Fun With Outboard Cats
The boating community’s generosity has been rather impressive this year.
a focus on the super-hot outboard catamaran market, I was able to drive three smooth-running cats powered by twin Mercury Racing Verado 400R engines with my cohorts Jason Johnson and Matt Trulio. (We also got a chance to take out the extraordinary MTI-V 57 center console, which you can read about on page 57.)No, we weren’t testing the cats for top speed, acceleration numbers or anything else really, that’s for another day this year—look for more news on that soon. We mainly wanted to get a feel for the boats, turn them a handful of times and take a few quick blasts along Biscayne Bay and out to the unmistakable Stiltsville.
We ran the first Wright Performance 360 (Performance Boat Center’s demo model), a gorgeous red MTI 340X (the company’s first gelcoated 34-footer), and Fountain’s 32-footer that was originally built by Smart Marine (Fountain now owns the molds and even had its first production model in its Miami booth). Each boat ran well beyond 100 mph with ease and they all handled the choppy boat traffic slop in the bay pretty well.
There were some things I really liked about each cat we ran, and there were some things that could be improved upon—although it’s hard to critique much about the ones from Fountain and Wright Performance since they are first-edition models.
The best part about the three boats—and the sport cat class overall—is that there’s really nothing unsafe about the outboard-powered models thanks to their wide stance and wide tunnels. There’s always that stigma about cats not being safe, but these are not bad. In fact, each boat we drove ate up the water.
Another positive about the boats is that they didn’t take long to learn because they were fairly predictable. I have to say, I was equally impressed by the MTI and the Wright Performance (right) for different reasons.
The 340X had more of a hot rod look and feel, and it was quick, responsive and well built. The 360 was right there in terms of performance and quality of construction. It turned flat and smooth at any speed and it recovered from boat wakes immediately.
The outboards cats are the trend. Is it a fad? It might get to the point where it runs its course, but not any time soon, that’s for sure. They really are great-running, fun boats and there are a lot of options out there now. They’re less labor intensive for builders and they’re relatively easy to maintain compared to an inboard boat, but one thing the guy coming from an inboard needs to understand is that an outboard cat isn’t going to provide the same brute force acceleration he might be accustomed to in his boat.
That said, many of these boats are set up to get that last mph on the top-end so they’re not necessarily propped for acceleration.
All I know is that it should be fun to get our hands on several models at once in the same place under the same conditions. Based on sizes and prices, it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, but it’ll still be a fun roundup.