The Catalina series gets elevated styling and remains multitalented.
For 2017, Avalon gives a Platinum bump in luxury to its Catalina series to create the 2785 Quad Lounger, a pontoon with a style all its own that’s made for watersports and entertaining.
The Art Deco period made curves mixed with geometric shapes ultramodern, and it’s a style that still holds up, as evidenced by Avalon Pontoons models that channel the Deco era, which makes them recognizable all the way across the lake. The Catalina Platinum series uses Deco 2 two-tone retro exterior panels, and buyers have plenty of color choices to help make one their own. Outside toward the bow are three chrome vents on each side that observers might assume are merely design elements but are actually functional. They create air flow into the storage area under the forward chaise lounges, to keep things dry underneath.
The sportiness factor is increased by the addition of a Decosport tower ($8,438) whose stylized struts support a generous shade-producing Bimini top. The canvas can be removed easily thanks to a no-snap design that uses Velcro instead. Integrated into the tower are two lighted speakers, and there’s an option to add a pair of coffee-can speakers that can be rotated for optimum effect, for $1,367. A rarity among pontoon boats is a full windshield that’s smoked for a little extra cool factor.
Inside, the Deco furniture is all new for 2017 and is unlike anything we’ve seen, with sculpted sections on top of backrests that are highlighted with black accents. The overstuffed foam underneath is extra plush, and the Matrix 50 Soft Touch vinyl seats seem to hug passengers. The intricate kick panels up front are made possible by the aluminum furniture frames and have quintessential Deco-style vents that radiate off the stereo speakers and also help promote air flow. Instead of the usual round, white cockpit table, there’s a smoked acrylic model that has chrome wire cupholders. And for a cleaner look, the inside fencing is covered by composite panels that hide the aluminum skeleton.
The Ensign II fiberglass helm is a new look for Avalon and features a sculpted Black Soft Touch wraparound design for better gauge viewing. There are a couple of surprising standard features, including the Garmin Striker 5DV color GPS fishfinder, which provides a great view of the bottom — a useful thing even for non-anglers. Mechanical speedometers on pontoon boats have always been problematic due to placement issues, but on the 2785 Catalina Platinum, a GPS speedometer is standard and is really helpful for towing skiers of all types, allowing the driver to dial in the proper speed.
Powering our test boat was a Suzuki DF250SS with a sporty flat-black finish and bold red graphics. Although this outboard was originally designed for tournament bass boats and high-performance flats boats, it’s a great choice for pontoons. It features a best-in-class 4.0L displacement, which allows it to make “easy” power, and has a low 2.08:1 gear ratio, allowing it to swing a larger prop and move more water. Out of the hole, the Suzuki pushed this 27-foot, 5-inch-long pontoon to plane in just 2.8 seconds. Time to 30 mph was 7.4 seconds and top speed was 40.2 mph, though the Suzuki only reached 5200 rpm — far short of its 6300 rpm max.
Avalon gives owners several options to improve handling over the standard two-pontoon setup. Based on budget and need, the progression upward starts with a basic $3,281 triple-tube package that adds a 25-inch center tube. The center tube can be upgraded to an Express log with lifting fins for $4,061. The first major jump is the Waveglider 25” Performance Package ($8,281), which has lifting fins (strakes) on both sides of all three 25-inch pontoons and other goodies such as an aluminum underskin. This configuration is ideal for owners who tend to load their boat with up to 14 people; it also delivers improved performance, since the fins are lifting as much of the pontoon out of the water as possible to reduce drag. The downside comes during hard cornering, because the tracking fins on the outside of the outer tubes “push back” and result in a flat attitude in corners. If maneuverability is high on the list of must-dos, the AXT7 Extreme Turning Package ($10,820), which our test boat had, is the ultimate. It has a larger 27-inch center tube with twin turning fins and 25-inch outer tubes that have the fins only on the inside. The larger center tube and fin configuration promotes a healthy bit of inward lean, enabling the driver to spin the included power steering wheel quickly for a crisp turn.
Our test boat was set up to be a watersports machine, but it can entertain with the best. The Quad Lounger setup includes twin rear-reclining stern lounges that are ideal for spotting, spectating and lounging, and the Platinum Edition includes twin stern storage compartments that open like a car’s trunk and make it easy to store all the skis and equipment. The rear deck is huge on this boat and includes standard Better-Than-Teak flooring with Deco carpeting inside the fences. Also included in the Extreme Turning Package is a stainless steel ski tow, so skiers and tubers have a lower tow point, in addition to the Decosport tower option. The stainless steel four-step boarding ladder with oversized grab bars is elegant and functional.
For entertaining, the standard stereo is an Infinity four-speaker system, but the JL Audio upgrade ($3,672) our pontoon had is a serious upgrade. Underneath the stern ski tow is a box containing batteries and other rigging apparatus, and its greatest utility is to provide a snack display board complete with cupholders. At night, the 2785 Quad Lounger is positively aglow with mood lighting on speakers, cupholders, side vents and the floor. To beef this up, add under-rubrail lighting for $719 and underwater lighting for $313.
Avalon’s Platinum Catalina package begins with a number of upgrades, including the twin Ambassador high-backed captain’s chairs. And for once, someone built a seat tall enough to make the ever-popular headrest bump function as it was intended instead of jabbing passengers in the shoulder blades. The helm can be upgraded to a raised platform, but it’s pretty pricey at $1,266.
For recreational skiers, replacing the Decosport tower with a standard Bimini top might make more sense, since there’s a ski tow on the stern already with the highly recommended Extreme Turning Package tube setup. For added shade, include an extra Bimini for $1,719 or add some pizzazz with an electric Bimini ($1,367).
The 2785 is highly transformable to handle different missions. Turning this Avalon into a floating camper is incredibly easy thanks to the full enclosure ($5,313) and the filler option ($719), which turns the bow section into a bigger-than-king-size bed. For hardcore anglers, the Catalina Fish is probably the way to go, but thanks to the 2785’s huge fore and aft decks, it can be fished up by including options such as a livewell ($305) and a trolling motor plug ($205). The rear-deck storage box makes a great rigging station and place to mount aftermarket rod holders.