Sonic 45SS: Powerboat Performance Report
Sonic 45SS: Speedy V-bottom tames rough water.
Richard Hewitt, owner of Sonic USA in Hollywood, Fla., has any number of reasons to be jazzed about the company’s vacuum-infusion lamination process. Enhanced structural integrity and Environmental Protection Agency emissions compliance through 2008 certainly are biggies, but reduced hull weight—reportedly 16 percent in the Sonic 45SS we tested—has him buzzing.
Lower hull weight means Sonic can fully outfit cabins or use heavy diesel motors in its models and still achieve respectable top speeds, without having to convert to stepped hulls. And though he’s relatively new to the high-performance world, Hewitt is a quick study. He knows how important speed is to performance-boat buyers.
He’s definitely on the right track. The 45-footer we evaluated off Sanibel Island, Fla., is the fastest and quickest Sonic we’ve tested.
Powering the notched, multiple-strake deep-V hull was a pair of staggered supercharged Cobra 1,100-hp engines. Mercury No. 6 drives with 1.5:1 reductions and Mercury 17″ x 30″ five-blade cleaver propellers were mounted on the transom to put power to the water.
Hewitt estimated that the 45SS would break 100 mph, and it came darn close at 99.2 mph with its engines turning 5,700 rpm. Considering the conditions, 96 degrees and relatively smooth water, that was good work. On a cool morning with a little chop on the water and a lighter fuel load, we’re sure the boat would top 100 mph. Plus, one of the engines had a sporadic fuel-delivery problem during our tests.
We saw little—make that zero—room for improvement in the acceleration department. With its Hydraulic Products trim tabs down, the 45SS came on plane in 4 seconds and reached 84 mph in 20 seconds. And we were even more impressed with the boat’s midrange acceleration numbers. You won’t find many full-cabin 45-footers that run from 30 to 50 mph in 4.2 seconds and from 40 to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds.
The 45SS turned with the kind of predictability that helps conventional V-bottoms retain their popularity. Nimble for a tall boat, it handled low-speed slalom turns surprisingly well and aced them—as expected—at higher speeds. Tall hullsides did make the boat susceptible to winds, where it leaned a bit, but in general tracking was excellent.
Offshore, the 45SS crushed every 1- to 3-footer we could find and proved that, when it comes to performance boats, size still matters. Even though it’s substantially lighter than its conventionally laid-up counterpart, the 45SS remains a hefty boat.
Sonic’s vacuum-infusion process doesn’t just precisely control the amount of resin—hence weight—used during lamination. It enables the builder to use composite laminates, such as the Kevlar and carbon fiber in the 45SS.
It also helps the builder produce straight tooling, at least if the hullsides of the 45SS were representative samples. Those sides were a substantial canvas for the boat’s painted graphics, and a thick plastic rubrail with a rubber insert provided protection for them.
Like every Sonic we’ve evaluated, the 45SS was richly endowed with stainless-steel hardware including eight Accon Pull-Up cleats, as well as handrails on the deck. The two hatches in the deck were painted to match the boat’s graphics. A grab handle, as well as a navigation light, anchor light and receiver for the Garmin GPS unit, were mounted on the radar arch.
Two electric screw jacks on aluminum brackets lifted the positive-molded fiberglass engine hatch. Mounting of the 600-cubic-inch staggered power plants was handled with custom-fabricated L-angles that were through-bolted to the stringers. Wiring, cables and hoses were run through protective PVC tubing glassed into the compartment, which gave a finished appearance to the installation. Exposed wiring was supported by stainless-steel cushion clamps.
As it does in all its models, Sonic blended classic and contemporary in the 45SS. On the classic side, there was a shoulder-deep cockpit with two power dropout-bottom bolsters and a cabin with stand-up headroom, facing lounges and a V-berth. On the contemporary side were the many amenities such as complete Gaffrig by Livorsi instrumentation and a Garmin GPS Map 182 at the helm station, and a Sampo flat-screen television and a Sony PlayStation unit in the cabin.
However you categorize them, there were a number of features in the 45SS that we appreciated because they’ll make life on the water a whole lot easier. Among these were wide, flat gunwale tops and nonskid walkways on each side of the deck, which made reaching the anchor locker a snap. In another good move, the builder used two pieces of snap-in carpet to cover the cockpit sole rather than one. Given the area in question, a single section of carpet would have been unwieldy.
Given the size of the carpeted cabin, which could be closed off from the cockpit by a sliding door that locked, it was no surprise that the 45SS had a stand-up head locker/shower and a galley. Though the galley appliances consisted of a refrigerator and a sink, there was all kinds of space for additional items.
In addition to the light provided by the deck hatches, there were a number of two-lamp flush-mounted fixtures throughout the boat. The lights were mounted in elliptical orange panels with the Sonic name in yellow between them, and those colors were carried in cabin accents, including color-matched throw pillows on the V-berth.
Anyone can build a light performance boat—you simply cut back on materials and hold your breath when it runs. The trick is reducing weight without compromising integrity. Sonic’s 45SS is a full-cockpit, full-cabin performer that ran nearly 100 mph and felt solid all the way.
Hull and Propulsion Information
|Deadrise at transom||25 degrees|
|Hull weight||11,500 pounds|
|Engines||(2) Cobra 1100|
|Lower-unit gear ratio||1.5:1|
|Propellers||Mercury five-blade cleaver 17″ x 30″|
|Price as tested||$519,323|
Options on Test Boat
Upgrade to twin staggered Cobra 1100 engines ($44,000), arch ($5,620), extended swim platform ($3,400), GPS moving map ($1,990), interior and exterior faux carbon panels ($1,900), Gaffrig by Livorsi gauges and controls ($1,338), electric bolsters ($1,300), indirect lighting ($800), swim ladder ($525) and transom shower ($450).
|Location||Fort Myers Fla.|
|Wind speed||1-3 mph|
|Sea conditions||1′ to 3′ chop|
|5 seconds||35 mph|
|10 seconds||58 mph|
|15 seconds||73 mph|
|20 seconds||84 mph|
|30-50 mph||4.2 seconds|
|40-60 mph||4.4 seconds|
|40-70 mph||7 seconds|
Rpm vs. Mph
|Radar||99.2 mph at 5700 rpm|
|Nordskog Performance Products GPS||99.2 mph at 5700 rpm|
|Time to plane||4 seconds|
|Minimum planing speed||20 mph|
For More Information
3600 N. 29th Ave.
Hollywood, FL 33020