Four Winns is upping its cool factor, as demonstrated by the new Horizon 260 Signature Series.
Author: Alan Jones
Face it, there are a lot of bowriders out there that, without a name badge, would be difficult to distinguish from others. That’s not going to be a problem with the Four Winns Horizon 260 Signature Series. In the last few years, Four Winns has created a unique look throughout the line that can be recognized all the way across the lake. So if you like to fly under the radar, get something else.
Frankly, it would be a lot easier to discuss what isn’t unique on the Horizon 260 Signature Series. The Signature Series takes the new Horizon edginess and ramps it up with items such as custom aluminum wheels on the standard trailer, something you don’t often see included on a 26-footer.
The look is decidedly predatory, with a low-profile smoked-glass windshield and SS graphics that exude extreme style. The SS theme continues on board with hand-stitched consoles that channel a luxury-car vibe and a special carbon fiber-textured Aquaflex/Silvertex vinyl on the furniture. A low-slung swim platform covered in custom nonskid padding along with one of the deepest boarding ladders we’ve ever seen make reboarding after a swim or ski run very easy. The custom SS carpet is a bold statement and reinforces the red, black and white color scheme used throughout. A combination of hard edges and soft curves blends to attract attention from people checking it out. If you see one at a boat show, watch the passersby; the 260 is a show-stopper. Sometimes you get the double-take, but most often it’s the stop-and-stare-with-mouth-open pose.
Our test boat is powered with the biggest engine available on the H260SS: the 380 hp MerCruiser 8.2L MPIC, which pushes the 5,100-pound boat along briskly. The twin-prop Bravo III outdrive provided excellent grip, and the 260 reached plane in just 2.9 seconds with surprisingly little bowrise considering it has a 20-degree deadrise. Time to 30 mph was an equally impressive 5.9 seconds, and top speed was 53 mph, until the rev limiter started kicking in. If exuding attitude is your thing, you’re in luck, as the standard Captain’s Call Quick and Quiet side-hull exhaust system will proclaim your menace … when you want it to. If you’re easing out of your neighborhood channel at dawn, you can idle in stealth mode with the flip of a switch.
An interesting characteristic is that the H260 stays controllable at every speed, even at sub-planing speeds below 17 mph, where most boats tend to wallow badly. This trait will come in handy if you get caught in a blow and can’t go fast. Starting at around 3000 rpm, the boat seemed to get about 1 mph for every 100 rpm. Its happiest cruise speed was at 35 mph, where it quietly loped along without taxing the engine.
Four Winns also gives you the option of using Volvo Penta power, and its new top dog is the 6.0L 380 hp engine based on the Vortec GM block. The smallest engine available is the MerCruiser 350 MPIC, which produces 300 hp. While obviously not as gutsy, it will save you nearly $19k compared to the 8.2L engine.
Since 1993, Four Winns has been using the Stable Vee hull … with good reason. It provides an incredible amount of lateral stability at rest and when running. The story of its origin goes like this: A Four Winns engineer took his mom out for a ride. Being an inexperienced boater, she was uneasy when the boat tipped during boarding and when it heeled over in turns. She said it “feels unsteady.” That got the engineer thinking, so he went back to the drawing board and created a variable-deadrise hull that has a sharp entry and gradually flattens out toward the stern. Then he added aft cutouts — “pods,” as Four Winns labels them — that reduce drag and act like trim tabs during take-off and cornering.
The result of this design could be seen in the stellar out-of-the-hole performance we recorded. The other major benefit is the way the boat corners. Not only can you throw it into an impossibly tight turn, but it handles the turn in a very level fashion. Only at the very end of a to-the-stops turn does it ventilate a little, but only after generating some serious Gs. The H260SS doesn’t like a lot of trim at cruising speeds, and it’s not hard to induce porpoising if you overcook the trim. At high speeds, though, you can air it out nicely without affecting stability.
Comfort cruising ranks high on the list of activities with this boat. People who have ridden in it before will be calling dibs on bowrider seats that feature a hot-tub design and have contoured seat bottoms for comfort. Something I’ve never seen before is an adjustable headrest, so riders of all sizes can kick back. There’s a standard filler cushion with a backrest to create three abreast bowriding as well as a huge sunning playpen. The captain and co-pilot are probably not going to give up their thrones: bolstered bucket seats that aren’t too narrow for American-wide posteriors and allow you to spin in your seat without mucking with the pedestal levers.
Our test boat has the optional Command Center display in the center of the dash, to keep the driver informed of all engine functions as well as provide a GPS chartplotter. The LCD touch-screen not only gives you functions such as stereo control and a depthsounder, but it has a cruise control that allows you to pre-program skier preferences. It has a video input, so you can equip the optional radar arch with an aftermarket video camera for YouTube fail-gathering moments. The arch comes with an integrated Bimini top and can be ordered with a hinge for garage storage or doing the limbo under a bridge.
The deep cockpit features a J-lounge seating arrangement. For maximum seating capacity, leave it with the standard short settee behind the captain’s seat, or replace some seating with an optional refreshment center. The head compartment in the port console is huge and has a sink/vanity trimmed in wood. A Porta Potti comes standard, but get the pumpout option to avoid bedpan duty. People who want more protection than what the low-slung windshield offers can opt for the taller version on the standard Horizon model. A no-brainer for me is the optional windlass, which features a hood-ornament-worthy polished stainless steel plow anchor. Another must-have is the premium stereo: upgraded speakers, a transom remote with rear-firing speakers and a subwoofer. You can also add coffee-can speakers on the optional arch.