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September 19, 2013

The Scout 350 LXF

A look into the center console that brings forth a host of new design ideas.

In today’s competitive center-console market, some builders hesitate to create new design ideas. ­Engineering and new molds are expensive, with no guarantee the ­investment will pay off in sales. So boat innovation sometimes takes place like evolution — at a very slow pace. 

Yet, one builder consistently pushes the envelope in ­center-console design at a pace that exceeds the industry norm. Scout Boats always seems to incorporate fresh thinking ­­— as well as classic styling — in each new model. The 350 LXF serves as Exhibit A for Scout’s innovative spirit. 

Not only does this large center console reflect fresh ideas, but it also rides on a big-water hull with twin steps that introduce a cushion of air between the water and running surface to help smooth the ride, boost speed and improve fuel efficiency. 

This 350 LXF’s wide bow flare adroitly knocked down spray during our run, and the deep-V hull knifed through the 3-footers we encountered on test day. The 35-footer also came about smartly during high-speed maneuvers with no tendency for sliding or tripping. 

We achieved a top speed of 65 mph, powered by a trio of Yamaha F300 V-6 outboards. Our 0-to-30 mph ­acceleration time was 8.3 seconds. When it came to fuel efficiency, the 11,000-pound boat (dry with test power) attained its best mpg of 1.35 at 3,500 rpm and 37 mph. Not bad for a boat with 900 ponies on the transom. It translates to a range of over 400 miles with the 360-gallon fuel tank.  

The 350 LXF features SeaStar Solutions’ Optimus power-assisted hydraulic steering. It renders the boat super easy to maneuver, whether challenging the waves or docking. Low-speed maneuverability is further enhanced by the optional Vetus joystick docking system, which employs electric bow and stern thrusters.

Along the rail you’ll find six gunwale rod holders ­complemented by horizontal rod racks under the ­covering boards, but you won’t need to store gaffs here because Scout innovated a locker for gaffs on the starboard side of the console. Handles slide through slots in the bottom of the compartment, while the hooks are secured with bungees. There’s also a rack for dock lines, and a latching door protects everything from spray.  

The 350 LXF can carry plenty of pilchards thanks to a 26-gallon livewell hidden under the aft-facing bench seat abaft the helm seating. The transom housed an ­optional 55-gallon livewell. Below the aft cockpit is a pair of 95-quart fish boxes, and under the foredeck reside twin 40-quart ­coolers. Fresh- and raw-water washdown systems come ­standard.

A beefy transom door in the starboard quarter opens to the integral swim platform, which features a side-to-side ­walk-across forward of the outboards to help fight a fish around the stern. An optional watertight door and boarding ladder were built into the port side of the aft cockpit of my test boat. It’s really for divers, but it might come in handy when hauling aboard a big fish.

Upholstered coaming pads encircle the interior to ­cushion your legs when battling a fish along the rail. To keep from snagging lines and cast nets, the bow rails are recessed. An anchor roller integrated into the stem and a standard Lewmar windlass are concealed in the bow compartment. The windlass draws from and feeds a voluminous anchor locker.

You don’t expect to see a substantial cabin in a center console, but you’ll find one inside the huge console of the 350 LXF. It boasts more than 6 feet of headroom and includes a double berth that readily accommodated my 6-foot frame. Windows on each side let in plenty of light, and the berth converts to a dinette. The cabin features overhead lighting, a stainless-steel sink with freshwater faucet, a cooler with a Corian top, a microwave and a head. Warmer-climate anglers can opt for a 12-volt 5,000 Btu air-conditioning ­system. 

Forward of the console, there’s a two-person lounge with armrests over a roomy compartment for items such as seat cushions, dive tanks and the Armstrong boarding ladder. The foredeck of my test boat sported an optional motorized teak table controlled by a nearby rocker switch. 

Scout did an exquisite design job of merging the helm seamlessly with the hardtop frame and wraparound windshield. It looks like a single unit. To help usher in fresh air, the windshield features an electronically operated center top vent. If you order the air conditioning, it includes vents at the helm. The dash area offers ample room to flush-mount a pair of 15-inch multifunction displays. 

The console footrest is ideally angled when you’re sitting in either of the adjustable helm seats, each with armrests and flip-up bolsters. In the seat pod, there’s a quartet of roomy slide-out tackle drawers, a 12-volt refrigerator and a ­tackle-storage locker. 

In yet another innovative touch, this 35-footer is available with a nifty hardtop option. An electronically operated fiberglass shade extends aft from the hardtop to shield the cockpit from the sun. When you want to catch some rays or clear the deck to catch some fish, it quickly retracts at the touch of a button. It’s just one more example of the fresh thinking you’ll find in the design of Scout’s 350 LXF