These days, buyers in the market for a new sports cruiser have a plethora of choices. Often the difference between models is only minor and, at times, subtle. Every now and then, though, a new boat comes along that stands out from the pack, offering that little bit extra or boasting something that sets it apart. Sometimes it might be a single detail, but occasionally a combination of innovation and design comes together to produce something really special – the X-Factor.
We recently had a close look at the new Chaparral 327 SSX and took it for a run on Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay. To say we were impressed would be an understatement. It wasn’t just its styling, although it looks really sporty, or its performance, which we found invigorating, or the social layout, which we thought sensational; it’s all that and more.
This is a unique boat that is not easy to define. It’s primarily a day boat, a bowrider with a layout suited to socialising with family and friends, but it’s also a performance sports boat that can get up and boogie, with a top speed well over 50kt (93km/h) and, as if that wasn’t enough, it’s also an overnighter, featuring a unique full-beam cabin, with a separate bathroom.
At the Miami International Boat Show last year, it was awarded the NMMA (National Marine Manufacturers Association) Innovation Award in the highly-competitive, 25' to 60' Cruiser category, including sports and fishing boats.
Chaparral has been building boats in the US in Nashville, Georgia, since 1965. It currently builds 29 different models, ranging from 18 to 42 feet.
“Innovation and new product development is one of the four cornerstones of Chaparral,” said company president Jim Lane. “We rate the 327 SSX among the most exciting boats we’ve ever developed. With its never-before-seen cabin design, the 327 SSX is equal parts bowrider, sport boat and cruiser.”
Chaparral has a patent pending for the cockpit-cabin layout of the 327 SSX; a unique design in which the cabin is cleverly accommodated forward, spanning the full beam of the boat.
At 9.91m long overall, this is a social boat with room for family and guests to spread out and find their own space. In the cockpit, L-shaped seating along the port side and the transom is complemented by a removable side-mount table that slots in easily when needed. To starboard, a wet bar incorporating a sink with a pull-out tap and an under-bench stainless steel fridge means that guests don’t need to go far for a refreshing drink or snack.
A standard hardtop over the cockpit provides welcome shade and protection from the elements and, for those who hail from the southern states, they might consider adding the optional Lexan rigid anti-clouding clears, that slide into sail tracks to fully enclose the cockpit. A large overhead pop-up hatch is located front and centre in the hardtop, so even with the clears fitted, there is still plenty of fresh air.
Sun worshippers enjoy plenty of choice on this boat. Access to the open bow section is via a gated passageway through the forward bulkhead. Here there’s seating for six adults, where they can relax, safely lounge or sit around in comfort, even while underway. As in the cockpit, there is provision for a removable table. Convenient cup holders are located in all the right places, with a remote stereo control and speakers either side. Cool drinks can also be at hand, with a self-draining ice chest built in under the forward seats.
Forward of the open bow there’s a remote spotlight, with the anchor winch and a chain locker housed neatly under a lift-up hatch. Remote anchor controls are located close by.
The bow isn’t the only place on board to relax and catch a few rays. On the transom, an aft-facing seat looks out over the swim platform. Built-in cup holders, remote stereo controls and another ice box built in to the swim platform mean that even out here you’re not exactly going native. Guests can enjoy the occasional cooling dip (there’s a handy swim ladder and hot and cold transom shower located close by), or watch the kids frolic in the water and, if it all gets a bit tiring, you can just flick a switch and the seat fold downs to form a large day bed or sun lounge.
Storage is plentiful all over this boat. A large transom locker houses the shore power lead and provides a handy spot for lines, fenders, etc. There’s storage under the seats in the cockpit and the bow and a hatch in the cockpit sole opens to reveal a cavernous space, perfect for storing skis, wakeboards, water toys or dive gear. Here, too, are dedicated batteries for the stereo system that comes standard and a battery charger. There is also room for an optional inverter or 240v generator.
The helm is located forward to starboard. The skipper’s seat is a double and is comfortable and bolstered. A matching companion seat, adjacent to port, houses a removable ice cooler.
The custom moulded dash is finished in non-glare ‘liquid silver’, with a hand-stitched upholstered visor. The skipper has good views forward and to either side and the dash is logically laid out. A Garmin 5208 GPS/plotter was front and centre on our test boat, with rocker switches either side and an array of Chaparral gauges. Chaparral manufactures its own gauges fitted to all its boats. They’re nitrogen-pressurised, fog-free and waterproof, so hosing the boat out at day’s end isn’t an issue. The tilt-adjustable, polished spoke leather wheel looks and feels good, and the engine controls fall easily to hand.
Getting to the engines is easy, with the aft section rising on a hydraulic ram at the flick of a switch. The twin MerCruiser 8.2lt, 380hp engines are easy to get to, with good access to everything you need on a day-to-day basis. Engine blowers, automatic fire suppressant system, holding tank and the batteries for engine and house are all located here, as is the hot water service that works on 240v and heat exchanger.
For total engine access, the cover rolls completely out of the way, providing unencumbered access to the powerplants.
It’s almost unimaginable that you could have so much accommodation on a bowrider. The moulded dash forward of the companion seat opens to reveal a large cabin below decks. Stepping inside, there are cabinets running along the port side, with storage underneath. Overhead, there is more storage and a microwave. An optional 58cm TV can also be fitted and would be perfectly viewable from the Ultra Leather L-shaped lounge opposite. The lounge converts easily to a double bed, with more storage and (cedar-lined) hanging space aft. It’s compact, but shows an excellent use of space. Light timber cabinetry and three opening portholes create a light, airy feel, with plenty of cross-flow ventilation.
Forward is the fully-enclosed head/shower. A mirrored vanity unit with a solid surface counter top incorporates a sink with pull-out fawcett that doubles as a shower wand. A hinged shower seat rises to reveal a Vacuflush toilet and, while not exactly standing height, it certainly provides all of the necessities for a weekend or overnighter. There are plenty of grab rails, 12v lighting and an extractor fan, along with a frosted, opening porthole.
With short, sharp, one metre waves out on the bay, it wasn’t an ideal day for testing a sports cruiser, let alone a bowrider. Nevertheless, I’d driven the 327 SSX before in calm waters and knew she was capable of exciting performance, but her handling in these conditions surprised me.
“Impeccable” is the word that comes to mind. We threw her around into tight turns and serpentines at speeds that would have tested much larger boats in the conditions and nothing seemed to faze her. With no covers or clears fitted, I expected to get thoroughly drenched, yet other than a light bit of spray running into the sea at well over 30 knots (55km/h), she stayed remarkably dry.
This is a really fun boat to drive, reminiscent of a tricked-up muscle car. Boasting plenty of power, she jumps straight out of the hole, with an exhaust burble that, in itself, gets the adrenaline pumping. She’s also predictable and soft riding, thanks to Chaparral’s traditional deep-V forward hull design, with ‘Extended V-Plane’ aft. The V-Plane extends the hull either side of the drive unit, allowing the boat to get up on the plane quicker and at slower speeds. With more running surface on the water, the boat handles better and remains stable, even in high-speed, full-lock turns.
The engines max out at 4800rpm, giving a top speed of 53 knots (98km/h), but running at around 3000rpm seems about right for this boat. This works out to around 30kt, using 88 lt/ hr. At that speed you’re covering good ground without having to take out a second mortgage to pay for the fuel. With a generous fuel capacity of 568lt and leaving a bit in reserve, expect a range of about 165nm (305km).
This is a really impressive boat on a number of levels. Chaparrals are put together well, with lots of attention to detail and plenty of standard inclusions, including LED mood lighting, fuel fillers on each side, carbon monoxide detectors standard and a premium sound system with remotes throughout the boat. And that’s before we even touch on the ride and performance, which is sensational.
This is a boat suited to young couples and families with kids of all ages. There is plenty of room to entertain a crowd as well as space to kick back and relax. With its stirring performance and handling, towing the kids around on wake boards, skis and water toys is well within its capabilities and, with its turn of speed, you can get to your playground faster and stay longer. But then again, with all of the comforts on board this boat, and if the mood takes you, why go home at all? Stay the night or maybe even the weekend; and enjoy the X-Factor while you’re at it.
SPECIFICATIONS: CHAPARRAL 327 SSX
Draft: .94 m
Fuel capacity: 568lt
Holding tank: 57lt
Engine: Twin MerCruiser MAG 8.2lt 380hp with Bravo 3X legs
Price as tested: $250,000
For more information, contact Chaparral Boats Australia, tel (03) 9397 6977, www.chaparralboats.com.