Savage Ranger 480 Review
Aluminium and glass combine in this winning formula. The Savage Ranger is a contemporary runabout style of boat, which many consider one of the best fishing platforms around. It's not a so-called 'pure' fishing machine such as a centre console or one of the latest bass/barra/bream tournament style boats. Runabouts combine the qualities of fishing room, weather protection and comfort but have the added advantage of being a great family fun boat. All this comes together in the Ranger 480.
At 4.8m there's enough room inside to comfortably seat four adults, maybe five at a pinch, because the boat's been configured with a folding aft lounge seat. Fold it away and the cockpit has plenty of space for some serious fishing.
What more could you want?
The centre of the screen and the foredeck open, allowing someone to move right to the bow, which is common in most runabouts. The foredeck and screen base areas of the deck are moulded from fibreglass, which is a little unusual, but distinguishes the Ranger 480 from other 'tinnies'.
The anchor well is in the bow, under a longitudinal hatch and there's bins on each side of the walkway big enough to hold substantial amounts of gear. Given Victoria's recent lifejacket laws (you have to wear one at all times in boats of this size), precious storage space, once devoted to lifejackets, can now be used for other gear. I expect sales of inflatable PFDs will now soar, they're certainly more comfortable and less obtrusive than conventional lifejackets.
I had a problem with the screen frame being right across my line of vision when I was seated. So, if you're around 170cm tall like me, you might consider getting the pedestals under the seat shortened or lengthened to solve this.
A pair of industrial-grade zips opened the centre panel of the canopy, so you can see over the screen or to go forward. I also couldn't stand comfortably at the wheel. Like most runabouts the helm is basically configured to drive sitting down. Underfoot, the deck is flat, unobstructed and level all the way from the bow to where the deck disappears under a shelf across the inside of the transom.
Big side pockets are situated underneath the wide side decks. I know I've stated my dislike of side pockets, but somehow these ones manage to tuck away underneath the upper deck and become 'out of the way' storage space.
The side decks have their edges rolled in a generous radius, which makes them comfortable to lean against and adds a touch of class. At the transom there's a full height bulkhead with the motor extended out behind that. This is standard rigging in runabouts today and Savage has done a great job of getting it right. One of those Bermuda roto-moulded bait boards sits atop the aft covering board as standard in this package. The aft lounge is reasonably sized, not luxurious, but simple to fold away.
Performance & Handling
Port Phillip Bay was actually the best I've ever seen it on the day. The wind chop was only about half a metre (it's usually twice that). I reckon the locals must reserve all the good weather for personal use. But the conditions offered more than a fair test for a standard 4.8m aluminium hull and I'm delighted to report that the Savage handled it all surprisingly well.
The chop was so short and steep that any measure of speed was out of the question, but the boat maintained the plane at low speed, cutting its way through the slop with no fuss.
The boat we tested was a Limited Edition, all-inclusive on the water package from the Avante/Boronia Marine Group. That includes: Navman radio and sounder, bait board, folding aft lounge seat, lights, stainless steel rails, bilge pump, battery isolator system, folding canopy, quality Dunbier trailer with spare wheel, safety gear and rego for $25,490.
What excellent value for money for this really neat little boat.
The Avante/Boronia package also comes with a special paint job and colour co-ordinated canopy and seating. This is a package you can park in your driveway with pride.
The three-cylinder 75hp Mercury two-stroke popped the Ranger 480 onto the plane in an instant and was able to keep it there effortlessly.
As for the hull, I'm sure it has its limits, but this one offered one of the best rides from an 'ordinary tinnie' I've ever experienced, particularly in the rough conditions.
A 60hp four-stroke Mercury is an optional extra with the Avante/Boronia package. If you're into serious fishing and have the extra thousand odd bucks to spare, it's worth considering. But with the 75hp two-stroke you get the added option of having some serious family fun with wake toys!
WORDS : WARREN STEPTOE