Rampage 34 Express IPS Review

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

0409br_rampage368

0409br_rampage368

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.

Performance
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.

Fishing
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.

A 70-square-foot cockpit affords multiple anglers room to fight fish simultaneously without stepping on each other. And between the comfortable settee on the bridge deck and the aft-facing module seat on the starboard cockpit module, watching the baits between strikes becomes quite relaxing. Rampage supplies large modules along the forward end for storing tackle and rigging baits as well as a baitwell in the transom. You can stipulate as many rod holders as you want on this boat. Tred Barta's version had some 38 just around the cockpit.

Design and Construction
When Rampage decided to redesign its 33-footer to accommodate Volvo Penta's IPS drives, it needed to differentiate it from the company's old standard-propulsion model. So though it may look like the old 33, the running surface has changed dramatically and the interior has much more space thanks to the engines and drives being under the cockpit floor.

Belowdecks, the 34 resembles the old 33 except with more space. The dinette table drops to create a queen-size V-berth in the bow. Two more berths in oblique singles line the bulkheads above the large bunk. Or you can create four singles without the drop-down table. The saloon sofa also converts into a double berth. I particularly appreciate the 6 1/2 feet of headroom in the cabin.

Years ago, Rampage had a reputation for being loud. Not anymore. Both the exhausts and engine compartment have been treated with soundproofing, and the living quarters have 3M Thinsulate sound insulation throughout.

Overall, this boat proved to be a pleasure to fish and more fun to run than I've had in years. In fact, even if you aren't planning to buy a new boat right away, you really must sea-trial this boat just to experience what the next generation offers.

LOA...... 35 ft. 6 in.
BEAM...... 13 ft.
DEADRISE...... 18 deg.
DRAFT...... 2 ft. 5 in.
WEIGHT...... 17,200 lb.
FUEL...... 338 gal.
MAX POWER...... Twin 435 hp Volvo IPS D6 diesels
MSRP...... $451,693
(w/ 435 hp Volvo Penta D6 IPS 600)
$417,253 (w/ 370 hp Volvo Penta D6 IPS 500)

_Rampage Sport Fishing Yachts / Oconto, Wisconsin / 920-834-2211 / _www.rampageyachts.com