Author: Alan Jones
One of my goals in life is to make enough friends to fill the MasterCraft X-45. With a passenger capacity of 18 people and an LOA of 24 feet, 2 inches, the boat is doing its best to make that a pretty tall order. I guess I’d better work the social media channels a little harder.
It’s one thing to make a boat big enough to hold two baseball teams; it’s another to make it comfortable for everyone. Passengers on any boat get extra style points by making a graceful entrance and not stepping on the owner’s upholstery. And the X-45 makes that maneuver easy with its centerline walk-through, which has a filler cushion to create a doublewide sunpad for solar drying after a set. A lot of the extra capacity comes from the “SuperFly” bow, aka the pickle fork, which carries the beam on this 8-foot, 6-inch-wide ski boat far forward. The forward-facing layback seats give you an incredible amount of legroom — but one thing I don’t get is the raised pad at the top that creates a pressure point about shoulder-blade high. Smart elements of the design are the comfortable rearward-facing seats at the bow, which are great spots to watch the crash-and-burn show.
When you pack a dozen or more humanoid ballast bags (riders) on board, invariably they bring an annoying amount of gear. Think Mrs. Howell of “Gilligan’s Island” fame, who packed a full wardrobe for a three-hour tour, then add skis, and it can get out of hand. The X-45’s port-side console storage locker is accessed by flipping up the fore- and aft-facing seatbacks, and it is large enough for wide-body gear such as surfboards. There’s a total of 127 square feet of storage, including a monster compartment under the sunpad cockpit seats. On the sunpad, I didn’t care for the thick decorative piping, which will have swimsuit-clad guests lying atop the equivalent of a guitar cable. Elsewhere, the piping is recessed and out of the way.
Just the name Ilmor, with its Penske racing heritage that includes Indy car engines, conjures up performance. But the 6.0L on the X-45 is no flighty race engine that requires a pit crew. Ilmor builds ski boat engines exclusively for MasterCraft, and they’re built for longevity and easy maintenance — not 500 miles of fury. The 385 hp motor features variable valve timing for improved performance throughout the spectrum of speeds, and with a boat this versatile you will be running at every speed from 10 mph for wakesurfing to its top speed of 42.4 mph when you’re hightailing it home to beat a rain shower.
Time to plane was 3.9 seconds, but when we deployed the Attitude Adjustment Plate (think giant center-mounted trim tab), our time dropped to 3.1 seconds with virtually no bowrise. Time to 30 mph was 8.5 seconds, which is good considering the X-45 weighs 4,995 pounds dry, in order to give your wake building a jump start. An Auto Launch setting deploys all tabs for takeoff, which comes in handy when the ballast tanks are full.
The X-45 doesn’t have tracking fins, but when you do an express 180 to pick up a downed skier, you’ll see they aren’t needed. Zane Schwenk, MasterCraft’s wakeboarding legend, demonstrated the best way to turn the boat: Drop your speed slightly to let the hull settle into the water a little, and then crank as hard as you want. Despite being long enough to qualify as a ski limo, the X-45 drives like a much smaller boat. We tested it just north of Atlanta on Lake Lanier, a 38,000-acre body of water that can get pretty choppy, as evidenced on test day. Featuring 11 degrees of deadrise — more than most other ski boats — the X-45 handled the choppy conditions well. Boaters switching from sterndrives or outboards will be right at home thanks to the Attitude Adjustment Plate, which allows you to drop the bow, putting into play the sharper, leading edge of the hull, which measures 22.5 degrees and gives this MasterCraft an un-ski-like ride in the chop.
The X-45 is a master craft when it comes to all wakesports. Surf Tabs (large trim tabs) are new additions that can be independently deployed to carve up a never-ending wave for surfers on either side. The surf wake can be shaped to accommodate whatever style of board is being used. Without the Attitude Adjustment Plate deployed, the wake is steep, which favors skim-type boards. With the plate, the wake becomes longer and flatter, for long boards. The plate can also be used to push the bow down and flatten the wake at 30 mph for slaloming or used at 20 mph to mellow out the launch ramp for junior wakeboarders or seniors.
For building a wake, there are three hard tanks: a centerline 500-pounder and two 250-pound tanks to port and starboard. There’s also room for plug ‘n’ play Fat Sacks if you are shooting for the moon.
Our test boat is equipped with the standard ZFT 2 Tower, which sports four Tower speakers powered by a 500-watt Clarion system. This hydraulically assisted model can be folded down by loosening two knobs and guiding it down with little effort. Without the hydraulic help, dropping this heavy-duty tower with speakers would be a two-handed job, if you were in shape. You can also order a ZFT 5 Power Tower if you want the added cool factor. MasterCraft uses swing-in board racks that clamp instead of securing skis with bungee cords, which can thwack you in the face. One option that is a must-have is the all-new Touch Screen color display that allows you to manage just about everything, from the stereo settings to your rider profiles, so you can automatically load a rider’s preference and graphically see where you stand in regard to ballast tanks, tab deployment and desired acceleration, just to name a few features. It sits off to the side to keep the dash’s profile low for better visibility.