|LOA||32 ft., 6 in.|
|Draft||3 ft., 9 in.|
|Engines||Twin 300 hp Mercury 5.7L|
|Base Price||(as tested) $255,000|
|- Double helm seat
- PowerSlide aft lounge
- bow and transom aluminum gates
- fiberglass hardtop
- trim tabs
- transom shower
- battery charger
- power steering
- VacuFlush head w/holding tank
- Sirius satellite-ready stereo w/10 speakers and more
- various engine upgrades
- wet bar in lieu of standard cockpit seating
- Garmin multifunction display
- through-hull exhaust
- stainless steel anchor
- remote control spotlight
- Wet Sounds stereo upgrade
- gas barbecue, water heater
- air conditioning
- 26-inch LED flat-screen TV
- cockpit and bow covers
- underwater lights
- Liquid Silver accent striping and more
|Chaparral Boats, Nashville, Ga.;
(229) 686-7481; chaparralboats.com
|West Coast Dealer|
|- Tilly’s Marine, Huntington Beach, Calif.;
(714) 840-1163; tillysmarine.com
- TILLY’S MARINE, Ventura, Calif;
(805) 648-3812; tillysmarine.com
- Brothers Boats Sacramento, Sacramento, Calif.;
- Seattle Water Sports, Kenmore, Wash.;
(425) 481-2754; seattlewatersports.com
Posted: September 1, 2012 | Boat Type: Express Cruiser
Splitting the difference between a sportboat and a cruiserAs I stepped aboard the Chaparral 327 SSX, I realized I’d seen this boat before. In fact, I was on the NMMA Innovation Awards judging team that gave the prototype an award for most unique and cutting-edge features. We deemed this model revolutionary instead of evolutionary, because it had compiled so many elements that make it something in between a classic bowrider and an overnight cruiser. The 327 SSX is a hybrid for those moving up to a larger cruising boat or down to a more manageable dayboat, but who haven’t yet decided how they will be spending their boating time.
Chaparral has been building quality boats since its founder, Buck Pegg, built his first fiberglass tri-hull in 1965. Nearly 50 years later, the company’s commitment to quality construction is evident in the 327 SSX, as is its attention to detail and styling. The sleek deep-V hull is Kevlar reinforced and accented with a choice of four colors and an optional Liquid Silver finish. It’s a performance-minded sportboat that will be a great weekender, and a bowrider that has the interior of a cruiser. The 327 SSX is the largest of Chaparral’s SSX sportboat line, and the company only builds four models that are bigger. It’s a versatile design that has something for everybody.
Boarding is easy as you step onto an ample and full-beam swim step. From here you can fish, don your scuba tank or gear up for waterskiing. A storage cabinet on port holds the optional gas grill, which attaches to a custom leg that slips into a bracket. This leg does triple duty, as it also attaches to other brackets in the cockpit or bow lounge to hold an optional table. A shower and a telescoping ladder make the transom perfect for swimmers, but it’s the amidships bench seat that is the star. One side faces aft and the other faces forward into the cockpit, and with the press of a button, the entire thing flattens and extends into a comfortable sunpad.
Step through the aluminum gate into the cockpit. Here, the entire sunpad lifts electrically to showcase the engine room, including twin engines and the optional genset. Our test boat is equipped with the standard 300 hp Mercury 5.7L sterndrives with joystick control. There are multiple engine choices up to 430 hp 8.2L big blocks. Everything in the engine room, from the dual batteries to the 3 kw Westerbeke genset, is easily accessed and very serviceable.
The standard cockpit layout has an L-shaped lounge to port and a small bench on starboard, but I suspect most people will opt to replace that second seat with the full wet bar featuring a solid-surface countertop, a sink and a built-in refrigerator.
Just ahead are two dual seats, one for the passengers and one at the helm, both of which have a flip-up bolster, so you can stand or sit while driving. The wide dash is laid out with digital gauges, rocker-switches and engine controls within easy reach, and a Garmin multifunction display as an option. One addition that would be nice is a clean installation of a VHF RAM mic for those boats that will go offshore.
Visibility from the helm is excellent due to the large, wrap-around stainless steel-accented windshield that integrates into the standard fiberglass hardtop. A walk-through leads to the open bow, which seats six and has a lounge to port and two seats with a table on starboard. An optional electric windlass tucks into a recessed anchor locker, and a polished stainless steel anchor and a searchlight are options as well. The storage below the seats is supersized and includes an ice chest. If you still don’t have enough room for your stuff, an enormous lazerette beneath the cockpit sole opens up on gas-assisted shocks and will hold everything from wakeboards to a folding bicycle.
Most people will live outside on this boat, especially with that impressive lounge that will make sleeping under the stars very comfortable. But unlike most other bowriders, the 327 SSX does have an interior, and a snazzy one at that. Three steps down on the port side lead to a salon with an optional microwave, a 26-inch flat-screen TV and an Ultraleather convertible sofa that becomes a slim berth for overnight accommodations. A wood-grain floor, opening ports, a stereo cabinet and a cedar-lined closet complete the unexpected touches inside.
What will seal the deal on weekend outings is the head with a VacuFlush toilet, a shower and a sink. There’s no real standing room below, but the headroom is fine when you’re seated. I imagined a three-day getaway to Catalina aboard this 327 and couldn’t come up with anything I’d be missing.
For our test drive, we took the 327 SSX out onto the open Pacific near Huntington Beach, Calif. The experience will stick in my mind as a unique one, because something happened that was a first for me on a boat test. We puttered out the long and restricted access way, got reprimanded for taking pictures of the naval vessel tied up there and then opened it up to see what it could do.
Soon, a shrill alarm went off, but a quick inspection of the gauges on the panel didn’t shed any light on what was going on. What happened next is one of those comical scenes that should be on YouTube, as four boat-savvy minds went to work on the problem. We checked the engines and bilges, we started and restarted the motors, we disconnected float switches and tore the whole boat apart looking for the problem. We didn’t find one until we paid a little more attention to what the dashboard was telling us — we had no gas on the port side. Chaparrals are well-built, high-quality boats, but it turns out they do need fuel.
However, before we went into all-hands-on-deck-overthinking-it mode, we got some time at wide-open throttle and zipped through a few figure-eights to check maneuverability. Our top speed on relatively flat water was 45.8 mph at 4750 rpm. In hard turns, the hull dug in, bumped a little as it banked and then dug back in to make a tight, smooth circle. Crossing its own wake, the 327 SSX absorbed the shock by slicing through the water without pounding or even so much as a bounce. Had we had any gas, a Catalina lunch run would have been doable.
Back at the dock, I got the opportunity to test the joystick. I’ve driven quite a few large inboards with joystick control, but this was my first sterndrive model. I noticed a slight delay between the stick command and the drives kicking in, but when they did, I could feel them. Despite a cross-breeze, I managed to fit the boat into its slip without any embarrassing racing stripes. The 327 SSX is a snap to drive right out of the box, even for first-timers.
One thing of note here is that the fuel fills and gas tanks are independent, so each side has to be tended to separately. Most days that shouldn’t be a problem, but it’s something to think about — unless you want to limp home on one engine.
The base price of the Chaparral 327 SSX is $210,000, but our test boat is closer to $255,000, because it has just about every option you can think of, including air conditioning, which isn’t so much a concern on the ocean but could be welcome on inland lakes and rivers. This is a comfortable, all-weather boat that will do as well around Catalina as it will on Lake Havasu. For anyone who can’t make up his mind on how or where to use it, this boat is a safe buy, because its versatility guarantees it’ll be comfortable everywhere.
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