Author: Alan Jones
Just when I thought I’d seen every seating permutation a pontoon can offer, Bennington comes up with a new arrangement for its 2550 RCLC.
Having twin captain’s chairs in the bow is a popular seating combination. It helps avoid “throne envy,” because two passengers can be like the skipper and reign supreme on a plush high-backed model like the one at the automotive-style Bennington helm. But the beef with such a layout is you lose the port-side settee and its attendant seating, decreasing the boat’s passenger capacity. Bennington gives you the best of both worlds, however, by placing two captain’s chairs to port, wrapping the starboard-side lounge around the bow and putting the entryway in the corner instead of the center where it normally resides, to compensate for lost seating capacity.
The stern lounge has a rearward-facing recliner to port, and it receives a unique treatment: a U-lounge setup with filler cushions that create a huge playpen area for sunning, reclining or frolicking kids. Remove the filler cushions, and there’s room for a faux-wood cockpit table that is just a bit wobbly when deployed. The only casualty is a bit of width in the narrow stern entryway on the port side, which connects the cockpit to the swim platform on the stern. The huge platform on our test boat is clad in faux teak and features a swimming pool-style stainless steel boarding ladder for the easy extraction of swimmers and skiers.
Our 2550 RCLC test boat is equipped with the Elliptical Sport Package (ESP), which gives you twin 25-inch tubes on the outside and a massively wide 32-inch elliptical center tube, complete with lifting strakes on both sides that combine to give it tremendous out-of-the-hole lift. Our pontoon is powered by a Mercury 225 Verado that uses a supercharger to provide incredible acceleration out of the hole and helps to put us on plane in just 2.7 seconds.
Despite the fury, the Mercury is one of the quietest four-strokes out there, as evidenced by our soundmeter’s reading of only 80 decibels at a cruise speed of 30 mph, which is about 3 or 4 decibels less than on most other models.
We reached 30 mph in 7.4 seconds and topped out at 41.1 mph, which is very respectable for a 27-foot-long pontoon that weighs 3,223 pounds dry, has a capacity of 16 passengers and is powered by 225 hp. This is nowhere near its maximum rating of 350 hp. A Yamaha F350 V-8 pushed the slightly heavier 2575 RL to a top speed of 51 mph.
At the helm, the driver sits behind a futuristic console that channels its inner luxury car. The Mercury throttle operates smoothly but is positioned a little far back for my preference. The DTS shifter mounted to the side of the helm may be less elegant than the original console-mount unit, but it feels good in your hand. The ultra-wide, 32-inch, smooth-sided elliptical center tube gives the 2550 a pivot point that allows it to bank in on turns just like a sportboat. The outside tubes have lifting strakes, called Performance Foils, on the insides only, and their unique shape assists with tracking in turns. The result is a pontoon that can turn very sharply but is also very predictable throughout its arc.
On our blustery test day in northern Indiana, the surface of Lake Wawasee was rumpled with small but steep waves and was a good test track for showing off one of the 2550’s better attributes: its choppy-water performance. The center tube’s running surface gave us extra lift to ride high in the water for greater comfort. But it’s also well integrated with the 25-inch round outer tubes, so it doesn’t tend to tilt left or right and gives the pontoon excellent straight-line tracking.
Bennington makes more fishing-centric models, such as the 2574 RFS with a fishing station in the bow that’s rigged for a trolling motor, but the 2550 will satisfy casual anglers, with its twin bow captain’s chair arrangement and a standard Garmin Echo 100 fishfinder that’s flush-mounted at the helm. The table between the bow chairs can serve as a rigging station, and there’s an option for rod holders. But — with its huge rear deck and monstrous centerline ski storage locker that has its own bilge pump — the 2550 is even more adept at activities such as skiing. There’s a choice of a 46- or 52-inch screw-in ski pylon. The 52-incher is recommended for engines such as the taller-than-usual “tower of power” in-line six-cylinder Mercury Verado or the Yamaha F350 V-8. The oval center tube, which is flatter on the bottom, helps give the 2550 a smallish wake that’s ideal for slalom skiers, and it won’t freak out the kids by launching them into the stratosphere as they’re dragged across the wake on tubes.
The 2550 RCLC is an ideal boat for entertaining. The U-lounge in the stern creates an intimate social area, since it’s less than the full width of the 8-foot, 6-inch deck. Up front, the captain’s chairs can be turned in to face the starboard-side settee and create another conversation zone. There’s an optional movable ottoman that has a cooler underneath for quick beverage access in the bow, and a rear beverage assembly station adjacent to the walk-through. The captain sits exactly between the two groups for easy eavesdropping — a smart strategy to prevent mutinies.
It would be difficult to imagine ordering any 2550 RCLC without the triple-tube ESP package, but Bennington does give you an alternative that doesn’t take away all the fun and performance: a twin 32-inch elliptical tube configuration. This is a major upgrade over twin round tubes and still allows a maximum of 150 hp, which is the minimum needed to do most watersports.
The 2550 RCLC comes with a good sound system that includes a Sony MP3 stereo with a remote at the helm and four lighted Kicker speakers, but you’re going to want the extra depth the Wet Sounds subwoofer option provides. Another good addition is the raised helm, which gives the driver better visibility over passengers sitting forward. Bennington gives you seven choices of panel colors and a wide variety of interior options, allowing owners to design a boat that reflects their personal style. Our test boat has the plush pillow-top furniture that is extra cushy and is a standard feature for pontoons in Bennington’s R-class (eclipsed in luxury only by its Q-class). For boaters into longer cruises who choose the elliptical center tube, you can get a 50-gallon fuel tank that’s an upgrade over the 36-gallon standard tank.