July 14, 2010
Like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, the perfect boat doesn’t really exist—at least not according to conventional wisdom. But we’re not so sure about that last part, because after our SUN TRACKER Party Barge 25 XP3 boat test, we can make a good case that here’s a do-it-all craft that can please everybody. Cruising, tubing, skiing and even fishing are all on the menu du jour during a day aboard the 27-foot tritoon.
With three 26-inch-diameter pontoons fashioned from 0.100-gauge 5052 marine aluminum alloy, the Party Barge 25 XP3 tracks beautifully, turns crisply and develops impressive lift—all courtesy of performance lifting strakes that are built into each multichambered log. Rigged with a Mercury OptiMax 200 Pro XS, our test rig reached 30 mph in 9.3 seconds on its way to a 43-mph top-end. This ’toon can boogie!
Standard hydraulic tilt steering means that anyone can drive this boat with ease, and, in fact, our test rig delivered a stable and reassuringly smooth ride in choppy conditions on Missouri’s Table Rock Lake. Due to the added buoyancy offered by the third log, you are not likely to take a wave or wake across the foredeck of this craft. Chalk one up for SUN TRACKER.
Appointments at the helm are luxurious, as is the case throughout the boat’s layout. More like a Barcalounger than a helm chair, the fully adjustable helm seat boasts self-leveling armrests and even reclines. Another recliner is located to port, in front of which are situated L-shape lounges that meet at the bow boarding gate. The cockpit features a wet bar, along with an L-shape aft lounge and a sun pad that hides a pop-up changing room. Removable tables are available fore and aft, and storage is plentiful throughout.
With room and amenities to pamper 15 passengers (or Bigfoot and Nessie), the SUN TRACKER Party Barge 25 XP3 may just be that elusive perfect craft.
SUN TRACKER PARTY BARGE 25 XP3 SPECIFICATIONS
Base price (w/Mercury OptiMax 150) $35,995
Price as tested $39,920
Deadrise at transom n/a
Weight (hull only) 3115 lbs.
Fuel capacity 37 gals.
Maximum horsepower 200
ENGINE AS TESTED
Make/price Mercury OptiMax 200 Pro XS/$15,595
No. of cylinders V-6
Displacement 3.0L (185.9 cid)
Induction DFI two-stroke
Weight 505 lbs.
Gear ratio 1.75:1
WOT rpm range 5000-5750
Top speed (mph) 43.0
0-30 mph acceleration (seconds) 9.3
SUN TRACKER, Dept. TBM, 2500 E. Kearney, Springfield, MO 65898; 417/873-4555; Suntracker Boats online
Mercury Marine, Dept. TBM, P.O. Box 1939, Fond du Lac, WI 54936; 800/637-2879; Mercury Marine online
TRITOONS: DOUBLE vs. TRIPLE LOGS
The advent of tritoons has opened a new dimension in the pontoon boat category. It has made these craft attractive to a growing number of boaters, many of whom might never have considered a “log-style” boat. With the addition of a third pontoon (or log) in the center, these ’toons turn more efficiently, ride better, accommodate larger engines and thus go faster than conventional two-loggers.
The addition of a third log doesn’t just increase buoyancy and load capacity, it also adds planing surface. In combination with larger engines, this ramps up performance. In short, these craft get out of the hole quicker and run faster than comparably sized pontoons. It also makes tritoons handle more like runabouts, with smoother banking in turns and a more stable ride through chop.
If all-out acceleration and runabout-like performance are not top priorities, then a traditional pontoon may be the right call. Two-loggers cost less than tritoons; they also weigh less, and because of the lack of drag of a third log, many owners choose relatively smaller engines—all of which can make a pontoon less expensive to own and insure. In addition, because they’re lighter, they are easier to tow and launch behind smaller vehicles.