- Even in her fairly standard guise, the level of sophistication is a cut above the norm.
- You certainly get your money’s worth with the Chaparral …
- The helm is nicely laid out and has a sporty air about it.
PBR dispels some of the myths surrounding bowriders as he takes the sophisticated and sporty Chaparral 246 SSi for a spin …Chaparral 246 SSi
The Americans invented the bowrider concept back in the 1970s, when the market responded to demand for a tournament-type water ski boat more suitable for family use. Until then, the water sports enthusiast with a family had to put up with the cramped layout of a closed foredeck. The challenge was to produce a sporty runabout that gave a clean wake for towing, a soft ride in chop, had extra seating in the bow and stowage for the additional gear that comes with upping the passenger numbers. So designers had two choices – they either had to build the boats bigger, which would put the boats out of the price range of their target audience, or come up with a completely new concept. The bowrider was born.
I remember the reticence that people had at first towards an open-bow sports boat – some people still do, citing the possibility of stuffing the boat and drenching everyone, or filling the boat with water. I don’t know about you, but I do wonder at these people’s boat-handling abilities and the thought they give for their passengers. Those early boats did have very deltoid shapes, as this was the sports boat shape of the time, but the design has evolved and the Chaparral 264 SSi epitomises the very essence of the safe, sporty bowrider.
Let’s take those safety concerns and bust the myth from the outset. The Chaparral hull carries her upper beam all the way to the front of the windscreen, and the ogive of the bow doesn’t really start at deck level until halfway down the seats. This does two things – it creates more space in the forward cockpit, but it also provides plenty of lift and wave-taking ability. The hull shape below the waterline is sharp and sporty to soften the ride, flaring out with an overhang both on the bow and down the sides to throw water wide and keep the boat dry all the way to the aft lounger.
The idea that bowriders somehow have an inferior hull can be dispelled straight away. You just have to look at the beautiful sweep of the chine line from the bow as it curves aft to see that this is a properly executed sports boat with extra seating in the bow.
While up front, you’ll notice the waterproof, projector-type docking lights with their heavy-duty stainless steel surrounds and the similar-quality pad eye surround to protect the gelcoat from trailer damage. The level of fittings is exemplary for a production boat, with quality put before cost. Her clean lines are enhanced by the use of pop-up cleats and inward-angled handrails that are positioned clear of the seat back. Note too the heavy-duty pop-up navigation lights on the bow, either side of the four-step boarding ladder, so there is access from the water at either end.
As you would expect on a boat of this type, there is loads of stowage space below the forward seating. Add to that the icebox in the forward angle and you get the feeling that Chaparral have got all requirements covered, incorporating those extra touches that separate a good boat from a great one, like the toilet compartment, which, on the test boat, was fitted with a chemical convenience, but the options list allows for a proper flush version. The wooden cabinet work is tasteful and goes with the Corian worktop to provide a proper finish to the interior of le petit coin. The stowage on the Chaparral is vast, giving somewhere to keep not just boating paraphernalia, but personal gear too, and then there is still more for dedicated water sports equipment. In addition to the usual below-seating lockers, there is a console locker to starboard that can be accessed either from the walkway or from the forward cockpit. The walkway can be blocked off with a weather door that stops the through draught very effectively, not just making the cockpit warmer, but quieter too.
At the aft end there is a deep and full-width integrally moulded swim platform sitting close to the waterline, which makes life so much easier for boarding. There is a stainless ladder stowed in the platform itself too, but lithe young things won’t need that! Entry to the cockpit is made easy by the side-hinged cushion on the starboard side, which sits on top of yet another locker space. You can tell much thought has gone into the design of the SSi to ensure everything is as convenient and as well laid out as possible. Having done that, they have then executed the build to a very high standard.
Lurking, menacingly, beneath the massive stern sun pad is the power plant of the moment courtesy of MerCruiser. This is the new model, a 6.2-litre V8 that produces 300 fire-snorting horses and replaces the old 350 Magnum. The new engine runs more cleanly, quietly and frugally, which means you can stay out longer and play without worrying about the fuel consumption, even though the grunt from that mighty motor will have you using every ounce of performance from the very creditworthy hull.
The 246 SSi is a real driver’s boat – the hull is refined and rewarding to drive, and despite being a bowrider she will take on waves with a capability that defies reason. Hitting the wake of a big cruiser at full chat proved her ability to punch through and still maintain a dry cockpit – we got a bit of spray on the windscreen, but that was the worst of it. I was really quite impressed with how she behaved, and in normal sea conditions she showed a very composed nature indeed – but then you might say that for a 24ft runabout at £75,000 she should do. The grip in turns is phenomenal, generating g-forces that require the bucket seats to hold you in. I had immense fun throwing the boat around and revelling in the way she just carved from one turn into the next. The response to the 3.5 turn wheel is light and nimble, so under normal applications the lightest touch is all that is required, thanks to the rapid response from the hydraulic steering.
The helm is nicely laid out and has a sporty air about it. The colour-coordinated dash and chrome-rimmed clocks are reminiscent of the wheel of a lively car, giving a clean, fresh look enhanced by the stainless ‘beauty line’ trim running right through the middle. The three-spoke wheel with stainless maintains the theme and keeps the modern look. The throttle is well positioned off to the side, where it is protected unless you are actually sat in the bucket seat. For a boat aimed squarely at towing sports, I was surprised there was no mirror as standard, so a driver will have to rely on the sharp wits of their observer to keep them apprised of what is going on at the end of the rope. The passenger bucket seat will swivel completely to become an aft-facing observer seat, as will the driving seat for social integration. The support and comfort are superb, and the material is designed to allow water to shed, preventing that soggy-bottom syndrome.
You certainly get your money’s worth with the Chaparral – decent performance, and blistering acceleration that saw her leap from standing to 20 knots in just 3.6 seconds, giving a clean pull-out for skiers or wakeboarders, which is a popular use for this model and one that is expected of it, hence the availability of two different towers to suit the intended purpose. Wakeboard racks are available that bolt onto either tower, along with a host of other extras too numerous to list. Even in her fairly standard guise, the level of sophistication is a cut above the norm.
- Length: 24ft 6in (7.47m)
- Beam: 8ft 6in (2.59m)
- Weight: 4400lb (1.996kg)
- Fuel capacity: 64 gals (242 litres)
- Max. persons: 14
- Engine options: MerCruiser 6.2L V8 or Volvo available
- Max. HP: 350
RPM Speed (knots)
- 600 2.8
- 1000 4.2
- 2000 7.3
- 3000 19.4
- 4000 31.7
- 5000 40.8
- 5700 44.4
- Great performance and handling
- Lovely finish and fittings
- Almost limitless stowage
- Hard to pin down faults on such a great boat
- The weather door is a bit lacklustre
Price As Tested
The Power Boat Centre