Boat Buyer's Guide 2013
Author: Alan Jones
High-backed captain’s chairs are as close to a throne as you will find in the pontooning world, but it’s really unseemly when adults yell “dibs” while boarding to secure the rights to snag one. But on the Sylvan 8522 Mirage LZ Port, there are four such chairs — plenty to go around — so the “game of thrones” gets far more civilized. In addition to the one next to the captain, which is ideal for a party of two, there is a pair on the port side with a cooler between them, which would be perfect for fishing when the occupants aren’t just relaxing.
It isn’t often that I am totally faked out during a sea trial, but the Sylvan 8522 got me good. Usually, when people ask me what sort of pontoon they should get if watersports are in the picture, I tell them, “Buy a three-tube model with at least a 150 hp engine.” So, when I jammed the throttle on the Evinrude 150 E-TEC, and our Sylvan got on plane in 2.4 seconds, yielded a 0-30 mph time of 5.4 seconds and reached a top speed of 36.9 mph, I was certain my advice was vindicated by its performance. But then I counted only two tubes. Had I lost one somewhere? Nope. It’s just that this pontoon has the optional RPT (Revolutionary Planing Technology) tubes, which have a running surface like a mini traditional boat hull, giving you the benefits of three-tube performance for less money. Cornering is super flat, without the usual two-tube outward lean.
To take advantage of the enhanced performance, our test boat is rigged with an optional ski tow bar that’s sturdily mounted on the synthetic teak rear deck. The tow bar is spaced far enough from the stylishly curved fencing to be able to jam-store a towable inflatable. Spectators can get a front-row view of the ski show from the pair of rearward stern recliners. For more seating, there’s a long forward-facing chaise lounge in front of the captain. Buyers can wave the upgrade wand just one time and do a serious makeover with the LE package, which includes mood lighting, plush 28-ounce Boca Raton carpeting, a furniture upgrade, a premium Bimini top, and helm chair and console upgrades, along with a chromed-spoke sport wheel for less than $3,000.