The Four Winns TS 222 brings wakesurfing to a place it’s seldom been — a sterndrive-powered boat.
For years, sterndrive boat owners have watched the fastest growing watersport, wakesurfing, but their “participation” has been restricted to observing other boats providing the fun of catching the endless wave. But Volvo Penta changed the game with its Forward Drive system, which faces its twin props forward and tucks them under the hull, allowing a sterndrive to be used for wakesurfing.
Most inboard wakeboard boats’ cockpit layout maximizes the number of seats, because they usually have a surprisingly large passenger capacity. The similarly sized MasterCraft X23, for example, has a capacity of 15, which is three more than the Four Winns TS (Tow Sports) 222. Four Winns designers, it appears, were more interested in giving everyone on board a first-class seat with enough room to avoid the Tokyo subway syndrome. Covering the seats is a special vinyl called Silvertex Carbon Fiber, which has the weave-like look of carbon fiber but not the actual material. It features a sporty four-tone color combo that’s primarily white with gray, black and fluorescent yellow accents.
Like most sterndrive-powered boats, the TS 222 has an L-shaped cockpit seating group, but what’s unusual about its layout is the L isn’t part of the portside companion seat. It’s linked to the driver’s seat instead, unlike on its larger sibling, the TS 242, which has the more traditional layout with a starboard-side walkthrough and more seating to port. At rest, the driver’s seatback can move forward to form a chaise lounge. To starboard, the copilot’s club seat also has a backrest that flips, giving the passenger a choice of seating directions, and it’s close enough to the stern bench that the passenger can kick his feet up while watching the ski show. Even so, a flip-up footrest would be a great tweak.
The pickle-fork bow creates a lot of acreage up front, and with the optional filler cushion ($331) in place, passengers can sit three abreast and face aft with their feet kicked up thanks to the center cushion’s extra length. There’s plenty of cockpit depth, for bow passenger security, and the forward swim deck is padded with Marine Mat and features a hidden ladder for beach boarding.
One of the great features of Volvo Penta’s Forward Drive system is its ability to be trimmed like any other sterndrive, which gives the TS 222 an advantage over inboard-powered wakesurf boats. Their prop is fixed at a set angle downward, which has the effect of vectoring away power and preventing the driver from trimming the bow up at higher speeds to reduce wetted surface.
Buyers have two choices of Volvo Penta power: 300 and 350 hp versions of the same 5.3L V-8 engine block. Our test boat had the smaller of the two, but it still provided decent performance, considering the 22-foot, 7-inch boat weighs 4,240 pounds before adding passengers and up to 1,300 pounds of ballast in three sacks.
Wisely, our boat was propped for power rather than top speed, as evidenced by its performance numbers. The Volvo Penta V-8 300 has Variable Valve Timing (VVT) that aids low-end torque when accelerating. The TS 222 rose on plane, without using the Lenco Surf Enhancement Tabs, in 2.9 seconds with minimal bowrise thanks to the Stable Vee hull’s after-pods, which provide lift at slow speeds. It turned in an excellent time to 30 mph of 5.3 seconds, but it peaked at just 41.4 mph. Considering the mission and heft of this boat, the $4,808 upcharge for the 350 hp engine would be money well spent.
The TS 222 uses the Stable Vee SC hull, which gives it excellent side-to-side stability, delivers quick planing and ensures relatively level turns. It also has 20 degrees of deadrise at the stern, which came in handy on test day on a choppy Sarasota Bay. It ate up the lumpy seas in style. At a slower, pre-plane wakeboard speed of 11 mph, the TS 222 held its line easily and was responsive thanks, in part, to its standard power steering. Also standard is the GPS-based Zero Off cruise control, which kept the speed dialed into the sweet spot, something that’s nearly impossible when the driver is controlling the speed manually.
Not only does the Forward Drive system tuck the twin, forward-facing, counter-rotating props under the hull for surfer safety, but it moves the boat’s pivot point forward, which gives it the ability to carve a really sharp turn — warn your passengers first! The forward pivot point also helps with added control at idle, for more precise docking.
There’s no mistaking the TS 222’s primary mission, thanks to a host of surf-ready features, such as the wakeboard tower, which comes standard with surf- and wakeboard racks (ones that swivel are an extra $385), an in-floor ski locker and a wet locker in the transom walkthrough. The trio of soft bags, carrying a total of 1,300 pounds of ballast, fill quickly when the boat is moving at idle speed. The driver simply needs to flick the toggle switches that are to his right. To help the driver control virtually every system on board, Four Winns includes a standard glass cockpit-style Touchscreen Command Center screen that features a GPS for navigation.
The surf wake itself can be tweaked using the optional Lenco Wake Enhancement Tabs ($2,615), and because the boat’s a sterndrive, trimming the outdrive up and down delivers additional control. While the wake might not get as giant as on other boats with more ballast, it was pretty clean and had a mellow wave face that’s better for intermediate surfers. Turning slightly in the surfer’s direction improves the definition of the wake and cleans up the whitewash at the top. Thanks to the twin counter-rotating props, the port and starboard wakes are the same, unlike single-prop boats that usually have a good side and a bad side.
Four Winns is a premium builder and packs the TS 222 with loads of standard features that are usually options. Two examples are the custom twin-axle trailer and the extra large swim platform, which sits really low to the water for easy access. Like the bow platform, it’s padded by the custom-logoed Marine Mat, and buyers who like its look can continue it throughout the boat — like our test boat — for an upcharge of $417. Doing so replaces the snap-in carpeting. Also out back is a jump seat for lounging; it resides next to the padded sunning platform over the engine compartment. Boost the boat’s entertainment quotient by replacing the standard Sony stereo with a JL audio system that includes a transom remote and a subwoofer ($1,891). Add the JL Audio tower speakers for $1,177. Another key-off must-have option is the cockpit table ($487). The boat has no head compartment. If that’s a deal-breaker, the slightly larger and more expensive TS 242 would be the way to go.