Recently, a BoatTEST.com member, Keith F. from North Carolina, asked, “Which manufacturer offers the fastest 24’ Bowrider? I am open to all power options, inboard, outboard or jet.” While there is a clear-cut winner, there is also more to the story. Going fast is simply a matter of building a boat with a flattish bottom, making it weigh as little as possible, and power it with the most horsepower that the USCG will allow. Thankfully, virtually all reputable sportboat builders today eschew uncomfortable and potentially dangerous designs in favor of relatively safe boats with at least a few creature comforts. And, so the question is, what 24’ bowrider is fastest among boats we have tested and is still in production?
Boat Manufacturer: Chaparral
Length Overall: 24’3” (7.39 m)
Beam: 8’6” (2.59 m)
Dry Weight: 4,000 lb. (1,814 kg)
Tested Weight: 4,586 lb. (2,080 kg)
Range (Statute): 73
Range (Nautical): 63
Engine Brand: Rotax
HP: 2x 250
Engine Type: Jet Drive
Bragging rights for fastest 24’ (7.32 m) overall and in the jet-boat bowrider category were won by the Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX. While she was lighter than either the outboard or the sterndrive champions, she was actually heavier than other jet boats we have tested in this size range. Chaparral positions the 243 Vortex VRX as the Mercedes in class, so she is naturally a bit heavier than other jet boats, and heavier than some by quite a lot.
Just to confirm that this test was no fluke, the year before we tested a sistership and she had a WOT of 54.3 mph, still fast enough to claim pole position in our 24’ runabout runoff.
At WOT speed the 243 Vortex VRX burned 36.1 gph for 1.6 mpg and a range of 73 statute miles with a 10% fuel reserve. At that speed she has an endurance of 1 hour 30 minutes, with a 10% reserve. Most boat owners don’t run flat out for more than a few minutes; best cruise came in at 5000 rpm where the boat ran 23.5 mph and had an endurance of over five and a half hours.
Side Benefits. Our sound readings were on the low side at best cruise, at 82 dBA, as good as most any boat with other propulsion systems. And, it should be pointed out that the Vortex has the new Rotax control system that makes docking and handling much easier than on earlier generations of jet boats.
To see our video test on the Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX, click here.
Boat Manufacturer: Formula
Length Overall: 24’0” (7.32 m)
Beam: 8’6” (2.59 m)
Dry Weight: 5,000 lb. (2,268 kg)
Tested Weight: 5,744 lb. (2,605 kg)
Range (Statute): 89
Range (Nautical): 77
Engine Brand: MerCruiser
HP: 1x 430
Engine Type: Sterndrive
It is notable that one of the heaviest 24’ (7.32 m) bowriders on the market is also the fastest sterndrive-powered boat in our testing. She is the Formula 240 – and she is powered by a single 430 8.2 L MerCruiser. That big block is the heaviest production sterndrive gas engine available, and its prodigious big-block displacement provides the torque to get an already heavy 24’ (7.32 m) bowrider past the 50-mph barrier. Our test boat had nearly a full tank of fuel, something that most builders don’t provide, and she had an estimated test weight of 5,744 lb. (2,605 kg). This boat is heavier than almost anything in class because of her rugged build – she can easily bash across the Gulf Stream – and will be the most comfortable boat in class in the process. She is deluxe in every way. If the Chaparral mentioned above is a Mercedes, the Formula 240 is a Bentley.
The Formula 240 was powered by a single 430-hp engine and the overall winner was powered by twin 250 Rotax engines with a combined horsepower rating of 500.
To get a good idea of what we mean about the 240’s build quality and amenities, see our features video.
Boat Manufacturer: Four Winns
Length Overall: 24’4” (7.41 m)
Beam: 8’5” (2.55 m)
Dry Weight: 4,600 lb. (2,086 kg)
Tested Weight: 5,320 lb. (2,413 kg)
Range (Statute): 90
Range (Nautical): 78
Engine Brand: Mercury
HP: 1x 250 Supercharged
Engine Type: Outboard
The Four Winns HD 240 OB is a bowrider that is a robust deck boat. Deck boats are generally lighter, with lower freeboard which saves weight and reduces windage, and generally they have fuller bow sections. The Four Winns HD 240 OB is somewhat of an exception and has nearly the heft of a conventional sportboat. With a single 250-hp Mercury outboard she had exactly half the horsepower of the twin engine Chaparral Vortex.
Her WOT speed was recorded at 49.1 at 6950 rpm. Please note that 6950 is 550 rpm more than her published “Full Throttle RPM” range which is 5800 to 6400, which leads us to believe that she was under-propped. This test is somewhat of an anomaly as we generally have trouble getting engines to reach the top end of their maximum rated full throttle range. With a greater pitch prop, she probably would have gone faster.
As noted, top speed is something that we all are interested in, but it really is not very important in the overall scheme of a boating experience. Also, these tests are never apples-to-apples as the test weights, props, and test conditions were all different. For example, the Four Winns was tested at 1,250’ (381 m) elevation, where the air is somewhat thinner than at sea level, thus making that engine work harder, and so forth.
We have tested boats in the sterndrive and outboard category in the past that ran faster, but they are no longer in production. This further indicates to us that there are things far more important than WOT speed.
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