Boat Tests

November 3, 2011

Chaparral 270 Signature: Compromise and Balance

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The Chaparral 270 Signature fits into the compact cruiser segment, which continues to be popular in Canada. Just why are so many buyers interested in owning these boats? First, there’s the price. Sure, we all dream of riding a 30+ foot cruiser, but reality kicks in fast when you consider both practicality issues and your bank balance. By opting for a compact cruiser, you can buy a new model with monthly payments comparable to buying a new car. And that alone is what seduces a great number of buyers.

The other reason, of course, is the versatility of compact cruisers. You can take them out for day trips, short rides or even a weekend away. The only drawback being that their smaller size means sacrificing several features and creature comforts.

A well-known model
The 270 Signature is the smallest in Chaparral’s Signature line. You might think that it’s a recent addition to the family, but it has actually been around for quite some time under the 250 Signature name. But in 2010, the boat-maker bowed to current trends and took the swimming platform into consideration to calculate the boat’s total length. As you’ve probably guessed, the 270 Signature measures 27 feet (8.23 metres). With a width of 8.6 feet and a weight of 6,900 lbs. (3,130 kg), it can be towed relatively easily behind an SUV or full-size pick-up. In addition to boosting the boat’s practicality, this can help you save money.

Viewed from the outside, it offers great style, especially when the hull is painted white. You can also opt for a two-tone colour palette, which includes a thick black stripe, but this tends to accentuate the boat’s petite size. The inverted arch, which supports part of the canvas roof is another nice style component. The large swim platform in back adds space and includes a stainless steel ladder to make climbing aboard that much easier.

Great layout
Inside, the boat-maker did an outstanding job making the most of the available space. Careful consideration went into several aspects, improving functionality. Most notably, the back of the rear seat folds down to lengthen the sunpad. This design feature is sure to be popular, especially when you consider that this configuration is more group-friendly than a conventional bench. There’s also a cocktail bar including a sink and space for your cooler – very practical, indeed. In front, a big door leads to the cabin and steps to the front deck via a section with a retractable windshield. This layout makes sense, as it eliminates the need for passageways on either side to get to the deck. In turn, this makes for maximum use of the boat’s width. Other strong points for this boat were the top-quality carpet held squarely in place with snaps, and the large double driver’s bench, which means you don’t need to drive alone.

If there’s a weak point at Chaparral, it’s the instrumentation. The square design is not particularly striking, and many competitors do a better job. Fortunately, the sporty, eight-spoke steering wheel adds some punch. The dashboard ergonomics are OK, and the numerous controls are presented nicely and easy to understand. In short, this manufacturer has done a great job using the available space, but it’s still a compact cruiser. Space is limited, especially when you have extra passengers aboard.

Inside the cabin
What sets compact cruisers apart from other types of boats, especially open deck boats, is a cabin with added features, including provisions for sleeping on board. A lot of people like to have the option of spending the night on their boat in a reasonable amount of comfort, and that’s what makes cruisers so popular. Families are sure to appreciate the extra room in back for two more passengers. This is the main advantage of compact cruisers over cuddy boats, which can typically accommodate just two overnight passengers. To capitalize on space inside the cabin, Chaparral has integrated a meal corner with a bench seat that converts into a sleeper. As a result, you have extra space for both eating and sleeping. The only drawback is that you constantly have to set it up.

On the water
Our test model came with the smallest of all available engine options, the 300-hp 5.7-litre Mercruiser V8 350 Magnum and bravo 3 outdrive. This engine is obviously less pricey, but its performance suffers in consequence. It offers limited latitude and you get the feeling that engine is always hard-pressed, especially when you’re carry a heavy load. When it comes to engines, especially single engines, it’s advisable to opt for more power, as this increases driving pleasure and doesn’t necessarily cost more in fuel.
Our test model 10.2 seconds to reach cruising speed, and we managed a maximum speed of 44 mph (70 km/h). The optimum cruising speed was 29.6 mph (48 km/h) at 3,500 rpm, and the fuel consumption was more than reasonable. That’s another plus about compact cruisers, they’re cheaper to by and to run!

Naturally, the Bravo 3 with a counter-rotating twin propellers is an excellent choice for this boat, as it delivers maximum push and excellent traction in the water – though it can cut into your speed.

With a single engine, high perch, and reduced length and width, compact cruisers are sensitive to weight transfer and tend to rock as passengers move about or when you hit crosswinds. This is certainly the case for the Chaparral 270. That’s another compromise you have to make

The Chaparral 270 performs very well in the water. Driving position and great visibility are some of its best qualities, while its size enables better handling during parking manoeuvres. And, no need to be an expert to fully enjoy this boat, it’s very user-friendly and an excellent choice for beginners.

In sum, as with the other compact cruisers in its category, the Chaparral 270 Signature is not perfect. Its compact size means reduced on-board space and its performance on the water is not incredibly exciting. However, it allows users the opportunity to enjoy the best of water sports at a lower cost. This is probably why many people are attracted to these models, but also why many others turn rapidly to a larger boat.

Review boat provided by: Groupe Performance Marine


Test model : 2011 Chaparral 270 Signature
Test engine : MerCruiser 350 MAG - Bravo three
Base price : $91,828
Price as tested : $81,292
Manufacturer's warranty : 1 year
Planing time : 10.2 seconds
Planing speed : 10 mph (16 km/h)
Competitive models : Bayliner Cruisers 266 Discovery, Crownline Cruiser 260 CR, Formula Cruiser 27 Cruiser, Four Winns V Series V265, Larson Cabrio Series Cabrio 274, Regal Express Cruisers 2860 Express Cruiser, Rinker Express Cruisers 260 Express Cruiser, Sea Ray Sport Cruisers 260 Sundancer
Strong points : Competitive pricing
Fairly afordable
Well thought out
Nice finish
Weak points : Not incredibly exciting handling
Intrument design design not particularly striking
Sensitive to weight transfer

Editor's rating

Fuel consumption :          
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Performance data

650 4.00 - - 6.44 - - N/A
1000 5.50 1.70 3.24 8.85 6.44 1.38 259 miles / 418 km
1500 7.20 - - 11.59 - - N/A
2000 8.40 4.90 1.71 13.52 18.55 0.73 136 miles / 221 km
2500 11.00 - - 17.70 - - N/A
3000 20.70 7.40 2.80 33.31 28.01 1.19 224 miles / 360 km
3500 29.60 - - 47.64 - - N/A
4000 35.10 14.60 2.40 56.49 55.27 1.02 192 miles / 309 km
4500 39.70 - - 63.89 - - N/A
4900 43.30 23.90 1.81 69.68 90.47 0.77 144 miles / 233 km

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