Boat Review by: Matt Spencer
One of the cool things about boat show season is getting to see boats you have heard about but yet to see in person. For me that experience came at the 2016 Miami International Boat Show where I was finally able to get my hands on the Vortex 243 VRX - Chaparral’s exciting new line of jet powered sport boats. Even better about this was that I was able to water test it as well. Vortex Boats offer bold colouring and exciting graphics that really catch the eye. This may not be for everyone but the one I saw in Miami had a white hull and deck with navy blue striping and black accents. The graphics were still eye catching but a little more subtle choice for those who need not be so bold.
Scanning the Vortex 243 VRX I immediately liked what I saw. I could tell this was definitely a sporty jet boat but also still had the quality and refinement of a Chaparral. The layout featured a single captain’s chair with a large U Shaped layout with a transom walk through to get to the spacious swim platform built for entertaining. The bow lounge was spacious and inviting and the wakeboard tower with large bimini provided ample shade over the large cockpit.
Stepping onto the swim platform I further inspected its features including multiple cup holders, speakers and the stereo remote. It had twin cushions that when lifted up gained you access to the engines and battery switch. A first that I’ve seen but will come in handy for quick access and maintenance. Naturally this isn’t your only access to the twin Rotax jet engines, the entire rear lounge lifts up on gas assisted struts to gain you access. What I especially liked about the swim lounge is that it has it’s own seats and doesn’t share folding back rests like other jet boats do.
Stepping through that center walk through transom into the cockpit I began lifting up the seats in that U shaped lounge. Something that caught my eye immediately was that not only did the cushions lift on hinges, but they hinged in a manner that brought them flush against the gunnels. This is fantastic as it allows you full access to the storage to drop larger items in rather than having to work them in on an angle.
On the port side the companion seat shares the same seat and backrest as the rest of the lounge but the backrest pulls double duty as it can switch to either forward or rear facing to extend that lounge even more. Ahead of this is the impressively spacious day head found in the port console. It’s the perfect size for a porta-potti but also has a small sink and opening port hole.
Across from this is more storage in the starboard console that opens up from the walkway up to the bow. Behind this storage is the helm which I found comfortable, functional and stylish. Unfortunately the model I tested didn’t have the optional 6” Medallion Touchscreen gauge package that gives you all your system info as well as different drive modes including Eco, Ski Mode and speed control.
Since the Vortex is a Chaparral something they have done is brought in their ingenious helm chairs to their new line up. It’s very common for a helm chair to swivel and slide fore and aft but what is also common is that these controls are tucked under the seat requiring a little extra body contorting just to get a 90 degree spin. What Chaparral does is builds these controls into the bucket seat right by your hips. They are two levers on either side that lift up giving you slide and spin controls in a snap. This is something I have always loved from Chaparral and was very excited to see them incorporate into the new Vortex line.
Sticking with the Chaparral hallmark theme, since they are a high end boat they want to make sure all of their features work well and aren’t a pain in the butt, like I just mentioned with their seats. Where I am going with this is that the Vortex 243 VRX has a wakeboard tower that folds down, but Chaparral makes sure this is a one man job. By releasing the levers on each side on the base of the tower you release it. Now other towers would immediately want to begin folding, requiring a second person on the ready so it doesn’t crash down, but not with the VRX. Its tower has gas struts that hold it in place. So when unlocked it stays put until easily moved down to the folded position. Additionally when folding back up you can raise it to the upright position and it will stay there when you take your hands off the tower to lock it back into place. This is the kind of ease of use ownership that Chaparral owners like and new Vortex owners will appreciate. Moving up into the bow you will find twin, forward facing lounges whose seat bases folded completely open in similar fashion to those in the cockpit. There’s also arm rests that fold up and lock into place along with a cooler in the center. Larger items can be tucked into the floor storage compartment, perfect for water skis, lines or extra fenders.
When Chaparral decided to add Vortex boats to their family they made a wise choice when it came to power as they went with Rotax, the power choice for Sea-Doo PWC’s. With Rotax comes a long history of innovation and this year was no different. Fresh at the Miami Boat Show Rotax won yet another innovation award for their new iST (Intelligent Shift and Throttle) system for their boat propulsion. In a nutshell what Rotax did was took their braking and reverse system from Sea-Doo and applied it to their boat propulsion systems. This does not mean they have invented a brake for boat but they have perfected Neutral, often a weakness for jet boats. They changed it from cable drive to drive by wire so now when you shift from neutral to forward or reverse an electric signal is sent back to a mechanical actuator that will adjust the jet bucket. What this gives you is a true neutral that doesn’t drift, smoother shifting and operation and overall stress free handling in close quarter situations.
As good as the new iST system was (and it was very!) I was more excited to head out into the open waters and see what performance the twin 250-hp Rotax jet engines would deliver to this 24-foot sport boat. Putting the throttles down to test a hole shot the power was instant, if not faster. The type of acceleration that causes you to grip the wheel a little tighter and causes your eyes to get a little wider and your smile to get a little bigger. We were on plane in under 3 seconds and 20 mph was even after at 2.5 seconds. What the numbers don’t tell is how little the bow rose when testing acceleration. It doesn’t rise and drop like with a traditional stern drive but rather just lurches forward and the rise is more of a byproduct of 500-hp unleashing their fury. When testing jet boat performance I like to make the high end sports car comparison. What I mean by this is that we settled into a comfortable cruise at 5000 rpm and 25 mph. For traditional stern drives this would be almost max RPM but jets are low displacement, high revving engines where traditional engines are big displacement, low rpm so you can’t always make the rpm comparison when testing. The Vortex 243 settled into a more than comfortable cruising speed of 34 mph at 6000 rpm and topped out at 55 mph at 8000 rpm. Don’t blink when you see one of these boats out on the lake because you might miss it.
But when you do have a chance to see one one of these boats sitting still and get up close you’re not going to be disappointed. It has the flash and bold personality you would expect from a jet boat yet it has the refinement, build quality and ingenious design features that you would expect from a Chaparral. The new Vortex Boats 243 VRX gives you everything you could want in a 24 foot sport boat.
|Length:||24' 3"||7.39 m|
|Beam:||8' 6"||2.59 m|
|Dry weight:||4,100 lbs||1860 kg|
|Fuel Capacity:||52 US gals||179 L|
|Base Engine / Drive:||Rotax 4-TEC|
|Engine HP:||500 HP Max|