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Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider (2013-)
(w/ 1 x 320-hp MerCruiser 377 MAG)


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Brief Summary

On one hand the 278 Bow Rider is a new boat, but on the other hand it is not. The brand has been well-known for years, but it is now under the ownership of KCS International, builders of Cruisers Yachts and Rampage Yachts. KCS has applied its own big-boat standards and engineering specs to the ten-model Azure line and in the case of the 278 Bow Rider have made a good boat even better, placing it firmly in the premium category in terms of amenities, fit-and-finish, and the quality of equipment and materials used. Recently we tested the 278 Bow Rider and we are here to report that there is a new and in some respects a very different sportboat on the market.

Key Features

  • Standard gel coat pattern
  • Bimini top & boot with SST frame & trailering struts
  • Bow & cockpit cover
  • Bow scuff plate
  • Color coordinated composite deck vents
  • Extended activity/swim platform
  • Hull mounted recessed halogen docking lights
  • Sony AM/FM/CD player with MP3 port & 4 speakers
  • Simulated leather wrapped helm with silver gauge panel
  • 12-gallon pressurized fresh water SST shower (stern)
  • Dual open back helm seats with suspension system & flip-up bolster
  • Under floor storage with mat liner
  • Specifications

    Length Overall 27' 0''
    8.23 m
    Beam 8' 6''
    2.59 m
    Dry Weight 5,380 lbs.
    2,440 kg.
    Tested Weight N/A
    Draft 23''
    0.58 m
    - Draft Up N/A
    - Draft Down N/A
    - Air Draft N/A
    Deadrise/Transom 22 deg.
    Max Headroom open
    Bridge Clearance 62.5''
    1.59 m
    Weight Capacity N/A
    Person Capacity N/A
    Fuel Capacity 68 gal.
    257 L
    Water Capacity N/A
    Length on Trailer N/A
    Height on Trailer N/A
    Trailer Weight N/A
    Total Weight
    (Trailer, Boat, & Engine)

    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 Not Available
    Tested Power 1 x 320-hp MerCruiser 377 MAG
    Opt. Power 1 x 300-hp Volvo Penta V8-300C DPS
    1 x 320-hp Volvo Penta V8-320C DPS
    1 x 380-hp Volvo Penta V8-380C DPS
    4 MerCruiser engine options from 300-hp to 430-hp

    Test Results - Change Measurement Unit

    RPM MPH Knots GPH MPG NMPG Stat. Mile NM dBa
    600 3.3 2.8 1.2 2.8 2.5 174 151 67
    1000 5.4 4.7 1.8 3.0 2.6 183 159 71
    1500 7.5 6.5 3.2 2.4 2.1 145 126 77
    2000 9.3 8.1 5.1 1.8 1.6 112 97 78
    2500 14.8 12.9 6.5 2.3 2.0 140 121 82
    3000 23.7 20.6 8.3 2.9 2.5 176 153 82
    3500 29.9 26.0 10.8 2.8 2.4 170 148 85
    4000 35.6 30.9 13.8 2.6 2.3 158 138 86
    4500 40.7 35.4 18.4 2.2 1.9 135 118 89
    5000 46.9 40.8 24.8 1.9 1.7 116 101 93
    5200 49.3 42.8 25.3 2.0 1.7 119 104 93
    600 151 280 5.30 4.35 1.21 67
    1000 159 295 8.70 6.81 1.27 71
    1500 126 233 12.10 11.92 1.01 77
    2000 97 180 15.00 19.31 0.78 78
    2500 121 225 23.80 24.61 0.97 82
    3000 153 283 38.10 31.23 1.22 82
    3500 148 274 48.10 40.69 1.18 85
    4000 138 254 57.30 52.05 1.10 86
    4500 118 217 65.50 69.65 0.94 89
    5000 101 187 75.50 93.88 0.80 93
    5200 104 192 79.30 95.58 0.83 93

    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 5.4 sec.
    0 to 30 8.7 sec.
    Ratio 2.2 : 1
    Props 24''
    Load 2 persons, 3/8 fuel, 0 water, minimal gear
    Climate 90 deg., 70 humid.; wind: 10-18 mph; seas: chop

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider (2013-) Line Drawing


    Captain's Report

    Captain's Report by Capt. John--

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider
    Attractive new look features such as Armor Plus gelcoat and Imedge accent colors set the new 278 Bow Rider apart.

    Mission Statement for the Cruisers Sports Series Brand

    From a business standpoint the mission of the ten-boat Cruisers Sport Series line is to acquaint younger boaters with KCS's big boats down the line. When these owners are ready to graduate up to the cruising lifestyle they will be on a first name basis with the dealers, management, and products of Cruisers Yachts and Rampage Yachts. Obviously that is a long-term business strategy, but it is one that augurs well for the consumer. Which brings us to the second part of the KCS mission statement…From a tactical standpoint the mission of the Cruisers Sports Series line is to impress beginning boaters with the quality and functionality of KCS boats as well as to acquaint consumers with KCS' customer-friendly culture.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider
    The seatback folds forward making a large sun pad. Note the filler cushion at left and the padded transom gate, which provide U-shaped seating when the back rest is up.

    Mission Statement for the 278 Bow Rider

    The 278 Bow Rider is designed to be a luxurious, extremely comfortable bowrider that can be used in both freshwater and saltwater for all sorts of watersports activities. By creating a relatively high freeboard and deep cockpit the boat should be dry and little ones will be more secure. By outfitting the boat with upscale amenities, she should appeal to those boaters that one day may be ready to move into a classy express, such as the Cruisers Yachts 310 or Rampage 34. With a 22-degree deadrise and weighing in at 5,380 lbs. (2,440 kgs.) dry, the 278 Bow Rider should be one of the best riding boats on the market in choppy conditions at speed. By keeping the base MSRP down and providing an extensive option list, customers will be able to create a boat for their specific purpose, rather than get a boat where one-size-fits-all.

    Distinguishing Features

    Five Standard Hull Color Choices

    -- Most builders still charge extra for colored hull gel coat. We think that colored hulls add immeasurably to enhancing the pride of ownership as well as to set the boat apart from the pack at the marina and on the used boat market when that time comes.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider
    The head/changing compartment is to port. The Porta-Potti and snap-in carpet are options, and the small sink by the model's right hand is standard.

    Self-draining Cockpit

    -- In our book, this is a biggie. While some other sportboats also have self-draining cockpits, many do not. We have seen too many boats sink at the dock after a prolonged hard rain as a result of a battery drained dead by a bilge pump.

    Unusual Swim Platform Design

    -- The swim platform on the 278 Bow Rider is tapered inward at a 30-degree angle from the side of the boat which keeps the stern from hitting the dock when casting off going forward. It is also raised so that it doesn't drag when getting under way or when making a tight turn. The swim ladder has four steps and there is special "activity" lighting on the platform which looks cool at night.

    Halogen Bow Docking Lights

    -- Coming home late can be problematical on a moon-less night. The builder has thought of that and made the lights standard on the 278.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider
    The bow seating area is large and optional filler cushions can make it another sun pad for two.

    Two Bilge Pumps

    -- Most sportboats have one, the 278 Bow Rider has two. One amidships rated at 750 gph and the other in the stern with a 1,100 gph capacity.

    Plush, Thick Seat Cushions

    -- One of the first things that stands out when seeing the 278 Bow Rider is the plush seating. We equate them to what one might find in an expensive automobile vs. those found on an economy model.

    Standard Bimini and Canvas Covers

    -- All boats should have these no matter what the activity and they are standard on the 278.

    Stylistic Molded-in Highlight in the Hull

    -- When a boat that is supposed to be fast and sleek also has a deep cockpit, therefore a higher freeboard, designers need to work extra hard to create the optical illusion that the freeboard is low. Here the builder has gone farther than most builders by molding in a gentle crease in the hull side from bow to stern which catches the light and makes it look as if there is another cove stripe on the hull side. The overall effect is to make her appear lower to the water than she really is.

    Significant Displacement

    -- At 6,150 lbs. (2,795 kgs.) the 278 Bow Rider has the greatest displacement in class. This together with a 22-degree deadrise at the transom makes this boat what should be one of the most comfortable riding boats in class.

    The Big Picture

    This is a pretty picture, indeed. The folks in Oconto, Wisconsin (KCS International) have put their experienced yacht building team to work at revisiting every aspect of the Cruisers Sport Series lineup. The results look good so far. They tell me that the tooling was renovated, and it shows in the beautiful gel coat work. Attractive color combinations are very appealing, and that goes for the upholstery in the cockpit as well as the deck and topsides finish work.


    The test model was matched with a catalyzed 377 Magnum from MerCruiser, which delivered 320-hp. The standard package includes a 300-hp Volvo Penta V8. Engine options from MerCruiser and Volvo range from 300 on up to 430-hp, so there should be something for everyone’s taste. Additional engineering improvements include better cockpit drainage and engine ventilation, changing motor mounts to metal from wood, and updating the fuel system to comply with ABYC and EPA Standards. The effort towards a “job well done” was evident to me in both the attitude of the engineering staff, the quality control department, and the finished product.

    The Bow

    The forward cockpit offers comfortable seating, and I could stretch my 35-inch inseam legs out without feeling cramped. A forward beach ladder, drink holders, safety rails, and an optional table are some of the details added for creature comfort.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider
    The forward seating area is comfortable without feeling cramped.

    For those who are going to be using the boat primarily for a sunning and beach-visiting platform, there are two optional filler cushions ($835) for the bow. Additionally, sun worshipers will like the sun pad on the stern which has a three-position back rest.

    The Cockpit

    A sturdy walkthrough windshield (with magnet holding the window open) leads to the helm and main seating area. To port is a compartment suitable for a head. Buyers have the choice of a Porta-Potti ($285) or an electric toilet ($2,020), so the family can be relieved….

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider
    The head compartment on our test boat featured a sink, Porta-Potti and shower options.

    There is an optional bow windscreen door ($420), which I recommend because on a crisp, cool morning it will help keep the cockpit cozy.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider
    The 278 has a simple instrument panel with a cup holder which is ideal to place a cell phone.
    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider
    The helm and companion seats are bucket seats with cut-out backs and bolsters. Both are available with an adjustable height option ($210 each). The adjustable seat gives the option of ducking behind the windshield when or raising it up to look over the top. We like this option as it makes sure that virtually no one, no matter how tall or short, has to look at the windshield frame.
    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider
    The 278 has ample storage below the deck for everything needed for a day on the water. Note the boat comes standard with mats in the compartments.

    Below the deck are storage lockers for water toys, and there’s storage available under the seats; fore and aft.Behind the helm and companion bucket seats is a huge U-shaped wraparound seat surrounding the cockpit. This is one of the largest seating areas I have ever seen on a sportboat in class. Folks who like to entertain aboard will go for the optional cockpit table ($565). There’s a cooler tucked under one of the seats in a specially-designed keeper compartment.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider
    In travel or entertaining mode the backrest is in the position as pictured above.
    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider
    Position #2 is the sun lounge position facing aft.
    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider
    Position #3 with the back fully forward creates a sun pad.

    On the centerline, aft, is one of the features that adds utility-- the convertible sun lounger. Use it facing forward for running or socializing. Flip it facing aft when on the hook and playing in the water or relaxing on the swim platform. It can also be folded fully forward, where it serves as a comfortable sun pad.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider
    The shape of the activity/swim platform helps the skipper avoid banging the dock when getting underway.

    A small gate leads to the swim platform; and the deck design provides for a smooth transition in and out of the cockpit. The builder has done a particularly clever job of designing this passageway. When underway, a filler cushion fits into the passageway to form the U-shaped conversation pit. The transom gate is padded and serves as a backrest and fits in well with the rest of the cockpit.

    The Stern

    Not just a bolt-on type, the swim platform is the result of a well-considered design process. It’s higher off the water than most, so it doesn’t drag underway, and it extends completely over the outdrive unit for safety. The height also makes for an easier step on and off the floating dock. But the most striking feature is the tapered shape of the aft, outboard corners. These corners often get pretty banged up over time; typically a trouble spot when leaving the dock. By trimming away the corners, some platform area is lost but it makes it easier to avoid clipping the dock when getting underway. In the end, I like what I see.

    Performance and Handling

    Our test boat was powered by a single 320-hp Mercury 377 MAG engine driving a Bravo III lower unit. With 25 gallons of fuel aboard, two men, and 50 pounds of gear we had a test weight of 6,720 lbs. (3,054 kgs.) At 5200 rpm our WOT speed was 49.3 mph. Best cruise was at 3000 rpm where we were going 23.7 mph burning 8.25 gph for a range of 176 statute miles. By giving up just 6 miles on a load of fuel, the boat will go 29.9 mph at 3500 rpm and burn 10.75 gph. I suspect most people will cruise there. We jumped up on a plane in 5.4 seconds and we reached 30 in 8.7 seconds.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider
    The 278 delivers a smooth, enjoyable ride, and looked very classy in the process.

    The Ride.

    I liked the ride the 278 provided when I tested her. When testing I moved around the boat to experience the 278 from both the helm seat and from the aft bench seat. Both offered comfort, security, and stability. I never felt like I was being thrown around -- the ride was solid and smooth just as I would expect in a boat with this displacement and bottom shape. Steering was smooth and true, and the noise level was mostly wind.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider
    Our test subject was powered by the optional 377 Magnum from MerCruiser.


    The 278 Bow Rider is one of four bowrider models in the newly re-vitalized Cruisers Sport Series. The other models include three sport deck models, two cuddies and one pocket cruiser. Assuming that the builder can maintain its high standards for quality control in the rest of the Cruisers Sport Series, I’d bet that this newest member of the Cruisers/Rampage family will deliver on the new KCS mission.

    Test Result Highlights

    • Top speed for the Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider (2013-) is 49.3 mph (79.3 kph), burning 25.25 gallons per hour (gph) or 95.57 liters per hour (lph).
    • Best cruise for the Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider (2013-) is 23.7 mph (38.1 kph), and the boat gets 2.87 miles per gallon (mpg) or 1.22 kilometers per liter (kpl), giving the boat a cruising range of 176 miles (283.24 kilometers).
    • Tested power is 1 x 320-hp MerCruiser 377 MAG.

    Standard and Optional Features

    Marine Electronics

    GPS/Chart Optional


    Battery Charger/Converter Optional
    CD Stereo Standard
    Head: Portable Optional
    Head: Fixed Optional
    Power Steering Standard
    Trim Tabs Optional

    Exterior Features

    Carpet: Cockpit Optional
    Ice Chest Standard
    Swim Ladder Standard
    Swim Platform Standard
    Tower: Watersports Optional
    Transom Door Standard
    Transom Shower Standard


    Bimini Top Standard
    Camper Back Optional
    Cockpit Cover Standard
    Full Canvas Optional


    Hull Warranty
    Limited 10-year

    Deck Warranty
    Limited 10-year
    Blistering Warranty
    NMMA Certification Yes
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