Let’s face it: You don’t buy a pontoon boat for its performance attributes at speed — at least not when compared with traditional mono-hulls. Pontoons offer their own unique appeal, including while under way, but for the most part, no one brags about their toon’s turning abilities or time-to-plane speeds.
That’s why I was struck by the paces the factory rep put the boat through when I tested Bennington’s new 24-foot pontoon model. I was at southern Indiana’s Lake Monroe, checking out the new Yamaha outboards on a variety of watercraft they had made available to members of the boating media. A pontoon owner myself, I always like to see what’s new on one of my favorite styles of watercraft, and I’d signed up to test the Bennington 2275 RCW.
Instead of focusing on the inherent stability and roominess found on pontoon designs while proceeding at a slow pace, which is typical of factory-hosted pontoon boat tests, as soon as we cleared the no wake zone, Bennington’s Bob Janzaruk punched the throttle. Pushed by Yamaha’s new VF250 LA outboard, the triple-log craft came as close to jumping on plane as any pontoon I’ve ever driven, which is exactly what I wanted to do as soon as Janzaruk surrendered the helm. But first, the veteran pontoon pilot put the Bennington through some moves for the event’s photo boat that, frankly, had me in awe. Throwing the wheel to port and starboard as we executed — at cruising speed —some extremely tight turns for a pontoon, the Bennington took it all in stride, actually banking into the right-radius turns while maintaining a degree of stability that only a pontoon can provide.
The performance qualities are made possible with Bennington’s optional Elliptical Sport Package (ESP) hull, which features a patented, 32-inch diameter elliptical center tube with lifting strakes flanked by twin performance foils that allow the hull to sit higher and displace more water while under way. Full-length solid keels on each tube enhance the boat’s tracking and turning abilities.
Once at the wheel, I wasn’t about to repeat Janzaruk’s performance; instead, I set about the traditional 0-30 mph (8.4 seconds), cruising speed (17 mph at 3000 rpm), 0-WOT speed (48 seconds) and handling tests I use when reviewing a boat. The Bennington passed all with flying colors. But what really impressed me, beyond the radical moves the boat was put through, was the level of comfort offered by the model.
The RCW that follows the featured Bennington’s 2275 model number denote it as an “R” level boat, one notch removed from Bennington’s premium “Q” line of pontoon craft. The boat I tested sure didn’t display anything but features that might qualify as “top shelf” on comparable pontoon boats. In addition to plush seating atop roto-molded backs and seat bases surrounded by a classy-looking ivory, champagne and teak color layout, the key features include a rear entry gate made of stainless steel — a new feature for 2012 — that also accounts for the “CW” that refers to the boat’s center walkthrough separating aft-facing, specially inclined stern lounge seats.
Another premium feature found on the R model is standard LED lighting all around, including those lights used for navigation, docking, underwater illumination, courtesy and even LED mood lights built into the square-shaped bows of the bimini top — the box shape offering more rigid support than round-shaped frame members.
That bimini support is welcome atop a pontoon boat traveling at speeds that approach 50 mph. The Bennington I tested was clocked at more than 47 mph at 5850 rpm with two people aboard. If you’ve never proceeded quite that fast aboard a pontoon boat, you’re not alone. (Well done, Yamaha.) But once you’ve been there, especially surrounded by the performance qualities offered by Bennington, you’ll want to visit that zone time and again.
Length Overall: 24 feet, 1 inch
Beam: 8 feet, 6 inches
Dry Weight: 2,799 pounds
Fuel Capacity: 56 gallons
Max Horsepower: 250 hp
Price As Tested: $64,617