We test a lot of lifestyle boats and are rarely as enthused about any of them the way we are about the MasterCraft CSX 265.
MasterCraft's centre console CSX 265 does more than just tow wakeboarders
While the American 8m centre consoles we usually see imported into Australia tend to be definitive offshore fishing machines, MasterCraft's CSX 265 goes off in another direction entirely. Sure, it's a centre console, and you can fish out of it, but the kind of boat to run out to The Shelf and do battle with the denizens of the deep, clearly it is not.
In fact, this boat is quite a classy, social, cruising, semi-serious ski/wake towboat, as our test on a sunny Gold Coast day showed. The guys from MasterCraft's Aussie arm sent one teenage daughter and her friends along to ease any visual stress caused by the experienced helmsperson and deckie.
MasterCraft's CSX line gives the lie to any preconceived notions of the centre console as a fishing-specific configuration. The CSX 265's console is large enough to provide about as much shelter for the helm as you'd find in a bowrider or runabout configuration, plus ample room for a full-size, head-height bathroom that neither of those evergreen layouts has much hope of including.
The helm position is set high enough for the person at the wheel to have an unhindered view of what's going on 360" around the boat, a damn fine idea in a boat designed for towing people. There's also free access for guests from bow lounge to stern or vice versa along each side.
The first thing you notice about the MasterCraft CSX 265, though, is its distinctive bows. Instead of the chines coming in to meet at a point the way most mono hulls do, MasterCraft extends each chine forward and keeps them apart to form a bow more like a cat hull than a mono. As a result, the bow lounge is particularly spacious and the extra lift provided by those broad shoulders ensures the weight of several people forward doesn't affect the hull's on-water manners at all.
When landing on a beach or boarding from the water, there's a telescopic boarding ladder stowed away neatly under the anchor hatch. Flipping this down keeps the 265's props well clear of any trouble and makes it unusually easy for a boat its size to approach a beach?a desirable thing in any socially oriented boat.
Typical of quality boats built in the United States, the MasterCraft CSX 265 exhibits an excellent standard of finish and is very well appointed indeed. The bathroom has hot water on tap from a 120L freshwater tank and the VacuFlush toilet system includes an environmentally friendly holding tank and pump-out. The hot water system also services a freshwater shower on the transom.
In the bows, a table rises at the press of a button to convert the sunbathing pad to a lounge with table. The stern lounge has seats facing forward and aft to watch the lucky ones on the tow. An icebox or wet gear can be stowed in a central ventilated compartment under the stern lounge. Helm seating leaves absolutely nothing to be desired: there's a wraparound lean seat with a flip-down bolster and a well-placed footrest to brace against.
Our test boat featured an optional hard-top supported by a heavily engineered aluminium frame. We'd find it hard to own one of these boats without this hard-top. When we ran offshore to get Main Beach's high-rises into the background, the hard-top showed impressive structural integrity by standing immovably despite some wind chop and a fair swell.
Behind the hard-top supports, the aft-facing part of the stern lounge is mounted to a central station that incorporates a sink unit, a drained well and stowage.
At the helm, information from twin 350hp V8s comes via MasterCraft's own VDIG (Visual Digital Interface Gauge) unit mounted between a pair of tachos above a pair of multi-function gauges measuring fuel, engine temperature, oil pressure and voltage. Our test boat also had a big screen sounder/GPS unit directly behind the steering wheel, and a full stereo sound system with the essential waterproof speakers mounted beneath the T-top.
Morse electronic controls with auto-sync communicate with the engines. Power in this boat goes to the water via MasterCraft's own V-drive system, which they call 'Vector Drive'. They claim Vector Drive provides a shallower draft, turns better, delivers more power to the props, and is more robust in the event of a drive train strike than a sterndrive.
The CSX 265 handled like a much smaller boat at speed and yet could be manoeuvred like a larger one thanks to the twin screws. Although muted, the twin V8s sounded superb to anybody who appreciates that kind of thing "in other words, every male within earshot" without being anywhere near loud enough to offend anyone.
MasterCraft builds their own 5.7L V8s to meet CARB's Four-Star Super Ultra Low Emissions rating and still produce a generous 350hp. (CARB, by the way, stands for 'California Air Resources Board'.) This boat makes a total of 700 horses available which, as you'd expect, had no trouble moving 3.5t of boat plus six adults around briskly. Special long manifolds maintain low and mid-range torque delivery from multi-point fuel injection.
We ran our performance figures with all six people aboard and still recorded a top speed of just under 36 knots, which shows that having a few friends along for the ride won't compromise a good day's wakeboarding.
How economic influences will be affecting imported boats when you read this is anybody's guess, but there's one thing that won't change about this boat: we like it. It's an unusual boat and is no less appealing for that. At Modern Boating, we test a lot of lifestyle boats and are rarely as enthused about any of them the way we are about the MasterCraft CSX 265.
WORDS : WARREN STEPTOE