Baja 292 Islander W.A.V.: Performance Test
Baja 292 Islander W.A.V. blends functionality and performance in a compelling package.
During brainstorming sessions for the 292 Islander W.A.V. — that translates to Water Adventure Vehicle in marketing speak—the designers at Baja Marine Corp. must have had a high old time. How else can you explain a 29’2″-long, 8’6″-wide bow rider with a surprisingly large cabin that doesn’t eat up space, an extensive list of practical features, and uppity performance?
Here’s how: In addition to free reign, designers had a catalog of suggestions from Baja owners. The result is a boat that is, in theory at least, by the people, for the people.
And for $74,654, the people can buy the 292 with a MerCruiser 7.4-liter Magnum MPI engine. Our test model came loaded with upgrades including a MerCruiser 502 Magnum MPI motor that boosted the price to $106,146.
Like all Baja models, the 292 Islander’s bottom had no steps. However, the 24-degree deep-V hull did have slightly negative chines and four strakes. Unlike the full-length outer strakes, the inner strakes terminated 4 feet forward of the transom.
The bow rider’s 415-hp big-block engine was mated to a twin-propeller Bravo Three drive with a 1.81:1 reduction and 15″ x 28″ and 13 3/4″ x 28″ three-blade stainless-steel wheels at the business end.
Top speed for the 5,375-pound boat was 60.5 mph at 5,150 rpm, a more-than-respectable velocity-especially for a family-oriented bow rider—that made the $14,427 engine-upgrade cost seem worthwhile to our testers. That belief was reinforced by the bow rider’s time to plane of 3.6 seconds with its Boat Leveler tabs down. In 20 seconds, the bow rider reached 55 mph, and ran from 30 to 50 in 8.8 seconds.
Based on the handling of the 292 Islander W.A.V., we could see why Baja continues to adhere to a conventional V-bottom design. In slalom turns from 30 to 50 mph, the bow rider delivered flawless performance, leaning in comfortably and exiting without pitching to the outside. It carved ever-tightening spirals at cruising and full speeds without slipping, catching, hopping or hooking. Tracking was dead-on at all speeds, going up or coming down.
The 29-footer’s hull and heft also served it well in open-ocean conditions. The boat knifed through 1- to 3-foot seas head-on and landed softly with only a few rattles. The ride was just as polite in following and quartering seas.
Graphics for the 292 Islander W.A.V. were handled in its gelcoat, which exhibited a healthy shine. We found no errors in the boat’s mold work, which was protected by an expertly installed extruded plastic rubrail.
The manufacturer constructed the boat with biaxial and triaxial fiberglass and vinylester resin. All coring was handled with end-grain balsa.
To allow for a large cabin under the starboard helm console, the walk-through for the Taylor Made windshield was on the port side of the boat, and felt as solid as any we encountered during our 2001 Performance Trials.
Creative and unique, the boat’s engine hatch was covered by hinged cushions that raised on gas struts to reveal stowage compartments. The hatch, in turn, raised and lowered on an electric screw jack to a 45-degree angle for good access to the engine.
The motor was stoutly secured on cast-aluminum L-angles with gussets that were through-bolted to the stringers. Backing plates and the standard transom assembly provided additional brawn. We’ve seen less-brawny installations in dedicated offshore boats.
Baja’s strides toward superior workmanship in recent years have been well documented in this magazine. We’re happy to report that this trend is continuing.
As part of the bow rider’s unique interior layout, the open-bow seating area consisted of an L-shape lounge and, aft the of the boat’s nose, a small rear-facing mini-bench. Handles at the base of that seat were a wise addition, as was the snap-in marine-grade carpeting over the nonskid sole up front.
In the walk-through windshield to port was a locker, complete with a spring-loaded lid, for a trash receptacle. A Clarion XMD1 CD stereo was mounted above that locker. Another locker to port included racks for fishing rods. Aft of that was a molded entertainment center with a sink and a Kenyon alcohol stove.
to the boat’s cabin. Filler cushions created a berth that covered the entire area. However, with the filler cushions removed, the cabin had adequate seating on a dedicated lounge on the starboard side. Under the forward-most cushion was a head unit. About the only thing we’d like to see added would be an opening port of some kind for natural light and ventilation.
The helm featured a two-person bolster with manual drop-outs. Neatly dressed in silver bezels on a silver panel, the Faria gauges were mounted above the steering wheel, providing an unobstructed view. The Zero Effort throttle and shifter controls were mounted on the starboard gunwale.
The rear bench could easily accommodate four people. With two filler cushions, however, it converted to a generous two-person tanning bed.
Baja’s new 292 Islander W.A.V. is a superb example of what can result when designers are unfettered by tired preconceptions and armed with advice from real-world boaters.
Hull and Propulsion Information
|Deadrise at transom||24 degrees|
|Hull weight||5,500 pounds|
|Engine||MerCruiser 502 Mag MPI|
|Cubic-inch displacement/horsepower 502/415|
|Lower-unit gear ratio||1.81:1|
|Propellers||Mercury Bravo Three 15″ x 28″ and 13 3/4 x 28″|
|Price as tested||$106,146|
Balsa-core construction, handlaid biaxial laminates, vinylester resin barrier coat, courtesy lights, full instrumentation, hour meter, nav lights, acrylic console walk-through door, cupholders, fender storage, fiberglass cockpit liner, fiberglass engine hatch with storage and walkway, stainless-steel hardware, wet bar with sink.
Options on Test Boat
Upgrade to MerCruiser 502 Mag MPI ($12,767), dual helm seat ($2,140), Bravo Three drive ($1,650), refrigerator ($920), snap-in cockpit carpeting ($690), aft cockpit filler cushions ($660), butane stove ($490), transom shower ($420), fold-away table ($375), Zero-Effort controls ($250), fresh-water flush ($250), custom steering wheel ($210), compass ($180), tilt helm ($180), engine lid filler cushion ($170), pump-out head ($170), transom trim switch ($110).
|5 seconds||24 mph|
|10 seconds||40 mph|
|15 seconds||50 mph|
|20 seconds||55 mph|
30-50 mph, 8.8 seconds
40-60 mph, NA
40-70 mph ,NA
Rpm vs. Mph
|Speedometer||65 mph at 5150 rpm|
|Radar||60.5 mph at 5150 rpm|
|Nordskog Performance Products GPS||59.5 mph at 5150 rpm|
|Time to plane||3.6 seconds|
|Minimum planing speed||16 mph|
|At 45 mph||2.4 mpg|
|At 55 mph||1.8 mpg|
|At 65 mph||NA|
|At WOT||1.6 mpg|
|Fuel capacity||120 gallons|
1520 Isaac Beal Road
Bucyrus, OH 44820