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November 03, 2009

Boston Whaler 320 Outrage

Boston Whaler continues to improve rather than just make incremental changes.

Boston Whaler continually makes improvements to its entire model line, but some things don't change: Boston Whalers are still unsinkable. And precious few things in life offer that consistency.

Performance
Running out of the infamous Ponce Inlet on Central Florida's east coast, the new 320 met nothing that challenged its performance abilities. While trolling liveys at 3 mph, we realized a respectable 3.33 mpg  (0.9 gph). On the other end of the spectrum, wide-open throttle at 6,360 rpm generated 52.8 mph while pouring 60 gph through the twin Mercury 300 hp Verados  (0.88 mpg). Expect an optimum range of almost 400 miles from cruising at 4,000 rpm and 31.3 mph.

The Whaler lifted from stop to 30 mph in about 10 seconds. The 320 executed sharp turns beautifully, with speed bleeding off quickly, thereby keeping passengers safe. It also drifts steadily in a beam sea.

The 320 Outrage's spacious bow area carries lots of volume forward and ergo, lots of buoyancy. To make the ride smooth in a head sea, the 320 wants considerable tab-down trim. Standard equipment includes Lenco trim tabs with a lighted indicator. The tabs retract automatically when you turn off the key, so dry-stackers needn't worry about  breaking plates.

With every new hull it debuts, Whaler improves the head-sea ability as well as the overall smoothness and dryness of the ride. The company has come a very long way since building my childhood 13-footer.

I also admit to being thoroughly spoiled now. I really have no interest in driving a boat without power-assist steering. It's a treat guiding 600 horsepower with a single finger if I wish.

http://ak.c.ooyala.com/AxYWVhYjr7gCV9_z3Ng5aG2-4mqpEBw2/3Gduepif0T1UGY8H4xMDoxOjBmO230Ws

Fishing
Perhaps the biggest improvement in the 320 over its predecessor can be found in the cockpit. Anglers have gained five inches between the bait-prep module handrail and transom. It makes an amazing difference.

Whaler's done a great job designing the prep station with a sink, tool storage, tackle bags and leader dispensers. For owners who don't require the hard-core fishing features that the bait-prep center provides, a "summer kitchen" option offers  an electric grill (run via inverter), refrigeration and other terrific  cruising amenities in the module.

Those in warm climes might appreciate the adjustable misters  at the helm and under the gunwales in the cockpit. Personally, I haven't trusted misters since reading Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six (terrorists use misters at the Olympics to infect the world with a deadly virus).

You'll find a pressurized 45-gallon, blue-colored livewell in the prep module and an additional 20-gallon well in the transom corner, both with clear tops. You'll also get 12-volt receptacles under each gunwale for downriggers and kite rods.

A foldaway seat amidships on each side affords a comfortable trolling perch, while the foldaway aft seat with no legs can be hidden in a trice when you hook up. And finally, Whaler provides twin 80-gallon fish boxes under the deck.

Design and Construction
The company kept the 320's basic styling and running surface for this new 2010 model but redesigned lots of features and added new ones. For example, it added two more outboard cleats to the transom for greater flexibility in docking when you want to cross your lines. Otherwise, you still have the under-gunwale cleats with Whaler's signature polished-stainless-steel fairlead/drink holder. Spring cleats amidships are also now under the gunwale with hawsepipes.

I like the new swim ladder under a cover. You used to have to raise the cover to deploy the ladder, but no longer. A great styling improvement eliminated the fasteners on the gas-tank deck cover, and a new nonskid pattern makes cleaning much easier!

Perhaps the coolest new feature is how Whaler has integrated the hardtop and frame into the console itself. Undoubtedly, it's the cleanest design I have seen to date and very aesthetically pleasing as well. A hatch opens into the starboard side of the top for access to an upper station if you choose to have one; you'll find a large patch of nonskid on the upper side too, all just in case. I might add that with today's digital throttle, shift and steering technology, that job is infinitely easier and less expensive than it used to be.

Lots of styling features have filtered down from Whaler's larger boats too, such as nonreflective dash trim, window and wiper styling, and the like.

Two other features I appreciated include a great lazarette with built-in shelving to accommodate twin five-gallon pails and keep everything else above the fiberglass bottom (and out of the occasional bilge water). And I think every boat should have a built-in trash receptacle: The 320 sports a wastebasket that tilts out from under the helm seat (though I would prefer it to be under the companion side).

Continued refinement and improvements to already excellent products make for a very tough challenge. In the 320 Outrage, Whaler has once again exceeded  my expectations.

LOA......32 ft. 2 in.
BEAM......10 ft. 2 in.
DRAFT......1 ft. 10 in.
DEADRISE......23 deg.
WEIGHT......11,786 lb. (as tested)
FUEL......300 gal.
MAX POWER......Twin 300 hp OB
MSRP......$207,982

Boston Whaler / Edgewater, Florida / 800-WHALER-9 / www.whaler.com