Boat Review by: Craig Ritchie
Sea-Doo raised a lot of eyebrows in August when it unveiled the all-new Switch lineup of jet-propelled pontoon boats. The base model Switch hits it out of the park in terms of sheer value, and the watersports-oriented Switch Sport checks all the boxes for those who prioritize performance. But perhaps Sea-Doo’s most interesting boat is the Switch Cruise since it compares most directly to the traditional aluminum pontoons that dominate the market.
Like all Sea-Doo Switch boats, the Cruise rides on a tough Polytec tri-hull that delivers great stability and sporty handling. It has the clear-view side panels for unbeatable visibility when docking, and it features the unique LinQ tile deck that allows Switch owners to move furniture about on the fly, reconfiguring the boat as they wish in just minutes. It also retains the Switch handlebar steering to give it a completely different look and feel from other pontoons on the market.
But for all its similarities, the Switch Cruise is also very different from its stablemates – less like a PWC with its full-sized deck, and more like a pontoon with jet pump propulsion. Of all the Switch models I had the opportunity to test-drive at Sea-Doo’s official unveiling in Quebec, this was the one that interested me most – especially since Sea-Doo says its new boats are designed to compete head-on with family-friendly pontoons from Princecraft, Sun Tracker, and Sylvan.
When you step aboard the Cruise it definitely feels the most pontoon-like of all Switch models, in large part because of its extra seating. Our review boat had the familiar twin bow lounge seats, an inviting L-shaped wrap-around lounge in the stern, an adjustable pedestal-mount table, and a nice sturdy T-top overhead that was further enhanced with a full camper top. That camper top was something I was happy to see, in view of the low, heavy overcast and forecast of mid-day showers on the day of our sea trials.
Though the Cruise is the most pontoon-like member of the Switch lineup, closer examination revealed some clear differences from its other pontoon competitors. The first to be confronted is how you board it from the dock as there is no side entry gate. There is a wide entry gate at the bow, but the short bow deck and potential slipping hazard from the morning dew made that approach less than appealing, especially since I had expensive camera equipment hanging around my neck. Sea-Doo would be wise to consider extending the front deck by a couple of inches on future Switch models to make the front gate more easily approachable, especially for anyone carrying gear.
So instead I boarded by the stern swim platform. The transom lounge folds flat when not in use, allowing easy access via the rear platform.
Once I stepped aboard, I immediately noticed the useful corner tables in the stern. Rather than eat up deck space with a pedestal-mount table in the aft section, Sea-Doo offers corner tables that provide convenient storage without really eating up any deck space or seating room. On closer examination, one of the corner tables turned out to be an optional premium stereo unit – an upgrade, but one worth springing for with its excellent sound.
With its additional standard seating, the Cruise provides quite a bit more onboard storage space for personal gear than other Switch models do, both in the seat bases themselves and in the large in-floor locker that’s found in all Switch models.
Another way in which the Cruise differs from other Switch models is the inclusion of full-deck soft-touch mats over the LinQ tiles. This is a really nice addition that provides greater occupant comfort and a bit more noise insulation from the engine, while still allowing owners to move furniture about as they like.
Switch Cruise comes in a choice of 18-foot or 21-foot hulls. The 18-foot models are offered with a choice of the base 100 horsepower Rotax engine, which will push the boat to around 25 mph, or an upgraded 170 horsepower engine for a top speed of around 37 mph. The 21-foot floorplans come with either the 170 Rotax engine or, as was the case with our review boat, a 230 horsepower supercharged version.
With the big Switch weighing in at just over 2,500 pounds and the added wind resistance of the full camper top, I was happy for the extra oomph of the supercharged Rotax. Even with a half-dozen other journalists onboard and full negative trim, the 21-foot Switch with the big engine accelerates easily out of the hole, simply rising onto plane effortlessly without undue bow rise. The helm seat on the Cruise includes a large flip-up bolster which provides a bit of added comfort when negotiating more congested spaces and the added visibility is appreciated.
Underway at speed, the view ahead is no different than what one would see in any other pontoon. Look down, however, and the helm is a whole other matter with its unique handlebar steering setup. Cruise models come with a seven-inch Garmin touchscreen GPS and include a free regional map token so the user can download the relevant data for their local area.
A toggle on the left-hand grip allows drivers to select between Eco and Sport modes, or activate Cruise Control so they don’t have to keep holding the throttle lever located on the right hand grip. There’s also a lever to activate Sea-Doo’s intelligent brake and reverse (iBR) feature, which comes standard.
The helm display provides all the necessary data, with an integrated speedometer, clock, fuel consumption gauge that gives both instant and averaged readings, along with distance and time until empty. There’s also a display for the power trim control.
Running upstream on the Ottawa River with six people aboard, the 230-horsepower Rotax pushed our 21-foot Switch – complete with full camper top – to a top speed of over 40 mph, which is pretty darned impressive.
Because you’re gripping those familiar Sea-Doo handlebars, the temptation to play around a bit and try slipping sideways is always there, and the Cruise responds immediately to any invitation to fun. It’s an easy boat to drive, very responsive at the controls, and the Polytec tri-hull provides confident handling.
Like all Sea-Doo Switch models, the Cruise comes as a package with boat, motor and trailer, and will be priced to compete favorably with similarly-sized pontoons equipped with similar power. What its competitors can’t offer is its ability to reconfigure the furniture on the fly, or the jet pump propulsion that ensures a shallow draft of just 18.7 inches on the 18-foot boats, and 19.3 inches on the 21-footers. With no exposed propeller, Switch will no doubt offer added appeal to families with small kids.
The Switch Cruise is fun, it’s capable, and it has a sleek, modern styling that stands out from the crowd. Young families looking for a pontoon with a performance edge will find a lot to like about the Switch Cruise. Watch for it at this winter’s boat shows.
|Dry weight:||2,209 lbs||1,004 kg|
|Fuel Capacity:||29 US gal||109.7 L|
|Base Engine / Drive:||1630 ACE 170 ECT|