I expected to see razor wire and armed guards at the entrance to MarineMax Pompano, considering the CIA-grade security that had preceded our testing of the new Aviara AV32 from MasterCraft.
A collaboration between MarineMax, the 900-pound gorilla of boat dealerships, and MasterCraft, builder of luxury high-performance boats for the wake-sports market, the AV32 is a big surprise: a 32-footer aimed directly at family fun on the water.
This is one very cool boat that will never be mistaken for another, from the purposeful bow to the rakish T-top (standard) to the wide, wide swim platform. Represented exclusively by MarineMax dealers and with larger boats on the way, Aviara started with a blank sheet of paper and asked: How do people really use their boats?
The answer is a bowrider on steroids with what Aviara calls “us” and “them” zones. Us zones are where people face each other to hang out, such as the bowrider seating and the main cockpit seating. Them zones are where people are facing aft, talking with people in the water or rafting up at a sandbar.
The bow has very comfy seating and high coamings (making it child-safe), with all the amenities: cup holders, USB outlets, a removable table, built-in cooler and lounge backrests. Access past the helm console is wide through the hinged windshield with a lower door, so nothing blocks the flow.
The cockpit offers luxurious CoolFeel wraparound seating, another hidden cooler, plus a clever vacuum-sealed 42-quart cooler drawer (an option but a no-brainer), and a wet bar with stowage for three wine bottles (red, white, Mount Gay?). An electric fridge is an option, but you’ve already got three coolers (two removable) aboard.
Tucked inside the helm console is a beautifully finished head compartment with more than 5 feet, 8 inches of headroom. Standard is an electric toilet, sink and holding tank, although the absence of a shower was a surprise. I’d bet that will appear on production models.
The skipper gets a low-profile triple-display dash with a 7-inch engine monitor, 12-inch Garmin nav screen, and a 10-inch boat-control panel. In the case of our Ilmor-powered boat, the engine monitor showed more of everything from drive position to power output, a nod to Ilmor’s heritage with NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula One.
The them zone aft is cool — very cool. First, there is a sun pad with infinite combinations of hinged backrests and seating. What appears to be a raised backrest is actually a trio of either electric or gas-assist bar stools that rise about the lower seating, creating a mezzanine from which to watch friends get big air in the wake, or to interact with people swimming or wading in the water. Add to that an underwater platform that unfolds from under the wide transom platform (sterndrive only) to create a third level of seating in the water with the transom being your backrest.
Are there other power options? Yes siree. We tested two AV32s — one with twin Merc 300 outboards, the other with a pair of Ilmor sterndrives. Delivered with their OneTouch Pro joystick, the Ilmors had the smoothest shifting I’ve encountered with either sterndrives or outboards. In fact, I had to check the shifter to see if I was in neutral. Smooth and silent — ahhh. Hydraulic cone clutches eliminate the clunk of shifting, as fast as twice a second. The drive is a Yanmar extra-tough diesel unit built for Ilmor, with dual props and both active and passive corrosion protection.
Even better, Ilmor addresses sterndrive engine corrosion with closed-cooling systems, including a uniquely closed-cooled exhaust manifold. In the process, it knocked the sound level way down. The joystick is a knife in soft butter — move the boat sideways, mosey at an angle, or engage the position hold for GPS station keeping.
We ran the standard twin Ilmor MV8 6.0Ls of 380 hp, but you can upgrade to 430 hp with 6.2L versions of these bulletproof GM blocks used in Suburbans and Silverado pickups. These are quiet engines, and Ilmor earns kudos for putting every service point at the front of the engine where you can easily check oil, coolant and steering fluid.
This was a prototype, and we topped out at just shy of 55 mph, but it was a struggle to get there. Hammer down and the high inclination displayed by the bow proved less than optimal. Aviara’s engineering team assured me that they planned to conduct a frenzy of prop testing and other alterations, including potentially making some adjustments to the X dimension, which is the height of the engine and also relates, naturally, to the height of the sterndrives on the transom. After that, I expect that glitch to go away with the expertise of MasterCraft and Ilmor. Once over the hump and on plane, the AV32 ran fast, flat and sure-footedly, even in lumpy cross seas.
If you’re shopping, check out the Sea Ray SLX 310 (about $238,000), which is 1 foot shorter, similar in layout, and 10 mph slower with twin Merc 250 hp sterndrives.
Our verdict on the AV32: All the secrecy was worthwhile. This stealth offering from two big guns in the boating biz checks all the boxes for family fun, and it does so with style, speed and quality. Get your security clearance to see one now.
- Anchor locker has a raw-water washdown and optional windlass with remote.
- Dedicated stowage for tables and supports, plus a locker with holders for fenders.
- All-fiberglass construction means no wood to rot, along with an easy-clean gelcoated engine compartment.
- Aviara is tweaking the helm-seat position for more ideal legroom.
- No glove box or shelf in the dash for sunglasses, sunscreen or junk.
- No shower in the head, but this may be remedied in production versions.
Price: $342,000 (sterndrive) $336,540 (outboard)
Available Power: Outboard and Sterndrive
How We Tested
Engine: Twin 380 hp Ilmor MV8 6.0L MPI
Drive/Prop: Dual Bravo Three 26″ pitch stainless steel
Gear Ratio: 2.18:1
Fuel Load: 125 gal.
Water on Board: 0 gal.
Crew Weight: 450 lb.
Aviara Boats – Vonore, Tennessee; aviaraboats.com; marinemax.com
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