Captain's Report by Capt. Steve--
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
…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.
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.
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.
, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Performance and Handling
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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Boats More Than 30 Feet
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