The mission of the Sun Tracker Fishin’ Barge 24 XP3 is to provide a large platform for family fishing while still being able to cross over into the realm of family fun and entertaining on the water. She has a proven hull, which we have previously tested, and with this new layout, she simply becomes a better crossover pontoon boat.
Round Log Shape.
Sun Tracker makes all of its logs round as opposed to competing logs which go from either elliptical or U-shaped. This provides an inherently stronger structural geometry. Additionally, these logs are all multi-chambered with the seals welded all the way around the log. This provides each chamber with an airtight seal as well as adding to the structural integrity.
XP3 Performance Tubes.
Increasing the size of the standard tubes from 24” (61 cm) to 26” (66 cm) provides more buoyancy allowing the boat to handle up to 12 people, gear, coolers, a 200-hp engine, 35-gallons (133 L) of fuel and 24-gallons (91 L) of water in two livewells.
Additionally, the tube combination makes for an exciting performance realm, great for when it’s time to get up and run or add water sports to the days itinerary. While we haven’t tested this particular model, our tests of other boats with this XP3 package have shown that the combination provides exciting handling characteristics, brisk turning performance, and quick acceleration. Part of this is due to the performance lifting strakes, six total, providing better tracking, stability, and control.
We’ve validated it plenty of times, but it bears repeating, that these are among the best-built pontoon boats available. To withstand the forces of hitting chop at higher speeds (this same model in the Party Barge configuration topped out at over 40 mph in our tests) the pontoon logs are made from thicker .100 gauge aluminum alloy.Support for the deck is part of the structural integrity as well. Heavy-duty, M-shaped brackets are welded along the top of each pontoon and an exterior surface is added in one continuous piece. The interior brackets are staggered, providing access to cables, plumbing and wiring.
Then, Z-bar cross members run over the three tubes providing support for the deck. These get bolted to the M-brackets resulting in no noticeable flexing when going over chop during our tests. Where floorboards meet each other, there’s a Z-bar underneath and the joints are protected with silicone to prevent water intrusion.
The deck also serves as an integral structural component of the boat and the team at Sun Tracker tells us that they use more than double the number of deck fasteners compared to the through bolts used by competitors. The fasteners themselves are coated TEK fasteners which friction weld to the Z-bars when tightened. This system has shown no failures or warranty claims, ever. The deck itself is ¾” (2 cm) thick, 7-ply pressure treated plywood warrantied for the life of the boat.
So let’s now take a look onboard at how well the features of the new Sun Tracker Fishin’ Barge 24 XP3 come together. We’ll start at the bow where the port side has a modular workstation added in. It includes a rod holder, a drink holder, a cutting surface and an 8-gallon (30.2 L) livewell. The lid includes a measuring guide to ensure that only legal catches are kept.
In the center is a forward boarding gate. To starboard is the same modular component but this time, the interior is used for either storage, or the battery for the optional trolling motor if that option is selected.Just behind are two pedestal seats and these, along with all the other seats onboard, are designed and built in-house to ensure quality control. All vinyl is marine grade, threads are UV resistant and a moisture barrier is laid over the foam to prevent water intrusion. Comfort is ensured by the use of multiple density foams, providing optimal support where needed such as in the lumbar and headrest areas.
Aside from providing fishing comfort, the guests will be ensconced in deep cushioned couches starting at the starboard side, just ahead of the helm. Storage is underneath, as expected, and the base also houses the first of several speakers connected to the sound system.
Across from the helm
, the couch is L-shaped and wraps around a pedestal table. Storage under this couch is two-fold. First is the usual storage under the seat accessible simply by lifting the hinged cushion. Under the aft seat cushion is lockable storage for more valuable items such as purses and wallets. This compartment is fabricated from aluminum, as opposed to the rotocast compartments elsewhere on the boat.
One change that we’d make
to the storage accessibility is that the seat cushions are all hinged from the inboard positions. This means that the seat opens towards the occupants and getting into the storage means having to reach over the top of the cushions. Why not put the hinge to the back of the seat so it opens away from the user?Even with this small shortcoming, Sun Tracker takes the extra step to add cargo netting to the underside of the cushions to provide a bit more storage for smaller items. We like this as it can keep small items from getting lost in the bottom of the compartment with other stuff.
Further Aft is a More Attractive Dining Area.
There are pedestal bases just ahead of an aft mounted couch. It is here that the most appealing dining option, if presented as two pedestal seats, can be just ahead of a table with the couch behind.
This also represents another fishing area. With the table removed more room is presented for fishing off the stern. Under the couch seat cushion to port is a second livewell, this time 16-gallons (60.6 L) with the engine start battery under the starboard cushion. Rod holders are to either side of the couch.
Sun Tracker mounts the helm console in the usual position to the starboard center of the boat. We’d like to see it also in an elevated platform, providing a couple of inches of visibility over the heads of the occupants in the forward couch. That said, the helm is well laid out with a smoked windscreen above the panel. The wheel is mounted to a tilt base and the seat has flip-up armrests and the ability to swivel and slide. A storage pouch is at the back of the seat.
At times we question the logic of having tinted windscreens since they hamper vision at night, and it’s just as easy to throw on a pair of sunglasses, but Sun Tracker goes the extra step of making its windscreens easily removable.
Power Choices and Pricing
Mercury is the chosen power supplier for Sun Tracker with the 115-hp 4-stroke long shaft being the base package delivered with an MSRP of $30,795. Upgrading to a 150-hp model will add another $2,800 to the bottom line. Moving up to the maximum 200-hp will add $8,300 to the base price.
The following items are part of the Sun Tracker Warranty --
Ten-Year Bow-to-Stern Warranty
-- that means factory-installed workmanship and materials are covered for ten years from the time of purchase, including electrical components, livewells and plumbing, carpet and vinyl, furniture, Bimini top and much more. Your engine is covered by the Mercury manufacturer's warranty.
Lifetime Limited Structural and Deck Warranty
-- provides coverage for pontoon logs, motor pod, other structural elements including deck supports, perimeter fence rails and gates, and more, for the life of the boat.
Transferability to Second Owner
-- the resale value of your boat can be enhanced by provisions to transfer warranty elements to a second owner. Your Sun Tracker dealer can help you put applicable elements into effect when you are ready.
One-stop Warranty Resolution
-- 10+LIFE coverage offers a one-stop solution, eliminating the need to pursue separate warranties with component manufacturers.
Full Coverage During Warranty Period
-- means there is no pro-rating, or reduction of your coverage over time. So the peace of mind you enjoy at the outset carries throughout your coverage period.
In addition, Sun Tracker even backs its optional trailers by warranting the Galvashield steel tubing against structural failure due to corrosion for three years!
We were quite impressed with both the layout and handling of the Sun Tracker Fishin’ Barge 24 XP3, and while we would question the decision to attach the term “barge” to any boat a company is trying to make appealing, the simple fact is that this version seems to have as much going for it as her more entertainment based sister.
Standard and Optional Features
|Limited Lifetime Yes http://www.suntrackerboats.com/about/warranty.cfm|