With the new-for-2006 X-2 tow boat, MasterCraft is bucking a trend that—in great measure—it created. Wakeboard boats have been getting larger in recent years, and the Vonore, Tenn., boatbuilder has been at the forefront of that movement.
So what’s up with the X-2? Pull off the swim platform and it measures just 20 feet, 6 inches. It’s the smallest model in the company’s X-Series, which includes a 28-footer. Aren’t hard-core wakeboard boats supposed to be bigger?
First, tower and ballast system notwithstanding, the X-2 is not a hard-core wakeboard boat. It’s designed as an all-around tow boat. Second, it will fit in the average American garage according to MasterCraft’s marketing research. No small deal, that.
Third, and perhaps most important, the X-2 doesn’t feel small. And from behind the boat or behind the wheel, it’s way big fun.
As noted, MasterCraft designed the X-2 for all-around water sports duty rather than ultra-serious wakeboarding. Our professional boarder concurred with that after runs with the boat’s water-ballast system full, as well as empty. The wakes were substantial, well-angled ramps, yet they weren’t intimidating.
“If I was starting out and bought this boat for wakeboarding, it would do everything I needed until I progressed and learned harder stuff,” he said.
With the ballast system empty and the speeds—managed easily by the X-2′s PerfectPass system—up to slalom level, the boat laid down relatively flat, though still fairly solid, wakes. In light of the wakes being produced by a multisport model rather than a dedicated tournament boat, our skier gave the wakes good grades.
When it came to power out of the hole, our skier and boarder had nothing but raves for the X-2. Our test model was equipped with an upgrade to the 350-hp Vortec MCX multi-port injected engine, and power delivery was solid throughout its operating range. Thanks to a fly-by-wire throttle system, power delivery was smooth and immediate.
From the ski and wakeboard drivers, the X-2 received unanimous praise. In particular, both were impressed with the boat’s ability to whip around for pickups.
When it came to performance testing, it’s safe to say that both our test drivers were blown away by the X-2′s agility. MasterCraft has completely dialed in the boat’s single-step,
pickle-fork hull, and that showed in the boat’s ability to carve abrupt, as well as sweeping turns, without sliding, catching or hooking. Without question, the X-2 was a light touch at the tilt steering wheel, yet it wasn’t so light that staying on track was a problem.
The boat also delivered a remarkably smooth ride—smoother than that of the average runabout—in late-afternoon river chop. Having ridden in more than a few tow boats that can’t claim such a distinction, our ride-sensitive test teams appreciated that.
“It seems like so many of the tow-boat builders are so focused on creating big wakes that they’ve forgotten about ride quality,” said our lead test driver. “These guys haven’t, at least with this boat.”
Like the tow team, our performance-testing teams appreciated the power upgrade and believed it was well worth the extra $2,355 it cost. The X-2 topped out at a reasonable 45.8 mph at 5,200 rpm, and that took about 15 seconds. It came on plane in less than 4 seconds and ran from 20 to 40 mph in 6 seconds.
Though MasterCraft is a production boatbuilder, the X-2 towered above production-boat construction standards in every aspect. You don’t often find niceties such as four carved billet aluminum speaker housings, a swinging billet aluminum arm for the adjustable rearview mirror and a billet aluminum shifter knob on a production boat. You don’t often see such neatly stitched 38-ounce vinyl upholstery with attention-grabbing swoosh-like sections of a textured pattern that MasterCraft calls “Hammered Metal.”
Whether or not you like the X-2′s graphics will depend on your feeling about bold yellow and black, and simple geometry. Yet you’ll be hard-pressed to quibble with the execution of such potent colors, as well as the unblemished tooling. Among the lamination ingredients in the solid model was ceramic material, which reportedly minimizes flex—a quality our test teams noticed on the water—and reduces weight over additional layers of fiberglass.
The X-2 came loaded with hardware, including a tower and several pull-up cleats. More noteworthy than the actual hardware manifest, at least when it came to construction quality, was that every piece of hardware on the boat had a stainless-steel back.
The 5.7-liter engine was mounted directly to the boat’s integrated stringer system. What we could see of the rigging, for most of it was out of view, was neat, tidy and properly supported.
Even in large tow boats, open-bow areas tend to be nondescript. Not so for the X-2, which featured the “Super Fly Front.” Thanks to the pickle-fork hull, the forward section of the boat was uncommonly wide. That enabled MasterCraft to create a backrest on the forward section of the open bow and offer remarkably comfortable rear-facing seating for two, perhaps even three, passengers.
The boat’s cockpit also was uncommonly spacious, or at least it felt that way. Despite the generous lounge and sliding, swiveling bucket seat, there was plenty of sole space. None of that would be lost to wakeboards, thanks to stowage lockers on each side of the engine, as well as one behind the observer’s back cushion, and the racks on the tower.
The racks were among the easiest to use. Gone were those cumbersome elastic straps, replaced by lever-controlled clamps. The racks also swiveled so they could be accessed from the cockpit, rather than requiring someone to stand on the gunwales.
Somewhere between high-tech industrial and Jetson futuristic, the X-2′s helm station was stunning. MasterCraft retained bullet-pods in the dash for the three major instruments.
It also mounted all the accessory switches on diamond-shaped panels. From the glove box lid to the Hammered Metal upholstery panels, the diamond motif was carried throughout the boat. Located above the steering wheel, the Borg-Warner electromechanical gauges were synchronized through a controlled-area network (CAN) to work in conjunction with the engine.
From hull design and styling to amenities and systems, the X-2 presents the state-of-the-art in upscale tow boats. Having successfully created larger models in recent years, the builder decided to apply all it learned to something smaller. But the results are just as big.
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