- This is great fun to drive, and something totally different to a conventional outboard-powered boat.
- You may either love it or simply find it is too specialised for what you need.
- At low speed you can spin the boat around virtually on the spot.
- It is a cleverly innovative boat in terms of design features.
Scarab 195 Open
The Scarab 195 Open is an ideal family boat as well as being perfect for a white-knuckle lads’ weekend. Greg Copp investigates whether a craft with such wide-ranging appeal also has a centre ground …
Scarab may now be Beneteau owned, but this brand is still synonymous with high-performance rakish American powerboats. However, the Scarab 195 Open is a world away from the petrol-guzzling 60-knot Scarab 38KV used in the 1985 TV series Miami Vice, although like its predecessor, it stands out from the usual crowd.
The various eye-catching colour schemes aside, what will draw you to this boat is the howl of its supercharged 3-cylinder 250hp Rotax 4-Tec jet drive, and the rooster tail it often displays under load. It is hard to mistake somebody enjoying themselves in the 195 Open, as this boat can execute ridiculously tight turns. If you are new to driving a jet-driven boat, the first thing that will strike you is that the initial pickup is not as instant as an outboard or a sterndrive. Nevertheless, this delay is short-lived, as the Scarab 195 is off in a brace of shakes, with its 1494cc supercharged engine shouting menacingly. She will hit 25 knots in just under 7 seconds, and compared to an outboard boat revs quickly to a maximum engine speed of just over 8000rpm, at which point you are topping 36 knots. The engine really comes to life just under 6000rpm, when she is comfortably on the plane at 15 knots. There is no way of trimming the Rotax jet drive, but the Scarab has naturally good fore and aft trim, helped by the fact that the compact 3-cylinder Rotax engine weighs a paltry 85kg.
Once you are up and running in the late 20s or early 30s, sound levels settle to a more sedate tone, but when you go into manic mode and nail the throttle, the engine tone denotes your change of attitude. It is a very different experience to an outboard- or stern-driven boat, as the power delivery is akin to that of a multi-cylinder motorcycle. She will turn exceedingly fast, so throwing her into hard corners is something you need to familiarise yourself with before you get ambitious. At low speed you can spin the boat around virtually on the spot.
What you will also notice is that in neutral you can literally rotate the bow while the boat holds station, as even though you do not have the transmission engaged, the boat is still pushing water through the drive. The Rotax has what is called a ‘Lateral Thrust Control System’, which at low speed directs thrust to either side as required. I found that by turning the wheel a touch off centre, the bow then followed. Then I turned the wheel quickly on a near full lock in the opposite direction, followed by swiftly turning the wheel back past centre. This had the effect of pushing the stern in the same direction as the bow, thereby walking the boat sideways.
The hull design is quite unusual inasmuch as it is technically a deep-vee hull with a transom deadrise angle of 20 degrees. However, in order to improve the tracking of a boat that has no rudder, sterndrive or outboard leg, the hull is built with two fore and aft channels that run adjacent to the keel, in effect creating two slightly downturned sections running out towards the chines. Just forward of amidships, these lines run upwards towards the stem. The overall effect is pretty good, particularly considering this boat was designed for use on the American Lakes as much as it was designed for salt water. It was quite capable of dealing with the swell that was heaping up outside Salcombe. It cut head seas fairly well, but once you start coming down off the waves on the midsection of the hull at speeds over 25 knots, you will hear and feel it, which is not surprising. While the hull forefoot is doing its job, the ride is reasonably smooth, and at all speeds the ride is remarkably dry as a result of the lower hull shape deflecting virtually all the spray downwards. Another factor helping the dry ride is the upper hull shape, which runs out wide in the forward section, creating a ‘pram-like bow’ in order to increase internal space.
It is a cleverly innovative boat in terms of design features. The one that stands out the most is the transom that folds down to provide a virtually water-level bathing platform – extending the boat by 2 feet and giving you a bathing platform that is nearly 5 feet deep. Forward of this is the aft sun pad, beneath which sits a self-draining cool box/bait well in the starboard quarter, as well as the engine hatch. Engine access is good, as you would expect with just a 3-cylinder 1500cc motor to accommodate. The seating is no less versatile, as the central bench seat can rotate through 180 degrees to face aft if need be, or face off to one side for fishing. Either side of the bench seat are two single seats that can have their backrests folded flat, thereby turning them into side steps.
The helm works well from a driver’s perspective, as the wheel and throttle sit perfectly to hand. There is a space next to the instrument display to accommodate a plotter up to 9 inches, and below that sit USB sockets, cup holders and a Bluetooth-enabled Hi-Fi control panel. Security on deck is not surprisingly outstanding with such tall enclosed topsides, which go all the way forward to the bow sun pad section. Here you can either have an optional drop-in table or, with the insert, turn this area into a small sun pad, complete with cup holders on each side. Underneath there are no less than three lockers, all draining and internally lined – very neat.
What is unusual for a boat this size is the option of a pump-out portable heads in the front of the console. This is a cassette-type toilet, but with a pump-out. The test boat did not have the toilet fitted, but there is clearly space for one. With the heads/storage compartment door open you can also access a cool box, which slides under the foredeck. The bimini T-top is designed to be folded forward into the foredeck area to facilitate towing and storage. Also, the windscreen is easily detached, courtesy of some quick-release fittings, in order to get the profile as low as possible, as and when needed. For towing wakeboards there is a towing eye on the top of the T-top frame under the navigation light, and there are ski towing eyes on the transom. Detachable wakeboard racks made by Monster can be quickly fitted on either beam.
This is great fun to drive, and something totally different to a conventional outboard-powered boat. You may either love it or simply find it is too specialised for what you need. But as a bay hopper, its 12in draught is unbeatable, and the impressive range of innovative features, including a toilet, is rarely found on a boat this size. Though it has two engine options, the more powerful 250hp Rotax is perfectly suited, and the one to go for.
What We Thought
- Rapid responsive steering from jet drive propulsion
- Soft-riding hull
- Good performance
- Very innovative design
- Solid build quality – has a lifetime hull warranty
- Great weather protection
- Easy berthing from jet vectoring
- Noisier than an outboard engine
- Limited range
Fuel Figures (manufacturer’s figures)
RPM Speed (knots) Fuel consumption (mpg)
2500 4.4 5.0
5000 7.8 2.4
5500 9.6 1.9
6000 16.5 2.5
6500 23.5 3.1
7000 27.8 3.0
7500 31.3 2.7
8200 (wot) 36.5 2.4
LOA: 5.7m (18ft 10in)
Beam: 2.54m (8ft 4in)
Hull: Deep-vee planing
Transom deadrise angle: 20 degrees
Displacement: 1238kg (with single 250hp Rotax 4-Tec jet drive)
Power options: Single 200hp or 250hp Rotax 4-Tec jet drive
Fuel capacity: 117 litres (26 gallons)
RCD category: C for 8
Test engines: Single 250hp Rotax 4-Tec jet drive
36.5 knots (2-way average), moderate sea conditions, 2 crew and 100% fuel
As tested with road trailer: £49,995 (inc. VAT)
The Boat Exchange
Queen Anne’s Battery
Devon PL4 0LP
Photo credits: Greg Copp