Sylvan’s new S5 Extreme takes pontooning to the edge with bad-to-the-bone styling and outstanding performance.
When people buy a pontoon that will be used for watersports, not only does it have to achieve a higher level of performance to pull skiers and ’boarders easily, but it also has to provide loads of comfortable seating, since watersports is a crowd-funning activity. But getting the look right is also important, because if it’s weak, you’re just a wannabe. That’s not a problem for the Sylvan S5 Extreme, a pontoon that successfully walks the walk.
One glance at the Sylvan S5 Extreme lets you know what’s different about this pontoon: its ’tune ’tude. If the Darth Vader-esque matte black-painted tubes don’t tip you off, maybe the fluorescent green (or electric blue) accent swooshes on the black fences will let you know this isn’t one of those pontoons that is only good for idling about the lake. The Extreme Package includes jumpseats on the rear deck that are perfect for booting up for a ski run or just chilling on the giant aft deck. One of the Extreme’s bright spots, if you’ll pardon the expression, is the amount of available mood and accent lighting. Not only are all cupholders and speakers lit with a purple/blue hue, there’s rope lighting on the aft seats and outside under the deck, above the fence’s color change, and underwater.
Our test boat featured the 300 Verado Pro, which is appropriate for this application since it only comes in black (you can choose an Arctic White version of the regular Verado). The Pro features a slightly shorter 4.8-inch gearcase (instead of the 5.44-inch gearcase on the regular Verado), which is used primarily in single-engine, high-performance applications. All S-Series Extremes (there’s a shorter S3 model) have 27-inch-diameter Revolutionary Planing Hull (RTP) tubes that look like mini boat hulls, complete with keels for better tracking, and they provide tremendous lift. The supercharged power of the 300 Verado Pro, combined with the RTP tubes, pushed the S5 on plane in only 2.2 seconds. Time to 30 mph was 7.7 seconds, and the S5 Extreme reached a terminal velocity of 46.5 mph with the Verado peaking out at 6400 rpm, which is its published maximum. Our S5 Extreme test boat featured Sylvan’s optional P25 center tube, which has a transom that can accommodate outboards with 25-inch shafts. On pontoons with 20-inch transoms, it often looks like the outboard is sunk too deep in the water, and while modern engine cowlings are watertight, having the powerhead farther above the water is a good thing. The P25 tube also has a built-in 60-gallon fuel tank for extra range, and because the fuel is on the centerline, there’s no listing. I prefer the three-tube option, but you can get the S5 with only two tubes, and since they are RPT tubes, the S5 will perform very well if you power it with its twin-tube 200 hp maximum.
The first benefit of the oversized RPT tubes you notice is that the S5 sits high in the water dockside. Most pontoon boats have round logs that use welded-on “wings” called lifting strakes to provide lift. But on the RPT design, the outer edges are like reverse chines with flat, planing surfaces, just inboard, that not only help it get out of the hole but also keep it on top of the water when cruising, for better fuel economy and nimble handling. Another benefit of the RPT tubes is that because they scoot along on top of the waves rather than plow through like torpedoes, there’s far less spray being shot out to the side that can catch the wind and boomerang into the cockpit.
I was able to crank the S5 into one of the tightest turning diameters I’ve ever accomplished in a near 27-foot pontoon. I just kept cranking the wheel and it kept turning. Its cornering was really flat, too, which delivered the precise feeling you would experience if you had been shrunk and seated in a slot car. Next time, I’m bringing a G-meter.
It’s quite apparent the S5 Extreme is intended for watersports, especially if you choose the forward-swept tower option (black, of course). And thanks to the RPT tubes that plane rather than plow, the wake at 30 mph is very flat for your slaloming pleasure. If wakeboarding is on the menu, pile some of the 14 people the Sylvan can hold in the stern, drop the speed down to 20 and trim up the engine a little to increase the wake size to jumpable heights. At the helm is a Murphy touchscreen display to control all of the boat’s systems. And because the Verado is a digital system, complete with a drive-by-wire DTS throttle and shift, you can get Mercury’s Smart Tow, which controls your speed (rpm based) and the intensity of your launch out of the hole. The biggest battle on this boat is to see who gets to lie on the dual rear-facing chaise recliners that are perfect for skier observation. And for something different, there’s a clear rear gate leading to the large aft deck.
When you have a sporty crowd on hand, a killer stereo is a must, and if you buy a pontoon that has Extreme in its name, a standard MP3 stereo — while being perfectly adequate — isn’t going to cut it. Sylvan offers a Premium Sound option that offers upgraded Polk Audio speakers and two — count ’em — subwoofers with an extra amp for the down-low audio goodness you need. To complete the system, you’ll want the tower blinged with coffee-can speakers, a Bimini with an eyebrow shade, a light bar and wakeboard racks.
On a pontoon like this, the more seating you have the merrier, so in addition to the four recliners there’s a second reclining captain’s chair to port. Filling in the gate gap up front is a filler seat option that turns the bow into one giant U-shaped seating area. If you are packing a boatload of kids, it wouldn’t hurt to have a Porta Potti for the starboard-side popup changing room under the rear lounger. And instead of the standard 28-ounce carpeting — since a majority of people on the boat are likely to be wet from recreational immersion — get the Sea Grass flooring option our test boat had. Get the extra cockpit table with the gray driftwood look that matches the standard table and the dash. For an extra bit of wow factor, there’s a power Bimini option.