MasterCraft X-30

Posted: September 1, 2013

MasterCraft’s X-30 is the premier do-it-all watersports boat — loaded with comfort and style and packing some attitude.

By: Alan Jones

When you explore the various tabs on MasterCraft’s “Design-a-Boat” feature, you’re asked to click what kind of result you are seeking. Out of the 13 models shown, the X-30 was one of only three boats to have all of these characteristics: clean slalom wake, thick rampy wake with a crisp lip and a powerful surf wake shape. That pretty much sums up what the ideal ski boat should do.

Unique Factor
MasterCraft’s X-30 is part of a new generation of X-craft with an all-new look that features a shearline that dips down just aft of amidships, where the tower is anchored, and curves up again, looking a bit retro and very cool. This feature combines with the optional ZFT 4 tower to create a distinctive look that skiers can identify a mile away.

Rear-facing seats are always in demand on ski boats, so passengers can get a ringside seat for the skiing antics; I mean, who doesn’t enjoy a good face-plant … when it happens to someone else. But usually such seats are restricted to the port-side chaise or a flip-down jumpseat between the consoles. MasterCraft more than doubled the usual backward-looking seating capacity with a stern bench seat that converts to a rearward couch in literally 1 second using only one hand.

The most striking feature of the X-30 is the extensive use of billet aluminum in places such as the oversized glove box and the console walk-through dam. At the helm, several panels as well as the accessory knobs and throttle lever are billet. It not only looks cool, but this material is really durable and machined from one piece rather than being cast, so it’s strong. I generally dislike having a lot of metal that can reflect the sun into your eyes, but the finish is such that this doesn’t happen.

The X-30 is the largest of the “X” boats to have a traditional pointy bow rather than the “SuperFly,” aka pickle-fork bow section, that MasterCraft is known for. But the designers wisely chose to carry the beam farther forward to make the bow section extra roomy, which provides enough room for a wide rear-facing observer seat on the centerline that features an anchor locker behind the backrest — a rarity on ski boats. I’m not sure why the interior designers chose to include a raised bolster at the top of the solo seatbacks. If anything, the human body’s shoulder blades protrude at this height, so if you’re going to have a feature in the seatbacks, they should be recessed not raised. I’m seeing this annoying trend on auto and airline seats and don’t get it.

Performance
Most often when we get a boat to test, it features the hair-on-fire optional engine, to showcase the boat at its wildest, but MasterCraft sent us an X-30 powered by the standard 5.7L Ilmor that produces 320 hp. The 23-foot, 4-inch boat is the heaviest in its class at 4,700 pounds, to help it carve up giant wakeboarding and wakesurfing wakes, so you might figure it would need more power to push it properly. But surprisingly, the little Ilmor that could, did. It even sounds great with a satisfying high-performance growl.

Although the hull is a progressive deep-V that’s sharper at the entry, it flattens out toward the stern to enhance the size and shape of the surfing wake and requires less power to get on plane. Its acceleration times were very respectable, getting on plane in 3.2 seconds, with a 0-30 mph time of 7 seconds. Top speed was right at 40 mph, which is on the slower side when compared to a typical runabout but is sufficient for its application.

Handling
With its beefy hull, the X-30 has a luxe ride similar to a luxury sport car. At full surfing plow, it’s still easy to drive and tracks well. Although the bow rides high at its best surfing speed of 10.5 mph, we didn’t lose forward vision, which can sometimes be a problem. Shorter drivers might need the flip-up bolster, though. At wakeboarding speeds in the low 20s, the boat maintains nimble steering and agility that you wouldn’t expect from such a heavy hull. Having triple tracking fins kept it from blowing out when we cranked it hard over in express skier-retrieval mode. Although the wheel looks exceedingly sporty, its vast expanse of metal where your hands touch it didn’t feel pleasing, and on cold days drivers would be wearing gloves.

Best Uses
This boat is designed primarily to carve up massive wakes for both wakesurfing and wakeboarding. It comes standard with nearly 1,000 pounds of ballast, and you can include an option for plug ‘n’ play ballast sacks to take it beyond ginormous. MasterCraft uses optional Surf Tabs (elongated trim tabs) to help the X-30 lean over to achieve a surf wake with a huge sweet spot. The advantage of this scheme, rather than solely using ballast, is its on-the-fly adjustability. This allows the surfer to traverse the wake and surf both sides. A MasterCraft tutorial video for the X-30 advises drivers to turn the wheel slightly toward the side the rider is on to create a larger sweet spot. Adding the optional Attitude Adjustment Plate (a large center trim tab) allows the driver to tweak the shape and size of the wake and control the running angle of the boat, much like someone driving a sterndrive or outboard-powered boat can trim up or down. Another advantage of the Attitude Adjustment Plate is that it can turn your wake-generating boat into a slalom-friendly boat by pushing the bow down to soften and vastly reduce the wake’s size.

If you own such a versatile boat, you’re going to need storage for every type of ski, and the X-30 gets off to a strong start with a pair of board racks attached to the optional ZFT 4 tower, which hold boards in place using clamps rather than bungee cords that can thwack you in the face. The tower’s fold-down design makes it easy for the slightest member of your crew to drop it down easily for cruising under bridges, trailering it or putting it in the garage. The X-30 has a massive 116 cubic feet of storage space. Under the port-side seats, there are no bulkheads to segment storage, so stowing even the longest boards is doable. And under the starboard-side seat is a carry-on Igloo cooler and a trash can for empties.

Preferred Setup
As our test proved, even the smallest Ilmor is satisfactory, but MasterCraft gives you the ability to incrementally ratchet up the power with a 6.0L (382 hp), a 6.2L (430 hp) and a 7.4L monster that puts out 522 hp and 524 foot pounds of torque. Out of the optional engines, the 6.2L gets the nod with its big fat torque curve, but it comes with an $11,210 upcharge.

I was surprised to learn that the tracking fins are an option, as are the convertible rear bench and Bimini top — something you don’t expect on a boat with a near six-figure MSRP by the time you option it out properly. But I was also surprised to learn the oversized teak swim platform is standard, although MasterCraft’s “waterfall” fiberglass platform is a winner, with a sloped rear edge that allows wakeboarders to easily slide into the water without grinding down the gelcoat. No X30 should leave the factory without Surf Tabs and the Attitude Adjustment Plate; wake control and versatility are the reasons you buy this model. At the helm, a 4.3-inch display is standard, but you would be remiss not to order the BIG (Boat Instrument Gauge) 7-inch touch-screen monitor that you can learn to operate in minutes without cracking the owner’s manual.

Specifications

LOA 23 ft., 4 in.
Beam 8 ft., 6 in.
Fuel 60 gals.
Engines tested with Ilmor MV8 5.7
Base Price $87,770 (as tested)
Standard Equipment JL Audio sound system w/subwoofer, teak swim platform, 4.5-inch touch-screen display, wakeboard tower, cruise control, snap-in carpeting
Optional Equipment Surf Tabs, Attitude Adjustment Plate, tracking fins, 7-inch touch-screen display, convertible rear bench seat, filler cushions, cockpit table, heater, custom trailer
Builder MasterCraft; mastercraft.com

MasterCraft X-30 Owner Review

Purchased By: Todd and Angie Droz, plus Ethan, 10, and Avery, 7 , Knoxville, Tenn.

Purchased At: American Boat Center, Knoxville, Tenn.


What we liked

- Touch-screen display for dialing in wake and speed
- Waterfall swim platform
- Attractive, unique styling
- Great wake for surfing and wakeboarding
- Convertible rear-facing seat


What we would change

I would like more Bluetooth compatibility with the stereo. I wish I had gotten the X-30 with the optional plug ‘n’ play ballast system.


Why we bought it

We started with an 18-foot Sea Ray and then got more involved in watersports, so we bought a used entry-level direct-drive ski boat, which we had for four years. We wanted to move up and loved the X-30’s wake and 16-person capacity. My family and I are into wakeboarding and surfing and wanted something that was easy to set up for a variety of riders and styles. Sometimes we like to go cruising on the scenic Tennessee River and find a private cove and go swimming. In the summer, we are out skiing every weekend and can sometimes sneak out for a quick set after work. The quality of the MasterCraft is unreal. I’ve ridden in a bunch of ski boats, but none is better than this boat. American Boat Center understands how important it is for us to maximize our short summer, and they always have a sense of urgency when working on my boat to make sure we don’t lose any water time.

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