When Editor Beattie rang to say there was a new Cobalt waiting to be tested down on Sydney’s Port Hacking, I couldn’t organise the test soon enough. Of all the boats I’ve tested over the years, every one of the five Cobalts I’ve sampled has been an absolute delight – not just because of the quality of their fit out, but the way they handled on the water too. Each has been a winner behind the wheel, usually due to an almost perfect match of power and hull, coupled with pleasant response from both helm and throttle.
I’d been slowly working my way up in size through the Cobalt range, and while the 302 Bowrider is a small step down from the last Cobalt I tested, this is the largest bowrider I’ve reviewed, and also the first one with twin, rather than single, sterndrives.
At 9.5m in length and weighing over 4.5 tonnes, its twin engines are its only power source. These start with a pair of MerCruiser’s 300hp 350 MAG MPi engines fitted with Alpha sterndrives in the $253,000 base model, through to the top power option of twin 425hp MerCruiser 496 MAG HO engines with Bravo III drives, as found in the boat reviewed here.
The latter power option, along with the ‘Captains Call’ dual exhaust system and a range of other options, takes the price of this boat as tested to over $330,000. So, definitely not a boat for the everyday family boat buyer after a simple craft at a bargain price, but a unique, well-built and outstanding boat just the same…
With 850hp in the enormous engine bay concealed under the electro-hydraulically operated rear deck moulding, the 302 is no slouch. At full throttle it can hit speeds approaching 100km/h, while little more than 2000rpm is necessary for a very comfortable (and far more economical) cruising speed of 35km/h. Depending on load and conditions, the hull is still planing at around 1600-1800rpm – the latter giving 25km/h. It’s no slouch out of the hole, coming on to the plane with a reasonable amount of ease and flat trim that belies its sheer size and weight.
As is the case with most Cobalt models, there’s nothing tricky about the design of the hull. It’s a conventional deep vee from bow through to the transom, where the deadrise measures 22 degrees. With the chines almost on full beam width from the transom to around the helm station, this boat is very stable at rest or underway.
I certainly wasn’t disappointed. This boat, just like anything else I’ve driven to date from the Cobalt range, is incredibly smooth. Response to the wheel is very positive without overdoing it, and the hull doesn’t want to ‘resist’ even the tightest of turns, even when approaching full power. The boat doesn’t want to buck or twist about, and it doesn’t overbank; it just pulls around as tight as you want to pull on the wheel, responding without a hitch.
LAYOUT AND DESIGN
As you’d expect from a bowrider of this size, this is one very spacious boat with a lot of inbuilt features. The traditional layout features a deep, comfortable bow area that is more a secondary cockpit rather than simply bow seating. A removable table enables this space to be set up as a second eating area, though it doesn’t benefit from the shade of the bimini top.
The bow anchor installation is typical of those utilised by many of the leading US builders for this style of boat. It provides a tidy solution that hides the winch, chain, chain lock and switches, plus the recessed stainless steel bow shroud, anchor and chain roller, in a neat package under a flush deck hatch.
Low level lights lend the bow and main cockpit a superb atmosphere after dark, and the recessed drink holders are nicely placed – down low on small side consoles or tucked neatly to the back of the seat cushions. There is a great deal of storage under the bow seating, while the moulded helm console conceals a surprisingly spacious enclosed storage and change room, accessed from the bow. The passenger console encloses a toilet complete with wash basin and bench, accessed from the space in front of the cockpit passenger seat.
The excellent sound system doesn’t overlook the bow cockpit, with two powerful speakers tucked back into each of the forward quarters, with a further five speakers covering the main cockpit. Fully iPod/MP3 compatible, the complete system can be controlled from the main stereo unit, the passengers console or via remote controls on the helm console and transom.
The main cockpit is planned around a walk-through layout, from the centre screen link between the bow and the main cockpit, across to the walk-through transom on the starboard side, past the large sun lounge and outdoor seating area, onto the two-tiered, teak-look lined boarding and swim platform.
Both the passenger and driver’s seats are very wide, being able to seat two if you want to squeeze up a bit, and the passenger seat has a backrest that swings over – allowing it to either face forward, or form a part of the lounge behind. Both seats have flip-up bolster rolls along the front edge to allow customised adjustment, for those who like to sit a little higher or stand up for any period, but still be able to brace back into the seat.
The main cockpit seat runs down the port side and across the face of the aft sun pad, with a shorter seat (over an insulated ice box) on the starboard side behind the wet bar and refrigerator. A lift-out table is stowed away in one of the numerous storage spaces found dotted about the boat.
There’s not much this boat doesn’t have as standard, including a vacuflush head with macerator in the bathroom, plus a grey water system, automatic fire protection and recessed bow docking lights. A variety of options can lend the Cobalt 302 a further touch of luxury, such as the engine upgrade, the stainless steel arch and bimini top, the premium stereo upgrade and swim platform lighting.
I’ve tested all sorts of boats with all types of tricky running surfaces designed to improve efficiency, ride, acceleration and cornering, and while there have been some outstanding performers, I can’t recall any hull that can match the Cobalt 302 for a blend of sheer simplicity and all-round, first-class performance.
Rpm Km/h Rpm Km/h
1000 14.3 3500 70.0
1800 27.8 4000 78.0
2000 38.9 4500 88.7
2500 50.7 4900 97.0
SPECIFICATIONS: COBALT 302 BOWRIDER
Length (inc. swim platform): 9.6m
Deadrise (at transom): 22 degrees
Weight: 4.5 tonnes
Holding Tank: 132lt
Engines: 2 × MerCruiser 496 MAG HO DTS (inc. Captains Call)
Test boat: JD’s Boatshed, Caringbah, Sydney (02) 9525 3166 www.jdsboatshed.com.au.