Sylvan’s S-Series is all about sporty luxury, with some new previously unseen twists.
For 2019, the Sylvan S5 LS DC boasts an all new look, inside and out. It’s part of the midlevel S-Series, but because Sylvan is Smoker Craft’s top-of-the-line brand, it still has plenty of luxury on board.
The upholstery is all-new this year and features a tri-color palette, artful swirls, angled panels and a softer feel for added comfort. The Sylvan S5 LS DC floorplan features two sets of symmetrical layback lounges and twin high-back captain’s chairs. What’s interesting about the lounges is their kick panels are fiberglass instead of the usual fabric over roto-molding, which provides added durability and a more finished look.
The rear lounges are horizontal thrones, extra-wide with the perfect amount of recline. Something I’ve never seen before are fixed armrests that flip open to reveal personal storage areas for items such as cellphones, keys and wallets. And the seatbacks flip up to reveal another thing I’ve never seen, even on larger boats: twin trash cans. Having them makes a lot of sense, because so many people are into recycling these days; one can hold bottles and cans, and the other can hold trash. Alternatively, one can be kept clean and used for storing items that need to be accessed quickly, such as rolled-up towels.
Under the rear lounges, storage is accessed via seat bottoms that flip up lengthwise from the back, like a gull wing, and hydraulic rams hold the bottoms open. A nice touch is the cockpit flooring continues into the floor of the storage areas. Under the starboard-side lounge is a standard flip-up changing station whose proximity to the walkthrough to the back deck is smart, so people looking to shed wet swimsuits don’t have to drip all the way through the cockpit. And the compartment has plenty of room to add a portable head.
The all-new fencing features a series of small panels that, on our boat, showcased a progression of colors, of which Sylvan offers 10 to choose from. On our test boat the main panel color was Burgundy. The rearmost small panel was Caribou Brown, the one forward of that was Champagne, and the one forward of that was white, which continued as a stripe at the top all the way forward.
The bow and stern gates are stainless steel cages, which help driver visibility, and both have the Sylvan logo on a stainless panel. A bit unusual is the fact that neither the starboard nor port side has a boarding gate, so all passengers board via the front or rear deck.
Our test boat was equipped with the optional SPX Performance Package ($7,989), which comes with a PR25 center tube, aluminum underskin, a 60-gallon fuel tank for extra range, a removable ski pylon, Sea Star hydraulic steering, and lifting strakes on both sides of the center tube and on the inside of the outer 25-inch tubes. This tri-toon package really sets up the Sylvan S5 LS DC for great performance. At 26 feet, 10 inches long, it’s the largest of the S-Series Sylvans and can be powered with up to 300 hp with three tubes. Our boat was powered by Mercury’s new 225 hp V-6 FourStroke, which is the largest in this new generation of outboards with a big 3.4L of displacement. Their user-friendly features include a top cowl service door that reveals access to check and add oil without having to remove the cowling. In addition, a handle under the door flips up and releases all the latches, providing a handy place to grab to remove the upper cowl for engine service.
The new Mercs are known for having plenty of low-end kick, and the 225 pushed the S5 onto plane in three seconds and to 30 mph in 9.7 seconds. Top speed was 36.7 mph. While that is fast enough for most activities, this big boat cries out for max power, so upgrade the Mercury power from 225 hp to a 300 hp V-8 model with Digital Throttle and Shift (DTS). It weighs only 57 more pounds and costs $7,675. A Yamaha F300 with digital controls is less expensive and is priced at $5,524 more than the V-6 225 Mercury. Both would be well worth it and would propel the Sylvan S5 LS DC well past 40 mph.
The helm is a bit unusual. A gauge module is mounted atop the dash and places the instruments and an optional flush-mounted Simrad NSS7 ($1,417) high, making everything easy to read. Another plus is a master power switch that allows the operator to shut down everything that could potentially run down a battery with one flick of the rocker switch.
The specially designed Performance strakes create lots of lift, which is not only helpful getting on plane but also helps the boat ride high in the water when cruising. And because the tubes aren’t plowing through the water, turning is easier. Despite all three tubes being the same 25-inch diameter, the pontoon had a pronounced inward lean during hard turns, which usually only happens when the center tube is larger or is mounted lower. During our test, I cranked the standard SeaStar hydraulically assisted wheel hard over into a ridiculously tight turn, and the prop remained hooked up even when I turned the wheel all the way to its stop.
The setup of our test boat left no doubt the S5 LS DC is a prime platform for watersports. It has a huge swim platform, thanks in part to the PR25 center tube, which places the outboard on an extended motor mount behind the unobstructed deck. Not only did the boat have a stainless steel deck-mounted ski tow ($671) for slalom skiing and tubing, it also had the optional wakeboard tower ($6,746), which comes with a generous Bimini top. To stow boards when the runs are over, an optional centerline in-tube storage compartment comes at a $937 upcharge. Most boating crowds listen to the stereo when they are skiing or on the hook, so two optional rear-firing speakers on the transom ($684), powered by the standard Kicker stereo system, are a no-brainer. Folks reclining on the rear lounges will have their listening experience enhanced by the forward-facing speakers’ high placement.
Sylvan offers plenty of options for customizing the S5 LS DC. Our test boat came with a full roadster-style windshield that protected us nicely on a nippy fall morning on Lake Tippecanoe in northern Indiana. Sylvan is one of the few pontoon builders still offering carpeting as a standard feature, but it offers several vinyl options, including woven faux teak that’s a budget-friendly $1,211. To really nauticalize the pontoon, a synthetic teak option costs $7,316. Our test boat’s pontoons were jazzed up with black painted tubes ($1,888) that matched the rails, windshield header and tower. Buyers who love entertaining and want to alleviate a standing-room-only situation on this boat that’s rated for 14 people, a gate seat sectional can be placed fore or aft.