Bennington’s 2550 QBR is ready for action, or inaction … your call.
Author: Alan Jones
If your idea of fun on the water is to load up the boat with guests, ski for a while and then head to a raft-up where you lay out a smorgasbord-worthy spread for snacking, the Bennington 2550 QBR is your kind of pontoon.
From the helm to the back, nothing else on the water is laid out like the 2550 QBR. In the stern resides this boat’s signature feature: the Entertainment Bar, which gives you two comfortable captain’s chairs behind a large Corian bar top. The reclining seats are staggered slightly to maintain the same distance from the trapezoid-shaped bar and can swivel aft to watch skiers or just get a change of scenery. To starboard is a long, two-tiered Corian countertop that’s perfect for laying out a spread like a Vegas buffet and is perfectly integrated into the cockpit, with the narrowest section toward the stern walk-through and gradually widening until it terminates behind the captain’s bucket.
The styling is contemporary, with a bow fence that slants backward, giving it an aerodynamic, Art Deco look. Of course, slanting the leading edge does cost you a bit of interior space, but when you include the bow-filler sectional that covers up the bow walk-through, it forms a U-lounge with plenty of room for guests. Our pontoon features pillowtop upholstery clad in Icon’s Soft-Touch vinyl, which is standard on all top-of-the-line Q-series Benningtons. It gives the 2550 QBR a luxurious feel that envelops the passenger in cushiness. The settees have more-than-average recline — added comfort for seated passengers. And if the human load isn’t near its 16-person max, a pair of folks can recline up front.
Bennington offers perhaps the widest range of engine packages for the 2550 QBR I’ve ever seen, ranging from 50 hp (don’t do it!) all the way to a Yamaha F350. I counted 24 engine/transom-height combinations, and that was only the Yamaha engines. Bennington will also rig other outboard brands, so the possibilities are many. And that’s not even counting the tube variables, of which there are plenty, ranging from standard 25-inch twins to a host of incrementally sportier tube setups. Despite having myriad choices, I can’t envision this model set up any different than our test boat. It features the Elliptical Sport Package (ESP) triple-tube setup — twin 25-inch outer tubes that have foil strakes on the inside and a gigantic 32-inch elliptical-shaped center tube. Powering it is the perfect engine for the job: the Yamaha F250 V6 Offshore model, which uses a large-bore 4.2L powerhead to generate power effortlessly.
The F250 pushed the 2550 on plane in only 2.5 seconds and took the 3,649-pound hull to 30 mph in 6.2 seconds. At the dock, the Bennington rep predicted speeds in the mid-40s, and he nailed it — top speed was exactly 45 mph.
The ESP tube package does far more than just get the 2550 QBR on plane quickly and running fast; it also amps up the handling. Thanks to the oversized 32-inch center tube and 25-inch outers, the pontoon really leans into a corner, allowing the driver to carve turns like he’s driving a well-designed sportboat. The only misstep in rigging our test boat is that it has hydraulic steering but lacks power assist, and I’m not sure why. On the Bennington website’s “Build This Boat” section, when you decline the power-steering option after ordering the ESP package, you see a warning: “ATTENTION, CSI survey results indicate that steering ease/difficulty is a major factor in a customer’s satisfaction with their boat. By declining this option with an ESP package and an engine 150 hp and above, expect two-handed maneuvering and increased effort to turn the boat.” I couldn’t have said it any better, so don’t “save” $2,289 by declining it.
Despite the increased effort, the 2550 QBR turns brilliantly, carving really hard turns with no blowout. The added lift of the center tube allows it to ride high in the water, making this a great choice for larger bodies of water.
Although this is the ultimate entertainment pontoon — literally a dinner party waiting to happen — it’s also a great watersports boat. There’s an available 46- or 52-inch ski pylon for towing, which can be removed easily when you aren’t in sports mode. A ski tow bar that encircles the outboard is also available. The rear swim platform is huge for a boat with an outboard, and on our test boat it’s surfaced with a faux teak option that extends to the rear third of the cockpit, giving it an extra-nautical look and giving passengers good grip. Thanks to the huge center tube, the centerline ski locker is voluminous. For easy reentry after using those skis, there’s a deep boarding ladder and stainless steel swimming pool-style grabrails. At 30 mph, the wake is flat, which will make slalom skiers happy, and at slower speeds there’s enough of a launch pad to give wakeboarders some air.
Bennington gives you many ways to customize the 2550 QBR. Highly recommended is the raised helm our boat sports, which gives the driver better visibility over the heads of people seated in front. The automotive-style helm station is upscale, and there’s a standard Sony M6 stereo tucked into the console with a remote control set into the dash. While it’s a good system, upgrading to the premium system with a Wet Sounds subwoofer amps up the fun. The standard Pure Comfort recliner captain’s chairs are comfortable, but Bennington offers a wider version for those who prefer Levi’s Loose-Fit jeans. On our test boat, the starboard-side entertainment area has an optional 12v refrigerator that augments the soft-sided under-seat cooler. And you can even get a Magma Deluxe grill, to turn this area into a functional alfresco galley. The other must-have options are the pop-up privacy room built into the end of the port-side settee and a Porta Potti.