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Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider (2015-)
(w/ 1 x 320-hp Volvo Penta V8 320C)


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Brief Summary

Cruisers Sport Series has built this boat for sharing the watersports and day boating activities with family and friends. Whether its wakeboarding, water skiing, tubing, catching some rays or just spending the day on the water, this boat is designed to provide that functionality in a Sport Series boat with upscale accommodations, superior ride quality, and plenty of sizzle.

Key Features

  • Image premium gel coat
  • Helm and companion seat with flip-up bolster
  • Aft sundeck convertible to 3 positions
  • Tilt steering wheel
  • Bimini top with boot
  • Stainless steel ski tow
  • Optional wakeboard tower with speakers
  • Extended swim platform
  • Water tight, lockable storage compartment with mat liner
  • Cooler in bow
  • Specifications

    Length Overall 27' 0''
    8.23 m
    Beam 8' 6''
    2.59 m
    Dry Weight 5,720 lbs.
    2,595 kg(w/ eng)
    Tested Weight 6,421 lbs.
    2,913 kg
    Draft 39.5''
    1.00 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 Volvo Penta V8 320C
    Opt. Power 1 x 300-hp MerCruiser 350 MAG B3
    1 x 320-hp MerCruiser 377 MAG B3
    1 x 380-hp MerCruiser 8.2L MAG MPI B3X
    1 x 430-hp MerCruiser 8.2L MAG MPI H.O. B3X
    Four Volvo Penta V8 engines from 300-hp to 380-hp

    Test Results - Change Measurement Unit

    RPM MPH Knots GPH MPG NMPG Stat. Mile NM dBa
    600 2.4 2.1 1.0 2.5 2.2 155 135 67
    1000 6.1 5.3 1.7 3.7 3.2 224 195 73
    1500 8.0 6.9 3.0 2.7 2.3 165 143 74
    2000 9.6 8.3 5.4 1.8 1.6 110 95 83
    2500 13.9 12.0 7.4 1.9 1.6 115 100 90
    3000 22.0 19.1 8.6 2.6 2.2 157 137 89
    3500 28.7 24.9 10.0 2.9 2.5 175 152 91
    4000 33.5 29.1 12.0 2.8 2.4 171 149 90
    4500 39.1 34.0 15.6 2.5 2.2 154 134 92
    5000 42.3 36.7 17.1 2.5 2.2 151 131 93
    5400 46.2 40.1 22.4 2.1 1.8 126 110 93
    600 135 249 3.90 3.60 1.08 67
    1000 195 360 9.80 6.25 1.56 73
    1500 143 266 12.90 11.17 1.14 74
    2000 95 177 15.40 20.25 0.76 83
    2500 100 185 22.40 27.82 0.80 90
    3000 137 253 35.40 32.37 1.09 89
    3500 152 282 46.20 37.85 1.22 91
    4000 149 275 53.90 45.42 1.19 90
    4500 134 248 62.90 58.86 1.07 92
    5000 131 243 68.10 64.73 1.05 93
    5400 110 203 74.40 84.79 0.88 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 3.9 sec.
    0 to 30 9.9 sec.
    Load 2 persons, 3/4 fuel, no water, 25 lbs. of gear
    Climate 75 deg., 55 humid.; wind: 0-5 mph; seas: calm
    Elevation 562

    Captain's Report

    Mission Statement

    Cruisers Sport Series has built this boat for sharing the watersports and day boating activities with family and friends. Whether its wakeboarding, water skiing, tubing, catching some rays or just spending the day on the water, this boat is designed to provide that functionality in a Sport Series boat with upscale accommodations, superior ride quality, and plenty of sizzle.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider running shot
    The Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider has an overall length of 27’ (8.23 m) with the swim platform, a beam of 8’6” (2.59) m and a draft of 23” (58.42 cm).

    Distinguishing Features

    Following is a list of features that sets this boat apart from most others in class--

    • Standard extended swim platform

    • Plush captain and companion seats with vertical gas-assist adjustment

    • High freeboard and deep cockpit seating

    • High upholstery quality, and good overall fit-and-finish

    • Robust hull lamination scantlings

    • Distinctive hull styling lines

    • Stepped hull

    • 2 in-deck storage compartments

    • Built in express cruiser factory by the same personnel


    The Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider has an overall length of 27’ (8.23 m) with the swim platform, a beam of 8’6” (2.59 m) and a draft of 23” (58.23 cm). With 51 gallons (193 L) of fuel on board and 2 people aboard, we had an estimated test weight of 6,421 lbs. (2,913 kgs).Our test boat was powered by the Volvo Penta V8-320C, 320-hp with counter-rotating DuoProp.

    The Numbers.

    We recorded a top speed of 46.2 mph at 5400 rpm. "Best cruise" was found to be at 3500 rpm where the boat went 28.6 mph, burning 10 gph, giving her a range of 175 statute miles and an endurance of 6.1 hours.

    At 3000 rpm

    the 278 Bow Rider went 22 mph, burning 8.55 gph for an endurance of 7.2 hours.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider planing speed
    We took 3.9 seconds to reach planing speed and accelerated to 20 mph in 7.2 seconds, 30 mph in 9.9 seconds and 40 mph in 15.5 seconds.


    With 27’ (8.23 m) length overall and with a tested weight of 6,421 lbs. (2,913 kgs), this boat is well equipped to provide some big wakes for the wakeboarders to play in. The key is to find the best plowing position with the hull by adjusting the trim so the bow gets up, the stern digs in and then adjust the speed to a comfortable pace for the wakeboarder.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider running shot
    With her 22-degree deadrise hull, this plowing maneuver creates significant wake.

    The only way to test a boat designed for wakeboarding… to put a wakeboarder out on the tow and see what he can do. For the CSS 278 Bow Rider that was part of our test. Be sure to check out the video.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider wakeboarder
    Clearly the boat performed well and so did the wakeboarder.

    The 278 Bow Rider is certainly a sporty handling boat and is quick to respond to the helm. On acceleration, the bow comes up approximately 12-degrees, but the forward visibility remained good.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider running shot
    Once on plane, trim the drive to the one quarter mark on the trim gauge to get her into her proper cruising attitude and open her up.

    She leans 12-degrees

    into the turns, with a confident bite in the water. No indication of chine walking or loss of speed during hard turning. She has a high freeboard forward and at the aft end of the cockpit, keeping us dry in all conditions. She has a sharp bow entry and that together with her 6,100-lbs. displacement easily handles chop both on small and large bodies of water, providing a comfortable ride.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider running shot
    There is plenty of mid-range power to handle any of the watersports and she can easily get up and run when wide open throttle is applied. Note the step in the hull.

    Her 22-degree deadrise

    at the transom bottom is nearly as deep as they make them, so if the boat should catch air, she will come down on a hull made to maximize comfort in those conditions. The boat's deep-V hull along with her seven layers of glass lamination in the hull -- the same as in the large Cruisers Yachts -- means this is a boat that can take far more punishment than her operator. These construction scantlings are particularly robust for a sportboat and the builder is rightly quite proud of them. Not only is there more material in the 278's hull than many of her competitors, but there are also more man-hours.

    The Stern

    Extended Swim Platform.

    While all of the boats in the Cruisers Sport Series bowrider fleet have the extended swim platform as standard, this was our first look at the optional SeaDek material which we found on the 278 Bow Rider's platform.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider teak platform
    The weathered-looking faux teak material provides the classic look of a teak swim platform without the costly maintenance of real teak. This is the same material that is used on Cruisers Yachts’ largest vessels.
    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider material
    The material is made from soft yet durable closed cell material with beveled finish details and imitation Thiokol that make it look like the real thing.

    The extended platform

    sits high off the water to make it easier to board the vessel from a floating dock. At anchor guests will enjoy sitting on the platform and dangling their feet in the water without getting inundated by the wake of a passing boat. Another advantage is there is no large step up to the transom passageway, so no turned ankles or tripping. Most important is the fact that it extends well beyond the lower unit when in the down position.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider ladder compartment
    A stainless steel 4-step telescoping ladder is in a recessed compartment on the starboard side of the platform. A standard shower sprayer is recessed in the stern passageway.

    Double the Sunning Space.

    The integrated design of the sun pad and extended swim platform give this 27 footer a much bigger feel and look, and much more sunning deck space than normal. Because the stern platform is so large and the faux teak deck is so soft, this area makes another sunning venue. And the tapered aft section of the platform allows for easy departures from the dock without worrying about scratches on the platform.

    Cockpit Layout

    As for the cockpit, she can accommodate quite a few passengers. She is yacht certified, meaning that she can carry a safe amount of passengers with no particular limit because her length is over 26’. So it’s up to the operator to safely load the boat.

    The transom bench seat

    is a 3-way convertible design. When the seat back is tilted aft it provides a comfortable forward-facing seat. When tilted forward it makes a chaise lounge facing aft. Move the seat back into a horizontal location and a large sun pad has been created.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider sun pad
    The stern of the boat converted into sun pad mode.
    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider chaise lounge
    Here the aft seat is in chaise lounge mode for sun bathing reading or watching kids swim off the transom.
    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider aft bench seat
    In the conventional position the aft bench seat anchors the other seating in the U-shaped cockpit.

    The cockpit has a seating arrangement that takes full advantage of its high freeboard. The cockpit seating has storage compartments, room for a dedicated cooler, engine hatch and some interesting use of space.

    Engine Access.

    Under the stern sun pad seating area is the engine hatch access. The whole seating assembly rises up on dual gas assist struts to keep it secure while performing the routine engine checks.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider engine compartment
    The designers of the boat have made it much easier to get into the engine compartment.
    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider molded step
    There is a step molded into the engine compartment that eliminates having to step far down into the bilge. It really makes a difference when reaching around for fluid checks.

    Upholstery and Carpets.

    The marine-grade fabrics on the seats, dash and trim is Silvertex vinyl and is double stitched with durable UV resistant thread over multi density foams, which provide support at the seating areas and plush comfort at the seat backs and headrests.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider upholstery
    Our test boat had the optional Platinum upholstery color scheme, the accent color interior matching the hull colors with its platinum accented tones which can be seen throughout the boat.

    The cockpit carpeting on this boat was the optional Sea Grass, woven mat. Notice how it is cut and bound to fit perfectly with the boat's contours. Stainless steel reinforced snaps will keep it in place and prevent tearing.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider self bailing cockpit
    The CSS 278 Bow Rider has a self-bailing cockpit, meaning that rain water flows overboard, not into the bilge.
    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider led lights
    We also like the LED courtesy lights that are placed throughout the cockpit.


    The mid deck box is shallow but long and wide and rock solid thanks to the thick hull design. The forward compartment between the consoles is much deeper and open to the mid deck box underneath.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider under deck storage
    The under deck storage has a unique pass thru feature that allows stowage of a wakeboard between the two compartments. Plenty of room to stow the gear.

    Max U-Shaped Seating.

    At the starboard side, stern quarter, a molded in step, with the Sea Grass Matt, leads up to the stern gate, which doubles as a jump seat at the stern. Under is a storage compartment. The transom gate is padded on the inside to form a back rest. With this in place, 8 adults can easily sit in the cockpit.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider stern gate
    Just remove the cushion, lift the latching stern gate, which is also the back rest for the seat, and walk out onto the swim platform.
    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider storage compartment
    Under the seat cushion at the stern gate is a storage compartment located under the lift up lid.


    Another clear signal from the builder that this boat is intended for entertaining is the number of built-in coolers and places to stow a cooler. In the cockpit is a huge insulated cooler on the port side just behind the helm seat. On the opposite side of the cockpit is a dedicated place for a large Igloo cooler. In the forward cockpit there is another insulated, self-draining compartment under the center seat that can be a cooler.

    Cooler Options.

    Because some owners like to fill their cooler at home and bring all of the goodies aboard in one container, the 48-quart Igloo cooler will be popular. Other owners, however, like to bring beverages and ice aboard separately in smaller containers. With the 278 Bow Rider, owners can go either way, or both.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider bench seat
    Forward of the stern step and behind the helm seat, on the starboard side is another bench seat, which has a latching lid with an insulated, self-draining cooler built in.
    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider cooler
    Look at the size of this cooler stowed under the port side bench seat. It’s a full size 48 quart cooler that is kept in place by a raised lip and Cruisers Sport Series even provided a cut out in the seat mold for the handles.
    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider helm view
    The view from the helm is superb both when sitting in the (adjustable) helm seat looking through the windshield, or sitting on the bolster looking over the windshield header.

    Helm Seat.

    The captain’s seat is an all-new design with multi-tone fabrics, side contoured back supports with a soft cushion "head rest" that looks cool, but is more for looks than function. The bolster is in an accent color and raises up to allow the operator to see over the windshield header and still be able to lean on something, mostly sitting. The seat slides fore and aft and can be raised or lowered, which is an important feature.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider helm seat
    The inboard and outboard arm rests can be raised or lowered.

    The helm console

    has a simple layout and design with a stitched vinyl, non-glare brow that is elegant-looking. The white faced analog gauges at the dash panel complement the rest of the dash. In the center of the instrument panel is room for an optional moving map display or depth sounder. At the lower left side of the dash is an AM/FM Premium Sound System controlling with recessed mounted speakers throughout the cockpit and a pair of booming speaker cans at the tower for the wakeboarders.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider helm
    On both sides of the Italian designer Gussi wheel, are mini storage compartments with raised edge to keep the keys and phone inside. Below is the usual array of toggle switches. An optional navigation system is conveniently centered in the dash and easy to use.

    The designer wheel

    is standard and has polished aluminum spokes and raised fasteners to give it a sporty look and feel. It comes standard with the tilt feature and power steering. Forward of the helm station inside the console is a large storage area and service access hatch. This is a good place for water toys or extra PFDs.

    Comfort Station.

    Another important feature of the 278 Bow Rider, is the port side compartment that can be used as a changing room or a head, a shower stall, or all three. It has a sink and a pull-out sprayer head that is plumbed to the boat's 12-gallon fresh water tank. A Porta-Potti with pump-out is optional as is a solid surface counter.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider head
    The head is functional and a welcome feature when needed. It also serves as a changing station or rinse down shower area after getting out of the water.
    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider head portlight
    The head on our test boat was equipped with a solid surface countertop, sink and faucet wand that extends out for rinsing off. There is also an operational portlight for ventilation, a shelf for storing some towels and a courtesy light.
    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider sink
    Just outside the head is another sink and faucet for washing up before sitting down to eat.

    Windshield and Windscreen:

    For those cool mornings, there is a fold away windscreen that securely latches into place. The windshield is held in the open position by a magnetic hold. When in the closed position, two latches will keep the windshield firmly in place and we noticed no rattling during our test.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider walkthrough
    The windscreen opens up and locks into place just forward of the helm station. And it folds and stows away neatly in a recessed area of the walkthrough opening.
    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider wrap around windshield
    The wrap-around windshield is 48” high with an optional stainless steel frame and does a good job of deflecting the wind when underway.

    At the Bow

    The deep seated bow seating is rounded to create a roomy foot well so guests can sit all around and not bang knees. There is a back rest all around the sides and the front. Inclined chaise-style seat backs are in both consoles and have interior arm rests that swing into position. Storage is under both side seats and the compartment is carpeted inside. The forward compartment is a fiberglass integrated self-draining cooler.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider seat storage
    There is seat storage under both seat cushions that are attached to articulating seat hinges that allow the seat cushion to rise up and away from the storage opening, providing a greater opening and keeping the cushions from getting away.
    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider magnets
    When we removed the center bow cushion, we noticed the magnets fastened to the cushion base. Also note the vinyl tacking material -- aka "hide-a-weld" -- that covers the stainless steel staples holding the upholstery to the composite board. The foam in the seat is self draining through the hole by the magnet.
    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider bow cooler
    At the seat deck, under a hinged lid is an integral cooler, which self-drains overboard.
    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider chaise lounge
    The deep seated chaise lounge hosts a padded bolster to the outboard side, 3 stainless steel cup holders, speakers for the sound system and has a retractable arm rest to the inboard side.

    Entertaining Ideas.

    A stainless steel mounting bracket is installed at the foot of the bow seating area and at the aft seating area to accommodate an optional pedestal table, which is stowed in the bow under the port side seat. For those planning a lot of entertaining, we can not recommend the table highly enough. In fact, we'd have two of them so the party -- or picnic -- can be happening both forward and aft at the same time.

    The faux wood table

    is made of a super-hard polyurethane and has a grain design that is hard to distinguish from the real thing. The material is impervious to water, including saltwater, and is UV resistant. Cruisers Yachts uses this material on its large, million-dollar yachts where owners like them because of their fine appearance and low maintenance characteristics.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider table
    The table is made of a high density vacuum formed hard plastic with simulated wood grain that looks real. This table has a solid feel to it and the manufacturer tells us that it is waterproof, UV resistant and extremely durable.

    The pedestal table can be installed at the aft seating or at the bow seating area.

    Extreme Wakeboard Tower.

    Cruisers installed a tower on the test boat to provide the towing height for expert wakeboarding fun. The arch can also be equipped with speakers, board racks and lights. The arch, along with the test boat's hull graphics added serious sizzle to the boat. She should turn heads anywhere she goes.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider tower
    The beefy tower is billet aluminum with adjustable board racks, with three locking positions.
    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider tow bit
    The tow bit doubles as an anchor light and check out the size of those speaker cans.

    The speaker pods are mounted on the inboard side of the tower, underneath the top rail and hang low over the port and starboard seating areas. Watch your head when getting up off these seats and while moving around the cockpit.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider tower knob
    The tower can be easily disconnected from its mounting bracket and folded down for trailering.

    Bow Boarding Ladder.

    The forward bow compartment houses a standard 4-step stainless steel telescoping boarding ladder that deploys on the starboard side. This is a somewhat unusual feature on a boat this large -- but why not? We like it because it provides important utility when wanting to drop off a guest and the only place is a nearby beach. In fact the whole crew can go ashore and stay dry or only get their bare feet wet, depending on the depth.

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider boarding ladder
    The bow boarding ladder, in addition to the stern boarding ladder, just adds to the versatility of this watersports boat.
    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider halogen lights
    Halogen docking lights are standard and the trailering eye has a stainless steel scuff guard, also standard.


    Our test boat was powered by a Volvo Penta V8-320C, 320-hp with the DuoProp System. The boat is rated for up to 430-hp.

    Standard Features We Like

    Our report has been unable to cover all of the noteworthy standard features on this boat simply because there are so many. Following is a list of standards that we like that have not been mentioned in the review--

    • 3-Year hull anti-blister warranty

    • Image premium gel coat (the same as used on the large yachts)

    • Battery disconnect switch

    • Automatic engine room fire suppression system

    • Bilge pump indicator light

    • Digital depth gauge

    • Bimini top and bow and cockpit cover
    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider running shot
    The optional graphics and sports tower let's everyone know that this is a boat that is ready to take on all comers.

    Options to Consider

    • Bow filler cushion

    • Colored hull and graphics

    • Trim tabs


    Base boat (with specified engine) $88,840Manufacturer’s options on test boat $23,899Manufacturer’s suggested retail price $112,739

    Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider larger boat
    The Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider has the feel of a larger boat and the sizzle of a smaller boat.


    As has been apparent throughout this review, the construction schedules and most of the materials used in the 278 Bow Rider are the same as the ones used in the Cruiser Yachts’ express cruisers. Further, both this boat and the million dollar yachts are built in the same plant by the same shop floor personnel. It is for these reasons -- styling and performance aside -- that the Cruisers Sport Series has rightfully earned its reputation of being at the very top level of sportboats built anywhere today. Not only did the Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider provides an attitude adjustment with the graphics, accent colors and wakeboard tower, she was also a spirited performer during testing. Because of her bottom shape and displacement, she is as comfortable riding as any boat in class and can certainly be used in saltwater locations, as well as inland lakes and rivers.

    Test Result Highlights

    • Top speed for the Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider (2015-) is 46.2 mph (74.4 kph), burning 22.40 gallons per hour (gph) or 84.78 liters per hour (lph).
    • Best cruise for the Cruisers Sport Series 278 Bow Rider (2015-) is 33.5 mph (53.9 kph), and the boat gets 2.79 miles per gallon (mpg) or 1.19 kilometers per liter (kpl), giving the boat a cruising range of 171 miles (275.2 kilometers).
    • Tested power is 1 x 320-hp Volvo Penta V8 320C.

    Standard and Optional Features

    Marine Electronics

    GPS/Chart Optional


    CD Stereo Standard
    Head: Portable Optional
    Power Steering Standard
    Trim Tabs Optional

    Exterior Features

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


    Bimini Top Standard
    Cockpit Cover Standard
    Full Canvas Optional


    Hull Warranty
    Limited 10-years structural

    Deck Warranty
    Limited 10-years structural
    Blistering Warranty
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