The pleasure in the power

Chris-Craft pairs bite and handling with the luxe trim that boaters command, writes David Lockwood.

Chris-Craft pairs bite and handling with the luxe trim that boaters command, writes David Lockwood.

In its purest form, pleasure boating is found aboard a runabout. You gain a tactile experience with the wheel and throttle in hand, as the wind rushes through your hair, the eyes water behind your sunnies and the waves chatter underneath your seat.

The pleasure increases with a whack of horsepower and sporty handling. Add sunshine, salt air and a stirring waterway, pack some friends and lunch, and you have the ingredients for boating hedonism.

Iconic American boat builder Chris-Craft knows this recipe only too well. The famous badge had its genesis in the late 1800s and became coveted as race boats in the 1920s, whereupon it became the first production-boat manufacturer in the world. The yard really hit its straps in the 1950s, when more than 150 models were on offer. These mahogany masterpieces became the playthings of Hollywood greats, JFK, Elvis, the Vanderbilts, the list goes on.

With this premise in mind - and with the promise of a test drive - we boarded the latest Chris-Craft Launch 32 in Sydney. Dressed in optional Silver Bullet hull livery, the new Launch 32 looks smart just sitting idle. There's flare in the bow and traditional tumblehome at the stern that evoke the golden era of runabouts even though our boat is built from fibreglass.

The brightwork - windscreen frame, split navigation lights, twin air horns and Chris-Craft badge - adds to the effect, while the upholstery is executed with the precision of a luxury-car maker. The optional Heritage package adds to the eye candy by way of teak covering boards, teak grab rails, teak-topped swim platform, transom walkthrough, cockpit and bow sole.

Of course, the boat has that runabout requisite - horsepower - via twin 300hp Volvo Penta V8s that pack a petrol-powered punch at 80km/h-plus. That is the top-speed benchmark for a decent runabout these days. The upgraded OceanX drives with a titanium-ceramic compound are designed to extend sterndrive life in saltwater.

The Volvos with boy-racer red blocks reveal themselves in the electric-lift engine bay. Lid down, sound insulation does an admirable job of muffling the V8s so you can hold a conversation at the helm. Should you covet shade, no worries, a cabriolet-style canopy is concealed in the engine bay. So, too, a very clever pull-out teak table that swings out and screws into place. Presto, your lunch setting is ready. Put the prawns into the drawer fridge nearby.

A central teak-topped walkthrough lets you access the cockpit from the swim platform without treading on upholstery. Once aboard, you can add the infill cushion to create one big aft sun pad. Full marks to the importers for the hot-water option and a warm shower after diving in.

In fact, this flagship Chris-Craft bowrider conceals some surprising amenities. Ahead of the co-pilot is a step-down bathroom with electric toilet, hand-held hot-cold shower, sink and more. Certainly, mums and daughters will appreciate the privacy for changing.

Ahead of the helm is a small cabin with double-bed mattress and 240V outlet when hooked to shore power. Sleep aboard should you overindulge at that waterfront nosh-up.

With a deep bow-seating area and plenty of underfloor and sub-seat storage, you can stow a lot of crew and kit aboard. With a 12-person capacity, you could pack a couple of families for a big day out. There are front and rear speakers linked to a stereo with subwoofer and tweeters to get the party going. A windlass was provided for push-button anchoring, while driving lights let you pull stumps after sundown.

Back on the plush two-person bucket seat, ahead of the race-car-inspired dash with perforated aluminium accents, the twin engines fire up. They give good manoeuvrability about the marina, but even better performance on a bumpy Sydney Harbour. Thanks to a one-piece or monocoque hull stiffened with foam-filled stringers, it's a truly dignified ride.

The deep-vee hull cleaves the waves, while the flare keeps spray at bay. Crank the boat into a turn and it's as though the boat travels on rails. The grip from the twin counter-rotating Duoprops elicits shrills of delight. Then a broad grin emerges. That consummate pleasure-boating experience that has made Chris-Crafts coveted for decades.

The new Launch 32 has a base price of $272,000. Fully loaded, our test boat sold for $380,000.

Premier Marine, Rose Bay Marina, see

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