Boat Review by: Rick Layzell
With over 350 unique interior layouts, Bennington knows a thing or two about building pontoon boats that satisfy the needs of any customer. Their R Series is geared towards the buyer who is looking for maximum customization with luxury refinements and exceptional performance. Available in lengths ranging from 23 to 30 feet, with interiors featuring a fast back, stern lounge or, like our test boat, fast back layout, the R Series has serious value for your boating dollar.
The R23 model has striking dockside features with a beautifully appointed exterior. Her black anodized rails carry a mix of straight and curved designs which seamlessly pull your eyes into an almost dreamy state. There’s a unique combination of colours that blend with ease from the satin black exterior fencing to the rich grey and white interior vinyls. In a word, she’s just plain sexy.
Throughout her interior, the pillow top seating features multiple foam densities – all engineered to create maximum comfort for your back, lumbar, and legs. Benningtons’ ultra-cool diamond design double stitching is a highlight throughout the interior, and it carries the length of the boat across the high seat backs. Simtex vinyl delivers an owner friendly, easy-to-clean feature that quickly cools, making long hot days easy on the skin.
There are multiple moveable cupholders for your enjoyment and armrests built into the forward loungers that fold down to unveil a cupholder and a self-draining storage compartment suitable for stashing your phone, hoodie, or t-shirt – very clever.
The raised helm is tastefully appointed and ergonomically friendly with an ultra-luxurious captains’ seat that slides, swivels, and reclines while you’re resting on what feels like a pillow. Push button circuit breakers are nestled on the left side of the helm where you’ll also find the RGB lighting system. RGB – red, green and blue – gives you lighting inside the cupholders, the Kicker speakers, the optional toe kick, and underwater. You’ll also find primary access to the Rockford Fosgate sound system, (optional) cooled beverage holder, and 12 V charge port. Centre of the helm is a standard Striker 4 fish graph, and a beautifully wrapped 3-spoke steering wheel awaits your driving pleasure. The windshield is uniquely designed to create additional protection for the driver. One of my favourite touches was the use of the Bennington logo within the actual windshield hardware – I’ve sincerely never seen anything like it and it’s a work of art.
Our test boat, the 23RFB, featured Bennington’s fast back layout. This beautifully appointed watercraft boasts a total of 4 lounger options – 2 in the bow and 2 in the stern with well-positioned rear or forward-facing backrests, as well as the previously noted captain and co-captain seats. All loungers are plush and pillow top to provide ample relaxation. A standout feature for me is the one-piece sculpted and fully treated wooded table in the bow section – one of the most well-crafted tables I’ve ever seen on a pontoon. The stern section features a delightful play of stainless steel from port to starboard, stainless reboarding ladder, docking lights, and more. Bennington’s attention to detail shines here with the rear facing speakers nestled into the frame within a protective cover. And of course, there’s a remote for the sound system here as well. Your guests will be pleased with the amount of boarding and reboarding room, which will make lazy afternoon swims a breeze.
We had the pleasure of experiencing the ESP Sport Package option - the Elliptical Sport Package - which delivers top of the line performance and exceptional handling. Both 25” outer tubes are fitted with performance foils, splash fins, and utilize .100 gauge aluminum. The shining star is the patented 32” elliptical center tube. This is all about managing large HP engines and delivering breath taking performance. I’m not excited, you’re excited! I seriously couldn’t wait to experience this boat.
On a cool and windy morning, we headed out to the test grounds and immediately discovered few other boats on the lake. That would give us lots of room to play. The winds and waves had our camera crew nervous, and an incoming storm kept us moving through the testing process. Despite Mother Nature’s attempted assault, we were determined to experience this package. With 3 of us on board we tested hole shots, cruising, cornering, and top speeds.
The numbers are in, and they are very positive.
Hole shots were consistently under 3.5 seconds – WOW.
Cruising – she will stay on plane at under 21 mph, and likes to cruise at 23 to 27 mph.
Top speeds recorded at 43.9 MPH at 5,800 RPM (there’s a little more here on a ‘better boating’ weather friendly day for sure).
We absolutely loved pushing this boat into corners and tight turns. Yamaha’s 300 HP four stroke performed very well in all trials, and it had all three of us grinning from ear to ear. I’m happy to report that Mother Nature held off until the very second the last snap of the user-friendly playpen cover was installed at dockside and the camera gear was safely stowed.
Bennington’s R Series isn’t for everyone – there’s good reason they offer over 350 layouts. But, if you thrive on the adrenalin of performance, or if you enjoy proudly showing family and friends the quality of your decisions, or if you get sheer enjoyment out of entertaining, then do not miss this. The R23RFB checked an incredible number of my personal boxes and would certainly be at the top of my list.
|56 US gal
|Base Engine / Drive: