Qwest LS Series 820 RLS
Posted: July 1, 2014
Qwest’s new LS Series 820 RLS packs a lot of party vibe in a compact space.Last year when we tested the 818 Splash Pad, we knew Qwest was on to something special. Its stern bar was an unheard of feature on an 18-foot pontoon boat, but it wasn’t too surprising: Qwest’s designers have been busting myths about compact pontoons for a long time. They’re masters at packing in more features per square foot than anyone, and with the Luxury Series (LS), they have brought an upscale touch to the niche. Something else they do is listen to consumers and dealers for new ways to give customers exactly what they want.
While the Splash Pad bar definitely scored — in addition to being a watering hole with a table big enough to go smorgasbord, it could also function as a great fishing station — it was designed to be used at rest. But a number of owners wanted a bar that could be used underway. So the wet bar was moved to the port side, inside the fence, where guests could prop their elbows and watch the scenery go by.
This year’s hit is the 820 RLS, a party platform with an optional four-stool Rear Bar that is certain to be the center of social activity, whether dining, playing cards or practicing your mixology. A large working surface has four lighted cupholders and two huge storage drawers below. The lower bin is actually a low-profile cooler for easy beverage accessibility. There’s a lip all around the countertop, which acts as an abbreviated fiddle rail to halt items from skidding off the edge of the world, but if you have items on the bar while on the move, placing them atop a silicone mat will keep them rooted in place.
Our test 820 RLS features twin 23-inch round tubes and is powered by a Mercury 60 Big Foot with a huge 2.33:1 gear ratio (1.83:1 is standard), which allows you to swing a bigger prop in order to move more water for more efficient propulsion. Given its modest power and twin-tube setup, the 820 RLS is no speed demon; it’s oriented for folks who don’t want to drink their cosmopolitans out of a sippy cup. Jamming the throttle put the 820 RLS on plane in 4.3 seconds with zero bowrise. In 10 seconds, it was humming along at 20 mph, which was close to our terminal velocity of 20.2 mph. Trimming the engine up a little raised the bow just enough to bring the front of the pontoons out of the water ever so slightly. If you trim it too far, the sound of the prop ventilating will let you know. Its happiest cruise speed was around 14 mph, which is fast enough to cover some lake and get some wind blowing in your hair. Max horsepower is 90, but having those extra 30 ponies will likely net less than a 5 mph increase. For this sub-20-footer, 60 to 70 hp seems to be its sweet spot.
If watersports are on your agenda, you can upgrade to the triple-tube configuration and pump up the ponies to 150. In recent tests with a new-generation Suzuki DF140, the triple-tube version reached 25 mph in 6.5 seconds, with a top speed of 40 mph, nearly double the speed of our twin-tube cruiser-centric version. This puts any watersport option within your wheelhouse.
Because of the modest horsepower level, the 820 has cable steering, which proved to be adequate for spinning the 820 into turns. The 23-inch logs have full keels, so tracking is precise, whether pointing it straight at your destination or coming about-face. Because of the twin-tube configuration, it leans to the outside a little in hard turns. The tubes don’t have the lifting strakes you find on the triple-tube models, so it rides lower in the water, especially if you are loaded up with the full passenger complement of 10 people. To prevent water from entering the cockpit when running, Qwest gives you oversized nosecone splash guards, which also create lift to prevent submarining if you hit a large cruiser wake.
The 820 RLS is all about entertaining, whether cruising at a leisurely pace or beached at a social sandbar. The stereo system on our test boat is exceptional. An Infinity Bluetooth head allows you to stream your personal set list from a mobile device anywhere on the boat. In addition to the four Infinity cockpit speakers, there are two pop-up cylinder speakers at the stern that are directional, so they can face the cockpit when everyone’s all aboard, or they can be rotated aft to give swimmers access to the jam. Reboarding is easy thanks to the aluminum ladder with tall swimming pool–style grabrails.
Some pontoons have a standing-room-only capability when packed to capacity, but on the 820 RLS there’s actually more than enough seats for everyone. Four sit on the bar stools, two sit in the aft lounger behind the swivelable captain’s chair and four more can hang out on twin chaise lounges in front.
Our test boat comes with the new-for-2014 Special Edition seating package, which gives you ultra high-backed lounges that feature pleated accents, giving you really upscale, comfortable seating. The lounges are also a little wider for extra real estate. Despite being fairly compact, the chaise lounges are long enough for a six-footer to recline in comfort, if you cheat a bit and angle your feet toward the centerline. Bumping up to the 822 model gives you a couple of more feet of stretching-out room up front. Our test boat features the optional Sea Grass vinyl flooring, which gives it a tropical feel, is comfortable on bare feet and provides easy cleanup when the day’s done.
The Qwest LS Series 820 RLS with the Special Edition package gives the captain an awesome throne for taking control. The high-backed helm chair comes with flip-up armrests and is really comfortable, except for the raised pad toward the top that prodded me a little between my shoulder blades. And a raised helm platform gives the driver a height advantage for peering over guests sitting in the forward chaise lounge. The LS Series helm station is generously provisioned with a standard Humminbird 386ci color GPS/fishfinder set into the gray wood dash.
If you will be carrying a full load of passengers or want to participate in watersports, going with the triple-tube setup makes sense. Not only will you have double the speed with at least a 140 hp outboard, but the boat will ride higher in the water, making it a better choice for larger bodies of water that can get choppy.
|LOA||19 ft., 8 in.|
|Engines||Mercury 60 FourStroke Big Foot, In-line 4|
|Standard Equipment||Italian-design tilt wheel, Infinity Bluetooth stereo and speakers w/device storage, LED courtesy lighting, woodgrain cockpit table, Bimini top|
|Optional Equipment||Trailer, docking lights, layback w/pop-up privacy curtain, Sea Grass flooring, full or partial vinyl teak flooring, extra set of Infinity speakers, lighted cupholders, LED lighting in seats|
|Builder||Apex Marine Inc.|
Qwest LS Series 820 RLS Owner Review
Purchased By: Martin and Annette Heneghan, plus Sinead, 16, Seamus, 18, and Conor, 19 , Glenview, Ill.
Purchased At: D&R Sports Center, Kalamazoo, Mich.
What we liked
- Seating capacity
- Teak-look flooring
- LED lighting
- Bluetooth stereo
What we would change
I wish it had a bigger rubrail, so when we dock it we don’t scratch it.
Why we bought it
My husband and I started boating a couple of years ago when we bought a place on the lake in Michigan. Our first boat was a bowrider, but it was hard for my dad to get in and out of the boat, so we started looking at pontoons. North Lake, where we keep out boat, isn’t very big, so when we saw the compact 820 Qwest, we thought it was a perfect fit. Our beautiful lake is spring fed and has really clean water, so we like to toss the anchor out and go swimming. The kids aren’t into skiing but love to tube, and with the 60 Mercury, the Qwest is fast enough for that while still being easy on gas. We also love to fish for crappie, and that’s really easy to do on a pontoon. The bar is a great social place for entertaining. D&R Sports Center is owned by Randy VanDam, the brother of the number-one angler in the world, Kevin VanDam, and they always give us great service.