Boat Test Videos
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The all-new 290 Sundancer for 2006 is unlike any express cruiser we've seen before. Fast and very smooth riding, Sea Ray's designers really started from a clean sheet of paper here, totally opening up the cockpit and creating a "living room" type arrangement in the cabin.
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Sea Ray Sea Ray
Sea Ray Sea Ray
Sea Ray Sea Ray
Sea Ray Sea Ray
I don't know if they hired new designers, but the fresh thinking that went into the layout of this boat certainly suggests that--or they REALLY started with a clean sheet of paper--since this Sundancer is unlike any you've ever seen before.
I'll cut right to the chase. The three biggest changes have to do with the cockpit layout, the companionway door, and the forward berth. For 2006 Sea Ray is stressing maximum movability in the cockpit, so they've removed the older athwartships L-lounges all together. This makes it a snap to walk from the transom door forward to the helm and companionway.Unlike the earlier version, this curved companionway door is fully over to port, freeing up room below. And since its off to the side now (the helm is still to starboard) the companionway door(s) (the inner one has fixed screens) are flat and vertical, without the molded-in steps we've been so used to seeing on Sundancers in this size. Now, you access the foredeck on the centerline as before, but your first step is into a recessed area and then on up to the foredeck. This boat also had what Sea Ray is a calling an optional "arch top," which takes the traditional radar arch and adds a flare fore and aft for better coverage from the elements. I also appreciated the Lofrans Marlin windlass hidden under a cover up on the bow, and the grab rail on the top of the arch top for a secure feel when returning to the cockpit (you will have to duck a little as you come back down, but its not a big deal). Another nice touch is the putty-colored helm, which greatly reduces glare on the rugged, powder-coated windshield (also a new look for 2006).But perhaps the biggest change is in the cabin. Gone is the traditional V-berth with filler cushion up forward. That's been replaced with an innovative full beam bed mattress that can be pulled aft easily to convert the berth into a sofa. That sits right next to another fixed sofa to port, giving instant seating for four, AND in a wider part of the boat than trying to cram everyone up to the bow. Well done!Meanwhile, access to the midcabin beneath the helm is about the same (good for one little one, tight for two), and the head also pretty much the same. Two other changes are found way aft at the swim platform. The aft storage trunk now has only one latch. This is much better than two because you can open it with one hand while holding cleaning products in the other prior to putting them away. That is a plus. A minus in my opinion, is the switch to these stainless steel ladders that telescope out from UNDER the swim platform. I'd much prefer to have the ladder recessed into the platform so I don't have to hang my head way off the platform to reach the thing. But overall--and in relation to all the other great changes about the boat--that's a minor detail.Performance & HandlingIn terms of performance, the 260 used to be the biggest Sundancer you could get with a single engine since the older version always came with two MerCruiser sterndrives. But now the 290 is offered with a single 375-hp MerCruiser 496 for those who don't mind giving up a little top end in exchange for lower routine engine & outdrive service bills.Our test boat had the twin 5.0 MPIs with SmartCraft technology at the helm, and I can tell you that makes for an awesome power package. In 20 knots of wind and 2-3 foot seas, we recorded a top end of 44.2 mph and found her best cruise right where it should be at 3500 RPM doing 30.3 mph for a range of 163 miles.Even though it was pretty nasty out on the bay, the 290 split the short chop and rode smoothly at all angles to the sea with no pounding. Yes, we did take some spray over the windwhield, but that's to be expected when you're running 40 mph into a 20-knot headwind. In short, the ride was terrific.So all in all, my hats off to Sea Ray's designers once again who never pay attention to the Billy Joel tune "Don't Go Changing."
Test Result Highlights
Boats More Than 30 Feet
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Test Results - Change Measurement Unit
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.