Boat Review by: Matt Spencer
Sunchaser Boats, built in New Paris, Indiana are part of the Smoker Craft Family of Products. Smoker craft Inc, as a company is still to this day family owned and operated. So when they call their product portfolio a “family” of products, I can’t help but think how fitting that name is. As an entry level, value priced boat, Sunchaser has always been the little sibling of the family, often being overshadowed by it’s older siblings. But with the introduction of the all-new Eclipse line for 2016 Sunchaser is ready for its time in the sun.
Introduced to be the new flagship line of the brand, the Eclipse line is here to increase the curb appeal of the value brand by introducing styling, comfort and performance while still staying true to the brand’s heritage of being offered at an affordable price. Dockside, the Eclipse 8523 has a subtle elegance to its style with with swooping anodized aluminum D-railings that create a flowing pattern which is accented by vinyl graphics on the fence panels. This breaks up the usual boxy look of some pontoons. Also by having the railings on the outside of the fence panels it protects the panels themselves.
Ample bow deck space and a massive swim platform on the 8523 make it ideal for entertaining on the water at length including swimming and watersports. The model that I tested was equipped with Sunchaser’s X-treme PR25 Performance Package which includes the ski tow necessary for water sports, along with the center tube and lifting strakes needed to give you the increased performance. Of course all of that is naught without the right power choice and my tester had the 250hp Yamaha VMAX SHO which matched the max rating for this boat.
Introduced in 2009 as a replacement to Yamaha’s aging two-stroke technology, the VMAX SHO is a lightweight, high performance four stroke outboard that delivers hair raising performance. When you put that on a 23 foot pontoon boat that’s much lighter than its fibreglass compadres, you’re in for a real treat when it comes to performance. Acceleration on the Yamaha powered 8523 is immediate and snappy. It’s on plane in just over 2 seconds and settles into a comfortable cruise of 22 mph at 3000 rpm. Something people often don’t believe when talking about triple log pontoon boats with lifting strakes is that they respond very positively to trim adjustments. Basically you want to trim this boat all the way up, which will lift the nose of the pontoons out of the water, dramatically reducing drag and increasing your performance.
Trimming up and applying more throttle I rose from 22 mph to 30 mph at 4000 rpm. Putting the throttle all the way down I hit a top speed of 46 mph. I would challenge any entry level pontoon boat to match that performance. Not only that but backing off the throttle and heading into a full lock turn I was impressed with how well the X-treme Performance Package on the Eclipse cornered. Turns were sharp and tight, comparable to any bowrider. This is important for when you want to avoid any hazards in the water or return to a down skier.
Since the Eclipse has the X-Treme Performance Package it is also built with the upgraded .250 gauge aluminum Heavy Hat channel cross members. You can picture cross members like studs in a wall. So at the nose and at the stern where the boat takes the most stress, Sunchaser uses heavy duty “hat” shaped channels to keep the structural integrity. The riser brackets that attach these cross members to the pontoons have “feet” that allow them to be welded, which is done down the entire length of the seam rather than spot welded. I haven’t seen many value priced pontoons that are built to this standard.
Inside the boat it has a popular, functional layout that has contemporary styling and upgraded fixtures compared to other boats in the Sunchaser line-up. There are facing chaise style bench seats in both the bow and stern groupings and the back rests are comfortably padded and follow the round contour of the boat which helps if you have a group on board. But when it’s just a couple of you and there’s room to lounge out, you can do exactly that as the loungers have fore and aft facing backrests that allow you to kick your feet up. So the Captain doesn’t have to be lonely there is also a companion seat mid ship. Both are high backed, have arm rests and recline.
Storage in the Eclipse 8523 is plentiful as every seat base will lift to reveal storage and all of the bases are rotocast so they will last forever. Not only that, all of the under seat storage bins have rain channels which drain outside of the boat. So if you forget to cover your boat and it rains, the water will fall between the cushions, collect in the rain channels and drain out of the boat, leaving your contents dry and fresh.
Like I said at the start the Eclipse is meant to have a little curb appeal and the two tone, textured vinyl upholstery does just that. Add in the raised helm stand with a full gauge package and faux wood accents and you have a boat that looks like it should cost more than it does.
But thankfully it doesn’t. The new Eclipse line stays true to the Sunchaser brand by staying competitively priced, even though it’s at the top end of the line. Just because you have a budget doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice on looks, comfort or performance and with the new Eclipse 8523 LR DH you get all three.
|Length:||23' 10"||7.26 m|
|Dry weight:||2,100 lbs||962 kg|
|Fuel Capacity:||30 US gals||113 L|
|Base Engine / Drive:||Yamaha VMAX SHO|