Valuable versatility

Graham Lloyd | VOLUME 27, ISSUE 3

Higher, bigger, better – that’s the mantra of MB Boat’s impressive new wakeboarding heavyweight, the B52V Wide Body 23.

The adage ‘bigger is better’ does not always ring true, but it is actually applicable to this bonzer boat. Wakeboarding has been the fastest-growing segment of the watersports arena for some years now, and that popularity has created a trend toward larger craft for two reasons.

Simply put, the bigger the boat the more water it displaces, in turn creating larger wakes that aid the more spectacular wakeboard tricks. And the sport’s popularity means more family and friends will be keen to join your crew to either watch or have a turn on the tow rope. A larger boat gives them room to spread out and relax, and to store all their gear. A bonus point here is that the more crew you can carry, the heavier the boat gets – and the better that wakes becomes!

However, to design a boat where size does indeed increase performance and efficiency isn’t that easy. Bulk alone is not the answer. You need clever hull design as well as quality materials and construction techniques, and to run with the best in the industry you also need a host of inclusions and/or options. Finally, you have to deliver genuine value for money.

Versatility is also desirable. A wake boat will find a much healthier market reception if it can also cater for water skiing and simply relaxed cruising, preferably with an ability to occasionally handle some rougher water.

In a ‘tick the box’ exercise covering these sought-after characteristics for a watersports champion, MB Boats’ B52V Wide Body 23 doesn’t leave any blank spaces. It’s visually impressive, too – the dramatic hues of our test boat certainly stood out in the crowd. The high topsides are immediately noticeable and, once onboard, you realise that the depth of the hull has been put to good use with an excess of stowage and clear floors, and with neither being affected by the equally generous ballast tanks.

Wake boats have multiple ballast tanks that can be filled with water to increase displacement and so increase the size of the wake. By filling different tanks to different levels, the shape and size of the wake can be tuned to suit individual rider preferences.

The B52 has two sub-floor tanks that run on either side from the front of the windscreen to the back of the boat and which carry 1045kg of water. That’s around twice the capacity of most other wake boats and it gives extra ability to deliver bigger wakes. Being so large, the tanks have baffles to keep the water from sloshing around too much.

FAST FILL

A hassle though with big ballast tank capacity is that it can take an inconveniently long time to fill and empty the tanks. Most wake boats use pumps to do that, but the B52 has large 10cm gates in the transom controlled by electrically-operated valves. Open the latter and water pressure fills the tanks in just on 60 seconds; other boats can take much longer. When you have finished ’boarding, you open the valves and idle along at 10km/h or so for the tanks to empty just as quickly. Using the valves, you can control how much water you hold in each tank and to adjust the wake – even just one side of the wake – to perfectly suit each rider.

There’s even more wake control on the B52. A large central trim tab on the transom can be deployed to either or both alter the wake characteristics and/or to adjust the ride angle of the boat. The running surfaces of the hull carry a noticeably deeper vee at the transom than most wake boats. That would help with a softer ride in rougher waters and it doesn’t seem to affect the wake pattern for more serious riders.

Up front, the bow has a fairly fine entry (also good for a softer ride) but with a significant flare leading up to the gun’l for a short distance back from the stem. Combined with the higher freeboard that the lines of the B52 provide, that flare helps keep rougher waters under control by pushing them down and away for a dryer ride.

The chines are quite narrow at first before broadening as they run aft, where they carry enough surface area to grip well in turns. There are two strakes either side of the keel, although the inner strake is shorter while the outer strake continues to about 60cm from the transom. A planing delta starts just forward of twin turn fins and widens as it continues back past the prop shaft, which carries a four-blade 14in diameter by 14.25in pitch prop that spins in front of a wedge-shaped rudder.

Set low in the transom are those dual 10cm circular gates for the ballast tanks as well as – in an unusual move for V8 power – a single outlet for the exhaust, as that system has a catalytic converter to reduce emissions.

CROWD PLEASER

The interior layout is conventional but very well executed. Both the bowrider and main cockpit are spacious, with triple-density foam and top-quality vinyls making the seating comfortable, durable and handsome. The boat is licensed to accommodate 16 people – quite a crowd! Just about all the seats lift up or out with stowage below and there are grab handles and drink holders in all the right spots.

The driver’s seat has high sides for great lateral support; it’s adjustable fore/aft and can swivel to face your crew and guests when you’re not driving. The seat is heated, and there’s a warm-air heater too, with an outlet in the driver’s footwell, plus a pull-out extendable hose to direct the flow of warmth elsewhere.

The dash panel is reminiscent of a high-end sports car such as an Aston Martin or Maserati, with clearly-marked gauges and digital displays presented in an anodised aluminium surround with a modern milled finish, and a matt-black cowl to reduce glare and reflections.

The wheel has a thick padded rim for comfort and four polished aluminium spokes for appearance. It’s tilt adjustable and I did lower it slightly to give me a clear view over the rim of all the gauges and readouts. I found I had a clear view too of the waters ahead through the screen, although a flip-up bolster on the seat gives a higher position to look over the screen.

The steering is light with three-and-a-half turns lock to lock. That makes the boat feel very responsive, as does the throttle. The latter is quite sensitive but beautiful to use once you’re used to it, with a nicely linear progression. An armrest behind the throttle/shift lever is welcome.

We emptied the ballast tanks and raised the trim tab for our first runs. The B52 slipped on plane most easily with minimal bow rise so that forward vision was unimpaired. The gun’l line lowers slightly in the run toward the stem, and that helps improve the view of the waters immediately ahead. Power was provided by a PCM ZR 409 6.0lt 410hp V8, which is an upgrade option from the standard PCM Excalibur 5.7lt 343hp engine. The extra horses in the engine bay gave the B52 effortless acceleration and performance, but I’d think the 5.7lt V8 would still be entirely pleasing.

SMOOTH SPEED

Even at a modest 2700rpm, the B52 was cruising comfortably at just over 31km/h and holding a relaxed attitude on the water. Through the mid-range the big engine was smooth and quiet, delivering speeds between 44.6km/h at 3500rpm to 58.6km/h at 4500rpm. Surprisingly, the V8 kept spooling up with no hint of strain to 6000rpm and a top end of 71.3km/h. At most cruise and watersports speeds, the PCM was just loafing, so fuel consumption is probably modest.

The B52 hull shows its class in turns too, with only slight banking and with the prop and hull holding tight even in near-boat-length turns at speed. Those strakes, chines, turn fins and running surfaces are well designed and work very nicely together. The result is a boat that’s gratifying to drive, and one where the driver can concentrate on delivering the best results for riders.

I was keen to see the effect of filling the ballast tanks, so we did that and a bit over a minute later we were accelerating out of the hole with just a tad more bow rise than before – but still less than some boats when running without ballast. Forward visibility suffered only minimally and even then the B52 quickly settled back to a good running attitude. The trim tab deployment helped; with it raised the boat did run slightly higher at the nose, but you’d probably want that to get the right wake for some riders. If not, a touch on the tab-down switch and the boat was back to level. Response to the tab was instantaneous and very effective.

The boat still handled just as well with the extra weight of the ballast. It was slightly more sensitive when banking into turns, and maybe acceleration and responsiveness were diminished marginally, but really you’d be hard pressed to notice much difference. Using the cruise control to set a specific speed and the ballast tanks and tab to suit an individual rider’s needs is simple, and it’s then easy to consistently re-create those conditions.

The B52 comes standard with a host of features and inclusions. The $83,000 starting price provides a paint-over-galvanised tandem-axle braked trailer, the swing-down-for-storage wake tower with removable racks on swivel mounts, bimini, full boat cover, dual batteries, cruise control, the ballast system, pop-up cleats, navigation and interior lights, lift-out carpet (neatly secured with magnets rather than often fiddly clips), bilge pump, stereo system with six speakers plus a 10in sub-woofer, and more.

Our test boat hit the water at $99,000. The highest option cost is for the larger 6.0lt engine, but that $5000 upgrade includes a closed cooling system. You can upgrade to the latter on the standard 5.7lt engine too for about $1900. Both engines incidentally are based on the famous small-block Chev V8, which is widely used for performance applications. Four extra speakers on the tower together with an additional amplifier come in at around $3000, whilst the trim tab is $1000. Other options include underwater lights on the transom (very cool at night), additional interior lighting, docking lights on the tower and the heater. That’s a very comprehensive package for under $100,000.

Based in northern California, the first MB sports boat was built in 1993 and since then the company has established itself as a producer of hand-built specialist wake designs with high attention to detail and strong construction. For example, only T6061 anodised aircraft-grade aluminium is used for hardware, and all the colours and graphics are in the gelcoat – there’s no paint or stickers. The hull carries a lifetime warranty and the upholstery and carpets are covered for three years, as is the PCM engine and drive train. The enthusiastic Australian distributor is based in Victoria with dealers (at this stage) in NSW and Queensland. Stocks of spares and components for the boat are held locally, and there’s an established Aussie support base for PCM, too.

All in all, the B52 is an impressive boat – both visually and in terms of performance. The hull design and ballast system are innovative and effective. The boat is great to drive and offers that valuable versatility – it’ll handle everything from serious wakeboarding through to casual skiing or towsports to family cruising. The high topsides and soft-riding hull keep it comfortable in rougher waters and it has loads of space for the crew and their gear. If you’re in the market, it’s definitely worthy of a closer look.

SPECIFICATIONS: MB BOATS B52V WIDE BODY 23
Length (hull): 7.01m
Beam: 2.54m
Draft: 0.58m
Weight: 1863kg
Capacity: 16 persons
Fuel capacity: 246lt
Ballast capacity: 1045kg
Power (standard): PCM 5.7lt V8, 256kW/343hp
Power (as tested): PCM 6.0lt V8, 306kW/410hp
Price from: $83,000
Price as tested: $99,000
Fore more information, contact MB Boats Australia, call: 0434 984 306, go to: www.mbboats.com.au


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