They say practice makes perfect... So after producing more than 35,000 boats over the past 30 years, is MasterCraft building the 'perfect' skiboat? I'm not certain the 'perfect' boat exists, as most boaties have their own personal whims; however it's hard to score these boats with anything but a '10'.
From its state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Tennessee, MasterCraft is currently producing more than 3000 boats a year and exporting to more than 40 countries worldwide. You don't meet those sorts of production figures by producing a second-rate boat, so it appears MasterCraft is doing something right.
Of course, we only see a fraction of those 3000 boats Down Under - a situation exacerbated by a plummeting Aussie dollar. Even so, MasterCraft's Australian agents, Camero Ski Boats, are very passionate about skiing and proud as punch to be associated with the US manufacturer.
We recently tested two of MasterCraft's latest, the ProStar 190 and the X5. While both these boats have a LOA of 5.94m and are based on similar hull designs, they primarily have very different roles to play. The ProStar 190 is a purpose-built tournament towboat, while the X5 is aimed fair and square at the hard-core wakeboard market.
Although both these boats would feel right at home on any professional tournament circuit, they are very easy to drive... So you don't have to be a pro to feel comfortable in one.
At the heart of both the ProStar and X5 is MasterCraft's own 310hp, 5.7lt, electronic fuel-injected V-eight engine called the Predator. This standard powerplant provided outstanding acceleration and top-end speed while racing to the ski zone, yet produced a smooth and harmonious rumble while setting a slalom cruise in the ProStar and pushing up a chunky wake in the X5.
While I decided to stay within the dry confines of the boat, we did have a young wakeboarder, Lachlan Davidson, along to check out just how good the X5's wake really was. Lachlan is an up-and-coming talent who we'll hear more of in the future. He rattled off a list of jumps and manoeuvres that sounded like Star Wars characters, so I won't attempt to repeat them. But I do know that he spent more time in the air than in the water, so I guess the wake got the thumbs up.
The X5 is a seriously horny boat. With the ZeroFlex Flyer, colour-coordinated upholstery and modern graphics, this boat oozes sex appeal. Of course looks aren't everything, so MasterCraft has incorporated a FatSac to juice up the wake and ensure you're feet are frequently over your head. When it's time to head for home or do a bit of skiing, it's simply a matter of emptying the FatSac and hey presto, flat wake.
The FatSac is located beneath the sunpad at the stern of the boat. The sunpad is split in the middle and hinged on either side for easy access. There is heaps of storage space in this compartment for wetsuits, ropes, etc, or for application of additional weight.
There is a removable bench seat that runs the full beam of the boat, just forward of the sunpad. This seat would squeeze three passengers, and what do you know, there are three drinkholders within reach on the aft end of the engine box. Stainless steel grabrails are also within reach to keep you in the boat during radical turns.
The Predator is hiding below a fully-padded split-fold engine box, which is located amidships. Its sleek aerodynamic design is relatively unobtrusive and provides good access to the engine. Just forward of the engine box is a standard anodised aluminium ski pylon.
The driver is treated by a very comfortable helm seat, which is adjustable fore and aft. Adjacent is a rear-facing observer's seat capable of accommodating two people with storage below.
The dash is beautifully laid out with custom steering wheel, full complement of gauges and silky-smooth throttle control falling nicely to hand. The ergonomics of the boat work very well with an intelligent use of space.
The bowrider section on the X5 is accessed by dropping down the observer's backrest and opening the split windscreen. The bowrider provides seating for two more mates and also features additional storage, drinkholders and stainless grabrails.
The ZeroFlex Flyer is also constructed from anodised aluminium and can be fitted with optional board racks. The X5 comes standard with a Clarion CD player, teak swim platform and heavy-duty marine carpet with a five-year warranty.
Running gear comprises of a 1 1/8-inch stainless steel shaft, magnesium bronze rudder, four-blade 13-inch propeller and 1:1 gear ratio.
A STAR IS BORN
The ProStar has most of the features of the X5, although it does look considerably more conservative without the ZeroFlex Flyer and open bow configuration.
The ProStar 190 is the smallest of MasterCraft's closed bow models but is still packed with features. It features classic but stylish lines, obviously based on a tried and proven hull design.
The closed bow means a massive amount of storage behind the observer's seat, while again the driver is well treated with comfortable seating and a feature-packed dash. A must for tournament towing, the testboat was fitted with a Perfect Pass cruise control system, allowing precise tow speeds to be set and forget.
The ProStar was great fun to drive and even pulling hard into turns at over 80kmh, it showed complete integrity.
All MasterCraft boats are constructed from 100% hand-laid fibreglass. The only timber on the entire boat is the teak swim platform, which can be replaced by an optional fibreglass one if it bothers you.
MasterCraft's production facility is on no less than 57 acres of lakefront property, so there is no shortage of water for R&D quality assurance. Every MasterCraft that comes off the production line reportedly undergoes a 30-point, 20-minute on-water quality assurance test.
MasterCraft even make custom trailers in-house, which means the entire package from the ground up is MasterCraft. I guess that's why it can offer a limited lifetime warranty.
Although there are some fantastic skiboats being produced in Australia, you can't help but appreciate the quality of the MasterCrafts. I suppose it's pretty hard to be building boats for more than 30 years and not get good at it. As I mentioned earlier, the devalued Aussie dollar is the only thing working against MasterCraft. Unfortunately, the weakening exchange rate may price boats such as the ProStar 190 and X5 beyond the reach of most Australian skiboat enthusiasts.
|MASTERCRAFT X5 & PRostar 190|
|Price as tested: $63,000/$56,000|
|Options fitted: None|
|Priced from: $63,000/$56,000|
|Length (overall): 5.94m/5.94|
|Rec/max hp: 310hp/330hp|
|Make/Model: Power Vortec MX Predator |
|Type: EFI V-eight|
|Rated hp: 310hp|
|Drive (make/ratio): 1:1|
|SUPPLIED BY Camero Ski Boats, Caringbah (NSW), tel (02) 9540 4800.|