Qwest takes the art of compact pontooning to a luxurious new place.
Boat manufacturers can get into trouble trying to be all things to all people and losing focus on what exemplifies their core strengths. Qwest has staked out the compact pontoon sector and is owning it by continuing to build the best in class.
The newest incarnation of the LS 820 Splash Pad shows just how much sportiness and luxury you can pack into a 20-foot pontoon. While it has some great moves while slashing through the waves, it’s perhaps at its best when it’s stationary. The designers at Apex Marine know people tend to gravitate toward the stern of a boat when it’s on the hook. One of the reasons is to dive into the water, and that’s been anticipated by the designers, as our test boat had an optional second aluminum swimming pool–style boarding ladder on the port side. Why two? Anyone who asks that hasn’t been pontooning with a gaggle of kids and seen the endless queue of them jumping in the water and climbing out.
While the kids are getting their swim suits wet, the adults can wet their whistle at the Splash Pad bar at the stern. A trio of stools swivel, so when you hear a particularly pointed scream from one of the kids you can spin around to see if it’s a great white shark attack or if it’s merely Billy splashing Heather … same scream. A nice touch would be adding height-adjustable pedestals to ensure passengers of all heights are dialed in. A large bar with a faux granite top is positioned outside the fence perimeter, signifying the Splash Pad area is designed to be used at anchor or dockside. On the countertop are two sets of double-wire cupholders and two lighted ones for easier beverage constructing and parking. The working surface provides plenty of snack display acreage, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a card game break out here.
Our test boat wasn’t set up to be just an idle-and-sip vessel; it’s ready for action with Qwest’s Generation II, Q3 triple-tube setup. All three 23-inch tubes have dual lifting strakes to create a huge amount of lift. For better hydrodynamics, the Gen II Package includes an aluminum underskin, which reduces the drag of hitting crossmembers and eliminates the whooshing sound. Because of the LS 820’s light weight and its lift, you don’t need a huge amount of power to make it come alive. Add a Yamaha F150 four-stroke like our test boat had, and you have a pontoon that will beat most sportboats in a drag race. On plane in 2.4 seconds, the LS 820 reached 30 mph in 6.6 seconds. Top speed was a sprightly 41.4 mph, which is more than fast enough for any watersport, including barefoot skiing. Triple-tube models can accommodate up to 175 hp, and Yamaha has a new in-line 4-cylinder model that weighs the same as the F150.
While 23-inch tubes might be slightly smaller than the usual 25-inchers, six lifting strakes more than make up for it. At cruise, the 820 Splash Pad rides higher in the water for better seakeeping in choppy conditions. With just a little trim, it’s easy to lift the front third of the tubes in the air for better fuel economy and a smoother ride for forward guests. Sword-sharp nosecones slice easily through oncoming waves and wakes. Oversized splashguard nosecone caps keep guests dry and provide extra lift to prevent submarining in the event you encounter a large cruiser wake.
With lifting strakes on the outside of the outer tubes that push back in cornering, the deck remains level during turns. The Generation II Package includes Teleflex’s SeaStar hydraulic steering, so even if the kids want constant turning action on the towables, the driver won’t get a workout. Full-length keels aid in tracking, eliminating wandering, which skiers will appreciate.
One of the benefits of the Splash Pad is that it makes a fantastic fishing station for a trio of anglers, especially for dropping down to go for panfish in structures. The bar surface becomes a rigging station with handy features such as the recessed rectangular area that will keep sinkers from rolling off.
With the Splash Pad, you’re always ready to entertain. Our test boat was equipped with an Infinity Bluetooth sound system, so dialing up your own mix is just a matter of picking up your smartphone and punching it in. Qwest even has a dedicated storage area for your media device at the helm, which also has a flush-mounted GPS fishfinder.
Our test boat was rigged with a stout aluminum ski tow as part of the Gen II Package, which also includes a 25-gallon fuel tank for extra range. An in-floor ski locker stored boards, and the entire boat had Sea Grass flooring, which is more watersports friendly than carpeting.
Our LS 820 Splash Pad had been upgraded with Qwest’s top-of-the line SE Package, giving you high-backed furniture that channels a retro hot rod tuck-and-roll look. Twin recliner couches up front have plenty of stretching out room for 6-foot-plus passengers, and the L-lounge to port of the driver has a rear-facing recliner for observing the ski follies. Our test boat sported a new Caribbean Blue accent color that really popped with the new Silver Ice outer wall option. The SE group also includes a high-backed, raised helm seat that spins and reclines. Something you don’t often see offered is the option for a wider port-side gate that will help accommodate wheelchair passengers. Qwest’s LS line gives you an amazing 24 choices of color combos and 11 flooring choices. For accessing the entertainment center while underway, you can get RLS Package, which places the bar inside the fence to port.