Luxury Pontoon with a Long List of Customizable Features
By Vince Daniello
“You can have any color you want, as long as it is black.” That famous Model-T sales pitch from Henry Ford summed up the early days of mass-production of consumer products. Much has changed since then, particularly in automobiles, with seemingly endless possible combinations of interior and exterior colors and optional features.
Boat manufacturers, on the other hand, often only allow limited choices—if any. Sure, the colors are bright and graphics and upholstery eye-catching, but often the only color changes occur from model year to model year. Boat builders also try to think through how their boats are used and include the options most boaters want, but it can be hard, or even impossible for purchasers get something different.
JC Manufacturing, makers of TriToon, NepToon, and SunToon pontoon boats, specifically design their boats to offer many choices. The NepToon 23 TT I tested—one of the most popular boats in JC’s lineup—is but one example.
“We don’t even have line drawings in our literature because there are just so many choices that a customer can pick,” said Larry Baumgardt, JC’s National Sales Manager. “Our boats are modular. The customer can design pretty much whatever they want.”
The modules Baumgardt is referring to are the end caps for each section of seating, which JC uses to provide a seemingly infinite combination of accessories. These modules include several choices for coolers, various storage bins or drawers, a folding table, a tip-out trashcan, and even a sink.
You never use the starboard boarding gate? Fine, eliminate it and put a longer lounger on the starboard side. Add or subtract the changing room and sun pad at the stern. Choose between several table options for the seating area in the stern. The list goes on and on.
Deck Features and Layout
Upholstery and trim are offered in eight color options, too. Which brings up another important point about the NepToon series. Even though it is a lower-priced line for JC Manufacturing, the company uses the same quality construction, and offers most of the same features as on their upscale TriToon boats. The NepToon 23’s sculpted upholstery has a bit of a retro look, with a durable coating that makes it easy to maintain. Seats are vented to eliminate mildew. Carpet is stretched and stapled so it won’t peel up at the edges down the road. Railings are powder-coated, providing protection from corrosion and a clean look.
“Although this is one of our less expensive boats, it is loaded with features. The same kind of features we offer on our top of the line models,” Baumgardt said.
There is an important distinction between the NepToon and TriToon line, though. Many of the standard features on the TriToon are options on the NepToon. The end price is kept down when purchasing the boat by balancing features with the bottom line. Another important distinction is the hull shape. JC’s TriToon hull does not use rounded pontoon bottoms, but rather a three-pontoon design engineered as one hull, with angled planing surfaces on the outer two hulls.
The NepToon hulls are more traditional, although JC offers a choice of two or three hulls. The third hull, which our test boat had, adds buoyancy and rigidity, as well as increased horsepower and weight capacity. The center hull also holds a 55-gallon fuel tank, whereas the two-tube boat has a 25-gallon tank fitted in the port stern.
Other choices include one or two optional powder-coated aluminum swim platforms, with a four-step folding boarding ladder. (The boat includes a swim deck and ladder at the stern—the platforms are optional.) Other options include stainless steel bow rails, a stainless watersports tow bar (with or without wakeboard racks), and several choices for electronics.
The Power Behind this Pontoon
Unlike some manufacturers, JC also offers a wide choice of engines. The boat I tested had a 200-horsepower Suzuki four-stroke outboard. While this engine has been in Suzuki’s line for a few years, it has just recently been made available in a 20-inch shaft length, which suits performance pontoon boats like this NepToon 23 much better.
This 200 was actually introduced first as a 250, and then later released in the slightly detuned 200. That means this 200 shares the robust 3.6 liter V-6 block and many of the advance features of the 250. Among them, multi-stage air induction provides better low- to mid-range torque, and digital electronic fuel injection increases both performance and economy. (Suzuki was one of the first manufactures to make the commitment to shift their entire line to electronic ignition and four-stroke.)
While it is more important for twin-engine installations, not single-engine pontoon boats, this engine uses a narrow 55-degree V to keep it slim. But this design offers two distinct advantages to pontoon boats. First, the offset drive shaft that makes up part of the narrower engine design shifts the weight of the engine further forward on its mount, which will benefit any boat. And second, this offset drive shaft also allows Suzuki to use a lower gear ratio, giving this 200 a bigger, slower-turning propeller, with extra bite that benefits pontoon boats.
With its 2.28:1 reduction ratio and a 16 by 18 ½ inch stainless steel prop, the Suzuki 200 had our NepToon 23 on plane in 2.9 seconds, and the boat accelerated through 30 miles-per-hour in 5.3 seconds. We reached a top speed of 38.1 miles-per-hour at 5500 RPM, and when we pulled back to 4000 RPM we traveled about 27 miles-per-hour, getting well over 3 miles-per-gallon. Our most economical speed was 2500 RPM, making 4.7 miles-per-gallon at 14.8 miles-per-hour. This engine also includes many noteworthy features like high alternator output, even at low RPM, and a large, front-mounted fuel filter that’s easy to change.
OK, I realize this article discusses JC Manufacturing in general, and doesn’t give many details about the features of the NepToon 23 I tested. But with JC’s seemingly endless list of possibilities, the features are pretty much whatever you want them to be.