Garyminn

Boat Buying Advice for a Newbie

14 posts in this topic

Glad that this forum exists...thanks to whoever started it!

We've just moved to a home on Lake Norman, and have narrowed our choices for a boat to either a 264 Sunesta or the new 257SSX. Does anyone have any recommendations for us? Experience with either boat, or both? Any cautionary tales to share....or simply wise counsel for a new boat purchaser here on LKN?

Any and all help will be appreciated...and thanks in advance!

Garyminn

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either boat will be fun for you. the sunesta sits a bit lower in the water at the bow, same basic hull as the ssx but the bow flares out which does provide a bit more room in the bow. the ssx with a more classic line sits higher at the bow and will take larger waves with a bit less spray. I used to own a 264 and my friend has a 256 ssx, they perform about the same so really its what layout do you prefer, I like the look of the new ssx & both boats need a big block don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

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I bought a 256 SSX with 496 HO/425 HP Merc with the Bravo 3X drive new, back in 2008. This stronger out drive is standard on the high output engine and some have specified the optional 3 blade/4 blade prop set. I have the 3x3's and max out at 63 MPH with a lite load and a perfect day. 35 MPH seems to be the sweet spot at 3,150 RPM at just over 3 MPG. Nice stable ride, even in a chop but I did need to add trim tabs and would suggest strongly that you order the boat with them. I used the 12"x12" Bennett hydraulic type, and it changed the whole dynamic on a less than perfect day. I also reversed the trim cylinder trailer end bushing to the Bravo 1 position, which increases full trim in by 1-1/4", improving hole shot and giving the boat more useable trim range. No arch for me as the boat is garage kept, and the hinged arch was a small fortune, and not that easy to deal with alone. Plenty of storage below for ski's and wake boards, and I do like the Vacu-flush head system.

W

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256 for lake norman

can get very busy on the weekends with some large boats

the 256 would ride better in rough water

There a lot of Chaps on lake norman

Harry

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Thanks Delaney and Wingnut -- Your comments confirm the direction of my thinking. I prefer the shape of the 257, my wife likes the space up front in the 264. Here in NC, the dealer seems to equip these boats (unless you custom order, i suppose) with either the 300 HP or 320 HP Mercs or Volvos with the dual prop for both. Are those two engines just too small, in your opinions, for these boats, or do they provide enough power for all someone would want to do with the boats? (and I agree re: the trim tabs....i think those are important, based on all I'm seeing here.

thanks for any further insights!

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the question is what defines "enough" power. for me, I have 3 kids myself and wife. plus gear, a friend or two and mostly the kids go tubing, etc. the standard engine will do it, but when I loaded my 264 with all the stuff I truly needed the 8.1L engine. any of the engines once on plane will do about the same but its getting on plane while loaded up w/ people and pulling a tube or skier. even my current boat has the 8.1L engines & the tabs are very nice at slow speeds if you are pulling a kid less than 18mph as it allows you stay on plane. look around on this forum, for those looking on boattrader there is always a demand for the big block 25-27 footer

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Your choice now I would think would be between the high output small block Volvo, or the 8.2 Merc. The Merc is an aftermarket block based on the 502 cu in Chevy, with Edelbrock aluminum heads, and cranks out a bunch or torque. Available in standard output, and high output. Volvo no longer offers a big block, and has elected to go with a high output small block based on a GM variable valve timing Corvette engine, with a WOT rating of 6,000 RPM. This set up is lighter than the big block, which helps with hole shot, but mid-range is a little softer due to less torque and the WOT top speed is a touch lower. I really don't like the idea of twisting a marine engine that hard, and preliminary fuel burn numbers at cruise are not that great. At 3,100 they look appealing, but that's a very slow cruise on those engines due to the way they prop them and the final drive ratios used. Get them up to 3,450 and they hang with the big blocks at 3,150, but then the fuel burns are about equal. Hey, I like the Merc, but that's just me, and Shepherd, and Brick, and...

Merc 8.2 Std 380 HP

Merc 8.2 H.O. 430 HP

Volvo small block 380 HP

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I vacation on LKN every summer. It does get a little busy on wknds but nothing like our home lake. I think either boat would be great for you. The new 257 is a bit smaller but has a great layout. I was just at the Boat Rack last week but i didn't notice what the 257 in stock had for power. But as other have said, the big block or VP 380 V8 is the way to go. You can never have too much power. I have the 496 Mag in my 256 and it's a heavy boat. With a full tank of fuel, you really feel that weight when coming on plane. I can't imagine having a small block. Good luck in your search.

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Your choice now I would think would be between the high output small block Volvo, or the 8.2 Merc. The Merc is an aftermarket block based on the 502 cu in Chevy, with Edelbrock aluminum heads, and cranks out a bunch or torque. Available in standard output, and high output. Volvo no longer offers a big block, and has elected to go with a high output small block based on a GM variable valve timing Corvette engine, with a WOT rating of 6,000 RPM. This set up is lighter than the big block, which helps with hole shot, but mid-range is a little softer due to less torque and the WOT top speed is a touch lower. I really don't like the idea of twisting a marine engine that hard, and preliminary fuel burn numbers at cruise are not that great. At 3,100 they look appealing, but that's a very slow cruise on those engines due to the way they prop them and the final drive ratios used. Get them up to 3,450 and they hang with the big blocks at 3,150, but then the fuel burns are about equal. Hey, I like the Merc, but that's just me, and Shepherd, and Brick, and...

Merc 8.2 Std 380 HP

Merc 8.2 H.O. 430 HP

Volvo small block 380 HP

And MonkeySea!:) Although I find the new VP intriguing considering the 430 horse version is coming out soon. But I will wait to see long term reliability data before I will ever go with one. I'm a big block fan!

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And MonkeySea! :) Although I find the new VP intriguing considering the 430 horse version is coming out soon. But I will wait to see long term reliability data before I will ever go with one. I'm a big block fan!

No replacement for displacement. Money equals speed. How fast do you want to go? No penny pinchers when it comes to cubic inchers. (OK, that one was a stretch)

W

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Thank you to all of you who responded. I get the general theme, and agree. My curiousity is up, tho...why does the local dealer (and I found this to be true in my former place of residence) only order these size boats with either the 300 or the 320 HP motors? I mean, the obvious answer is the bigger engines cost 5,000 to 10,000 deer more, it appears. But given the interest of so many in better power, don't you think they'd order one out of 5 with at least a 380? So, my question: worst case: If the only available (and affordable) SSX or Sunesta has just a 300 or 320, will I be happy in a year or two with that smaller engine?

Thanks again for the good insights and counsel, here.

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I think the answer is cost. The new Merc 8.2 is pricey. I think it just depends on the dealer. There are a lot of people who are scared off by the big block because they think a smaller engine will cost them less up front and lower fuel cost. However, typically, a small engine on a heavy boat will burn more fuel because it has to work hard. I was riding on my friends Regal 2500 w/5.7 300 hp. At cruising speed, his engine was spinning much higher RPMs than my big block. Sounded like his engine was screaming! Much louder too! The 257 w/320 may be adequate but if it were me, I'd insist on the 8.2 liter.

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Thanks MonkeySeall --

I went out to the dealership today, to check in and see what new inventory had come in, and to check out a couple used boats there. The guy I spoke with said that they really only special order the 380 HP engines, "since the 300 and 320 give you all the power you need to pull skiers, wakeboarders, etc."...and because they can sell the boats for 8K or 9K less...which i get.

So, if I'm gonna get the bigger engine, I'll have to custom order it..... They also really favor the Volvo Penta motors, based on their experience with reliability and repair issues. I can order a Merc if I want, or course....they'll do it either way.

thanks again,

Garyminn

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I special ordered my 246SSI this spring from that local dealer and I ordered it with the 5.7 volvo DP. 300HP. I am very happy with it. Plenty of torque on the hole shot, even pulling up a 200lb slalom skier. Top end is around 46-48 mph. Plenty enough for me.

However, the 257 is larger and heavier. You really should drive it and see for yourself.

My point is, don't be afraid to special order the boat exactly the way you want it. Ours took about 6 weeks to arrive. I am very glad I ordered it because I was able to get what I really wanted.

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