Chaparral decided to kick off its 41th year in business as a boat builder with a number of new models, including the brand-new Signature 276 cruiser. A well-designed cruiser offers you comfort, convenience, looks, style and performance, which adds up to a sum that is greater than its parts.
The whole idea of a trailerable cruiser like this is to marry the performance and style of a sportboat with the comfort and convenience of a cabin that goes way beyond what you would find with a typical cuddy. This allows you to enjoy a day out on the water cruising and playing with water toys like you would with a runabout — then at night you can drop the anchor or find a slip at a marina. The spacious cabin allows you to cook dinner and enjoy a movie before bed — then you wake up the next morning and you're already on your boat, ready for a new day of fun. In essence, cruisers allow you to really get into the boating lifestyle while giving you a taste of what it's like to actually live aboard for a weekend or longer. Those who enjoy it often find themselves moving up to larger cruisers and eventually motoryachts — the bigger the boat the easier it is to spend more time on it.
The new 276 from Chaparral is on the smaller end of the outfit's cruiser lineup, but it is Chaparral's largest cruiser that still has the trailer-friendly 8-foot, 6-inch beam, which makes this a great boat to take to large lakes, reservoirs and coastal areas for extended adventures. In the cabin and in the cockpit you'll notice a number of innovative features that prove Chaparral is mindful of new trends while working to raise the bar at the same time.
In the cabin you'll find a convertible V-berth/dining area and a mid-cabin berth, bringing the sleeping capacity in the cabin to four people. Light maple wood cabinets abound in the cabin, and the galley comes fully equipped with a refrigerator, single-burner electric stove, sink and microwave. The enclosed head doubles as a shower, and inside you'll find a look that is more reminiscent of a large motoryacht than a small cruiser.
The cockpit is well planned with a number of creative seating combinations. The doublewide helm seat swivels 180 degrees to face the aft bench seat for a cozy topside dining area. And the backrest for the aft bench seat can be repositioned to create a huge aft-facing chaise or sunpad — Chaparral really works to maximize the utility of limited space.
Our test of the new 276 took place on Lake Castaic, which is about 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles at an elevation of 1,055 feet. We had a light load with two people aboard, no water and a quarter tank of fuel (about 22 gallons or 138 pounds). For power we had a 375 hp 8.1 Gi Volvo Penta with a dual-prop drive spinning a pair of stainless steel counter-rotating F4 props.
At full throttle we quickly spooled up to a top speed of 46.7 mph on our GPS. You can expect a range of about 101 miles at top speed, but we imagine most of you will pull back to a cruising speed of about 25 mph for an extended cruising range of about 170 miles. Acceleration was impressive with a time to plane of 4.8 seconds and a 0-to-30-mph time of 8.5 seconds — these are the kinds of numbers we're used to seeing on smaller sport-boats.
In terms of handling the 276 definitely drives like the large boat it is. It certainly isn't lacking in the fun department, but it is a little more laborious in the turns than a smaller, lighter sportboat. Still, it has that trademark Chaparral handling with no slop in the wheel, predictable power delivery and confidence in hard-over turns. The 276 comes standard with a set of trim tabs, but we didn't have any need to use them on our flat-water testing conditions. Still, we're glad to see they are there — you'll be thankful they are if you need to balance out an uneven load or calm things down over rough water.
Chaparral's new Signature 276 is probably about as big as you can go without getting into something that requires you to hang a "wide load" sign off the back while towing on the highway. Even though Chaparral only had 8 feet, 6 inches of beam to work with, it still managed to fit in an impressive measure of all the things a cruiser needs to have. It's fun to drive, it has plenty of speed (and more if you go with more power) and its cabin is more than up to the task of extended weekend or vacation adventures.
Chaparral builds an upscale product, so you can expect that the 276 won't be the least expensive option out there. But if you're a stickler for fit-and-finish, durability and a boat that feels good in the water, you'll find that it's money well spent.
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Manufacturer Contact Information
Chaparral Boats, Inc.
P.O. Drawer 928
Industrial Park Blvd.
Nashville, GA 31639