2019 Donzi 18 Classic

Boat Reviews

Boat Review by: Richard Crowder

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There’s something about a Donzi, about seeing a Donzi up close again following its absence for the past few years. It’s almost like seeing your high school sweetheart again after a few years or a few decades and that sweetheart basically hasn’t changed one bit and in fact maybe looks even better today than back then.

There are few boats, if any, on the market today that look almost exactly like they did ten, twenty, or in the case of a Donzi Classic, perhaps fifty years ago and yet still look right for today’s market. The “Don” in Donzi comes from its creator, legendary offshore powerboat racer, Don Aronow. His “Sweet 16” quickly became a classic and grew to three models; the Classic 16, Classic 18, subject of this review, and the Classic 22. Generations of boaters have grown up with these three classics.


The Donzi Classic 18 rides on a Jim Wynn designed 24-degree deadrise deep-vee hull. Early offshore powerboat racer Jim Wynn, credited with the invention of the sterndrive, also dabbled with the deep-vee hull design to improve offshore racing. He hooked up with Don Aronow and designed some of the first Donzi’s, including the Classics.

It was determined that 24-degrees of deadrise was the steepest (deepest) angle that could practically be used to balance the needs of a smooth ride yet keep the boat afloat and yet with enough power to get the boat onto plane. Except for bonified high performance offshore and race boats, there are almost no pleasure boats on the market today with 24-degrees of deadrise. The Donzi Classics do and the ride is oh so smooth when the going gets rough.

The look of the Classic 18 is also classic. Choose a hull side colour in Red, Yellow, Navy, or Black, and add the trademark Donzi Classic wide and centred full-length single deck stripe from bow to stern and in the same colour as the hull sides. You can also leave the hull sides in white. You can also choose the same or a different colour for the hull bottom and choose from a similar selection of bootstripe colour combinations.

Power for the Donzi Classics has always been the subject of conversation and debate among Donzi aficionados. Mainly due to Mercury Marine’s racing heritage, MerCruiser sterndrive power has dominated any discussion concerning power for a Donzi. And so it is today with four choices of MerCruiser being offered; a 300 or 350 horsepower 6.2L MerCruiser with a Bravo 1 outdrive or a 380 or staggering 430 horsepower 8.2L MerCruiser with a stronger Bravo 1X outdrive. Go for mild or go for wild; your Classic 18 will impress all comers.

Piloting a Donzi Classic is arguably the closest sensation you will ever experience to the thrill of driving one of the earlier, low-to-the-road personal sports cars like perhaps a Lotus. There is no windscreen on a Classic 18, nor is one available, so it is full wind in the face full time. The boat sits close to the water and the deck is long and the beam is only seven feet and so the cockpit is cosy and outfitted as it has always been. There are two wrap-around bucket-type seats to provide lateral support, one for the driver and one for the front passenger and they sit right on the cockpit floor.

A full-width bench seat looking more like a comfy couch with its high back wrap-around backrest and suitable for two passengers is located immediately aft of the front buckets. All seating is colour-coordinated hand-crafted Donzi Classic “tuck and roll.” The only readily-accessible on-board storage is the limited amount found beneath the stern bench seat. A narrow tunnel-style storage compartment extends forward from the cockpit below the foredeck and would be suitable for waterskis, boat hook, etc.

The dash looks exactly as it always has; flat and vertical and stretching the width of the cockpit immediately in front of the driver and passenger. Only the quantity and quality of the gauges and instrumentation and amenities has changed. Standard equipment includes Mercury SmartCraft® 1000 instrumentation which lets you instantaneously review all aspects of engine condition and performance. Engine controls are Mercury DTS® (Digital Throttle and Shift).

A standard Bluetooth®-compatible MM100 AM/FM stereo head unit is mounted on the dash directly ahead of the passenger and includes a 400 Watt, 4-channel amplifier plus four MX 6.5-inch coaxial speakers with blue LED lighting. An in-dash digital depth sounder is standard as are Lenco trim tabs with indicators, a 12-volt accessory plug plus a USB charging outlet.

Thru-hull exhaust is standard as is an automatic fire extinguishing system and a stainless steel propeller. Also standard is snap-in Infinity cockpit flooring, a black acrylic cockpit cover, and a U-shaped, deck-mounted stainless steel safety grab rail which surrounds the front and sides of the cockpit. The short option list includes a transom-mounted Garelick slide-in boarding ladder, K-Plane trim tabs, and dual-ram hydraulic steering if you choose one of the two 8.2L engines.

Born of a legend and still a legend. Welcome back your sweetheart – the Donzi Classics.

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Length: 18' 5.5 m
Beam: 7' 2.1 m
Dry weight: 2,850 lbs 1,293 kg
Draft: 2'5" 74 cm
Fuel Capacity: 41 US gals 155 L
Base Engine / Drive: MerCruiser Sterndrive
Engine HP: 300-430
Fuel Type: Gas
Deadrise: 24
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