By David McIntosh
Sun Tracker 25 Party Barge: Performance Test
Sun Tracker 25 party Barge: Pontoon model presents entertaining options.
If you are one of those people who closed the final moments of the last millennium with the help of Prince’s “1999″ (like we did), you might recall that his lyrics claim that “life is just a party, and parties weren’t meant to last.” Well, Prince must not have foreseen the Sun Tracker Party Barge 25, because our test of the elegant, yet sturdy pontoon boat proved that this Party is sure to last for a long, long time.
We tested the Sun Tracker Party Barge 25 on Missouri’s Table Rock Lake on a warm, beautiful day with excellent conditions. The water was a little choppy, but not too bad.
Our test boat had a third tube, which is available as an option. We had just one adult and 3/4 of a tank of fuel on board, so it was a relatively light load.
Our experience on the Party Barge 25 is best divided into two categories: the hull and the engine. The hull and the deck were both very solid. We were extremely happy with the boat’s overall handling. It corners very nicely, especially for a pontoon boat, which doesn’t have the advantage of a single deep-V hull.
The second half of the equation was the 4.3L MerCruiser stern drive we had on the boat. The MerCruiser is one of the finest engines on the market today, but it wasn’t a very good match with the Party Barge 25.
We were unable to use the trim, because the drive needs to be as far down as possible. We experienced cavitation during tight turns with the drive all the way down, and we were only able to take the engine to 4,200 rpm.
Repropping might have helped, but that wasn’t the real issue. The problem didn’t seem to be the hull or the engine, but rather the combination of the hull and engine. Apparently, Tracker Marine felt the same way that we did, because the 4.3L MerCruiser is not available as an engine option to the buying public. Instead, the company has chosen the 3.0L MerCruiser, which seems like a much better match. You lose some speed, but you get the most from the Party Barge’s excellent hull.
With the 4.3L MerCruiser, we were able to hit a top speed of 34.7 mph (at 4,200 rpm), but the 3.0L can still hit 26.7 mph (at the more appropriate 4,800 rpm).
When we tested the boat, it was only the second hull of this new model, so there’s nothing out of the ordinary in Tracker Marine’s fiddling with the engine before the boat became available for sale. In sum, though, we didn’t care for the 4.3L on the Party Barge, but we really like the combination of the boat with the 3.0L.
Gateway to Happiness
An entry gate is front and center on the boat, with long, straight settees flanking the port and starboard sides. A pedestal table can serve either this area or the rear settee. The boat’s second and third entry gates are behind the settees — again, one on each side.
With its faux burled wood accents, the Sun Tracker’s helm station is nicely appointed, and it sits relatively low on the deck, so visibility is excellent. A tachometer and voltmeter are standard, as are fuel, water pressure, trim, oil and temperature gauges. The AM/FM CD stereo comes with a cover and 60-watt speakers. Power steering is also included in the mix.
One particularly nice feature is the aerated and insulated livewell/cooler located under the helm seat. If you’re an angler, you know how precious a livewell can be, and if fishing isn’t your forte, you’ll have plenty of space for icy drinks — especially when you consider that a 36-quart cooler is also standard.
A giant (and we mean BIG) L-shaped settee takes up the back section of the boat. It wraps around the port side and finishes on the starboard side of the transom.
A galvanized dual-axle trailer with brakes ($2,390) is available as an option, as are a painted dual-axle trailer with brakes ($1,995), a spare tire and wheel ($139.95), a mooring cover ($459), a full enclosure ($2,334), a front windbreak enclosure ($1,050), a hardtop with sundeck ($995) and a 12v onboard battery charger (see dealer).
We were very happy with the Sun Tracker Party Barge 25. Handling is great, and the standard 3.0L MerCruiser is plenty of power for a pontoon boat. In fact, many manufacturers are actually cutting down on the power behind pontoon boats, because they (and the buyers) realize there’s no need to burn the extra fuel in order to gain only a few extra mph.
It’s time to get this Party started.
Tracker Party Barge 25 Specifications
|Weight (w/two pontoons)||2,404 pounds|
|Fuel capacity||30 gallons|
|Maximum power||135 hp|
|Price (w/standard package)||$15,195|
|Model||MerCruiser 350 MAG MPI Bravo I|
|Bore and stroke||4.0″ x 3.48″|
|Maximum engine speed||4,600-5,000 rpm|
|Cruising speed||15 mph at 3,500 rpm|
|Top speed||26.7 mph at 4,800 rpm|
|Miles per gallon at 15-mph cruising speed||4|
|Gallons per hour at 15-mph cruising speed||3.75|
|Range at 15-mph cruising speed||120 miles|
AM/FM CD stereo system w/cover and 60-watt speakers, power steering, faux burled wood dash accents, aerated and insulated livewell/cooler under helm seat, 36-quart cooler, pedestal table, marine-grade carpeting and upholstery.
Galvanized dual-axle trailer w/brakes ($2,390), painted dual-axle trailer w/brakes ($1,995), spare tire and wheel ($139.95), mooring cover ($459), full enclosure ($2,334), front windbreak enclosure ($1,050), hardtop w/sundeck ($995), 12v onboard battery charger (see dealer).
For More Information
Tracker Marine Group
2500 E. Kearney
Springfield, MO 65803