Boat Review by: Rick Layzell
Yamaha has a long-standing commitment to the performance-minded 20” transom crowd. Whether it’s a traditional fiberglass bowrider, a capable aluminum freshwater fishing rig, a powerful bass boat experience, or one of today’s many pontoon designs, there’s a Yamaha VMAX SHO outboard waiting to deliver exceptional power and performance. With horsepower options ranging from 90 all the way up to 250 HP, the Yamaha VMAX SHO series delivers almost unlimited solutions.
Next, along comes Bennington with their new ‘L Bowrider Line’ - a stunning collection of six models with either a quad bench configuration, or, like our test boat, the swing back layout. Whichever you choose, the L Bowrider models all come with their own sunken living room. Yup, you read that correctly. These boats have a step-down bow section and it’s very cool.
Combine this boat with a Yamaha SHO engine and you’ve got a powerful combination.
The sunken living room (aka bow seating section) allows for a dynamic change with the exterior of the boat. Instead of traditional fence designs that run level from stern to bow, this layout allowed the designers to gently slope the forward fencing and bow rails in line with the lowered forward seating area.
From the interior, the step-down U lounge feels like its own social area within the interior of the boat. With an intimately close feel to the water, plush pillowtop seating and back rests with extensive leg room, this area really has a conversational vibe to it. Guest comforts like beverage holders, USB chargers, and a beautiful one piece treated wooden table enhance the overall aesthetics.
Moving through the interior, we find a well-appointed, ergonomically designed helm station with essential circuit breakers at your fingertips, a digital Simrad Go7 display, a base unit for the sound system, high back captain’s seat with armrests, and storage underneath the helm. Lighted cupholders, speakers, and interior courtesy lighting are sprinkled throughout. The co-captain gets an equally comfortable seat with ample legroom, beverage holders, and a storage pouch. The ‘SB’ in the model designation is the swing back rear bench, which readily converts to your preference of forward or rear-facing options with ease.
This model has a performance feel – from the low and sleek bow rails to the interior design, the L Bowrider Line has a playful DNA. That’s where the Yamaha four stroke 175 VMAX SHO comes in.
The foundation of the engine is a 2.8L, in line 4-cylinder block with double overhead cam design and four valves per cylinder. Her standard 50-amp alternator will serve your electronic demands, and her dry weight of only 218 kg / 480 lbs is easy on the transom. Her multi-point fuel injection system burns regular 89 octane fuel, avoiding strain on your wallet, and her modest 4.5 L oil capacity will keep everything lubricated as it should. Of course, you can’t just have a great looking exterior without an equally attractive engine on the transom. The blue-grey metallic engine exterior is further enhanced with stylish VMAX SHO cowling logos that tie the overall look together.
With an overall hull length of 24’6” and a dry weight of 3,609 lbs / 1,637 kg, the 23 LTSB is meant for your choice of entertaining, watersports, or cruising. Her onboard 67 US gallon / 253 L fuel capacity will take you as far as you want to go.
We eased away from the docks on a brisk mid-October morning with limited winds, minimal boat traffic, single digit Celsius temperatures, and the shoreline trees dressed in brilliant fall colours.
The VMAX fired with ease and my ears quickly detected a low and pleasant growl. Clearly this engine wanted to show off her capabilities. We were eager to get to work. Our first assignment was to inventory some running footage. This gives us the opportunity to get the boat on step, usually around 22 mph and run down the lake with the camera crew shooting various angles from the photo boat. We then moved into our ‘fly bys’ where the photo boat is stationary. We were granted the opportunity to run the test boat from a near stop under varying speeds and cornering maneuvers while the photo boat gathered more footage. These tests give us ample time to feel out the boat and engine combination. Suffice to say, our first impression was very positive.
One of the standout moments was the massive torque and acceleration at takeoff. This is where Yamahas’ variable camshaft timing delivers with exceptional results in the critical RPM range from 2,000 – 3,500.
We next ran multiple holeshots where we accelerate under full throttle from a full stop while the co-captain monitors a digital stop watch. Repeatedly the VMAX SHO pushed this hull up an on plane in 3.66 seconds. Giddy up!
We moved next into testing her cruising range. With a full tank of fuel and two people on board we found her comfort zone was anywhere between 21 and 27 MPH. Finally, we were given the green light to run the lake to find her top speed. After a couple of passes while steering clear of other boat traffic and their wakes, we found our way to a very positive 38.5 mph with the VMAX still quietly growling at a full 6,100 RPM.
It was noticeable that this combination loves lots of trim as I consistently found improved performance results while regularly dialing in the trim range. There is a moment during both cruising or top speed testing where the trim will blow out just a titch. When that happens, simply tuck it back down and immediately feel her working precisely once again.
It’s obvious that Yamaha’s engineers had nearly endless testing days while designing the VMAX SHO series. Adding this powerful performer to a boat as wonderful and enjoyable as the Bennington Bowrider will create nothing but smiles.