By Go Boating
Smoker Craft 8522: Performance Test
Smoker Craft 8522: Plush pontoon boat.
You can tell a lot about a boat just from the people who sell it.
We’re not talking about the kinds of things you learn from the specifications and the colorful descriptions the salespeople throw your way — we’re talking attitude. In five minutes, you can sum up how passionate the person is about the boat and how confident he or she is in its abilities.
Therefore, we knew going into this test that we were about to be impressed by the Smoker Craft Paradise 8522.
It was Jim Ellis, Smoker Craft’s Midwest account manager, who gave us this great first impression. We were at the Beau Rivage Resort Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, where Yamaha had just introduced its new T60 engine for 2003.
The T60 is Yamaha’s new 60 hp in-line four-cylinder four-stroke engine that was designed with a high gear ratio and a dual-thrust propeller. Ellis was confident that the Paradise 8522 and the T60 were the perfect match for each other.
It was a beautiful Southern day, so we slowly cruised through the muddy brown waters sheltered by the nearby breakwater. Then, after double-checking to make sure we were properly hooked up to the lanyard, we started our test.
If you’re looking for a go-fast boat, the Paradise 8522 is probably not it — at least not with the T60 engine powering it. However, most boaters looking for a major dose of speed don’t choose a pontoon boat, anyway — and the people at Yamaha and Smoker Craft realize that.
The boat is actually rated for up to 135 hp, so it’s possible to go faster than the top speed of 19.6 mph (at 5,600 rpm) we reached with the T60 — but on a boat like this, do you really need to? The T60′s high gear ratio gives you plenty of thrust, so you can jump right to plane in no time.
According to Yamaha, the company had been recommending a higher horsepower on pontoon boats in the past, but owners were only seeing a minimal amount of added speed. With the new technology, you can still get a strong thrust with less horsepower — and you’ll be saving both fuel and the environment in the process.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the T60 is its standard dual-thrust propeller. This dynamic piece of technology was specially designed for pontoon boats — and it can be used on just about any model on the market.
The prop pushes exhaust gases out of the through hub when going forward and through special chambers toward the leading edge of the lower unit when in reverse. The result is that the prop is always “biting” undisturbed water, which eliminates cavitation.
Ellis backed down the 8522, so we could see how powerful it was. As he gave it more power, the boat’s stern was pulled farther and farther into the water, until the T60′s cowling was almost buried. He didn’t dare back down at full power, for fear the engine would pull the boat underwater. It was a remarkable display.
During our test, the boat had a cruising speed of 16.9 mph (at 5,000 rpm), which is impressive when you consider that we actually run our boats at cruising speed most of the time, rather than at wide-open throttle. We weren’t going the 70-plus mph of the bass boats running beside us, but it was still a very satisfying ride.
The 8522 does wonderfully in turns, and there was no tracking to the left or the right. The ride was solid, leaving no doubt that this boat would offer families a safe, comfortable ride.
A Supreme Being
Have you ever been looking over a boat and found a feature that — for some reason you couldn’t quite comprehend — absolutely mesmerized you? That’s what happened to us on the 8522 — and that feature was what the company calls its “supreme table.”
The moment we stepped onto the boat at the dock, our eyes were immediately drawn to this shiny object, which is one part coffee table and one part storage bin. The “supreme table” has a white body and a faux-burled wood cover with four built-in cup holders.
The table fits perfectly into the spaces between the settees, where the lockable gates are placed. Therefore, you can choose to keep the table at the center of the deck or you can push it in front of the portside gate or the forward gate (all of which are 30 inches wide).
But enough about the table. There’s plenty more to crow about on the 8522. The Paradise series is Smoker Craft’s premier line, so luxury features abound.
All of the boat’s settees are plush and comfortable, and an optional front gate seat can be used to turn the two fore settees into one giant U-shaped settee. In addition to putting stowage space under the settees, the designers at Smoker Craft wisely thought to put stowage inside the arms.
The helm console is super-deluxe. It has race car styling, and a faux-burled wood finish and gold bezels cover its custom molded dash. A speedometer, a tachometer, a voltmeter and a fuel gauge are all standard instrumentation; plus, there’s a standard horn, a 12v receptacle and a CD player with four speakers.
The hollow helm console also has room inside for a moderate-sized cooler. A tinted windscreen protects the skipper when he or she is sitting at the doublewide helm chair with slider.
The aft half of the 8522 is just as accommodating as the forward half. A huge L-shaped settee wraps along the transom and port side, and it is serviced by a pedestal table with built-in cup holders.
There is an aft sundeck, and all you have to do is flip up the giant cushion in the center and pull out the built-in changing room when you’re ready to slip out of your wet bathing suit. The thick fabric provides plenty of privacy.
A boarding ladder is positioned at the aft starboard corner of the boat. Back at the dock, we stepped off the boat to get a good look at the two 25 inch tubes and the aluminum bottom skin, as well as some other construction details.
The Infinity carpeting is a neutral beige, and it has a five-year warranty. The 3/4 inch plywood deck has a lifetime warranty. The railing and deck trim are all anodized.
In addition to navigation lights, there is a light module with docking lights. When you need a little shade, you’re covered — by the Bimini top, which looks over the aft half of the boat.
Being behind the helm of the Paradise 8522 was just plain fun. It was a great ride.
The muddy waters along the coast of Biloxi, Mississippi aren’t exactly the most beautiful waters in the world, but perhaps that was a good thing, because they served as an excellent contrast to the beauty of the 8522. With this plush pontoon boat, you really have found paradise.
Smoker Craft Paradise 8522 Specifications
|Dry weight||2,150 pounds.|
|Fuel capacity||24 gallons|
|Maximum power (w/Tri Toon)||150 hp|
|Price as tested with 60-hp Yamaha four-stroke outboard engine||$18,500|
|Top speed||19.6 mph|
|Cruising speed||16.9 mph|
|Estimated miles per gallon at 32-mp mph cruising speed||4.83|
|Estimated fuel cost for 100 miles||$31.06|
|Estimated range at 32-mph cruising speed||116 miles|
(Estimated fuel cost based on a fuel price of $1.50 per gallon.)
|Model||Yamaha T60 four-stroke outboard|
|Bore and stroke||2.56″ x 2.95″|
|Maximum engine speed||5,000-6,000 rpm|
Fiberglass console w/custom molded dash, speedometer, tachometer, voltmeter, fuel gauge, 12v receptacle, windscreen, CD player w/four speakers, doublewide helm chair w/slider, table w/cup holders, Bimini top, through-bolted deck cleats, 24 gallon fuel tank, light module w/docking lights.
Camper enclosure, pull-out berth units, gate seat, table kit, baby changing station, galley w/stove, portable head, ski tow, boarding ladder, Tri Toon.
For More Information
P.O. Box 65
New Paris, IN 46553