- Open sports boats like the XO 250 are becoming increasingly popular.
- They are a great alternative to the big RIB, especially as they offer more comfort.
- This boat, in true Finnish character, has combined practicality, style and seakeeping.
- It is a purist’s powerboat that offers one of the best driving experiences to be found in a 25ft boat, and it is built to deliver that experience safely.
- It combines a military, stealth-like, utilitarian character with all the features that a fast offshore pleasure craft needs.
Greg Copp gets behind the wheel of a boat that every self-respecting powerboater needs to drive at least once in their lifetime.
The driving experience aside, the meticulous attention to detail in the XO 250 is an education in itself. This boat, constructed with a 5083 marine-grade aluminium hull, has a GRP interior. You get the best of both worlds – smooth, neat internal lines that enable a host of hidden features to be built in and a tough, lightweight hull that can take a lifetime of punishment. It combines a military, stealth-like, utilitarian character with all the features that a fast offshore pleasure craft needs. The transom deadrise is an uncompromising sharp 24 degrees. It has a dry displacement (excluding engine) of 1250kg and our test boat had the rare power option of a 300hp Mercury Verado Pro, which puts out another 20hp over its stock 300hp counterpart.
Planting yourself in the shock-absorbing bucket seat, everything is perfectly in place. The giant 16″ plotter folds up in front of you; all the switches and instruments are where you want them and your right hand drops into place on the throttle. I rarely get on with sitting while helming fast as I always feel the need to look immediately over the bow, but the seating position in the XO is sited perfectly.
Once clear of Poole Harbour, we hammered out after the photo boat. With 320hp on tap, the XO has a superb power-to-weight ratio. The supercharged Verado has a huge amount of grunt at the bottom end and the XO takes off with a vengeance. There is hardly any discernible transition from displacement speed to planing, and without using the boat’s trim tabs she is capable of planing down to 12 knots. The sharp hull and whisper-smooth power delivery of the engine virtually remove any impression of speed below 35 knots. With such a sharp deadrise, she banked tightly into the ever-tighter turns that I threw her into with not a hint of slide.
With such a calm day, even off Old Harry we were limited to wake-jumping behind the photo boat. For boats of this size and weight a cautious approach is often wise in the first few runs. After the first run I threw what little caution I had to the wind. The combination of a rigid hull, perfect weight distribution and a razor-sharp hull from stem to stern makes this the perfect white-knuckle wave crester. This boat does not have that alarming tendency for the bow to reach for the sky when coming off the wake at speed. If you do overcook it, its rigid construction and shock-absorbing seats will deal with it pretty easily. Above 40 knots, if you want the best out of her you need to trim the leg up quite a bit. If you leave the leg at its normal setting of halfway, the boat will top out at 43 knots, which is ideal for the choppy stuff. Trim her to around three-quarters and she hits 47 knots comfortably (two-way average). This was with a 293kg Verado on the back, but if you opted for Evinrude’s new 253kg 300hp G2 E-TEC, the XO is likely to need less top-end trim. One thing boats with such a sharp deadrise are prone to doing is leaning into the wind. XO have dealt with this by offering the new Mente Marine ACS R automatic trim tab control system featured in this issue’s Boating Tech. This fast-acting, simple-to-operate system should certainly be up to keeping a lively boat like the XO 250 on an even keel, and as a £918 extra it is well worth having.
The XO has many neat hidden features. The 12V drawer fridge has enough space for those essential cool cans, but it is a costly £1,170. The navigational options are impressive for a boat of this size. The cheapest option is a 9″ Raymarine plotter and sounder, while the biggest as fitted to the test boat is a 16″ Simrad with sounder at £5,790. It might seem like overkill, but as paper charts are not a realistic option on an open boat like this, having a big digital chart in front of you is a good substitute. If you are going any distance in this boat you are likely to be following ‘flight plan navigation’, and a big plotter not only makes this simpler but enables you to easily make any last-minute course changes. My preference would be for the Simrad option over Raymarine.
It was reassuring to see that the highly effective shock-absorbing seats are standard, as is the second-generation charcoal flexiteak and manually operated hydraulic trim tabs.
The test boat had the optional radar arch, which, though reasonable at £1,320, is not really needed in this boat and only serves to make putting up the neatly concealed cockpit canopy a chore. Access to the bow section is through a very solidly built door, which, like the bonded windscreen, is certainly fit for purpose. In the bow you find a selection of no less than four lockers, all beautifully moulded internally. Practicalities are not overlooked either as the stainless fuel tank and battery switches are easily accessed if need be. The aft bench seat folds out not only to reveal further storage beneath but also to make a large double sun pad, essential for those family members who do not crave a white-knuckle ride.
Open sports boats like the XO 250 are becoming increasingly popular. They are a great alternative to the big RIB, especially as they offer more comfort. This boat, in true Finnish character, has combined practicality, style and seakeeping. It is a purist’s powerboat that offers one of the best driving experiences to be found in a 25ft boat, and it is built to deliver that experience safely. Remarkably this is not reflected in the price tag or in a long list of essential and expensive extras.
What we thought
- Fantastic seakeeping and handling
- Rapid performance
- Flat transition to plane and low planing speed
- Great build quality
- No option of replacing the rear bench seat with two additional shock-absorbing bucket seats
Specifications & Price
- LOA: 7.52m
- Beam: 2.28m
- Displacement: 1250kg (no engine)
- Power options: 150 to 320 hp
- Fuel capacity: 230 litres
- RCD category: C for 8
- Test engine: 320hp Mercury Verado Pro
- Price as tested: £69,000
47 knots (two-way average), sea conditions mild, wind F2
Dorset BH14 8JR
Tel: 01202 700702