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March 12, 2009

Rampage 34 Express IPS

This Rampage should be an easy sell to both hard-core fishermen and their wives!

Die-hard offshore fishermen are notoriously change-averse. When I try to discuss pod propulsion such as Volvo IPS or Cummins MerCruiser Zeus, many inevitably react with fears of knocking off a pod or wrapping fishing line around the prop. I suppose the Wright brothers had the same problem with people claiming that we would have been born with wings had we been meant to fly.

When Volvo's IPS first came out, I tested it against standard propulsion in absolutely identical boats. Assigning a numeric quotient to every performance parameter I could conceive of, I came up with an overall performance improvement of 32.8 percent. Any engineer will tell you how significant that is.

Rampage offers several power options, including the twin Volvo Penta D6 500 IPS package rated at 370 horsepower. In the case of our Rampage 34 Express, we had the bigger twin 450 hp diesels, and fuel economy still increased by an average of 30 to 50 percent over the same hull with standard propulsion, depending on your speed. We hit a top speed of just over 36 mph and cruised comfortably at 32.

But those are just numbers. The real improvements in this boat (and any vessel with pod propulsion) include turning, time to plane, bow rise, fish-fighting maneuverability and - of course - joystick docking.

The pods turn more or less sharply according to your speed. Higher-speed turns scribe wider arcs. Back off the throttle to turn tighter - a means of  keeping your guests safely aboard.

Because the pods direct thrust parallel to the water's surface, putting the throttles forward moves the boat forward rather than pushing the boat upward, resulting in barely noticeable bow rise when getting on plane. With that said, the actual running attitude of the Rampage 34 proved rather bow high, requiring some adjustment of the Volvo QL tabs.

The Rampage exhibited a long roll moment with very gentle transitions  when drifting beam-to thanks to that 13-foot beam.

Then there's the joystick. When maneuvering around a dock, you can move your boat in any direction, including diagonally and sideways with IPS. You'll have a total blast playing with this function! Your wife and even your children can dock this boat with the skill of a professional captain.

Volvo IPS also boasts a feature called Sportfish Mode. Engage this feature and the pods cock outward, and the adjustment of shift and throttle causes the 34 to maneuver like a hummingbird. Don't worry about slamming the throttle from forward to reverse: The computer handles it - preventing any damage. Want to quickly exit Sportfish Mode and run straight? Just grab the wheel and turn it slightly to disengage. Not a fish in the sea can outmaneuver this boat in Sportfish Mode.