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Cobalt 323 (2013-)
(w/ 2 x 375-hp Volvo Penta 8.1Gi w/sterndrive joystick)

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JD Power Award 2008

Paxon St. Clair, CEO of Cobalt talks to us about their JD Power Award win for Large Runabouts.
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Brief Summary

Cobalt has a long and rich history of creating premium boats and they’ve done it again with the 323. It’s a very classy day boat with room for overnighting. With a base price of $257,930, and nicely equipped considerably more, this is a boat that not only says you’ve arrived, but you’re doing it very well.

Key Features

  • Volvo Penta Sterndrive Joystick available
  • Specifications

    Length Overall 32' 10''
    10.0 m
    Beam 10' 7''
    3.23 m
    Dry Weight 12,300 lbs.
    5,579 kg
    Tested Weight N/A
    Draft 35''
    .90 m
    - Draft Up N/A
    - Draft Down N/A
    - Air Draft N/A
    Deadrise/Transom 22 deg.
    Max Headroom N/A
    Bridge Clearance 8' 10''
    2.69 m w/ tower
    Weight Capacity N/A
    Person Capacity N/A
    Fuel Capacity 174 gal.
    659 L
    Water Capacity 18 gal.
    68 L
    Length on Trailer N/A
    Height on Trailer N/A
    Trailer Weight N/A
    Total Weight
    (Trailer, Boat, & Engine)
    N/A

    Prices, features, designs, and equipment are subject to change. Please see your local dealer or visit the builder's website for the latest information available on this boat model.

    Engine Options

    Std. Power Not Available
    Tested Power 2 x 375-hp Volvo Penta 8.1Gi w/sterndrive joystick
    Opt. Power Not Available

    Test Results - Change Measurement Unit

    RPM MPH Knots GPH MPG NMPG Stat. Mile NM dBa
    600 4.2 3.7 2.1 2.0 1.7 313 272 69
    1000 6.6 5.7 4.0 1.7 1.4 258 225 74
    1500 8.9 7.7 8.0 1.1 1.0 174 151 75
    2000 12.4 10.8 15.6 0.8 0.7 124 108 88
    2500 25.4 22.1 17.5 1.5 1.3 227 198 83
    3000 34.2 29.7 22.0 1.6 1.4 243 212 83
    3500 42.5 36.9 32.0 1.3 1.2 208 181 86
    4000 48.1 41.8 44.0 1.1 1.0 171 149 90
    4500 54.1 47.0 62.0 0.9 0.8 137 119 93
    RPMNMKMKPHLPHKPLdBA
    600 272 504 6.80 7.95 0.85 69
    1000 225 415 10.60 15.14 0.70 74
    1500 151 280 14.30 30.28 0.47 75
    2000 108 200 20.00 59.05 0.34 88
    2500 198 365 40.90 66.24 0.62 83
    3000 212 391 55.00 83.28 0.66 83
    3500 181 335 68.40 121.13 0.57 86
    4000 149 275 77.40 166.56 0.46 90
    4500 119 220 87.10 234.69 0.37 93

    All fuel consumption numbers are the total for all engines in the boat. Speeds are measured with Stalker ProSports radar gun or GPS. Fuel consumption (gallons per hour) measured with Floscan digital fuel-flow meter or by on-board factory-installed diagnostic instruments. Range is based on 90% of published fuel capacity. Sound levels determined using Radio Shack digital decibel meter on A scale. 68 dBA is the level of normal conversation. Time to plane is measured from start of acceleration to formation of rooster tail behind boat.

    Performance Chart

    Performance Chart

    Acceleration Times & Test Conditions

    Time To Plane 5.6 sec.
    0 to 30 9.6 sec.
    Ratio 1.78 : 1
    Props F6
    Load 4 persons, 4/5 fuel, no water, min. gear
    Climate 88 deg., 80% humid.; wind: 5-10 knots; seas: calm

    Captain's Report

    Captain's Report by Capt. Steve--

    Cobalt 323
    Cobalt 323 looks fast on the water and is.

    Mission of the Cobalt 323

    This boat is designed for "big water" and that means large inland lakes and saltwater. As a result, her freeboard is significantly higher than boats aimed at the freshwater river and lake market. Her progressive deadrise hull is designed to easily slice through waves and her reverse chines keep spray down and pretty much eliminate sliding in turns. At the transom her deadrise is 22-degrees which places her firmly in the deep-V category for a comfortable ride at high speed in sloppy conditions.

    Cobalt 323
    The Volvo Penta 6.0 L V8-380 has been specifically designed to mate with the DPS Duoprop outdrives and it replaces the 8.1 L V8 in our test boat.

    New 6.0 L 380-hp V8s Replace 8.1 L 380-hp V8s

    In the video playing with this captain's report the 323 was powered by twin "big block" Volvo Penta 375-hp 8.1 L Gi engines with DuoProp. They are no longer available and in their place Cobalt is offering Volvo Penta's new "small block" 6.0 L 380-hp engine with DuoProp. These new engines have a smaller envelope, less weight, but the same horsepower.Since this engine is over 300 lbs. lighter and is rated at a higher horsepower than the engine we tested -- all things being equal -- the 323 should now go slightly faster than the numbers we report in the video.

    Cobalt 323
    The optional, patented seat/step/footrest will be a hit with both kids and adults.

    Stern First

    Designed for Speed.

    One of the most important aspects of the 323 is her bottom at the stern. Not only does she have a 22-degree deadrise, but her bottom extends past the transom and flanks the lower units. This adds buoyancy to the stern which helps keep her bow down when accelerating and gives her more running surface to make her more stable at high speeds.

    Patented Seat/Step.

    Cobalt’s optional flip-down swim step is a clever innovation exclusive to the line. It’s a feature that has appeal to both adults and kids, but don’t expect to see it anytime soon on other builders boats. Cobalt patented the concept. Options at the stern include a transom shower and swim platform transom lighting.

    Cobalt 323
    Under the pad is the lid to the motor box and it has a standard electric actuator. This system has a low-tolerance fit which makes a tight seal and reduces noise in the cockpit.

    Under the Pad.

    The sun pad on the stern is large for the size of this boat. Under the center section of the pad is a wet storage which is insulated and can be used as a built-in cooler for beverages. Just behind it is another box for storing lines, fenders and other gear needed at the stern.

    Cockpit

    The interior cockpit width is 9' (2.74 m). There is seating along the port side that wraps around the stern. To starboard is an entertainment center, with additional seating for one person, or two close friends. Naturally there is storage under the seats with one exception…

    Cobalt 323
    Notice the correctly placed handrail ("A") abaft the starboard seating. Sea rails work as a “fiddle" edge at the entertainment center ("B") and also serve as handholds. The portside observer seat ("C") is flip-back for even more seating at the center of conversation.

    …lift up the cushion on the port side and there is the standard cockpit table. We think this is the complete pedestal table on a fold out hinge, assembled and ready to deploy in seconds is clever and practical.

    Cobalt 323
    Now you see it, and …
    Cobalt 323
    …now you don't. The side-mounted base is hinged and the whole table simply folds into the seat.

    Entertaining Platform

    Over to starboard is an entertainment center with a fridge, sink, and trash receptacle. Given the pedigree of this boat, its not a stretch to see the fridge used as a wine cooler. There’s also plenty of open counter space for putting together snacks.

    Helm

    There are no surprises at the helm. Visibility is excellent whether seated or sitting up on the bolster. All gauges are easy to see, and the most important -- the fuel gauges -- are front and center.

    A Suggestion to Cobalt.

    I had but two complaints: first was the location of the VHF. My knee kept knocking against it and inadvertently changing the channel off the working frequency. It’s also quite hard to see where it is.

    Secondly

    , our test boat was also equipped with the optional Garmin GPS Map which has a home in the middle of the panel in place of the compass. While the GPS gave a digital readout of the course, I would still like to have a compass. It could be mounted on the top of the dash. Call me old fashioned.

    Cobalt 323
    All switches are stainless steel. A comfortable footrest lies below the helm that can be covered in stainless steel.

    Engine Diagnostics.

    Volvo Penta's EVC display gives two digital readouts below the tachs and I -- like a lot of people -- have come to rely on them. By scrolling through a laundry list of items it is possible to get the read out of about any function wanted. In my case, I had one tuned to the fuel flow and the other on rpm. Other choices include time to empty, engine temp, oil temp and pressure, fuel levels, and battery condition among others.

    Joystick Joy.

    The second major optional engine accessory on the test boat is Volvo Penta’s sterndrive joystick. The price is steep, but for owners who dread docking their boat it will put joy -- and fun -- into the maneuver. A high majority of the twin engine boats built today go out the door with a joystick.

    Cobalt 323
    The 323's stainless steel ladder for the walk-through has teak treads and retracts into the port bulkhead.

    Below Decks

    Galley.

    The cabin is roomy for a boat this size, and although the modest galley is not appropriate for a five-course meal, that is not how this boat will be used. Standard equipment includes a microwave, refrigerator, stove top and sink with pressure hot and cold water.

    Cobalt 323
    Note the portlights along with the overhead hatch that drench the cabin in natural light. The table height is adjustable and finished to perfection. The carpet on the cabin sole is 40-oz, which is heavier than most.
    Cobalt 323
    Looking aft we see the smoked companion hatch that allows privacy from a distance. Notice the optional A/C vent to the right of the electrical panel and the flat screen TV to the left.

    Salon.

    Because this boat will be used primarily as a day boat and for entertaining, the forward area of the salon was designed to be a convivial setting for cocktails, light food, good conversation and watching the TV. Air conditioning/heating is optional. Placement of the vents is high over the valances and the air was channeled throughout the cabin perfectly on our 90+ degree test day. We were able to cool the entire cabin down in just a couple of minutes. Our A/C was powered from a shore power kit which includes a battery charger, but an onboard 5-kW generator option is available. The hanging locker is lined in cedar, something usually not seen on boats until they get a bit larger. The 323 also comes with a standard 110-volt hot water heater.

    Cobalt 323
    The galley is equipped for its purpose, morning wake-me-ups rather than large, involved meals. Notice the large breadbox style appliance garage.
    Cobalt 323
    The head has a hot and cold shower and a VacuFlush toilet, all standard.

    Performance and Handling

    Caveat.

    As noted above we tested the boat with twin 375-hp 8.1 L V-8 Volvo Penta engines which are no longer available. In their place Volvo Penta offers twin 6.0 L 380-hp gas engines. Given that these engines are lighter and have slightly more horsepower and both configurations used DuoProps, we would expect performance to be about the same or slightly better than what we experienced during our test.

    Test Numbers.

    We tested this boat on Miami’s Biscayne Bay with four people on board, 80% fuel (data courtesy of EVC) and no water in the tank. Test weight was 13,835 lbs (6,27 5 kgs). I found her best cruise to be at 3000 rpm running 34.2 miles-per-hour. At cruise speed, she burns about 22 gallons-per-hour getting 1.55 mpg for a range of 243 miles with a 10% reserve.

    Cobalt 323
    The 323 has a through-the-stem anchor with standard scuff plate. Look closely and see the reverse chines that keep spray down and carve turns like a slalom skier.

    The 323 has a through-the-stem anchor with standard scuff plate. Look closely and see the reverse chines that keep spray down and carve turns like a slalom skier.

    WOT and Handling.

    She topped out at 4500 rpm at a thrilling 54.1 miles-per-hour. The 323 got on plane in 5.6 seconds and up to 30 miles-per-hour in only 9.6 seconds. This boat ran very quiet and smooth, even in the choppy water of the camera boat’s wake. The turns were smooth and complete at nearly any running speed with little loss of headway or steerage, no ventilation, and with only a light touch on the steering wheel. Handling at all speeds was predictable both underway and at the docks.

    Construction -- The Cobalt Difference

    Kevlar.

    The hull bottom has a layer of Kevlar laminated into it. Cobalt is one of a handful of builders that use this material, which helps make the boat a bit lighter and protects against catastrophic damage if the owner runs over a dead head at high speed. In addition to Kevlar there is a protective barrier coat called Z-thane in the lamination schedule which allows Cobalt to have the best blister free warranty in the industry.

    Cobalt 323
    Sandwich honeycomb construction keeps weight down and strength up.

    Honeycomb.

    The cockpit sole of the 323 has honeycomb composite construction (called Nida-Core), much like what is used in airliners. The honeycomb has great vertical strength but is extremely lightweight, and of course does not rot or get mushy like plywood deck cores can.

    Gelcoat.

    The builder says it uses a "proprietary" barrier coat for improved cosmetics and blister protection. Its "buffback" gelcoat process is intended to retard fading to UV degradation. Hull graphics are in the gelcoat which means they won't fade or come off.

    Seats.

    The seats in the 323 have variable density foam for comfort as well as being impregnated with an antimicrobial chemical to stop mildew and mold. Interior materials are all composite.

    Cobalt 323
    The latest iteration of the Cobalt 323 has full oval portlights instead of the of the half-shaped version seen in some of our photos.

    Observations

    There’s a reason premium boats cost more, and the fact that they’re not for everyone simply makes them all the more desirable to the people who can afford them. And Cobalt still is very much in that exalted tier of top brands.

    Here's the Beef.

    The Cobalt 323 has a lot of heft. In no way should she be confused with her little sisters made for small inland lakes. This lady was made for big water, both fresh and salt. Moreover, she can hold her own along the docks of Cannes and Antibes.

    Test Result Highlights

    • Top speed for the Cobalt 323 (2013-) is 54.1 mph (87.1 kph), burning 62.0 gallons per hour (gph) or 234.67 liters per hour (lph).
    • Best cruise for the Cobalt 323 (2013-) is 34.2 mph (55 kph), and the boat gets 1.55 miles per gallon (mpg) or 0.66 kilometers per liter (kpl), giving the boat a cruising range of 243 miles (391.07 kilometers).
    • Tested power is 2 x 375-hp Volvo Penta 8.1Gi w/sterndrive joystick.

    Standard and Optional Features

    Marine Electronics

    GPS/Chart Optional
    VHF Radio Optional

    Systems

    Battery Charger/Converter Standard
    CD Stereo Standard
    Head: Fixed Standard
    Shore Power Standard
    Trim Tabs Standard
    TV/DVD Optional
    Water Heater Standard
    Windlass Optional

    Galley

    Microwave Standard
    Refrigerator Standard
    Stove Standard

    Exterior Features

    Carpet: Cockpit Standard
    Hardtop Optional
    Outlet: 12-Volt Acc Standard
    Swim Ladder Standard
    Swim Platform Standard
    Transom Shower Optional

    Canvas

    Bimini Top Standard
    Cockpit Cover Optional

    Boats More Than 30 Feet

    Generator Optional

    Warranty

    Hull Warranty
    Transferable
    10/5/3 Year Warranty Protection


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