Author: Alan Jones
Eighteen inches doesn’t sound like much until you add it to the beam of a standard Premier 250 Solaris RF. Then, suddenly you’re not just driving the proverbial living room on water — you’re driving one with a great layout.
Most people buy pontoons to have room for guests, and when companies seek to accommodate boaters with a hankering for even more space, they usually stretch the standard 8-foot, 6-inch design to limousine proportions, which means lengthening the triple logs to sequoia dimensions. But all of that aluminum comes with a substantial weight penalty. Premier was the first builder to grow its pontoon boats sideways, to 10 feet, which kept the log length the same but added far more square footage of usable passenger space.
The only downside to this configuration is moving the boat. To be legal when towing the 250 Solaris in most states, you might have to jump through some wide-load towing hoops, which usually entails buying an inexpensive permit and displaying signage and flags. Every state is different, so always conduct your due diligence before towing anything wider than 8 feet, 6 inches.
Once they had this wide-body pontoon, the designers didn’t take long to come up with the idea to put a pair of engines on the brackets — also a Premier first — which gives drivers far more control while docking, a traditional pontoon weakness. The dual-engine configuration also gave designers room in the center of the stern for a giant, fixed, three-step boarding platform built into the center tube, which is augmented with another three-step flip-down stainless steel ladder. The thought occurred to me during our sea trial that this would make a fantastic dive boat in the Keys, just a few climate zones south of where we were testing in Minnesota.
Powered by a pair of sweet-running Yamaha F150 four-strokes, the 10-foot-wide 250 Solaris has plenty of power. Helping the cause is Premier’s 36-inch PTX configuration, which gives you a monstrous 3-foot-diameter center log that’s shaped like a sportboat hull on the bottom for the ultimate in performance. Even the outer logs are pumped up from 25 inches to 27 inches when you get the 36-inch center tube, providing more flotation.
We hooked up beautifully on the holeshot and got on plane in 2.4 seconds with virtually no bowrise. Time to 30 mph was an equally impressive 5.4 seconds, and at that speed the engines registered a quiet 83 decibels on the soundmeter. Top speed on this floating square-dance floor was a lake-eating 45 mph.
Side-to-side stability is one of the reasons people love pontoons, and that trait is instrumental in getting people on board who are reluctant to set foot on a V-hull boat that feels “tippy” and unstable to them. The 250 Solaris’ 10-foot-wide beam gives you even more lateral stability. I drove this boat two days in a row. The first day was a sunny Sunday on the very popular Forrest Lake, located about 45 minutes north of the Twin Cities. Boats of all sizes were buzzing around us, but the wide-body Solaris didn’t seem to mind, running over the choppy surface like a hovercraft. In fact, people in the front may have felt like they were in a hovercraft, as we were able to trim it up far enough to raise the entire bow out of the water for better efficiency and comfort. The next day we had the lake to ourselves, and there wasn’t much difference in comfort.
One might think a beamy pontoon like this would be ponderous to turn, but one would be wrong. Using the larger center tube as a pivot point, the 250 Solaris whipped into a turn that left a tight “O” monogrammed on the lake. Since we had a fair amount of inward lean, which is common on pontoons with larger center tubes, I was curious if the outer engine would lose grip as it was being levered higher. It didn’t happen; we never lost traction and were rewarded with a predictable and crisp turn.
The sky’s pretty much the limit on this rig as far as waterborne activities are concerned. When rigged with an optional ski pylon, the Solaris is ready for everything from tubing to barefooting. For staging your activities, there’s a roomy rear deck, which is something you don’t often see on 25-foot-long pontoons.
The seating configuration gives you twin rearward-facing lounges and two Helmsman buckets for the captain and co-pilot that swivel, recline and have armrests. In the bow, there are twin recliners that are part of a U-shaped design that wraps all the way around and gives up to eight adults a comfortable place to socialize. All bench seats have rotomolded storage compartments with seat-bottom lids that open toward the centerline and stay open. Needless to say, this rig is ready to party, with a killer optional Alpine stereo that includes a subwoofer and is a substantial upgrade over the standard Jensen unit.
The extra room on deck also makes this a fantastic camping pontoon. Although you have enough room to pitch a tent, you don’t have to, because Premier offers an excellent full camper enclosure to keep out rain and bugs. With an 80-gallon fuel capacity, the 250 Solaris has the range to tackle far-flung getaways. Add the grill option and you’re pretty much self-sufficient.
For those who don’t need the extra room, you can get a “normal” version of the 250 Solaris that features an 8-foot, 6-inch beam. Premier offers a couple of less-expensive but still-sporty versions with three like-sized 25-inch tubes or a less-radical version of the PTX Package that features a 30-inch center log. Like our test boat, these configurations feature stylishly curved Evolution rails, a feature that now carries over to the standard Eclipse Bimini top, giving it a unique and attractive look. Shade lovers can accomplish a total eclipse with a twin-Bimini setup.
One must-have option that should probably be a standard feature is the Command View raised helm that puts the captain’s view above any passengers sitting in front. The roomy, well-laid-out Eclipse II helm is rigged just the way you want and even includes a standard Humminbird 385ci color GPS display and tilt steering for the stylish Hawk sport wheel.