By Capt. Steve
If you strap enough horsepower on any flat-bottom bass boat you can launch it into orbit in short order. But that is the problem. Running on a postage stamp-size pad and chine walking at high speed is no fun and it's downright dangerous. That's one reason why hull design and the good sense and responsibility of the builder is so important. Every hull is a trade off. Any garage gearhead can build a boat to go 100 mph, or go from 0 to plane in a blink of an eye, but designing a boat that has the best combination of attributes and is solid and dry at speed is not so easy. Ranger Boats has evolved its bottoms over the last 40 years to a point where ride, performance, and steady handling at high speed are, in our experience, exceptionally good and predictable. We just tested the Z520 Comanche powered by a Evinrude E-TEC 250 and the big story about the boat is NOT the speed, it is the solid handling at speed.
Extraordinary Evinrude Cruise Performance
First, lets look at the remarkable performance of this rig. With Evinrude’s E-TEC 250 H.0. driving a 14.5 x 26 x 3 prop, we reached a top speed of 72.5 mph at 5800 rpm. At that speed we were burning 26.4 gph and getting 2.75 mpg for range of 129 miles on the 52 gallon (196 L) fuel tank. Best cruise is another matter entirely. Technically best cruise came in at 4500 rpm and 55.0 miles per hour where we were getting 14 gph for 3.93 mpg. But the reality is that from 3000 rpm to 4500 rpm the mpg figure changes only 7/100 of a mile per gallon. That means you’ll find an acceptable cruise setting at anywhere from 30.3 mph on up to 55 mph with nearly the same mpg figure. The fuel burn per hour will change slightly, but with a high performance bass boat it’s all about distance and time -- so let her rip with this Evinrude E-TEC 20 H.O.!
Pultrusions for the Portly
Before we get into the layout of the boat and go over all of the things most bass boats have, I would like to mention what virtually no bass boat has except Ranger Boats: A deck structure that is reinforced with pultrusions. What are pultrusions? They are specially manufactured fiberglass and resin plates, made under tremendous heat and pressure, that are as hard as steel but a lot lighter.Ranger is the only boat builder we know of that has its own pultrusion fabrication machine. Sheets of steel-hard material come out of the machine and are then cut into smaller pieces used all over the deck of Ranger boats. These pultruded strips are laminated into the under side of decks, lids and other components and you never see them. But they are there to give extra stiffening to the fiberglass parts. This process allows Ranger to actually take weight out of its decks but at the same time have structures that are stronger and stiffer and can withstand the most portly of anglers jumping up and down on their decks. In one boat we counted 20 of these strips placed here and there all over the deck laminate.
Layout and Details
Ranger obviously listens closely to the feedback from its customers, and this is evidenced by the functional layout of the Z520. Not unlike every other bass boat, the foredeck is quite large and offers ample casting room. But this one differs in the padding that is immediately felt underneath your feet that will really take the fatigue off of a long day on the water. Like virtually every other builder, Ranger has not forgotten the recessed foot pedal at the bow.
There are ample compartments for storing more gear than you’d ever care to bring, and I was pleased to see the latches fit nicely below the carpeting which will eliminate any tripping hazards. There are three main storage areas at the bow. The left compartment has inserts that will hold 10-8’ (2.44 m) rods. The center can be used as either an additional rod locker, or if you’re not fishing professionally, ample storage for tackle holders or any other gear that you might like easy access to. Additional gear storage is in the right compartment which shares space with a 30 qt (28.4 L) cooler.
All the way at the stern is a final compartment that holds the batteries and all wiring runs. Between the helm and passenger seat is a step with a compartment underneath for incidentals. Between the consoles is a removable step with slots for knife and pliers off to the sides.
Special Seats Are Standard
Ranger is very proud of their seats and with good reason. They have a very cushy feel to them, as well as a slight wrap around that keeps you firmly planted in place. In addition, Ranger’s exclusive SRS (Soft Ride Seating) suspension system will take the jolt out of most high-speed impacts with choppy water. Ranger also didn’t forget the passenger’s safety and included convenient grab handles as well as a retractable handle located just under the front of the seat. ABYC standards requires only one handle, but Ranger provides more. When making a quick location change, the passenger also gets a Runnin’ Rod Rack with a retractable strap that quickly stows and secures your current rig.
One thing that separates a Ranger boat from the competition is undoubtedly the ride. A lot of experience, experimentation and engineering has gone into the hull design to make it fast, comfortable and safe -- not an easy task. A look at the bottom will show three strakes per side, the outermost being roughly 1” high. The two inner strakes are roughly ½ “and blend into the sides of the pad. The transom is a little more than 25” (63.5 cm) from the notched back of the pad which allows for a lot of setback to the engine that was further increased with the installation of the jack plate on our test boat.
Strength of the hull is another important factor in the ride. Rather than simply forming strakes in the mold and letting it go at that, after they are molded in Ranger’s strakes are reinforced with a stress directed fiberglass which adds stiffness to the hull bottom. That, in combination with their Rite Track Keel, provides a ride that is solid and stable.
The Ride and Performance
This bottom engineering shows itself once you get behind the wheel and hit the throttle. Uniquely absent from the Z520, and Ranger boats in general, is that chine walk that often manifests itself in bass boats from the middle of the speed range and higher. As I accelerated on up to the 70s, the solidness and inability of the hull to flex at high speeds kept the boat on an even keel and firmly planted to the water. There was still a very minor amount of chine walk, but it was easy to steer against it and drive through it. It was nothing like the hair-raising chine walking I have experienced on other boats at slower speeds.There was a mild chop on the water on test day, but it had little effect on the boat's ability to maintain its stability and solid feel. In tight turns the Z520 remained relatively flat and exhibited no tendency to chine trip on that light chop.
Reflections on a Test
By the time I got back to the dock, I was impressed enough with the performance of the Z520 with the Evinrude E-TEC 250 H.O. to ask myself if this was the epitome of Ranger's bass boats? I’m not sure of the answer to that, but it is clearly a boat that will please not only any tournament angler but certainly any recreational fisherman looking for the best he can buy.Unlike some bass boat builders, Ranger will rig your boat for nearly any power you choose, so take your pick. But clearly the match-up of the Evinrude E-TEC 250 H.O. and the Z520 Comanche is a remarkable and happy marriage, and not like the shotgun arrangements some builders have with certain outboard brands.
Test Result Highlights
- Top speed for the Ranger Boats Z520 Comanche (2011-) is 72.5 mph (116.7 kph), burning 26.4 gallons per hour (gph) or 99.92 liters per hour (lph).
- Best cruise for the Ranger Boats Z520 Comanche (2011-) is 55.0 mph (88.5 kph), and the boat gets 3.93 miles per gallon (mpg) or 1.67 kilometers per liter (kpl), giving the boat a cruising range of 184 miles (296.12 kilometers).
- Tested power is 1 x 250-hp Evinrude E-TEC HO.
- Time to plane for the Ranger Boats Z520 Comanche (2011-) is 4.7 sec. seconds.
- Time from 0 to 30 of the Ranger Boats Z520 Comanche (2011-) is 8.5 sec. seconds.
Standard and Optional Features
|Outlet: 12-Volt Acc||Standard|
Full Warranty Information on this brand coming soon!