- … the 255 remains a very effective demonstration of how versatile, comfortable, accommodating and user-friendly a relatively compact platform can be.
- … our test day would lead me to speculate that the 255 is unlikely to be quite the snappy, agile plaything its posturing might lead us to expect.
- … if you want a generously appointed, cleverly designed and uncommonly versatile family boat, this peculiarly mature, jet-powered party platform ticks just about every box there is.
Alex Smith seeks jet-powered Nirvana with the flagship of the infamous Scarab fleet.
If the idea of a Scarab powerboat invokes happy memories of the 80s cop classic Miami Vice, that’s perfectly understandable. After all, Crockett and Tubbs managed to find all kinds of implausible excuses to pursue arch criminals in their Wellcraft Scarab 38. And, apparently, Baywatch also featured the odd Scarab among its hordes of pneumatic LA lifeguards. Of course, that was a different time (not to mention a different boat and a different builder), but why split hairs? The name ‘Scarab’ continues to resonate with a sense of Hollywood magic – and here, in the form of the largest and most powerful Scarab jetboat of modern times, it’s quite possible we are about to witness the company’s most hedonistic self-indulgence yet.
The Scarab Ethos
The modern Scarab line-up is engagingly simple. There are just four hull lengths in the range (the 175, 195, 215 and 255) and each of them is available in one of three configurations (Base, High Output and HO Impulse). These classifications escalate in power and luxury as you move up the scale, but whether you opt for the 17ft starter boat or the 25ft flagship, the Scarab brand seems to centre around brightly coloured, sharply resolved playthings for fast and accessible jet-powered water sports thrills. In fact, when they appeared at the Southampton Boat Show last year, I remember their marketing material pushing home this point in no uncertain terms: ‘A line-up this aggressive usually involves the police,’ screamed the company strapline. And on the website, UK distributor 158 Performance described the fleet as ‘hot’ and ‘promiscuous’. In short, notwithstanding the rather demure livery of this particular test boat, Scarab seem to be very forthright champions of the water sports scene’s bright, brash, almost confrontational good-time vibe.
There are some very thoughtful design flourishes in evidence on this boat and a great many of them revolve around the seating. The aft space, for instance, features a three-part bench with a trio of separate backrest sections. That means it can be adjusted to generate a full sun pad, a set of forward-facing seats, a row of aft-facing seats or a combination of all three. And better still, ahead of the bench on both sides, an aft-facing seat with a fold-away cushion in the middle means you can enjoy either a pair of forward-facing loungers, a pair of aft-facing loungers, four individual seats or (again) a combination of each.
Move to the squared-off bow and things are just as ingeniously organised. For a start, it comes with some clever corner cut-outs in the cushions to enable people to inhabit the area without wasted space or clashing knees. That makes it a genuine four-man section, and it’s rendered all the more usable by the provision of a bow ladder and a removable table fitting. But best of all, when you fit the under-screen partition to prevent the wind whistling aft, its thickly cushioned frontal face enables you to use it as a backrest for a third forward-facing lounge seat. When you add that to the two convertible lounge seats aft, that generates a remarkable total of five full-length lounging spaces, with no fewer than six uncompromised single seats remaining.
However, the back end is arguably the most impressive section of the lot. In addition to its comprehensive spec (stereo remote, loudspeakers, grippy swim platform, boarding ladder, grab handles, storage spaces, cup holders, ski tow eye and transom shower), you also get a genuine transom seating area. The side-mount leg bracket of the roving table (a great idea in itself) slots neatly into place on the port side, enabling you to use it not just in the bow space and the cockpit, but also here on the swim platform. Of course, I would like to see the table built from teak rather than cheap-looking plastic (and I would like to see three of them rather than one), but with that splendidly convertible aft bench rigged to provide a trio of aft-facing seats, this remains a stern set-up of very rare and novel versatility.
The Finer Details
In HO Impulse form, this is a very well-featured boat. There’s a useful rubberised phone slot on the starboard side of the dash and a slide-out Igloo cooler inside the helm console. The overhead canvas is also a very fine piece of work: robustly built, good to look at and capable of taking as much high-speed abuse as you care to give it. It’s also impressive to note that the fixtures and fittings are all through-bolted and where they protrude into high-traffic areas, like storage spaces, their tips are properly terminated with soft plastic sheaths.
The engine space also exhibits plenty of common sense in its organisation, not least in the powerful triple rams that lift the lid from back and centre, radically minimising any infringement on accessibility. The fabrics of this more sophisticated ‘Platinum Edition’ craft are also very good, with an attractive mixture of hard-wearing, diamond-stitched, leather-effect upholstery and fibrous, sisal-style, wipe-down matting. And the classic clack hull with sand and pearl internal colourways represents a rare slice of jetboat modesty that will have great appeal for sensible grown-ups.
It’s not perfect, of course. There are some rather flimsy black plastic panels at elbow height on the outsides of the helm seats and the heads compartment inside the port console is almost unusably tight for a 6-foot man, particularly when you attempt to close the door. A great many of the cup holders are also undrained, and on the port side one of these receptacles is positioned directly above a 12V power outlet, so if and when you do punch a hole in the base, it will need a tube to channel any drain water safely past the electrical connections to the bilge. However, on a boat of this complexity, this short list of gripes represents something of a triumph.
So what would you have to pay for this impressively high-spec craft? Well, with the twin 250hp Rotax engines, this top-end HO Impulse model goes from as little as £72,533. But in tandem with all the extras fitted to the test boat (not to mention the internal upgrades of the ‘Platinum’ package), the price climbs to nearly £86,000. That’s pretty juicy by Scarab standards, and yet even at this money, the 255 remains a very effective demonstration of how versatile, comfortable, accommodating and user-friendly a relatively compact platform can be.
Performance Pegged Back
The test boat is a brand-new model and its Rotax engines have yet to be run in, so we’re seriously limited in the revs we can lay down. Underway, that makes the 255 a very difficult customer to judge. The performance data from Scarab’s own in-house testing makes pretty good reading, with a 47.8-knot top end, an optimum cruise of around 23 knots and a usable range in the region of 150 nautical miles. But it also suggests that when you really push on, Scarab’s largest, heaviest, most fully featured jetboat can easily see its range reduced to less than 70 nautical miles on a single tank.
On the day, a 5-second plane is decent enough, but it does feel a touch sedate by jetboat standards. The nose also lifts pretty high, but happily, as you push on, the running attitude gets much flatter, drier and more comfortable and the extra pace helps elevate that hull and soften the ride. As for the throttle response and pickup, the 30-knot mark clicks past in less than 10 seconds and we push on to a rev-limited top end of around 35 knots at 7000rpm. That undoubtedly falls a decent margin short of the quoted figures, and while we can certainly put some of this down to the constraints of the run-in period, there’s no doubt that this is quite a large, blunt, heavy boat. It is dynamically sound and quirk-free, but even with the engines running freely and the figures ringing true, our test day would lead me to speculate that the 255 is unlikely to be quite the snappy, agile plaything its posturing might lead us to expect.
There’s no doubt that Scarab boats in general, and the HO Impulse models in particular, embody a certain kind of ethos. It’s one of aggressive styles, of casual arrogance, of neon toxicity and wild, unguarded youth. These things are garish and ostentatious, high-powered and modestly priced, exactly the kind of boats that have sage old seadogs rolling their eyes and zealous young funksters licking their lips. And yet, perversely, this flagship ambassador for the Scarab lifestyle is far more sober and gentlemanly than you expect, so if you want a slice of frothy, frantic, purist jetboat mischief, you should probably look elsewhere. But if you want a generously appointed, cleverly designed and uncommonly versatile family boat, this peculiarly mature, jet-powered party platform ticks just about every box there is.
- RPM Speed (knots) Fuel flow Range
- 5000 23.5 30.0 149.5
- 5500 28.7 42.0 130.4
- 6000 32.2 53.0 115.9
- 6500 35.6 68.0 99.9
- 7000 40.0 91.0 83.9
- 7500 43.4 113.0 73.3
- WOT 47.8 136.0 67.0
- * As the engines were rev-limited due to the run-in period, these figures are extrapolated directly from Scarab’s in-house test data.
- Fine wakeboard tower
- Remarkable attention to detail
- Impressive finish
- Cleverly conceived seating
- Generous bow
- Ingenious stern set-up
- Competitive price
- The ride is a bit hard
- The throttle response is a bit tame
- The helming experience is a bit sedate
Notable Standard Features
- Bow ladder
- Sunken cleats
- Port changing room
- Soft-step swim platform
- Stainless steel through-hull fittings
- Stereo with remote
- Starboard cooler
- Bow infill cushions
- Snap-in carpet
- Table fitting
- Wakeboard tower with canvas
- Porta Potti
- Rotax ‘Digital Speed Control Package’
- Wakeboard racks
- LOA: 7.62m
- Beam: 2.54m
- Weight: 1724kg
- Draught: 38cm
- Deadrise: 20 degrees
- Fuel capacity: 212 litres
- People capacity: 12
- Power: Twin 200–250
- Engines: Twin Rotax 250 HO Supercharged
Price as tested: £85,995