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Sun Tracker Party Barge 254 XP3 (2013-)
(w/ 1 x 300-hp Mercury Verado 300)

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Brief Summary

The Sun Tracker Party Barge 254 XP3 is the largest in Sun Tracker’s Regency Pontoon Party Barge four-boat lineup and she’s ready to party. The design team at Sun Tracker tells us that this is the company’s most luxurious model yet, and she’s also got the XP3 package. That means “Extra Performance” from three logs allowing her to seamlessly cross over from being the queen of the lake to a sporty watersports platform.

Key Features

  • Holds 12—riding on 3 multi-chambered pontoons
  • 2 wrap-around bow lounges with lumbar support, headrests,with arm and underseat storage
  • Elevated captain's helm with hydraulic tilt steering
  • Reclining swivel helm seat with self-leveling arms
  • In-console mounted stereo
  • Refreshment center
  • Sundeck with pop-up changing room, bench and storage
  • Removable serving/game table with molded-in drink holders
  • Full-width aft swim platform w/non-skid surface and folding boarding ladder
  • Color-keyed 11' (3.35 m) polyester Bimini top with LED lights
  • Specifications

    Length Overall 27' 5''
    8.36 m
    Beam 8' 6''
    2.59 m
    Dry Weight 3,300 lbs.
    1496.85 kg
    Tested Weight 4,457 lbs.
    2,022 kg
    Draft N/A
    - Draft Up N/A
    - Draft Down N/A
    - Air Draft N/A
    Deadrise/Transom N/A
    Max Headroom Open
    Bridge Clearance N/A
    Weight Capacity N/A
    Person Capacity N/A
    Fuel Capacity 35 gal.
    132.49 L
    Water Capacity N/A
    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 1 x 200-hp Mercury Verado
    Tested Power 1 x 300-hp Mercury Verado 300
    Opt. Power 1 x 200-hp Mercury OptiMax Pro XS
    1 x 250-hp Mercury OptiMax Pro XS
    1 x 250-hp Mercury OptiMax Pro XS with Torque Master
    1 x 250-hp Mercury Verado
    1 x 300-hp Mercury Verado Pro 4-stroke

    Test Results - Change Measurement Unit

    RPM MPH Knots GPH MPG NMPG Stat. Mile NM dBa
    600 3.2 2.8 0.5 6.4 5.6 202 175 47
    1000 5.1 4.4 1.1 4.6 4.0 146 127 61
    1500 6.8 5.9 1.8 3.9 3.4 122 106 65
    2000 9.6 8.3 2.8 3.4 3.0 108 94 77
    2500 14.7 12.8 3.8 3.9 3.4 123 107 79
    3000 19.5 16.9 5.7 3.4 3.0 108 94 78
    3500 24.2 21.0 8.2 3.0 2.6 93 81 78
    4000 28.3 24.6 10.3 2.8 2.4 87 75 81
    4500 33.9 29.4 13.1 2.6 2.3 82 71 82
    5000 39.4 34.2 17.2 2.3 2.0 72 63 87
    5500 44.2 38.4 22.4 2.0 1.7 62 54 91
    6000 48.2 41.9 29.3 1.6 1.4 52 45 91
    RPMNMKMKPHLPHKPLdBA
    600 175 325 5.10 1.89 2.72 47
    1000 127 235 8.20 4.16 1.97 61
    1500 106 196 10.90 6.62 1.64 65
    2000 94 174 15.40 10.60 1.46 77
    2500 107 198 23.70 14.20 1.67 79
    3000 94 174 31.40 21.39 1.46 78
    3500 81 150 38.90 31.04 1.25 78
    4000 75 140 45.50 38.99 1.17 81
    4500 71 132 54.60 49.40 1.10 82
    5000 63 116 63.40 65.11 0.97 87
    5500 54 100 71.10 84.79 0.84 91
    6000 45 84 77.60 110.91 0.70 91

    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 3.3 sec.
    0 to 30 8.1 sec.
    Ratio N/A
    Props 13.75x16 enertia
    Load 2 persons, 12/25 fuel, no water, 50 lbs. of gear
    Climate 78 deg., 68 humid, wind: 0-5 mph, seas: calm
    Elevation 922

    Captain's Report

    Sun Tracker Party Barge 254 XP3
    The Sun Tracker Party Barge 254 XP3 comes with three entry points all leading to luxurious seating that includes an over wide aft facing lounge. The side gate is large enough for a wheelchair.
    Sun Tracker Party Barge 254 XP3
    As expected, storage is of little concern with the seats being lockable and even a storage drawer adjacent to the helm. The storage compartment next to the port side gate is deep enough to accommodate skis. Notice the refreshment center behind the helm.

    Construction

    3 Logs

    Being who we are at BoatTEST.com we tend to take a more forensic look at the boats we review beyond the basic layout. That means we have a vested interest in how these boats are built and whether they're going to be around for the long haul. In the case of the Sun Tracker Party Barge 254 XP3 it starts with triple logs, 26” (66.04 cm) in diameter each, and constructed from .100 gauge aluminum with multiple chambers. The multiple chambers is an important factor because a puncture due to a high-speed impact with a submerged object will only allow a single chamber to be compromised rather than the entire boat. When the logs are assembled they’re pressure tested for leaks before moving any further in the construction phase.

    Performance Logs

    The XP3 designation means that this boat is built for extra performance with strakes attached to each of the three logs which add to performance. The back of the center log incorporates the engine pod. Because the transom is always in the water, it's constructed from 100% aluminum with box-beam reinforcing in place of pressure-treated plywood. The logs are secured to Z-bars under the deck and add enough buoyancy to allow Tracker to attach up to a 250-hp engine. The center log also contains the 35 gallon (132.5L) fuel tank. An additional benefit of the engine pod's buoyancy is a more level attitude when coming on plane and quicker planing times.

    Sun Tracker Party Barge 254 XP3
    The engine pod extends well behind the swim platform and offers enough buoyancy to not only supports the 250-hp engine, but the 35 gallon (132.5 L) fuel tank, too.

    Deck Structure

    The deck is constructed of three-quarter inch pressure-treated 7-ply marine grade plywood that carries a limited lifetime warranty. It is covered with 28-oz carpet backed by solid rubber. The deck is attached to Z-bar cross members with butyl tape buffering the wood to metal bond. The specific spacing of the Z-bars runs between 6” (15.24cm) at the stern where the loads are highest to 24” (61 cm) moving towards the bow, with spacing dependent on their location and the loads that will be placed upon them. Those Z-bars are then attached to M-brackets which bonds the entire assembly to the logs. The plywood sheets themselves are joined together with silicone bedding at each joint.

    Performance

    While we haven't tested the Sun Tracker Party Barge 254 XP3 we have tested pontoon boats in class and can verify the benefits of having triple tubes and their ability to provide relatively high speeds. Many pontoon boats have a genetic design flaw. The cross members under the deck have a tendency to catch water being thrown up from the strakes and cause a surging effect. Some builders just accept it as a way of life, but Sun Tracker has no such intention. The underside of all of the deck rigging is completely skinned in aluminum providing a smooth surface, and therefore a much smoother ride. It’s certainly a bit more labor intensive to put in the skin, but the effort is worth it not only from a cost/benefit standpoint but a performance /comfort standpoint as well.

    Sun Tracker Party Barge 254 XP3
    The triple XP3 logs all include dual strakes to either side to provide exhilarating performance.
    Sun Tracker Party Barge 254 XP3
    One item on the standards list is the removable ski tow pylon just ahead of the outboard.

    Comfort and Safety

    The Helm

    Certainly one point that could be argued is which seat will be the best aboard the Sun Tracker Party Barge 254 XP3. Certainly, we would argue that it would be the helm. The entire station is on an elevated fiberglass platform with the captain's chair that not only swivels and slides, but it also reclines and includes self-leveling armrests that remain parallel to the deck. It is luxuriously padded, and its elevated position allows clear sightlines above the heads of any guest that may be sitting on the forward couches.

    Sun Tracker Party Barge 254 XP3
    The helm seat sits on an elevated platform for better visibility. The steering wheel has electric assisted hydraulics and the wheel is mounted to a tilt base. Sun Tracker includes a five-color GPS chartplotter as standard equipment.

    The Stern Seat and Pad

    Others however, may have a valid argument for the rear facing lounge carrying the title of best-in-house. It allows occupants to sit back and relax, while not being reclined so far that there's little chance of enjoying the surroundings. As it is completely surrounded by fencing this seat can even be occupied while the Sun Tracker Party Barge 254 XP3 is underway, a rare ingredient indeed for any aft facing seat. Not only will it be a pleasure to watch the wake shrinking in the distance but it will be a front row seat for observing the action at the end of the towline. When it's time to convert from water sports to entertaining, an enclosed changing room is located right underneath.

    Sun Tracker Party Barge 254 XP3
    The aft facing lounge seat is completely enclosed by fencing allowing it to be used even when underway. The anodized aluminum swim ladder has oversized steps that are comfortable on bare feet.

    Entertainment at its Finest

    The forward facing couches create a convivial atmosphere "in the round" which is ideal for parties, sightseeing or just hanging out. The seats have ultra soft padding, a padded flip down armrest on the starboard one, pillow top backs with lumbar supports, and comfortable headrests. Under seat storage is lockable. The port hand seat even has storage for skis.

    Sun Tracker Party Barge 254 XP3
    These seats are among the most comfortable in the industry with pillow top seat backs and lumbar supports, and a padded flip down armrest on the starboard lounge.
    Sun Tracker Party Barge 254 XP3
    The storage drawer is convenient as the contents won't spill out upon opening. It's fabricated from material similar to King starboard and designed to channel water away from the interior.

    But the real beauty of this boat lies in its spacious layout that allows for filling her with passengers while still ensuring that everyone remains friends. A molded fiberglass refreshment center that includes a food prep area and sink with pullout sprayer plumbed to a 13.5 gallon (51 L) freshwater tank lies next to the oversized aft facing lounge.

    Safety

    Adults will feel comfortable bringing the kids onboard as all fences are constructed from 1 ¼” (3.2 cm) anodized aluminum rails for strength and durability and even include sound and vibration deadening insulation. All gates open inward, which reduces any concern about falling out should anyone fall into one. As an added safety backup, all gates are double latched as well. All Sun Tracker pontoons come with at least one gate that is wheelchair accessible. All cleats are the fold-down type to eliminate tripping hazards. Navigation lights are recessed into the forward fences and include forward-facing docking lights as standard.

    Sun Tracker Party Barge 254 XP3
    The high-gloss, corrugated fences are offered in a choice of three colors in either black, blueberry or black cherry and the Bimini is color keyed to match. Notice how the forward nav lights include docking lights. The trailer is one of the few options available for this boat.

    Observations

    We think that the Sun Tracker Party Barge 254 XP3 is among the top tier of pontoon boats in class. Because of Sun Tracker's refined construction techniques, high volume, low dealer margins, and Tracker's buying power, it is able to keep costs to a more manageable level. She has a national price of $43,995 (plus transportation and dealer make ready fees) with a 200-hp Mercury Verado outboard, and everything we have discussed in the article, short of the trailer, is standard equipment.

    Test Result Highlights

    • Top speed for the Sun Tracker Party Barge 254 XP3 (2013-) is 48.2 mph (77.6 kph), burning 29.30 gallons per hour (gph) or 110.9 liters per hour (lph).
    • Best cruise for the Sun Tracker Party Barge 254 XP3 (2013-) is 14.7 mph (23.7 kph), and the boat gets 3.92 miles per gallon (mpg) or 1.67 kilometers per liter (kpl), giving the boat a cruising range of 123 miles (197.95 kilometers).
    • Tested power is 1 x 300-hp Mercury Verado 300.

    Standard and Optional Features

    Marine Electronics

    GPS/Chart Standard

    Systems

    CD Stereo Standard
    Shore Power Optional

    Exterior Features

    Outlet: 12-Volt Acc Standard
    Swim Ladder Standard
    Swim Platform Standard
    Wet bar Standard

    Canvas

    Bimini Top Standard

    Warranty

    Deck Warranty
    Limited lifetime

    Price

    Pricing Range: $43,995.00

    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.