By Capt. Steve
The Road Ahead
While Larson has been making minor cosmetic changes to their cruiser lineup over the years, the simple fact is that the models have had no significant changes for roughly the past decade. The reasoning for this was simple: making changes to an existing fleet is risky, and not many companies are willing to take the chance or spend the money nowadays to create entirely new molds. Larson, however, sees this as an opportunity to leapfrog ahead with fresh, new products that are in tune with the times and the evolving tastes of today's boaters. Larson also thinks the future will see the quickest comeback take place in the mid-sized cruiser range… the boats from 25-30’ (8.5 m -9.1 m), trailerable and just above. With that in mind, the venerable Minnesota builder made a critical business decision to move forward aggressively. With this new business plan, three new models are born or completing the gestation period. They have been given names that reflect their Euro-styling, so instead of sticking to the usual “feet” designator, Larson went with meters. The first of the series, the Cabrio 857, is 8.57 m LOA or 28’ 1”. Two other models are following, the recently released 777 (25' 6”), and the larger 927 (30' 3”) set to debut later this spring. For now, we’ll focus on the first launch, the 857, a boat that has garnered much attention as it makes the first round of the boat show circuit.
Larson was one of the first builders in the U.S. years ago to start fitting their express cruisers as day boats and not overnight cruisers. That move paidoff handsomely in the early Cabrios, and with the new 857 Larson expands on that approach.At first glance, not much seems to be different from the typical mid-sized cruiser. There is one feature that I especially like here, and that is the forward section of the cabin. But when you start to look at the details you realize that this boat's primary mission is for comfortable day cruising, and overnight amenities come second. That means the forward area of the boat is not so much a cabin but more like a banquette in a chic restaurant. Cue the candles and violin music on the stereo, please. There is one drawback to this plan though, and it exists with any dinette-to-berth conversion. Filler cushions that make up the berth need to be stowed somewhere, and I have a sour taste for having to stow the boat's items in places that my gear should go. Larson came up with a brilliant plan and chose to incorporate the dinette seat backs into the filler cushions. Now, instead of the filler cushions taking up space, they form functional seat backs. When removed, they expose additional storage behind.
Larson’s creativity didn’t stop at the filler cushions. Take a close look at the table. You’ll notice that there is a wood insert, which adds greatly to the looks of the table, and it also has my often demanded feature, raised edges to keep things from sliding off. But in addition, if you lift that wooden insert, supplementary storage is revealed underneath. This makes a great spot for stowing incidentals such as napkins or condiments. I also love how the optional TV (add $1,545 MSRP) is viewable from anywhere in the cabin.
Natural light is the least of concerns in this cabin, with good sized portlights and a Bomar overhead hatch. The microwave, two-burner electric stove, dual voltage refrigerator, coffee maker, and wine rack are all standard items. The deck has a teak and holly look to it, but it’s actually vinyl, a feature I’m happy to see. This has the same great look, but none of the maintenance, plus you can walk on it with any shoe without fearing the cost of damage. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the modern fixtures throughout the boat. All faucets are stainless steel, squared-off and very modern looking, a nice touch that you’d expect to pay an added up-charge for.
Versatile Cockpit Layout
As we move topside, we get a further look at the new innovative thinking at Larson. The first feature that surprised me was the U-shaped seating being on the options list (add $1,428 MSRP). Really??? As it turns out, this decision was in response to customer feedback for more open space. Customers actually preferred to bring their own fold-away deck chairs onboard and then move them to the beach or otherwise remove them as desired. But Larson then decided to go a step further and accommodate both tastes by making the optional seating fold-away, so even if you do choose the seating, you can still have space when desired. And there is a third way this cockpit can be used: as a booth settee, rather than a U. Now you can seat two folks looking forward and two aft, and have a table in between. The seating option also includes a pedestal table and filler cushions to turn the entire aft deck into a sunpad.
Moving across to the port side of the cockpit, we have the usual entertainment center. Only this one features the modern stainless fixtures we saw down below, and the refrigerator is standard. Moving further aft, I noticed the cockpit door opens inward, a logic that escapes many builders. This means that, should a guest fall into the door, it won’t open outward allowing the unsuspecting to fall out and overboard. At the swim platform, there is a very convenient aft facing seat that makes a perfect spot to watch the kids in the water. While there are grab handles on both sides of this seat, Larson is quick to correctly point out that this does not serve to encourage using this seat while underway.
Moving onto the business end of things, I was more than impressed with the helm layout. Analog gauges are in three modules across the top, with the two outside units angled to face the operator. Faria gauges with chrome bezels and white faces are used and add to the modern look of the layout. In the center of the panel is a space to mount your choice of MFD, and while none is on the options list, the space lends itself nicely to either the Ray E90 with touch screen or the E70 widescreen units. The remote for the spotlight lies to port, trim tabs and indicators are to starboard ahead of the engine control(s). Rocker switches are to port of the wheel with all circuit breakers below, just above a small storage pocket. The helm seat is double wide to facilitate a second set of eyes looking forward. There is a single flip-up bolster that I’d like to see either take up both seats or accommodate dual bolsters -- flipping up the single bolster leaves little “cheek” room for the observer.
Our Larson Cabrio 857 had an empty weight of 6,650 lbs (3,016 kg), and adding 5 people, full fuel, full water, and test gear, brought us up to a test weight of 8,181 lb (3711 kg). With a 260-hp Yanmar 6BY2 turning a ZT 350 Yanmar outdrive, our test boat reached a top speed of 36.4 mph at 4100 rpm. At that speed, we were burning fuel at a rate of 13.2 gph and getting 2.76 mpg. That translates into a range of 208 miles. As this was a diesel engine, and they’re notoriously fuel efficient, we found that there was not a real difference between WOT and best cruise. But, best cruise was found to be at 3500 rpm and 28.8 mph. The cool part is that fuel burn was only 10 gph, and that’s a great number to use when figuring your time to empty. You have an 84 gallon tank, at cruise it will last you 8.4 hours (hint… 1/10 of an hour is 6 minutes so .4 is 24 minutes). Got a half a tank left? You’ll run out in 4.2 hours. And continuing on with our barely noticeable difference between WOT and best cruise, remember our mpg at top speed was 2.76. At best cruise it was 2.89. So don’t be afraid to put the spurs to the horses in this ride. And for diesel’s next characteristic: they’re slow to accelerate. The turbo didn’t kick in until roughly 2000 rpm so we had a 9.9 second time to plane, reached 20 mph in 16.2 seconds, and 30 miles an hour in 22.8 seconds.
It seems that Larson is pretty well determined to make a mark on the boating world with their new Cabrio lineup, and from what I’ve seen in this first launch, they’re onto something. It has a lot of features that I like to see in boats with very few downsides. My advice is to schedule a test drive of a Cabrio 857 and see this new boat for yourself. And, when you do, give serious consideration to the diesel option.
Test Result Highlights
- Top speed for the Larson Cabrio 857 (2011-) is 36.4 mph (58.6 kph), burning 13.2 gallons per hour (gph) or 49.96 liters per hour (lph).
- Best cruise for the Larson Cabrio 857 (2011-) is 28.8 mph (46.3 kph), and the boat gets 2.89 miles per gallon (mpg) or 1.23 kilometers per liter (kpl), giving the boat a cruising range of 219 miles (352.45 kilometers).
- Tested power is 1 x 260-hp Yanmar 6BY2-260Z.
Standard and Optional Features
|Outlet: 12-Volt Acc||Standard|
Boats More Than 30 Feet
Five to Life Warranty