- This is a very quick boat. Acceleration is vivid. Handling is crisp.
- The 223 is a million miles away from the original concept of a minimal jet boat.
- She can be the command centre for cruising, snacking, sunbathing, fishing, snorkelling, swimming, tubing and wakeboarding.
- She gives a stable ride, and you feel ‘inside’ the boat, rather than ‘on it’.
Chaparral 223 VRX: Executive Jet
As bowriders get more exotic, Alex Whittaker tries on the 223 for size …
The Chaparral 223 22-footer is designed to capitalise on all the traditional bowrider advantages of sociability and versatility. She seats 10 people and boasts an eye-watering number of water sports features. Significantly, she overcomes that familiar American bowrider ‘clone’ look. In fact, she adds a sense of style, plus a little dash of technical arrogance. I say arrogance because she is fitted with not one, but two jet engines.
Since she has twin Rotax water jet units and no props, she is very much safer for family swimming, ski sports, tube sports and board sports. Open the 223’s rear engine hatch and the compactness of the twin-engine installation is quite astounding. The two Rotax 200hp 4-Tec units are digitally controlled from the helm from a single controller, so this particular executive jet really does fly by wire. Dispensing with a draggy lower drive casing means that her high-revving thrust is delivered exactly in parallel alignment with her keel. This confers excellent acceleration. Also, speed is not so readily burned off in hard turns. To go astern, the steerable jet nozzle has a drop-down gate. Interestingly, this is fitted with ports either side, so you can vector the thrust from side to side. This greatly improves low-speed manoeuvrability. Since the drop-down gate deploys in both neutral and reverse, rotating or holding station is greatly facilitated.
The first thing I noticed about the helm was the single ignition switch flanked by two silver jet engine START/STOP buttons. On test, the silver and black single jet control was found to be in a handy position for both sitting and standing operation, and its travel was very smooth. A smart, polished stainless steel beverage/iPhone holder sits in a small promontory on the fibreglass console moulding. Helm colours and textures have been cannily chosen for their non-glare properties, and it has to be said that they do look very good. Both helm consoles have substantial storage behind doors in the companionway, and there is an air dam for chillier days on the water.
Ergonomic principles are also applied to the dashboard. Having a large central multifunction touch screen display, plus two circular multifunction outriders, really simplifies the look. The Digital Helm Package Medallion touch screen delivers the following functions: Cruise Mode, Ski Mode, Eco Mode and Docking Mode. In use, this system maximises driver information without being overpowering. Overall, the moulded and stitched instrument binnacles, the nifty helm switchgear and the stylish chrome and black steering wheel give the helm an upmarket, slightly retro feel.
The Chaparral designers have dispensed with side decks to maximise cockpit volume. They have also kept the wrap-around seating plan simple and efficient, without looking utilitarian. The upholstery is fashionably minimal with just a hint of retro, but above all it is practical and versatile. The family seating goes on forever in this flat-floored space, and there are subtle design touches at every turn. For example, there is no knee banging in the bow seating. I liked lolling in the front cockpit with my back to the screen, supported by a fixed cushion at just the right angle. I also liked the fact that these seating areas were topped off with stainless grab rails high enough to get your fingers around easily.
The front centre cushion pops out to reveal a convenient step up to the bow. This is handy for anchoring, accessing the foredeck ladder or allowing just a bit of lazy fishing. Under the step is a useful drained locker that would take ice and drinks, or the day’s catch. On the foredeck a further locker houses the secured anchor and the beaching ladder. There is no bow roller, but there are two decent-sized pop-up cleats. There is also a very handy spring cleat at the breast position on the hull.
In the main cockpit, the observer’s seat cleverly flips forward or back. In the forward position, the vast run of seating is therefore uninterrupted. The 223’s stylish table would not be out of place in a gallery of modern art; however, I think the luxurious rear seats at the transom constitute this design’s masterstroke. Hugely practical, while maintaining access space between, they allow serious lounging in the cockpit, or an advanced lazing space looking out over the large bathing platform. With the subdued but stylish colourways, it all looks so clean and considered. The scheme works particularly well in bright sunshine, and avoids the glare of acres of white vinyl.
On test, we drove with the full bimini stowed; however, the tower supports a full hi-tech bimini top. The main frame is very substantial, but the designers have added a perimeter stiffener to preserve the canvas’s shape under speed. Another canny touch was positioning the bimini canvas tensioner down the middle of the tower, and not over the skipper’s head, as is often the case.
Chaparral are known for their Delta/Extended V-Plane Hulls, which essentially continue the running surface past the outdrive unit. The idea is to maintain a flatter planing attitude, get the prop further forward and out of the way for water sports and reboarding, and to add additional buoyancy around the stern where the machinery is located. On this jet boat Chaparral have adapted their ideas, but maintained their earlier design principles. It is still a Delta V-Plane Hull, but lightly modified for the Rotax jet unit.
Extended Bathing Platform
This provides a very visible demonstration of the difference between a standard bowrider clone stern and the Chaparral alternative. The platform has relieved sides plus an extended middle to cover the jet efflux. This cleverly aids safety and extends the real estate, while preserving steerage way when leaving a berth. The bathing ladder, under its lock-down flush cover, slots cleverly under the angled side. This whole area greatly aids swimming and water sports, as well as providing a useful casting deck for casual fishing. The non-slip grip feels good under the bare feet, and the pop-up cleats fold down to avoid a trip hazard or stubbed toes. You can adjust the stereo remotely from the bathing platform, and there are strategically placed drinks holders and even more stereo speakers. The highly practical polished flip-top petrol cap is set into the fall of the rear hull side, where it will drain naturally.
This is a very quick boat. Acceleration is vivid. Handling is crisp. The twin Rotax jet system delivers a subtly different handling experience compared to a single or duo-prop outdrive unit, or indeed a shaft drive. Initially, I was a bit miffed that there was not an independent control for each engine. However, that minor peeve instantly melted once underway. Single fly-by-wire control makes for very easy driving, and that simplicity more than makes up for the imagined advantages (and known complications) of twin sticks.
The 223 is a million miles away from the original concept of a minimal jet boat. She is expressly designed to take all the family for a full day on the water. She can be the command centre for cruising, snacking, sunbathing, fishing, snorkelling, swimming, tubing and wakeboarding. She fulfils these roles so well that the absence of a Porta Potti seems the only omission. As a brand, Chaparral are trading on classy design and high-quality fit and finish. This means ‘you get what you pay for’, rather than a low ticket price. Significantly for the private buyer, Chaparral have built a UK brand recognition that makes them easier to sell on when the time comes to trade up. Underway, the 223 has outstanding power. She gives a stable ride, and you feel ‘inside’ the boat, rather than ‘on it’. This alone will please any reluctant sailors in the family crew. Driving her quickly really is a blast, and she can be operated safely in shallower water than many prop-driven craft.
- Safe, powerful, twin-jet power
- High build quality
- Vast seating for her length
- Excellent extended boarding platform
- Clever seats at the transom
- Great water sports platform
- Excellent bimini design
- Stylish table arrangement
- No bow roller
- No toilet arrangement
The test boat was brand new and had already been sold to an owner, so we did not thrash her. The Chaparral website indicates a top speed of 53mph at 7850 revolutions, burning 32.8 US gallons per hour. They also indicate a best cruise of 25.9mph, at 5000 revolutions, burning a much more palatable 8.1 US gallons per hour. This yielded a range of 144 miles, or five hours’ running. Acceleration figures are most impressive, taking just 2.1 seconds to climb onto the plane, and cracking 30mph in just 6.2 seconds. These are entirely feasible real-world figures with a run-in boat.