SunChaser gives owners a great way to break into pontooning without breaking the bank.
Author: Alan Jones
Often, you have a choice when purchasing a pontoon: Stay within a strict budget, or get a pontoon that will impress your friends with its luxury and function. SunChaser has figured out how to satisfy both needs with the 8522 Cruise.
Sometimes it’s the little things that can drive you crazy. One of the better pontooning innovations in recent years has been the changing room built into the end of one of the settees. The pop-up curtain enclosures give you a place to shed that wet swimsuit and are real space-savers. Add a Porta Potti, and you’ve created a head compartment. Deploying the privacy curtain is easy. Just flip up the hatch, unsnap the spring-loaded hoop frame and, voila, it’s ready for action. The problem comes when it’s time to stuff the canvas back into its hidey hole — it’s like wrestling a ghost. The cumbersome procedure to stow it usually requires more tucks than an aging Hollywood star’s tummy, but SunChaser’s fix is forehead-slappingly easy. Designers added a net: Tuck the curtain’s loose end into the net, snap the hoop down and shut the door. Now, how hard was that?
Usually, entry-level pontoons can be identified by their Spartan helm station. Sometimes made of rotomolded plastic, they often resemble a doghouse with the open end facing the driver and have fewer gauges than a riding lawn mower. With the introduction of the Executive Helm package, the designers at SunChaser give you a decidedly luxurious driving station with an Italian Stella Filetto tilt wheel, a footrest, a full gauge array and a raised platform for better visibility. It’s a great way to make your guests think you splurged for a high-dollar model.
The mission of the SunChaser 8522 Cruise is to provide an affordable way to get on the water, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up performance. Paired with the Yamaha F115 Four-Stroke, our test boat bridged the gap. Surprisingly quick out of the hole, it reached plane in 2.7 seconds with barely perceptible bowrise. Time to 25 mph was 7.3 seconds, and the 8522 cracked the 30 mph barrier (30.8 mph). That speed gives you enough performance for lower-speed watersports such as tube towing, kneeboarding and wakeboarding. One noticeable feature was the reduced engine noise, which is due in part to the quiet Yamaha, but give an assist to the abbreviated sunpad, which functions as a sound barrier. At 20 mph, our soundmeter registered just 79 decibels — quiet enough that people in the cockpit don’t have to speak like a drill sergeant to be heard.
Our test pontoon features the standard twin-tube setup with 25-inch logs, built to last with a lifetime warranty, along with six-year coverage on items such as carpet, upholstery and electronics. Because this near-24-footer isn’t exceptionally heavy at 2,295 pounds — thanks to features such as the rotocast seat frames — it rides sufficiently high in the water to yield a decent ride. Cornering is predictable, with an outward lean, but you can turn fairly sharply without diving excessively, so when you’re towing kids around you can give them a bit of a thrill without getting out of shape. In the rougher middle section of Lake Wawasee, the largest natural lake in Indiana, we noticed that water hitting the crossmembers under the deck would slow us down a little and make a loud whooshing sound. On larger lakes, the 8522 would benefit from the optional Performance Strakes, for an even higher ride, and an aluminum underskin that makes it hydraulically slipperier.
As the name implies, the 8522 Cruise is in its comfort zone taking the family out for a spin or entertaining up to a dozen passengers for a sunset get-together. Unlike many other entry-level models, the SunChaser exudes an upscale air best exemplified by the luxurious Ultimate SS Sand Dollar furniture. Up front, you have twin chaise recliners; the port-side one is slightly shorter to accommodate an entry gate, but it is more than sufficient for a 6-footer to stretch out. A J-lounge in the stern with a rear recliner adds more capacity and creates a great seat for the ski spotter. Under all the lounge seats are rotomolded storage bins designed to channel water away. If fishing is on the agenda, you’d be better off choosing the 8522 C N F (Cruise ‘n’ Fish), which has a rear fishing deck with twin pedestal seats, a livewell and a rigging table.
The 8522 platform is a blank slate for creating the perfect pontoon for whatever activity you choose. If you’re looking for a slower pace, choose the entry-level package, which gives you a 60 hp outboard but limits your options. Even though you can power the twin-tube version with up to 150 hp, the Yamaha F115 is probably the ideal choice and provides a good blend of performance and economy. But if you are serious about skiing, go pontooning on large bodies of water or just want more performance, the three-tube option is the way to go. That allows you to put up to 200 hp on the transom, which will push your top speed well into the 40s.