All-American all-rounder

Chris Beattie | VOLUME 31, ISSUE 1

Can a boat be all things to all people? Well, the Robalo R207 sure comes close …

Every once in a while I find myself at the helm of a boat thinking: “yes, this one fits perfectly” … like a good pair of shoes or a comfy lounge chair. The Robalo R207 is a case in point. Almost.

It ticked every box, bar two – there was nowhere handy to stash my pocket clutter and I risked a hernia to get to the battery switch. However, they’re rather minor points in the overall Robalo R207 scheme of things and massively overshadowed by how very, very good this boat is at practically everything. And that includes value for money, with our optioned-up test craft coming in at around $108,000.

The Robalo comes to us via the same people who make the equally American-styled and finished Chaparral range of luxury day boats and cruisers.

Both US brands are represented in Australia by the dynamic duo of Dani Limback and Scott O’Hare under the Aussie Boat Sales banner.

There is no shortage of boats that claim to be all things to all boaties. Showrooms and webpages are full of them, so it takes a special boat to stand out from the fleet – the versatile Robalo R207 is one such craft.

Whether you’re looking to go cruising, fishing, indulge in a little towsports, or just park off your favourite bit of coastline and chill, the R207 can accommodate you effortlessly.

Where the R207 really excels is in its use of available space. You get the feeling that you’re actually on a larger boat as there is so much internal room – enough for eight people. The rear cockpit is deeper than on many similarly styled craft, but is still self-draining, and the hull boasts a lot of freeboard for its length.

QUALITY THROUGHOUT

There’s also a sense of quality everywhere you look in terms of fittings, fixtures, surfaces and upholstery.

Stern access is easy via two boarding platforms that flank the big 200hp Honda outboard. Further in are non-slip steps that double as fold-up seat backs in either transom corner.

Fishos will appreciate the spacious, lined, self-draining fish lockers that reside beneath both the skipper’s and first mate’s seats. In between is a long and deep storage compartment for watersports gear, while there is a further large, lined bin in the bow.

Other fishing-friendly touches include stainless steel toerails and padded gunwales on both cockpit sides, rod storage racks in both coamings and a decent livebait tank under the central transom lounge. Removing the clip-in cushions in the bow also gives anglers a second casting platform.

Twin gunwale rodholders in the cockpit corners are augmented by four more holders in the optional tow tower.

Additional stowage is found under both central consoles, with a compact, though serviceable head located inside the port-side console. In the bow cockpit, there is stowage under both rear seats.

Skippers are going to like the helm seating, which is generously upholstered, with optional bolsters on our test craft. There’s adequate, though not abundant, space to house electronic displays – ours had yet to receive a chartplotter/ sounder – and all rocker switches were in easy reach, as was Honda’s throttle control. The lack of a parcel shelf or pocket was an annoyance, but otherwise visibility and comfort were excellent.

EASY DRIVER

Underway, the R207 was fun and easy to drive and extremely dry, with the hull’s wide flared bow and high sides keeping spray in the bay where it belonged. Throttle response from the big Honda was very impressive and the 200hp four-stroke was well matched to the hull.

While we had mixed conditions during the test period, the second day was mirror flat on Port Phillip Bay and we managed an impressive WOT of almost 43 knots (80km/h) at 5700rpm. Of more use in the real world was its ideal cruising performance, with the Honda ticking over at 3500rpm for a respectable 22 knots (40km/h), with plenty of mid-range grunt available.

With a 227lt fuel capacity, the big Honda will easily deliver a day’s worth of fun and games with plenty to spare.

The R207 maintains a very flat aspect when turning, delivering a soft, smooth ride in medium chop, and was exceptionally stable at rest.

From an entertaining point of view, the Robalo will put crew at ease with plenty of drinkholders and grabrails where they’re needed and a quality Jensen sound system with speakers in both cockpits.

Anchoring is relatively easy, with a large well in the bow – a welcome touch, given that many US bowriders have only token anchoring capacity due to their mostly freshwater focus.

And if the fish aren’t biting, the optional tow tower offers other activity options to keep the crew occupied.

Our test boat had a single battery and switch fitted under the starboard rear jump seat, with space for a second battery in the opposite cockpit corner. I found the battery switch a bit of a stretch and would like to have seen it fitted within easier reach.

Overall, though, the R207 proved to be a very competent and enjoyable boat to fling around the bay. It is a smartly styled craft with plenty of quality touches and lots of practicality built in. It could easily accommodate a large and mixed crew in comfort and boasts a lot of versatility within its high gunwales.

With pricing beginning at around $90,000 for the base model with 115hp Mercury FourStroke power, I’m thinking we’re going to see more Robalos on the water this summer.

ROBALO R207

Overall length: 6.27m

Beam: 2.54m

Dry weight: 1451kg

Capacity: 8 persons

Fuel capacity: 227lt

Power as tested: 200hp Honda

Price from: $90,000

Price as tested: $108,000

More information: Robalo Australia, tel: (03) 9397 6977. Web: RobaloAustralia.com.au.


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