Sea Ray’s new 240 Sundeck OB has something you haven’t seen since model year 2000: an outboard.
Since model year 2000, Sea Ray has honed the reputation of its Sport Boats by creating upscale sterndrive-powered vessels featuring MerCruiser engines (a sibling in the Brunswick family). But this year, buyers looking for a luxury deckboat can add outboard engines to the mix thanks to the introduction of the Sea Ray 240 Sundeck OB. There are many reasons consumers have taken to outboards, and the recent push by companies to produce boats that use them has a lot to do with the EPA mandate that requires virtually all sterndrives to be equipped with catalytic converters, which adds about $1,500 to the cost of a new engine. So far, outboard engines have been exempt, so that’s quite a savings. Another reason is that outboard engines have become damn good — across the board — over the past few years. They are popular with boaters who run in coastal areas, for their ability to be trimmed without complaint.
Our test boat is powered by a Mercury Verado Pro 250 with a supercharger to give it instant-on power when you jam the drive-by-wire DTS throttle. The Pro features a larger 5.44-inch “offshore” gearcase bullet (4.8 inches on the regular Verado), which is preferred when speeds get close to 55 mph. Smaller, lighter boats might get slightly higher speeds out of the regular Verado due to less drag, but in my book, bigger and beefier is better when it comes to running gear. There was no problem with our holeshot as we felt the supercharger mash us back into our seatbacks. Time to plane was a brisk 2.7 seconds, with moderate but short-lived bowrise. The 240 continued its swift acceleration to 30 mph in 7 seconds flat, and when we trimmed out the engine and let her fly, the digital rpm gauge crept to its peak of a whopping 6400 revs as the boat reached 52 mph. Amazingly, all that fury is preternaturally quiet, registering 93 decibels at our stuff-your-cap-in-your-back-pocket speed.
The Verado Pro transmits remarkably little vibration from idle all the way to WOT thanks to the standard Advanced Mid Section (AMS). The four-point suspension system acts like a shock absorber and gets stiffer as the thrust load increases.
Like most Sea Rays, the 240 Sundeck OB is built stout, weighing 4,011 pounds. The sterndrive version, called the 240 Sundeck, is even beefier at 4,740 pounds, largely because of its heavier V-8, automotive-style engine and larger swim platform. The weight difference manifests itself most noticeably in the models’ respective wakes. Predictably, the sterndrive model plows up a better wakeboard wake than its outboard compatriot. But the OB has a flatter slalom wake, so there are clear choices for the buyer, depending on which ski discipline is paramount.
It was a rainy, nasty day when we tested the 240 OB, and once we got outside of the protected cove where we did our photo shoot, we got a good idea of how it can handle adverse conditions. The 21-degree deadrise deep-V hull did a splendid job of carving through the chop. This Sea Ray might cost more than a Cadillac, but it delivered a luxury car ride. The deep-V configuration causes it to lean in pretty far when it carves turns, but its cornering ability is first rate.
Our test boat isn’t rigged with the optional forward-facing, tiltable watersports tower ($5,662), but it does have a standard removable ski pylon held in place magnetically and a huge centerline ski locker that can hold all the gear easily. The stern features twin swim platformettes, but there’s no walkway connecting the two, so transiting from one side to the other requires striding over “splashwell canyon” and its attendant hoses. But the engine cutout is extra large because the Verado can be trimmed up a whopping 70 degrees, which gets the lower unit completely out of the water to keep it unsullied during hiatuses … er … hiati? There’s a jumpseat on the port side for booting up before a ski run or just hanging out.
Passenger accommodations are first rate, with an L-lounge in the stern and a new doublewide copilot seat that has a flippable backrest, so riders can choose to see where they are going or where they’ve been. In order to create more cockpit space, there’s no entertainment center behind the captain. On this boat, beverage assembly is best accomplished when the cockpit table is rooted on place with its gooseneck pedestal. For additional beverage parking, a flip-down cupholder is built into the stern bench backrest. A carry-on Igloo cooler has dedicated storage under the port-side bench with an access door, but there’s a lip to navigate when trying to pull it out, so it will likely reside behind the skipper when the boat’s at rest.
Because of its deckboat design, which carries the beam forward, the bow section is huge and able to accommodate six seated adults in comfort. Storage access is fantastic with gullwing seat bottoms that stay open when you raise them. The seating features ergonomically correct designs, and you’ll find firm foam underneath premium Mohave Tan upholstery. My only beef is with the thick, horizontal decorative piping applied throughout the boat, which prods your back.
Even without a single option, the 240 Sundeck OB is well equipped. In addition to the usual standards, less common features are included, such as a compass, a portable head for the port-side console, SmartCraft gauges, Digital Throttle and Shift, a keyless dash and power tilt steering. The standard engine is a Verado 200 (no OptiMax two-stroke is offered), but choosing it would seriously reduce the thrill quotient. In fact, strapping on a rocket like the 300 Verado is probably the right play. It would sure be satisfying to smoke someone’s go-fast with a mere deckboat.
But like the waif in the movie “Oliver,” most people who buy a Sea Ray are going to want more, so there are 41 — count ’em, 41 — options available for customization. If skiing is your passion, Mercury Smart Tow cruise control plus a ski mirror and tower are automatics. To add some pizzazz, hull color is another must-have option as well as blue LED mood lighting. Our boat has the optional stereo with a subwoofer, which is a dance party waiting to happen. And I can’t imagine owning a boat like this without a trailer, because you’re not going to leave home without it.