By Go Boating
Larson Escape 234: Performance Test
Larson Escape 234 can carry a heavy load and still outperform its rivals.
Whoever said that it’s impossible to please all of the people all of the time obviously never stepped aboard a Larson Escape 234 deckboat.
With seating for up to 14 passengers, the 234′s deck layout resembles that of a pontoon, while its modified-V hull gives it sportboat-like speed and handling. Packed with performance and creature comforts, this deckboat is sure to satisfy even the most discriminating boater.
If your family has outgrown your beloved runabout but you aren’t yet ready for a pontoon, the 234 may be the perfect solution.
Packed with features for watersports and entertaining, the 234 is both versatile and comfortable. You can load up the family and spend a full day on the water, then cruise on into the night for a relaxing evening cruise.
Larson is quite proud of this model, which is the largest of its 2002 model year Escape Series. We wanted to see what all the hype was about, so we flew cross-country to St. Petersburg, Florida to take it for a test run.
They Must Be Doing Something Right
There’s always exciting news surrounding this legend in boat building, dating back to 1913 when Paul Larson built his first wooden fishing boat. Larson Boats is one of the few builders to survive the test of time by adapting new technologies.
Following World War II, when the aircraft industry developed new expertise in aluminum manufacturing, Larson took full advantage of the opportunity to rise above his competitors. He began building aluminum boats under a separate company, Larson Watercraft, which he later sold. That company was later renamed Crestliner, and it continues to be a leading aluminum boat brand today.
Later, in the early 1950s, the introduction of a new material called fiberglass surfaced and Larson quickly climbed on that industrial bandwagon, as well. Larson Boats became a leading national brand in fiberglass pleasureboats, partly due to the company’s ability to produce quality craft in large numbers. Larson Boats was the first major boat company to sign an agreement with the Rand Corp. to use its patented fiberglass cutting and application spray guns in the production of hulls and decks.
Larson Boats continued to change with the times as new manufacturing methods were developed. Then in 1980, Larson obtained the rights to use the new Delta Conic hull, a patented design developed by noted marine architect, Harry Schoell, of Schoell Marine. Later, Larson would also obtain the rights to Schoell’s patented Duo-Delta Conic hull design.
Today, the company is one of the widely recognized brand names owned by Genmar Holdings Inc., the largest manufacturer of motorized recreational boats in the world. Through Genmar, Larson Boats, along with sister companies Glastron and Wellcraft, has now introduced Virtual Engineered Composites, or VEC technology, a closed-mold construction process that eliminates traditional wood stringers and floors, significantly cuts production time and is better for the environment.
A Real Crowd Pleaser
The moment we stepped aboard the Escape 234, we were impressed. The word “big” probably best describes most every detail about this boat. Measuring 23 feet, 3 inches in length with an 8 foot, 6 inch beam, the 234 boasts plenty of deck space for seating and amenities.
A walk-through windshield and dual consoles separate wrap-around seating forward and aft. To starboard is a large changing compartment that can be equipped with a portable head. To port is a refreshment center with a pressure freshwater sink, an ice bin and a large storage compartment below. There’s also a 25 quart portable cooler that stows in a dedicated inwale rack.
The helm station features stylish VDO gauges and full instrumentation, as well as a Clarion CD player. Tilt steering is standard and the captain’s chair has a flip up option to improve visibility when operating at slower speeds. Although the chair swivels, it doesn’t turn quite far enough to face the wrap-around seating, which would make it easier for the captain to socialize with passengers.
Boarding is possible from the bow and stern, and through a portside gate. Bow and stern swim platforms are roomy enough to sit on, and both have telescoping boarding ladders that can be tucked away out of sight. The bow platform features an anchor locker, while the stern platform has a wet-stowage compartment for lines, or it can be used as a cooler.
Nice touches include the pressurized freshwater shower at the transom, and an optional air compressor for filling up inflatable toys. Another option is the extended swim platform, which would provide a place for stowing large inflatables and can be removed if you needed to squeeze into a short dock slip for the night.
A Quick Escape
The 234′s modified-V Larson Delta hull is very stable at dockside, making it easy to board and maneuver around the cockpit without any uncomfortable list.
The hull is rated for engines up to 320 hp. Base power is a 220 hp 5.0L stern drive from either MerCruiser or Volvo Penta. Our test boat came equipped with a 280 hp Volvo Penta 5.7L V-8.
During acceleration, the modified-V hull kept the bow steady and tracked nicely at a slow 1,000 rpm. As we throttled forward, the hull’s 16 degrees of deadrise helped the 234 cut through chop and corner sharply, while still maintaining stability for a comfortable ride at higher speeds.
For a modified-V, the 234 jumped onto plane rather quickly — in only 4 seconds. We reached a nice cruising speed of 15.5 mph at 2,300 rpm, during which we estimated the boat’s fuel efficiency to be around 2.5 mpg. With a 58 gallon gasoline tank, this would give you a cruising range of about 145 miles.
The full-width, wrap-around windshield offers protection from wind and weather. And because it’s a stern drive, the boat remains quiet throughout the rpm range, so you don’t have to yell while under way.
The 280 hp Volvo Penta produced a surprisingly strong low-end torque, which means you should have no problem pulling up waterskiers, even with a moderate load. Overall, we thought that the Larson Escape 234 deckboat proved to be a great package, offering comfort and performance for a large group.
Larson Escape 234 Specifications
|Draft (w/drive down||2’9″|
|Dry weight||3,895 pounds|
|Fuel capacity||58 gallons|
|Weight capacity||2,250 pounds(up to 14 adults)|
|Maximum power||320 hp|
|Base price with 220 hp Volvo Penta 5.0L GL||$36,155|
|Price as tested with 280 hp Volvo Penta 5.7L Gi||$39,715|
|Top speed||46.5 mph|
|Cruising speed||15.5 mph|
|Miles per gallon at 15.5 mph cruising speed||2.5|
|Fuel cost for 100 miles||$56.80|
|Range at 15.5-mph cruising speed||145 miles|
(Fuel cost based on a fuel price of $1.42 per gallon.)
|Model||Volvo Penta 5.7L Gi|
|Bore and stroke||4.00″ x 3.48″|
|Maximum engine speed||5,000 rpm|
Bow/stern platforms, three-step telescoping boarding ladder, bow rope locker, stainless steel gunnel insert/hardware, bow table, carry-on ice chest, enclosed changing room, refreshment center, CD player, courtesy/dock/navigation lights, on-demand water system
Extended swim platform, transom shower, pull-up cleats, bow filler cushions, UV protected cockpit carpet, air compressor, dual battery switch, gray-water drain system, hourmeter, portable head, Sunbrella cockpit cover
For more information
700 Paul Larson Memorial Drive
Little Falls, MN 56345
(800) 452-4834 or (320) 632-5481v