Anyone seeing you drive the Formula 310 FX5 will assume you’re cool, even if you’re not.
Author: Alan Jones
One of the highlights of my year is when I see a new Formula back down the ramp where we test boats on Lake Wawasee in northern Indiana. This year, it was a 310 FX5, a slexy (sleek and sexy) 31-footer evoking a high-performance attitude thanks to its special FX graphics and wrap-around windshield. Since the factory in Decatur is a little less than two hours away, the Formula folks, being the organized group they are, always bring it to us the day before the test to have it in place. And being the sticklers for detail we are, we like to shoot some video and photos late in the afternoon to take advantage of the “golden hour” of sunset lighting. OK, that was a lie, we really just wanted to drive it twice. Frankly, it was a little foolish on their part to drop it off and leave it with a fully loaded 130-gallon tank of gas.
The 310 FX5 sports a slightly different shearline than previous models we’ve seen, with a slightly upward-raised swoop amidships that plunges toward the stern, adding a splash of European flair to its all-American image. The FX5 is based on the popular Sun Sport model, and instead of the taller offshore bowrail, it uses a low-profile model to give it a more predatory look. Our test boat has the optional radar arch you typically see on Sun Sports, which gives it a big-boat silhouette.
Formulas are known for their flawless gelcoat and Imron paint schemes, and our test boat is no exception — strikingly clad in a Ralph Lauren-esque red, white and metallic blue Flagship FX scheme. At the helm, the color-coordinated dash sports a blue carbon-fiber panel that blazes in the sun like a faceted jewel, and that blue is used throughout the cockpit in places like the top of the wet bar. The racy helm features standard Livorsi shift and power levers and Oversized Mega Series gauges. Its silver dash top features molded gauge-conforming humps that are eye-catching … literally … as they reflect into your line of sight in the windshield. The double-wide helm seat has a divider, to give pilot and co-pilot their space.
Although it looks like a racing boat, the 310 FX5 uses a more traditional deep-V hull than its Fas3Tech step-hulled high-performance cousins. But one of the bonuses is the extra beam, which measures 9 feet, 6 inches compared to the 8-foot, 3-inch beam of the 38-foot 382 Fas3Tech model. Activating the electric engine hatch with a button at the dash reveals a pair of new Volvo Penta 6.0L 380 hp V-8s that use the same new GM block technology as the largest gas engine on the Chevy Silverado 3500HD.
After cranking the engines and moving away from the adjacent condos, all we have to do to get our adrenaline pumping is flip the Captain’s Call switchable exhaust system to the through-hull position. The Volvo Pentas provide plenty of low-end grunt, and the 310’s holeshot is excellent, with a time to plane of 4.2 seconds without even using the standard Bennett trim tabs. There’s a bit of bowrise, as you would expect with a 22-degree deadrise hull, but we never lose sight of the horizon as the 310 hits 30 mph in 7.5 seconds. The Volvo Penta V-8s are high-revving engines, and we reached 6000 rpm on our top-speed run, which topped out at 57.1 mph. At 4000 rpm, it settled into a lovely cruise speed of 37.2 mph, which will get you to Bimini from Ft. Lauderdale in about an hour and a half.
One thing I’ve noted about Formulas is that after you get them trimmed out properly and find the perfect cruising speed for the conditions, you just don’t want to stop. While I usually prefer dead-calm conditions, Formulas are usually more fun to drive in a bit of chop, and the 310 FX5 is no exception. On the late-afternoon portion of our test, placid conditions didn’t allow it to show off its capabilities as much as the next day, when the wind freshened a bit. Two-footers would have been even more fun. The 310 doesn’t like a huge amount of trim, preferring instead to run fairly level. Too much trim and you’ll know it when it starts to porpoise a bit. All you have to do is ease the bow up until you feel it get unstuck and pick up speed, and then you’re good. It tracks perfectly straight with little correction required.
Cornering is a thrilling experience. Thanks to its deep-V hull, it leans pretty far over when you turn it sharply, but boy does it ever hook up. Nimbly whipping it around, you quickly forget you are driving a 31-foot, 5-ton vessel.
Physicians should be prescribing the 310 FX5 for relief of tension built up during a hard week of work. The ideal day aboard would feature an hour-long decompression run to a secluded cove where you would drop the hook, crank up the stereo and hang out on the convertible sunpad in its chaise lounge setting. After a dip, rinse off in the transom shower, fold the sunpad flat to solar dry and then power nap. Meanwhile, the kids are plotting the overthrow of the western hemisphere in their cabin “fort” that features Ultraleather furniture and cherry wood cabinetry. Or, if you bribe the sitter to stay all night, Mom and Dad could spend the night in this romantic retreat that features a V-berth. There’s plenty of room in the cockpit, with a J-lounge and a shorter sofa across from the captain.
The standard equipment list contains several dozen items that would be a la carte add-ons for most builders. The 360-watt Clarion MP3 iPod stereo put out a nice wall of sound, but our test boat needed the subwoofer option, so when you crank it up you feel the music. Because this is an ideal boat for larger bodies of water, adding the flush-mounted Garmin GPSMAP 740S chartplotter or Raymarine e9 multifunction display is a no-brainer, unless you prefer celestial navigation. If overnighting is your thing or you just want a cool oasis, Formula offers a Kohler 5 kw low-CO-emission generator and 8,000 BTU air conditioning. For the cockpit, add a pull-out drawer refrigerator, and unless you enjoy working out on your day off, get the electric windlass. For those who don’t want a closed bow, the 310 FX5 also comes in a bowrider version. At $268,280 with the Volvo Pentas, this is not the boat for the faint of wallet, but Formula is offering special winter boat show pricing that’s 25 percent off if you act fast.