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March 17, 2011

Sundance NX25

The Sundance NX25 is a practical sport utility vessel.

In the boatbuilding business, bigger is not always better. Smaller privately owned companies often have more flexibility to react to changing market conditions and develop new models. So when gas prices took off a couple of years ago, companies like Sundance were able to shift accordingly. The economical NX, or Next Generation, series was the result. The latest addition, the NX25, adds yet another choice for anglers looking for a well-built center console that is capable of running offshore but doesn't sacrifice the shallow draft necessary for bay trips or family outings at the beach. It brings a new dimension to the crossover-hybrid boat category.

I recently toured Sundance's modern plant, just outside Waycross, Georgia, to see how the NX25 is built. Actually, overbuilt is a more accurate description. Sundance uses quality components and composite materials in all models. The only wood is in the pallets in the plant storeroom. The NX stringer system is fiberglass, and each hull has a 10-year transferable warranty. All hatch lids are infused and vacuum-bagged using a resin transfer molding system. This process gives a uniform glass-resin ratio and retains strength without adding unnecessary weight. Waterproof circuit breakers, a 10-micron fuel filter and 316 stainless-steel hardware are additional indicators of quality and value. But the real test always comes in execution, and the NX25 doesn't disappoint in that department either.

The hull design features a sharp 45-degree entry with plenty of flare to knock down spray and handle a serious chop. Transitioning aft to a long planing pad, the stern flattens to a 5-degree transom deadrise. A notched pocket tunnel directs water to the prop to let the boat run shallow. This combination provides many benefits. The minimal deadrise enables the boat to get on plane quickly with less power, so it burns less fuel. Stability, always welcome in pitching seas, is good too, but the real eye-opener is the draft - a true 9 inches in a 25-footer with a full load. So cast-netting bait in the shallows or fishing the back bays should never be an issue.

Our test boat was rigged with a Yamaha F250 with mechanical controls; numerous other power options are available, including single engines up to 300 hp or a pair of 115 hp four-strokes. During test runs on the Little Satilla River outside Brunswick, the GPS registered a top speed of nearly 48 mph while the engine burned just over 22 gallons per hour. Between the stand-ard 72-gallon tank and that kind of efficiency, you can get a lot of running time between fill-ups.

With 250 horses strapped to the back of the boat, passengers really need to hang on when you hit the throttle. The 25 jumps out of the hole like a rattlesnake but soon settles into a nice lope, and it's nimble and fun to drive. Standard hydraulic steering reduces the effort even more. Depending on the engine choice, Yamaha digital controls and gauge packages are options, along with Lenco trim tabs. The comfortable standard leaning post comes with a backrest and flip-down bolster, plus a four-rod rocket launcher and 72-quart cooler. If you prefer to store gear aboard, a substitute leaning post with a built-in livewell, tackle center and freshwater rigging sink is available. A beefy T-top with an added e-box is another option, although I can't imagine making the deal without one. The large console has all the room necessary for mounting twin electronics displays, even with the glove box and control panel. And as a nod to the family float plan, a porta-potty in the walk-in head is also standard.

That's not to say this boat isn't ready to splash and fish. It has plenty of rod storage in the gunwales and cockpit racks. Wraparound cockpit bolsters are standard and extend to the bow. Round 50-quart livewells, which can double as storage, are located in each corner of the stern. A large bench seat on the port side of the transom has a big fish box underneath. And the hatch aft gives easy service access to the pumps.

When you're on hot fish, there's ample room to maneuver forward, where a transition step leads to the casting deck. Three large storage boxes are housed there, and each drains overboard. A cushion package can be added to convert the outboard boxes into lounge seats, and the molded anchor locker will rack a good-size hook.

A popular boating cliche says one boat can't do it all. That's still true, but if you're in the market for a family fish boat that's easy on the wallet and performs well, be sure to check out the Next Generation 25. It comes pretty darn close.

Sundance NX25

Weight......2,735 lbs.  
Fuel......72 gals.
Max hp......300  
Price......$45,412 with F250 Yamaha

Sundance: 912-449-0033 •