
Hole Shot Times.
Thanks to the extended V-Plane running surface and the Volvo Penta V8-380 we had a time to plane of only 3.0 seconds, accelerated the 20 mph in 5.5 seconds and continued accelerating through 30 mph in 7.8 seconds. These are impressive times for a 5,000 lb. (2,272 kg.) boat.
Between her 6.0 liter V-8 engine and rack and pinion steering the 257 SSX handling was glass smooth and exhilarating. She turns on a dime without any tendency to chine walk and can accommodate a load of people and still have power left over for another person at the end of the towline. I noticed a 14-degree bow rise on accelerating which kept the horizon in view at all times. Roughly one quarter trim will get the 257 into the five-degree bow high attitude where she runs best. Any additional trim will create oscillation. Cruise trim will also cause ventilation of the propellers if any maneuvers are initiated, so be sure to drop the trim down before turning hard.
The new Volvo Penta 380-hp V8 engine gave the 257 SSX exhilarating midrange performance. Pushing the throttle forward from the cruise position produced an immediate burst in acceleration. This is because the V8-380 has a flat torque curve and variable valve timing. When another sportboat comes along side to show off, summer lake hot-shots will like the burst of mid-range speed available in the 257 to show who's got the boss boat. Between the light touch on the engine control, and two turns from lock-to-lock on the steering, it’s very easy to get aggressive with the handling on the 257. While the boat can certainly take it easily enough, passengers may find it uncomfortable, so restraint is in order. This additional power and maneuverability will certainly come in handy in any rough seas that may be encountered.
Chaparral made a departure from the norm with a pair of 30.5” (77.7 cm) wide transom seats, 13” (33 cm) apart, that can lay flat to form separate sun lounges at the push of a button. A center walkthrough can accommodate optional filler cushions to create a single large sun pad. The full beam swim platform comes out 2'9" (.83 m) from the transom step.
Our platform included the optional rubber logo mat adding to the nonskid surface. At the aft end of the platform, there's a stainless grab rail that’s long enough to allow several people to hang on while waiting their turn at the starboard reboarding ladder. This grab rail serves a number of purposes including protection for the fiberglass swim platform when backing into a dock, as well as being a cool styling accent.Tripping hazards are reduced with pull-up cleats to both sides. There are also fuel fills to either side.
Our test boat was fitted with the optional transom shower and stereo remote with transom tilt switch. We tested an early version of this design, and on future models the stereo remote will be moved up higher, to be more in line with the transom seating as opposed to being functional from the platform only.
The cockpit is shaded with an integral Bimini top mounted to the optional arch tower that is available in either black or white. It's a shapely and functional forward raked tower that really adds to the good looks of the 257 SSX. The tow point is 7’ (2.13 m) off the deck.
To the rear of the cockpit are back-to-back seats that create not only wide transom seating but comfortable cockpit seats as well. A side mount pedestal base is mounted to the port bulwarks. Just ahead, is a "transition lounge seat" that swivels and slides allowing it to be configured to multiple positions. I was most impressed with the fact that it can also be used to create a double wide seat at the cockpit table creating, in effect, booth seating. Slid fully aft it creates L-shaped seating to port... slid forward it turns the portside observer seat into a lounge seat.
To starboard the bench seat is in a fixed position with storage inside for a 36 quart (34 L) carry-on cooler. This is also the location of the battery switches with convenient jumper terminals for quick attachment of the optional water toy inflator.
Chaparral did a good job with its sole storage compartment. It is 20” (51 cm) deep by 30” (77 cm) wide and runs from the center of the cockpit fully forward 8'4" (2.54 m) to the area between the consoles. Because of its sheer length, it's inevitable that some items will become lost in the nether regions of the forward compartment so I'd like to see Chaparral add another deck hatch between the consoles.
This hatch is hinged from the front, held open with gas struts, the opening is guttered all the way around with a drain leading overboard and the floor of the compartment is padded.However, the real trick is to the sides of the compartment where there are two drawers large enough to hold the standard cockpit table. This is a brilliant idea and one that I predict we’ll be seeing from other manufacturers.
Both the captain and the observer get Chaparral's trademark comfortable bucket seats. The seats have high wraparounds but down low they curve back to allow the captain’s legs to swivel independent of the seat. The seat has swivel and slide controls located up high next to the legs and are clearly marked, so there's no fumbling underneath the seat for the controls. Both seats also have flip up bolsters.
The port console continues the multiple tones of white, browns and tans with a basket-weave pattern to the upper vinyl. A sizable glove box is located at the top of the door to the console. Inside is a roomy compartment with 3'9" (1.14 m) of headroom and includes a standard Porta-Potti, solid surface counter with sink, pullout sprayer and mirror. The Porta-Potti can be swapped out for a pump out Porta-Potti or a porcelain toilet with a VacuFlush system. A macerator is available although such a setup is prohibited in most locations. An opening portlight provides ventilation.
The helm console also has the dark basket-weave vinyl on top which serves well to knock down any glare. Chaparral went with a classy three-spoke leather wrapped stainless steering wheel mounted to a tilt base as standard. The standard panel features four gauges with stainless bezels, the two center gauges will be multifunction.
The optional panel includes a multifunction gauge to port and the two center gauges get swapped out for an optional Garmin 720 GPS with a 7” (17.8 cm) touchscreen display. Waterproof rocker switches flank both sides of the helm and are mounted to stainless mounting plates. A stereo remote is to the lower left. Our test boat was also equipped with optional trim tabs with LED indicators but I never found the need to use them.
The walkthrough windshield is held open by a magnetic catch and in the closed position gasketing prevents any rattling while underway. A door at the side of the helm console opens to provide a lower air dam for operating on chilly mornings. A second, inner door protects the storage area under the helm console from the elements and keeps the boat looking first-rate. The stereo is mounted just above the door giving it a well protected location.
The bow features comfortable seating with stainless speaker grills nestled into the side bulwarks. The forward facing seats have flip-up armrests and the padded seat backs rise up and curve over to meet the caprail providing padded armrests to the outside perimeter.
Lengthy stainless steel rails serve as grab handles from any of the bow positions. An optional bow filler cushion comes packaged with the stern filler cushion to create a second sun lounge in the bow.
The Chaparral 257 SSX has a base price of $95,263 when equipped with the 300-hp Volvo Penta 5.7 L V8-300 C. Powered with the 380-hp 6.0 L Volvo Penta V8-380 C, as was our test boat, will bring the price to $107,192. Loaded with options, she'll climb up to the neighborhood of $127,000.
This was one of those boats that was hard for me as a person who loves powerboats to walk away from. She has docile handling characteristics and an innovative, comfortable layout that is simply fun to be in. To my way of thinking, Chaparral has carefully designed each aspect of the 257 SSX to work harmoniously both functionally and visually. I'm sure watersport enthusiasts noted this boat's quick time to plane powered by the Volvo Penta 6.0 L V8-380. Fitted with the towing arch in black, I think she will signal to one and all that she is ready for business.Finally, I would not be thrown off by the loaded-up price of $127,000. First that's MSRP, and second, because of this boat's styling, luxurious interior and standard amenities, I don't think she has to be loaded up for most people to get full enjoyment out of her.
Test Result Highlights
- Top speed for the Chaparral 257 SSX (2013-) is 53.6 mph (86.3 kph), burning 29.25 gallons per hour (gph) or 110.71 liters per hour (lph).
- Best cruise for the Chaparral 257 SSX (2013-) is 28.1 mph (45.2 kph), and the boat gets 3.14 miles per gallon (mpg) or 1.34 kilometers per liter (kpl), giving the boat a cruising range of 203 miles (326.7 kilometers).
- Tested power is 1 x 380-hp Volvo Penta V8-380.
Standard and Optional Features
|Carpet: Cockpit||Optional Snap-in|
|Outlet: 12-Volt Acc||Standard|