Chaparral’s 236 SSi or 236 SSX -- Which Do YOU Prefer? - 06/03/2009

If you are in the market for a 24’ sportboat then you owe it to yourself to take a look at both the Chaparral 236SSi and 236 SSX. The two most obvious differences are that the SSX model has a head in the port console and “L”-shaped seating with a transom walk-thru gate and the SSi model is the more conventional layout, sans head. But there are some other subtitle differences as well. To help us sort them out, we have asked Capt. Steve to bring his critical eye to help us. Both look good to us and Chaparral’s fit and finish is among the best in the industry, but Capt. Steve can always be counted on to point out the relative distinctions.

Capt. Steve Says…

Chaparral 236 SSi Floor
The Chaparral 236 SSi Sportboat.

Chaparral 236 SSX Floor
The Chaparral 236 SSX Sportdeck.

First, let’s look at some of the major elements which are the same on both of these models. Take a look at the swim platform, for example, something that is the same on both models. Increasingly these days builders have realized that the swim platform can be the most exciting venue on the boat. Chaparral has turned it into a great place to cool off in the water and hang out by adding a cooler compartment in the port side of the platform.

Notice the swim ladder. It’s at the starboard quarter of the rounded platform, well away from the sharp edges of the outdrive, away from the towline, and clear of anyone that will be walking out the center walk-through to assist you on the SSI and from the port gate on the SSX. If only the ladder had four rungs instead of the boating industry-standard three, we would be happier.

Chaparral 236 SSX Floor
Note that the props and skeg are safely covered by the swim platform.

We like the optional rubberized mat covering you can add to the swim platform on both models. This material has been used on the decks of Europe’s most expensive racing sailboats for 30 years and we highly recommend it. It is the best non-skid material and is attractive. But most important of all, the swim platform – which is standard – extends beyond the stern drive propeller even when the lower unit is in the raised position. This is an important safety factor and all sportboats should be built like this.

The Bow

The forward area of both boats is essentially the same with the exception of the bow beach ladder which the SSi has as standard (and has four rungs). Both boats have foam insulated lockers that can be used as coolers which drain overboard. The backrests in the SSX are at a slightly canted angle which makes for comfortable lounging and also makes extra room in the port console for the head in the SSX.

Chaparral 236 Bow
Both boats are pretty much the same in the bow. The forward locker is insulated to make an ice chest which drains overboard.

When a company is so good at the human equation, why are their seat cushions hinged on the inboard side? This means you pull the far side of the cushion up and open it towards you. Now you have a vertical cushion to reach over making it that much harder to reach the bottom of the compartment. Yes, it’s a little thing, but that’s the kind of thing I’m paid to find. This is an easy fix.

Chaparral 236 SSX Helm
The helm of the 236SSX. We like the black non-glare dash and the division of the toggle switches into three groups. That keeps them where we can remember them. We would put the horn toggle in red.

The Helm

Now we come to the parts of the boat that are different. Let’s start at the helm. Pictures of both helms are here and if you will look closely you will see that they are actually quite different. Two big things pop out: the black non-glare dash on the SSX is the way to go, and note the ample armrest of the SSi and its lower throttle location. With this set up, the helmsman can rest his forearm and elbow comfortably on the cushion and have better control of minor throttle adjustments. Also, for southpaws, since their right arm is usually inherently not as precisely trained as is the left arm, the arm rest provides welcome support for minute throttle adjustments. If you are a lefty, go for the SSi.

Chaparral 236 SSi Helm
Check out the square gauges… a Chaparral exclusive. We love the size of that armrest. That makes micro adjustments to the throttle a snap. The compass is in the right spot too, right in the operator’s line of sight. The wood steering wheel is optional. We’d rather see the 12-volt outlet on the other side of the panel, since anything that’s plugged into it will probably be in the compartment under the throttle.

The helm lights have a dimmer knob to tone them down at night on both models. Power steering is standard, as is the engine emergency kill switch. We like the aircraft-style four-gauges-in-one even though this is a single engine boat. By putting four gauges in one unit right in front of the skipper his eyes can quickly make a clockwise circuit every so often. The SSi has a very nice optional mahogany wood steering wheel with protective covering when not in use.

Chaparral 236 SSX Head
The SSX has a large head which can also double as a changing room.

The Cockpit

Of course the big difference in these boats is the head in the SSX which is located in the companion console. Chaparral has cut away the top of the door to make entering easier. A Porta-Potti, opening port light with screen and lighting is standard in the SSX head. We like the head and think that it greatly increases the utility of the boat. The SSX comes with a cockpit table standard, and you should note the wide hinged hatch in the cockpit sole for wakeboards, skis and other stuff. This hatch is wider in the SSX version, so if you have wakeboards, you need to take measurements.

Chaparral 236 SSX Head
We like this optional table available on the SSi. Is that a stud piercing in the blonde’s naval? (We know, we’re so yesterday!)

The “L”-shaped seating in the SSX makes way for the transom walk-thru which we like, but of course to have that you give up a seating position or two as found in the SSi “U”-shaped arrangement. We like the sink and small counter that Chaparral has installed just abaft the companion seat in the SSX model, using space that would otherwise be wasted.

If you are tired of getting down on your hands and knees to figure out where the helm and companion seat adjustments are, then you will want to go for the optional premium bucket seats with “Exclusive” seat controls in the arms of the seat – for both swivel and fore and aft adjustments. Another option we like is the optional transom shower available only on the SSX. The pressure water system is standard for the sink.

The Options

We have mentioned a few options along the way, but both the SSi and SSX offer a laundry list of options and they are not the same. (Nor is their standard equipment list the same.) For example, there is a beautifully-styled white powder coated aluminum arch for towing -- and whatever else you want to put on it -- available on the SSX. Before buying either of these boats one should take a good look at the options because there are some interesting possibilities on both boats.

Power Play

Chaparral is smart enough to realize that buyers of this boat aren’t going to want to just go for a ride; they want to go for a ride! So rather than start their package offerings with a 5.0L engine, to keep the price down, and jack you with more powerful engines that everyone would need, Chaparral cuts right to the chase. Their engine options are five 5.7L and one 6.2L on the SSI. You can choose either MerCruiser or Volvo both of which top out at 320HP. You can also have your choice of single prop or dual props on the SSi.

On the SSX you have six engine options starting with three 5.7L 300-hp engines configurations, one 6.2L 320-hp option, and two 8.1L 375-hp options. All six come with dual props, either Duo Prop from Volvo Penta, or Bravo III from Mercury.

Specs and Prices

The Chaparral 236SSi has a LOA of 24’ 1” and a beam of 8’ 6”. Dry weight is approx. 4,350 lbs and she holds 55 gallons of fuel. Chaparral prices the standard 236SSi at $50,883 with the 5.7L Volvo 5.7L Gi MPI 300-hp SX engine. The SSX with the Duo Prop 5.7L Gi MPI 300-hp Volvo Penta rig is $56,300.

Everyone prefers the easier handling and maneuvering that is provided by the dual prop lower unit, so it is just a matter of price and the relative merits of the SSX and SSi layout for your application. We recommend that you go see the boats for yourself and discover which one you feel more comfortable in.

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