Cruisers Sport Series 328 Bow Rider

Posted: May 1, 2014

For Cruisers Yachts 60th birthday, its designers gave the company quite a present with the Limited Edition Black Diamond 328 Bow Rider

By: Alan Jones

In September 2012, Cruisers Yachts jump-started its Sport Series by acquiring the Azure line, the highly regarded group of fiberglass bowriders built by the Bennington group. Since then, Cruisers Yachts has been building them in its home of Oconto, Wis., to the same exacting standards as its lineup of cabin cruisers that range from 31 to 54 feet long. The 328 is the newest and largest addition to the Sport Series, and it is the first to be designed in-house and truly made its own by the legendary builder that recently celebrated its 60th anniversary.

Unique Factor
Although we’ve seen other big bowriders — which are all the rage these days — Cruisers Sport Series 328 Bow Rider is a fresh take on the genre. The stern sunpad is one feature with a number of clever features. It’s 5 feet, 4 inches wide and 6 feet long, so there’s plenty of room for two or more to lounge in comfort. An electric ram raises the middle section to form backrests for the stern bench seat and rearward-facing transom lounge. Laid flat, the sunpad has four independent articulating backrests, so two people can recline facing forward, backward or have reclining passengers facing each other, catty-corner. Underneath the pad are the twin engines, and while things like engine access aren’t sexy (your mechanic might disagree), the 328 uses an electric ram to open the engine hatch wide. Access is so good you can actually step down into the engine compartment where all user-serviceable items are within easy reach.

Unlike a lot of cabins found on some mega bowriders, which are best used as kids’ forts, this one is cleverly designed so adults have indoor seating with plenty of headroom. And instead of a complicated filler-cushion scheme that will challenge your puzzle-solving skills, the doublewide berth is created by sliding one cushion out. There’s even a head compartment below with 5 feet, 4 inches of headroom, complete with a shower, a stylishly curved sink, a vanity and a standard electric toilet with a holding tank. Should you want a cool beverage without going topside, there’s an optional refrigerator, and for entertainment, there’s a TV/DVD option.

Performance
Our test boat features twin Volvo-Penta 5.7L V-8 engines, which produce 320 hp each. In addition to Duoprop outdrives, the flat planing pad in the stern assisted in improving the 328’s time to plane. These features combined to give the 11,000-pound Cruisers a time to plane of 3.9 seconds, which is pretty impressive considering it has a 22-degree deadrise, which normally makes it harder to reach plane quickly. Doing an impression of a 20-something sportboat, its time to 30 mph was 8.3 seconds, with a sprightly top speed of 50.8 mph.

Of course if you are chronically late, you can pump up the attitude a little by going with Volvo Penta’s new 380 hp 6.0L V-8 that weighs five pounds less than the 320 hp 5.7L engines. This option would put your top speed in the mid-50s. There’s also a twin 300 hp diesel option.

Handling
One of the biggest surprises is how easy the near-33-foot-long Cruisers 328 is to drive. With its 10-foot, 10-inch-wide beam, this flagship of the Sport Series casts an imposing figure that might be intimidating to someone more accustomed to driving something they could tow with their Crossover SUV. Here’s the shocker: Our test boat is easier to drive than a 20-footer. It’s equipped with optional joystick docking, so there is virtually no situation that will rattle you, once you get past the grueling 10-minute learning curve. Where the current and wind used to threaten to push you toward the nearest really expensive boat, now a slight movement of the joystick allows you to maneuver in any direction with total control. Although our boat is equipped with trim tabs, you can upgrade to Volvo Penta’s Boat Trim system that automatically trims the boat for you — bow up and down and levels from side to side — making even beginners look good when driving. Mercury also offers Joystick docking, so whatever power flavor you choose, you’re in total control.

Out in open water on the vast expanse that is Green Bay, not too far from the Cruisers Yachts factory, it was a bit lumpy. Not that you would notice if you were riding with your eyes closed. The combination of six-plus tons of boat heft, when loaded, plus the deep-V hull with 22 degrees of deadrise, allowed the 328 to cleave through the waves. Even plowing up some rollers with our wake did nothing to upset it. There aren’t many bowriders I would take to the Bahamas, but I wouldn’t hesitate to go island-hopping with this boat. The handling is nimble, and you can whip it in hard corners with ease and precision.

Best Uses
The 328’s primary mission is as a dayboat that you can load up with as many passengers as you have PFDs for — within common sense — since it’s certified as a yacht. A useful feature is the set of doublewide helm seats that allow two couples to face forward when cruising. Then when at rest, you can spin both seats around to face the stern, creating a giant cockpit conversation pit, perfect for parties. Up front is another huge gathering spot in the U-lounge that will give two groups the opportunity to talk about each other. Like in the cockpit, the wraparound seating is characterized by a generous amount of freeboard for passenger safety. A large wooden table for the bow sits to starboard and preserves walking-around room while providing lots of consumables parking space.

Although you can equip the 328 with an aluminum sport arch, there’s no tow point attachment and no stern ski tow attachment, which is a shame since the boat plows up a beautiful jumping wake at 20 mph.

Where the Cruisers Sport Series 328 is really in its element is plying the vast number of large bodies of water that dot North America. You get all the amenities of a fun-in-the-sun boat with the capability to handle adverse conditions should Mother Nature flip the toggle switch on her wind machine. With a 154-gallon fuel tank, you have the range to go exploring or cruising.

Preferred Setup
Our test boat features the Limited Edition Black Diamond styling package that Cruisers Yachts is featuring to commemorate its 60th anniversary. Only two boats in its lineup have this option (the other is the 45 Cantius cruiser). In addition to the Jet Black hull, a special red, black, silver and white upholstery scheme gives it some pop. It features Silvertex vinyl for the colored sections, which has a fabric-like texture that looks cool and keeps the surface cooler. Underneath is DriFast foam and a seat frame designed to channel any water off. A key addition needed to make the 328 the ultimate bowrider is a through-hull windlass with a chrome anchor that’s controlled at the helm or with foot controls at the bow. At the roomy helm, adding the Raymarine E97 display augments the Volvo Penta display.