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Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX (2016-)

2 x 250-hp Rotax 4-TEC



Brief Summary

The Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX is a dedicated watersports platform that includes a tower and Bimini, along with a high tow point for wake surfers. The model we tested had the optional Surf Package which includes 1,350 lbs. (612 kg) of ballast and the wake-shaping Aerial Surf Platform which redirects the thrust from jet pumps to create the ideal surfing wave. This model also had the optional Rotax iST digital fly-by-wire controls, unusual in a jet rig, and the Lateral Thrust Control system makes her one of the easiest to dock jetboats we have tested.

Key Features

  • Custom triple-colored gelcoat scheme and graphics in Biscayne Blue, Fire Red, Lime, Aqua, Stealth Gray or Yellow
  • Sunbrella color-coordinated canvas top for folding arch tower
  • Custom molded fiberglass helm dash with hand-stitched and wrapped upholstery
  • Helm stereo remote
  • Aft hinged transom seats with center walkthrough and storage underneath
  • U-shaped seating with slide and swivel helm bucket seat and port seat reversible Oasis lounge
  • Cockpit table with bases in cockpit and on swim platform
  • 25-quart removable cooler under port bench seat
  • Ski storage in-floor with large hinged fiberglass hatch and rubber mat
  • Black powder-coated tandem-axle trailer with disc brakes, galvanized wheels and custom graphics
  • Test Results

    RPM MPH Knots GPH MPG NMPG STAT. MILE NM dBa
    1700 4.9 4.2 1 4.85 4.22 227 197 78
    2000 5.3 4.6 1 5.3 4.61 248 216 76
    3000 7.4 6.4 3.05 2.43 2.11 114 99 84
    4000 8.7 7.6 4.55 1.91 1.66 89 78 76
    5000 23.5 20.4 8.05 2.91 2.53 136 119 82
    6000 34.3 29.8 13.95 2.46 2.13 115 100 89
    7000 43.9 38.1 22.95 1.91 1.66 89 78 91
    8000 56.1 48.7 36.05 1.55 1.35 73 63 94
    chaparral_243vortexvrx_chart_16.jpg

    Specifications

    Length Overall 24' 3'' / 7.39 m
    Beam 8' 6''
    2.59 m
    Dry Weight 4,000 lbs.
    1,814 kg
    Tested Weight 4,586 lbs.
    2,080 kg
    Draft 15''
    38 cm
    Deadrise/Transom 20-deg.
    Max Headroom open
    Bridge Clearance 4' 7''
    1.40 m
    Weight Capacity 1600 lbs.
    726 kg
    Person Capacity 12
    Fuel Capacity 52 gal.
    197 L
    Water Capacity N/A
    Length on Trailer 24' 5''
    7.44 m
    Height on Trailer 10'
    3.05 m (max)
    Total Weight 4,586 lbs.
    2,080 kg

    Price

    Base Price $60595.00
    Price Range
    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.

    Acceleration Times & Conditions

    Time to Plane 2.6 sec.
    0 to 30 5.8 sec.
    Ratio N/A
    Props N/A
    Load 2 persons, 1/2 fuel, no water, 50 lbs. of gear
    Climate 65 deg., 61 humid.; wind: 10-15 mph; seas: 1-2

    Engine Options

    Tested Engine 2 x 250-hp Rotax 4-TEC
    Std. Power Not Available
    Opt. Power 2 x 200-hp Rotax 1.5L 4-TEC ECT
    2 x 250-hp Rotax 4-TEC 1.5L ECT

    Captain's Report

    Contents of Report

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX

    At 24’3” (7.39 m), the 243 Vortex VRX is the biggest jetboat Chaparral builds.

    Mission Statement

    It’s no surprise that several manufacturers are jumping on the jetboat bandwagon. Chaparral has introduced six new models, with the 243 Vortex VRX now being the largest. She has a larger capacity than most in this size range, and can comfortably hold 12 people. More realistically, it also means that for a typical load of between four to seven people, there will be more room to move about, making this an excellent platform for entertaining friends.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX deck plan

    With wraparound seating, the 243 Vortex VRX can easily accommodate 12 people.

    But there’s more to the 243 Vortex VRX’s story than just capacity. Chaparral also had two other goals for the design team. One of which was to maintain the trademark Chaparral DNA with regards to both exterior styling and hull design. This boat looks like a Chaparral to even the most casual observer with her high freeboard, sweeping sheerline and stainless rubrail, sloping down to join the integrated swim platform. She’s also pure Chaparral under the waterline and performs just as well as the company’s other sportboats. The third goal was to remove the stereotype that jetboats are hard to handle around the dock. With her clever lateral thrust control and Bombardier’s new iST digital shift and throttle system, we found that controllability around and away from the dock was unprecedented for a jetboat.

    Distinguishing Features

    Available in Two Versions.

    The 243 Vortex is available in either the VR or the VRX version. The VR has the more “tame” graphics available in black, blue, and red and comes standard with a Bimini top, folding tower is optional. VRX has the sportier graphics and colors (blue, gray, red, lime green, aqua, and yellow). VRX is also standard with folding tower with built-in Bimini top and ski mirror.

    Medallion Touchscreen with Rotax Speed-Control Functions.

    The standard 6.5” (16.5 cm) Medallion touchscreen makes it easier to access the Rotax control functions. This adds precise control over maximum speed, towing parameters, fuel efficiency, and a reduced power setting for docking. Additional features include a moving map display, digital depth and bottom scan readouts, control of the premium stereo system and fuel economy displays. App features allow the ability to see video, among many other things, from Bluetooth Go-Pro cameras.

    Precise Control.

    Our test model was also equipped with Bombardier’s Intelligent Shift and Throttle (iST), a $625 option that uses fly-by-wire technology to smoothly shift the jet drive. The iST is derived from the Intelligent Brake & Reverse (IBR) system used on Sea-Doo personal watercraft. In addition to making the 243 Vortex VRX more responsive around the docks and more operator-friendly overall, iST lets a driver adjust the neutral position for the jet pump bucket. Using a toggle switch, the driver can raise or lower the bucket in 1mm increments plus or minus 15 settings. An added benefit of iST, if an operator suddenly tries to yank the throttle back into reverse, the system won’t allow it the pump to apply reverse thrust. It monitors boat speed, so it will gradually slow the boat and then start to apply reverse thrust.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX ist

    With iST, the fly-by-wire actuator in the upper right engages the jet pump’s bucket when the lever is advanced. The toggle switch lets the driver adjust the neutral position of the bucket in 1mm increments that are shown at the dash.

    Kevlar Reinforced Hull.

    This provides the strength and solid feel to the Chaparral ride. It also allows Chaparral to stand behind its products with a lifetime hull warranty. Its premium hydropel resin is blister-resistant.

    Twin Engines, Single Control.

    The 243 Vortex VRX can be ordered with a pair of 200-hp Rotax 4-TEC 200 ECT or a pair of 250-hp Rotax 4-TEC 250 ECT engines, and both are controlled with a single lever at the helm.

    Performance

    The Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX has a LOA of 24’3” (7.39 m), a beam of 8’6" (2.59 m) and a draft of only 15” (38.1 cm). With 50% fuel and two people onboard, we had an estimated test weight of 4,586 lbs. (2,080 kg).
    With the throttle fully forward, we topped out at 56.1 mph (48.8 knots).

    Best cruise came in at 5000 rpm and 23.5 mph. That produced a fuel burn of 8.1 gph, a range of 136 statute miles, and an endurance of just over six hours, all while still holding back a 10% reserve of fuel.

    Acceleration is brisk, as are the G-forces. She planes in 2.6 seconds, hits 20 mph in 4.1 seconds, and continues accelerating through 30 mph in 5.8 seconds.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX running shot

    With the twin 250-hp engines spooling up to 8000 rpm, the 243 Vortex VRX topped 56 mph.

    Handling

    Whether idle or at high speeds, this is a well-mannered boat. The 243 Vortex VRX puts out enough low power thrust to track nice and straight at minimum speeds. Her lateral thrust control allows her to make idle speed turns in her own length, a convenient feature even away from the dock. At speed, she slices cleanly through waves with spray kept low and wide for a dry ride. She rolls only 10-degrees into the turns and carves well with no tendency to chine walk or even bleed off speed. However, in extreme turns she’ll spin out, as we expected. When taking power off, she will settle back into the water from a level attitude, and she’ll coast for some time before doing so.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX running shot

    In sweeping arcs, the 243 Vortex VRX holds its course like any other runabout, and when it’s time to get sporty, she’ll slide through a spin that’s easy to control.

    Docking

    Docking is important because jetboats have an unusual characteristic that takes some time in which to adjust. They steer backwards in reverse. This is opposite of what we’re all used to and will frustrate at first, but with a little practice, it can be overcome quite easily.

    For side-to docking, approach the dock straight on. Of course, before hitting the dock, turn the wheel hard over. Leave it there and shift into neutral. Rotax's lateral steering will allow the thrust to continue to steer her. Keep the thumb pressed on the shifter and now ease her gently from forward to reverse and she’ll start to slide sideways to the dock. It may be necessary to take a little turn off the wheel, but this back and forth, in and out of forward and reverse, will serve the job well and it quickly becomes easy to control. When close enough, shut off the engines and she’ll stop in position.

    For backing into a slip, use the same technique of shifting in and out of gear with the thumb held onto the shift release. But now, do not steer the stern. Because things are opposite, it will mess with the approach. Instead, steer the bow. Want the stern to come left, steer the bow right, and over she’ll come.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX stern

    Even in a crowded situation like this, the boat’s lateral stern thrust and iTS puts the captain in total control.

    Making Waves

    For maximum wake surfing potential, owners can order the 243 Vortex VRX with the Aerial Surf Platform (ASP) with a ballast system. First, the ASP is a molded fiberglass extension that bolts to the aft end of the swim platform. It has a contoured bottom designed to form wakes. Unlike other trim-tab like devices, it has no moving parts. The ballast system consists of two 550-lb. (249 kg) bladders underneath the aft seats and a single 250-gallon (946 L) reservoir in the bow for a total of 1,350 lbs. (612 kg). The fill controls for the ballast system are at the helm.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX swim platform

    The Aerial Swim Platform bolts to the aft end of the boat’s standard swim and is designed with contoured undersides to produce a good wake for surfing.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX ballast

    One of the three onboard ballast bladders that add 1,350 lbs. (612 kg) to the weight of the boat.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX ballast drawing

    This drawing shows how the ASP and ballast system works to create large wakes.

    The Rotax Difference

    Chaparral went with Rotax 4-TEC engines for the 243 VRX, and owners can choose either a pair of 200 ECT or 250 ECT. We tested her with the Rotax 4-TEC 250 ECT engines, and they, along with the rest of the Rotax line, have some distinct advantages. Most notably, lateral thrust control.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX engine

    Twin Rotax engines provide the power for the Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX and are available in two sizes. The silver components at the top are the catalytic converters. To the right is the battery switch, also accessed from the aft seat at the transom.

    Lateral thrust steering is achieved by departing from the traditional method of attaching the thrust deflector bucket to the thrust nozzle. Here, the bucket is attached aft of the steering nozzle, and it’s more elongated with open ends, allowing the thrust to come out the sides when in neutral or reverse. This provides for some amazing maneuverability at the dock. She’ll easily pivot in her own length, and with some deft touches that we discussed in the docking section, the 243 Vortex VRX can practically dock with the agility of a pod drive boat.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX jet nozzle

    Here we can see the cutaway jet nozzle and the long bucket just behind with the openings at the sides. This directs the thrust out the sides, more so when the nozzle is steered.

    Closed cooling is a feature that will appeal particularly to salt-water boaters. The running pad is actually a heat exchanger. A hose runs to the thermostat and water pump, cooling the engine with the temperature-reducing effects of having this pad underwater.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX ride plate

    The ride plate will accommodate anti-freeze flowing through that will get cooled from the plate itself being underwater. Cooled anti-freeze then flows through the engine.

    Shaft protection is achieved by enclosing the shaft in a stainless sleeve. Normally, we have access ports allowing us to reach our hands down to the shaft to clear weeds. Here, the shaft is protected from getting fouled. Does the impeller get fouled? Sure, same as the competition. That gets cleared with a boost of power to send any weeds on their way. A grate over the intakes prevents larger objects from entering the flow to the thrust ducts. If those get clogged, typically all it takes is shutting down and letting gravity do its thing.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX shaft

    The shaft is protected by a stainless tube, seen here cut in half. Below is the cutaway of the grate, keeping large objects out of the impeller.

    Features Inspection

    Helm Layout

    The helm is fabricated in gray tones that remove any concern for glare or adverse reflections in the windshield. A vinyl dash is stitched into place with contrast color-stitching that is color matched to the hull scheme. In this instance, green UV-resistant thread is contrasting the gray dash.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX material

    Stitching throughout the 243 Vortex VRX is color contrasted to the material being stitched but matched to the color scheme of the boat.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX helm

    The multi-function screen shows the current iTS adjustment for the jet pump bucket. Once set, the bucket will stay in that position on the next startup.

    This is a twin-engine boat with dual start/stop buttons just above the ignition key to the left of the helm. Both engines are controlled from a single control at the helm. This means that there’s no putting one engine forward and the other in reverse to pivot the boat. The lateral thrust steering takes care of that nicely.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX start stop button

    Twin engine start/stop buttons are just above the single ignition key.

    Our test model had three centrally mounted instruments with the tachometers for each motor outboard of a multi-function screen that shows the iST settings and four operating modes as follows:

      Cruise Mode – Allows for setting the desired cruise speed and maximum speed.

      Ski Mode – Allows for a controlled launch with up to five pre-set acceleration curves and user defined target speed. Once underway, it accurately maintains tow speed with a GPS based controller.

      Eco Mode – Optimizes engine efficiency by limiting engine torque.

      Docking Mode – Re-scales the throttle for increased resolution and maneuverability at the dock.

      Navigation Display – A moving map display comes pre-loaded with a Navionics SD card for the country of choice.

      Apps Display – this provides setup displays, engine gauges, control of the premium stereo system and allows for a video display of Go-Pro cameras via Bluetooth.

      Depth Readout – A display of the bottom depth as well as a contour scan are both available.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX bucket seat

    The captain gets a premium bucket seat, and Chaparral puts the adjustment levers for swivel and slide on the sides instead of hiding them underneath.

    Cockpit

    Seating is something of which the 243 Vortex VRX has no shortage. She can accommodate 12 people, thanks to her U-shaped seating that wraps around the cockpit, which is brought out right to the hull sides for more room.
    The observer seat is reversible by moving the seatback fore and aft. This allows it to serve as either a forward facing or aft facing seat. Underneath the bench seats are storage to one side and a carry-on cooler to the other.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX flip back

    The port seat has a flip back to allow it to convert from forward facing to aft facing. Here it is in the forward-facing position.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX back rest

    This photo shows the backrest set up for aft-facing travel.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX cockpit

    The addition of a pedestal table turns the cockpit into a great place for mid-day snacks or after cruise cocktails.

    Port Console

    Virtually any family bowrider longer than 22’ has a provision for a private head, and the 243 Vortex VRX is no exception. The port console opens to reveal a private compartment with a standard hanging rod. Upgrades include a Porta-Potti or pump-out head, a screened port that opens and a sink.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX head

    With the optional portable head in place, there’s good seated headroom in the port console.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX sink

    The sink is part of an optional freshwater system that includes a transom shower, and the opening port is always a good idea for letting in fresh air.

    Cockpit Storage

    If the port console compartment isn’t equipped with the head, the area provides cavernous storage. There’s also space in gunwale trays and beneath the cockpit seats. When the boat is equipped with the ballast system, the two aft lockers are occupied by the two 550-lb. (249 kg) bladders. There is space under the port lounge and in the large in-deck ski locker, plus dedicated storage for a portable cooler in the helm console.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX cooler

    Having somewhere to store a carry-on cooler ensures that the cockpit doesn’t get cluttered.

    Bow

    The 243 Vortex VRX’s bow has the usual seating arrangement of twin V-seats with storage underneath. Looking closer shows how Chaparral goes a little further in its execution of the seating arrangement. The seats are hinged from the rear, so there’s more access to the storage underneath. The vinyl is 38-millimeters thick with a 10-millimeter topcoat for added protection. All vinyl is stitched on with contrast colored thread color matched to the hull color scheme. Chaparral tells us that the multi-density foam is 40% thicker than the competition, and there’s a mildew inhibitor inside. Speakers are recessed between cushions, so they don’t hit against the back when sitting. Both the speaker grilles and the drink holders are stainless steel. Flip-up armrests are standard.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX bow

    The roomy bow has plenty of open space to gather and relax.

    Even the rails get a special treatment from Chaparral. They don’t have the typical round cross section. These are actually elongated, so small fingers can wrap around them easier. It’s hardly noticeable, but does make a difference, and it’s done in-house at Chaparral.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX lockers

    Each of the side cushions in the bow is hinged at the aft end to make it easier to retrieve gear from the lockers.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX hinges

    These hinges on the bow seats hold up the cushions, so there’s no need for a pneumatic strut.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX bow filler

    With the filler cushion in place, the bow becomes a large sun pad. Notice the blue LED courtesy light above the drink holder.

    Stern

    The transom didn’t get left out of the seating consideration. A pair of doublewide aft-facing seats make a great place to relax anytime the 243 Vortex VRX isn’t underway. It also forms a natural staging area for getting boards on before entering the water. The cushions lift to reveal space underneath that Chaparral says is additional storage, and the circuit breakers and battery switch are under the starboard cushion.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX stern table

    With the side-mount pedestal in place, the stern becomes even more inviting.

    Amenities

    Anchor/Ladder

    One of the things that Chaparral has managed to accomplish is finding a way to combine the anchor locker with an anchor and a reboarding ladder. In most cases, this is an either/or proposition, but here, they live together. The hatch is held open with friction hinges, the anchor is held in position with keepers to both sides, the navigation light is flush mounted and reverses when in use and the bow is notched to accommodate the ladder and anchor rode. With the hatch closed, the non-skid treatment allows for a comfortable re-entry from the ladder and a launching off point for entering the water.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX ladder

    The 243 Vortex VRX has an anchor and reboarding ladder under the forward hatch.

    Sport Arch

    The sport arch is included in the VRX package. The sport arch is powder-coated, but the coating is textured, so it’s got more of an ability to maintain a grip with wet hands. The sides of the arch -- right at head-level from the seated positions -- is padded, something we’ve not seen before.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX sport arch

    The sport arch includes a padded area right at head level, and it’s color-matched to the boat’s color scheme.

    The Bimini has the usual hardware running around the perimeter, but the tension supports, which are usually right over the heads of the operator and observer, are instead mounted to the center. In the middle of the Bimini is a padded area that eliminates flapping and reduces chafe. Lastly, the towpoint at the top has a mount to accommodate a Go-Pro camera.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX tow point

    The towpoint includes a mount for a Go-Pro camera that can be viewed on the helm video screen.

    Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX arch

    Under the arch is a center tension bar and padding over the pipes. A pair of Wet Sounds speakers send the music to the end of the towline.

    Pricing

      • 2016 Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX with twin 200-hp Rotax 4-TEC 200 ECT and tandem-axle trailer: $60,595

      • 2016 Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX with twin 250-hp Rotax 4-TEC 250 ECT and tandem-axle trailer: $63,995

    Options and Prices

      • Porta-Pottie with opening screened side port in console ($411)

      • Aerial Surf Platform (ASP) with Ballast system ($2,995)

      • Premium Bucket Seat (requires interior head upgrade with sink) ($281)

      • Head upgrade with sink ($425)

      • Wet Sounds stereo system upgrade with amp and subwoofer ($1,995)

      • Leather wrapped steering wheel with spinner center ($399)

      • Cockpit and bow covers ($870)

      • Aluminum wheel upgrade ($565)

      • Snap-in Beachweave carpet upgrade ($495)

      • Center aft cockpit filler cushion ($156)

      • Rotax iST E-Reverse ($625)

    Observations

    It’s hard not to have fun in a boat like this. The Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX was one of those boats that we just wanted to keep messing around in and not have to bring her back. At the dock, we turned heads not only because of the striking color scheme but because we were making her work so well with regards to the maneuverability. Of course, having the Chaparral name on the side only added to the bragging rights. This is a company well-founded on building quality boats, and now that it has firmly established itself in the jet arena, that reputation will only grow.