Sunsation 288 Open Bow: Performance Test

Sunsation's 288 Open Bow is several cuts above the breed.

23rd April 2003.
By Staff

Sunsation tapped otherwise wasted space, the deck above a midcabin, to create a sunlounge for the 288 Open Bow. (Photo by Tom Newby)

Sunsation tapped otherwise wasted space, the deck above a midcabin, to create a sunlounge for the 288 Open Bow. (Photo by Tom Newby)

Wayne Schaldenbrand, principal of Sunsation Boats in Algonac, Mich., admits that he wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of building a bow rider. He knew the demand existed, but the entire concept offended his stylistic offshore sensibilities.

“I wanted a boat that didn’t look like a bow rider because I never really saw us actually building bow riders,” he says. “So I had to build something that I thought looked really good in the distance.”

The result is the Sunsation 288 Open Bow, which features a rigid cover for its bow section and removable lounge cushions on the deck over the midcabin. And guess what? The 28’8″-long, 8′-wide boat looks “really good” up close, too.

Base price for the 28-footer with a MerCruiser 5.7-liter EFI engine is $72,670. Upgrading to a MerCruiser 496 Mag motor and additional options upped the price of the model we tested in Placida, Fla., to $87,915.

Performance

Sunsation outfitted its 288 Open Bow with its single-step “Vortex” bottom, which is the same hull used in the closed-deck 288. The step didn’t run completely across the bottom. Instead, it went through the chines and outer strakes. The hull’s delta pad also featured a small step. The strakes ran full length, but the inner pair stopped 8 feet from the transom.

Married to the boat’s 375-hp motor was a Bravo One drive with a 1.5:1 gear set and a lab-finished Bravo One 15 1/4″ x 24″ four-blade stainless-steel propeller. That somewhat mellow propulsion package pushed the boat to a top speed of 64.2 mph at 4,850 rpm.

Time to plane with the dual-ram Bennett trim tabs down was 4.9 seconds. With the tabs up, time to plane rose by a full a second. In 20 seconds, the boat reached 59 mph. Not blazing, but adequate.

That description also applied to the 288 Open Bow’s midrange acceleration. The boat went from 30 to 50 mph in 7.1 seconds and from 40 to 60 mph in 12.5 seconds. A 470-hp HP500EFI engine from Mercury Racing is offered for the model, and for those who want more zip, that option might be worth exploring.

The 288 Open Bow earned high marks in slalom and circle turns at various speeds, all the time feeling connected to the water and showing no tendency to slip or catch. The only time the boat felt loose, though not alarmingly, was during speed runs when the drive was all the way up. Running at that attitude, the boat was upset a bit by cross-chop and quartering seas. On the plus side, the trim tabs settled it down.

In head-on and following seas, our test driver left the tabs in neutral position. The 288 Open Bow knifed through 2- to 4-footers, and rode down their backs with no problem.

Workmanship

In years past, we’ve seen vinyl graphics on Sunsation boats and we’ve always felt that the application didn’t fit with the strong overall quality of the products. That wasn’t the case with the 288 Open Bow—all of the clean graphics were applied in paint on shiny gelcoat. Protected by a sturdy rubrail, the boat’s hull sides were straight and smooth.

Hardware was appropriately chosen and stoutly installed. Just aft of the nav light on the nose was an Accon Pop-Up(r) cleat. A standard raised Perco cleat was mounted on each side of the fairing. Two more, as well as a pair of mushroom-style cleats, were on the stern. Also in the hardware selection was a Bomar deck hatch and numerous stainless-steel grab handles.

Smooth and unpadded on top and reinforced with Kevlar, the boat’s fiberglass engine hatch raised on a hydraulic actuator. The motor was installed in proper offshore fashion on MerCruiser mounts and L-angles through-bolted to the stringers. The bilge was finished in white gelcoat and easy to reach for cleaning. Described by our lead inspector as “very sanitary,” engine compartment wiring was protected in conduit, mostly hidden and supported by nylon cushion clamps.

Interior

Going with a rigid cover for the open-bow and cushions on deck above the midcabin did more than give Schal-denbrand the “look” he wanted. It enabled Sunsation to offer a smooth fiberglass engine hatch, rather than the standard engine hatch/sunpad, as an option. Buyers who choose the uncushioned hatch aren’t out of luck when it comes to a sunpad—it’s up front on the midcabin/covered open bow area.

With the cover off, the open-bow lounges could accommodate two people reclining or four sitting up. They’ll have more to look at than the scenery flashing by, because Sunsation installed a Gaffrig speedometer and air/water temperature gauge in a vertical section of the nose.

Another welcome feature was a door at each end of the midcabin. With both doors closed, the cabin never felt cramped or stuffy, thanks to the overhead deck hatches. Cabin amenities included a galley with a sink in a cabinet and facing lounges.

Bolsters with power dropout bottoms were installed in the cockpit for the driver and co-pilot. For access to the mid-deck area, steps were molded into the co-pilot’s dash to port. Also at the co-pilot’s station were two stainless-steel grab handles (one on the gunwale, one on the dash). Mounted above the aft cabin door was the Sony CD stereo. Snap-in carpet covered the cockpit sole.

At the helm station to starboard, our test drivers enjoyed a clear view of Gaffrig gauges in angled purple bezels in two rows above the steering wheel.

Overall

Creative thinking went into the 288 Open Bow’s design. Craftsmanship went into its construction. The result is a midcabin bow rider that even the most traditional performance-boat lover could be proud to own.

Hull and Propulsion Information

Deadrise at transom 24 degrees
Centerline 28’8″
Beam 8′
Hull weight 4,500 pounds
Engine MerCruiser 496 Mag
Cylinder type V-8
Cubic-inch displacement/horsepower 496/375
Lower-unit gear ratio 1.5:1
Propeller Mercury Bravo One lab-finished 15 1/4″ x 24″

Pricing

Base retail $72,670
Price as tested $87,915

Standard Equipment

MerCruiser 5.7-liter EFI engine, molded bow cover, cockpit cover, dual-ram Bennett trim tabs, Gaffrig gauges, dual auto bilge pumps, Sony AM/FM CD stereo, cockpit and cabin carpet, indirect lighting in cockpit, cabin and open bow, standup bolsters, Kiekhaefer drive and throttle controls, custom graphics by Mitcher T and in-floor cockpit Coleman coolers.

Options on Test Boat

Upgrade to MerCruiser 496 Mag engine ($7,213), upgraded Mitcher T graphics ($3,000), fiberglass racing-style rear hatch ($2,500), deck cushions ($650), swim ladder with grab handle ($513), gauge cluster set in open bow ($475), depthsounder ($446), open-bow filler cushion ($225) and fender cleats ($223).

Test Results

Acceleration

5 seconds 25 mph
10 seconds 43 mph
15 seconds 54 mph
20 seconds 59 mph

Midrange Acceleration

30-50 mph 7.1 seconds
40-60 mph 12.5 seconds

Rpm vs. Mph

v

1000 7 mph
1500 9 mph
2000 14 mph
2500 28 mph
3000 38 mph
3500 45 mph
4000 52 mph
4500 58 mph

Top Speed

Radar 64.2 mph at 4850 rpm
Speedometer 64 mph at 4850 rpm
Nordskog Performance Products GPS 64.2 mph at 4850 rpm

Planing

Time to plane 4.9 seconds
Minimum planing speed 18 mph

Fuel Economy

At 25 mph 2.6 mpg
At 35 mph 2.9 mpg
At 45 mph 2.8 mpg
At 55 mph 2.2 mpg
At WOT 2.1 mpg
Fuel capacity 85 gallons

For More Information

Sunsation Powerboats
Dept. PB
9666 Kretz Drive
Algonac, MI 48001
(810) 794-4888
www.sunsationboats.com.


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