Written By Bob Brown
Dry Land Evaluation : Chris Hamlin of Prestige Marine, Aaron Fluent of Absolute Speed and Marine
Photos by : Dusty Wooddell (Primary) / Andrew Ruzek (Secondary) / Bob Brown (Back Up)

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If you think all performance deckboats are pretty much alike, you obviously aren't acquainted with the Advantage Boats X-Flight model line. Although the 27, 29 and 34 all qualify for serious deckboat consideration, they are definitely a unique hybrid of some things vee-bottom and a little bit air-entrapment.

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Right from the get-go, lets address the obvious. X-Flights have a styling that's undeniably all its own. You either like it, or it's perhaps not your cup of tea. It's just not a kinda, sorta type of boat where there's a lot of middle-ground. That's okay, because evidenced by its sales success since the first X-Flight was introduced in 2007, there are plenty of people who like it since its been Advantage's best selling model, and for a lot of good reasons.

It's also important to remember that Advantage deserves much of the credit for getting the performance deckboat market ignited in the first place. In the late 1980s Advantage introduced the original 26 Party Cat, a kind of cross between a fiberglass pontoon with canvas siding on top of a Mod-VP type of air-entrapment tunnel hull. It too was a huge hit and in the years that followed, four more Party Cats (22, 27, 28 and 34) evolved and were added to the line-up.

Then in 2006, Advantage's in-house (resident mad scientist type) designer/tooler Gary Ferguson thought he could create something different and even better for the deckboat customer. The something different and even better was the X-Flight. If you know anything about Ferguson's long career in boat design, you recognize that he seldom follows the conventional, and likes living on the edge. In nearly all cases, his gambles without of the norm models since the 1960's have been ground breaking. It's also well documented that when it comes to understanding how to design a fast and efficient running surface, there's probably none better.

So the initial X-Flight adventure came to fruition about eight years ago. As expected it was unique and needed some explanation. First, X-Flights are true vee-bottoms even though they appear at first glance to have more similarity to an air-entrapment tunnel thanks to the outriggers (that's what I like to call them) that look like sponsons, but they are not. The 27 X-Flight bottom is a genuine deep-vee with 22 degrees of deadrise at the transom intersected by an intricate series of small shingle like steps across the running surface. Again, a Ferguson design concept that breaks the norm. The outriggers perform a couple of important functions, however. Although they are not intended to touch the water (more on that when we talk about turning) they greatly expand the available interior space in the forward portion of the hull (more seating capacity and walk-around room compared to a traditional pointy-nose vee bowrider). Equally important, the outriggers do create some measure of aerodynamic advantage the faster you go. The outriggers trap air and help lift the bow which is critical in the ability to more efficiently carry weight (passengers) in the bow.

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First impressions do mean something, and the 27 X-Flight makes a good one the minute you step on board. You can't help but notice that it is an extra wide beam hull, with a 107" measurement from gunnel to gunnel. That allows Advantage to configure the interior with a large single seat driver's bucket and a two-wide companion seat right along side with room left-over for ample walk through space between them. The other feeling you get is this is a deep boat that offers more freeboard than most deckboats of this size.

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Interior things we particularly liked were the large bow area seating (56" x 44"), a nice three-step down entrance from the bow walk-on platform to the floor, a small enclosed seating area under the port-side bulkhead and a comfortable and very level padded motor hatch which encourages restful sun tanning. The bow seating is a modified U-shaped lounge on the port side with a slightly smaller lounge to the starboard. Both afford lots of leg room.

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The stair-steps into the bow have rubberized non-skid coverings and the fiberglass liner floor is covered with an optional snap-in carpet kit. Aft, Advantage finishes off the seating with a full width rear bench (Advantage does deserve extra points for providing foot rest/supports for rear seat passengers). On the port-side aft is a recessed walkway access to the integrated swim platform at the transom, also covered with rubberized non-skid material.

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In order to use the walkway, however, you have to step on and then over the rear seat. Not a difficult task, but not something you would want fellow passengers doing on a routine basis unless they were shoe less.

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The other concern is that access to the port-side of the engine inside the motor compartment is quite tight (the stainless CMI headers on the 565 Merc require a little extra width) since it butts closely to the recessed walkway. The other side of the engine compartment has no space issues whatsoever, in fact it affords enough room to have a partition on the far starboard side which creates welcomed additional storage. Our dry-land inspection team noted overall good rigging, wiring and installation, but commented that some areas supporting hoses and wiring might be better served with stainless Adel clamps rather than standard zip-ties.


Onboard storage is always a concern,especially with deckboat buyers. The Advantage 27 X-Flight generally fills this need admirably with a couple of nice deck compartments at the bow, ample under seat storage front and rear and a generously-sized built-in cooler on the starboard side forward of the driver's helm, just behind the bow lounge backrest. They also give Advantage high marks for well engineered gloves boxes, one in front of the co-pilot and two others built into the arm rests of the aft bench seat that were very convenient. Advantage also provides an excellent storage solution for those often in-the-way boat fenders with a neat compartment just for them under the aft walkway. There is, however,no in-floor ski/wakeboard locker which raises the question, where's the best place on board to stow watersports equipment? Perhaps inside the aforementioned engine compartment in the starboard storage bin.

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Advantage construction processes put a high priority on strength while reducing weight through the liberal use of balsa coring, core mat and a variety of hi-tech Knitex weight cloths. Mold work is definitely up to Advantage's high standards and the gelcoat colors and graphics rank among the best in the industry. The blends were excellent and the pin lines straight and clean.

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From a strictly seat-of-the-pants driving perspective, the 27 X-Flight has a uniquely different feel compared to conventional air-entrapment deckboats. Although it does pack a moderate amount of air as speeds increase (over 50 mph you can begin to feel the bow lift and it's not all accounted for by positive drive trim angle) it still drives like a well mannered vee-bottom which it is. Is it potentially as fast on the top end as a tunnel-type deckboat? Probably not, but that's no surprise. With Mercury Racing 565 power and a 24 pitch Bravo One propeller, we were just short of the 72 mile an hour mark by a scant .3 mph. Running the propeller efficiency numbers, the 27 X-Flight was right at 90% which is remarkably good for any single engine powered 27-footer, tunnel or vee.

What is different, however, is the X-Flight likes lots of positive trim. In fact, you can take it to max trim and then flick the trailer button a couple of times for a little extra which adds another 2-3 miles an hour on the top end and about 200 additional rpm. We maxed the 565 Merc out at 5,280 rpm. When you do this, the hull rocks back, takes a nice set on the last four or five feet of the running surface and still feels quite in control...no chine walk or other instability in the low 70s.

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Another question boaters seem to have regarding the X-Flights is turning. Does the forward portion of the outriggers actually make contact with the water in a tight turn, and if so how does it affect the handling? We tried repeated tight and sweeping turns at a variety of speeds (25 mph to 60+ mph) and never experienced the outriggers touching the water. In fact, the 27 X-Fight turns much like a conventional deep-vee. The harder you turn, the more it banks to the inside, maybe not quite as much as a normal vee-bottom, but close. It definitely comes around quick for a 27-footer. Steering response is excellent. There's no lag or hesitation when you turn the steering wheel and the Bravo One four-blade prop seems like a wise selection for all-around performance. No hint of propeller ventilation even in the tightest of turns.

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Turning our attention to acceleration, the X-Flight/Merc 565 combo was impressive. Possibly anticipating a potentially steep bow rise on take-off, it never happened. The 27 launched aggressively, going from 0 to 30 mph in just 5.78 seconds and the hole-shot was level enough so the driver never lost forward visibility. Although you might expect trim tabs on a vee-bottom of this size to even out the ride or assist getting on plane, Advantage seldom uses them and we didn't miss them. It was tuck the drive under for best initial acceleration and then trim out as speed increases.

Although our test conditions presented us with relatively flat water, we were able to stir things up enough by criss-crossing multiple boat wakes to get some idea of how the 27 X-Flight fares when water gets choppy. As expected, it cuts through the rough stuff like a 22 degree vee-bottom should. The bumps are softened and no water spray on the deck or near the passenger interior cockpit. Just a dry comfortable ride for all on board.

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What we didn't get an opportunity to investigate as fully as we wanted was the load carrying characteristics of the 27 X-Flight. Generally speaking, vee bottoms do a better job of adapting and coping with heavier loads than tunnels, and this is something that Advantage uses as part of their new boat sales pitch to potential customers. Since we didn't have extra bodies readily available as ballast, we're just going to have to surmise that this general rule of thumb holds true until proven otherwise. For example if you were to load four adult sized passengers in the bow of a tunnel deckboat, and then do the same with the X-Flight, which boat would suffer the least amount of performance loss, especially in the higher speed (over 60 mph) range? We don't have the objective numbers to back it up, but I suspect that a vee will lose less miles an hour than a comparable tunnel. I also suspect it's handling characteristics will hold up better then a tunnel fully loaded. We'll defer for now and run a comparison like this in the future to see if this theory holds up.

If you're in the shopping mode, Advantage puts a base retail price (excluding trailer) on the 27 X-Flight starting at $119,900 with a Mercury 8.2 L MAG ECT (380HP) and standard Bravo 1 drive package. The upgrade to the Mercury Racing 565 is approximately a $15,000 step-up but certainly worth it if you need that 70+ mph top end. The other optional equipment on this particular model (IMCO full hydraulic steering is $5,000, a more powerful sound system at $2,100 plus about a dozen more amenities) brings the out-the-door price to $150,570. This definitely puts it in the highly competitive category of what similarly powered performance deckboats are going for in today's market. Now the only thing you have to do is make the decision whether vee-bottom or air-entrapment is the best choice for you.


SPECIFICATIONS



Manufacturer: Advantage Boats
Model: 27 X-Flight
Hull type: Modified Vee Deckboat
Length (centerline w/swim platform): 27"7"
Beam: 107"
Deadrise at transom: 22 degrees
Weight (approx. total as tested): 4,300 lbs.
Fuel capacity: 110 gal.
Price (base suggested retail, excluding trailer): $121,000
Price (as tested): $150,570



PERTINENT STANDARD EQUIPMENT


Anchor Locker (built-in), Automatic Bilge Blower, Automatic Bilge Pump, Bow& Stern Ladders, Bow Rails (S/S), Chrome/Brass Fuel Fills,Cigarette Lighter, Color Coordinated Custom Upholstery, Courtesy Lights, Custom Hand Lamination, Deck Cleats (6)-S.S. Pull Up, Drink Cup Holders, Dual 12V Batteries, Fiberglass Floor Liner, Fresh Water Sink, Full Instrumentation, Full Length Hull Stringers, Gelcoat w/Blend up to 7 colors, Glove Box, Grab Handles, Hour Meter, Ice Chest (built-in), Integral Swim Steps, Interior Lighting, Navigational Lights, Plush Marine Carpet, S.S. Package,, Safety Ignition/Kill Switch, Ski Locker (built-in), Ski Tow (built-in),Stereo CD Player AM/FM Radio With Amp, Tilt Steering Wheel



OPTIONAL EQUIPMENT AS TESTED


Full hydraulic steering, bimini top,carpet kit, hydro turf, GPS speeds and depth finder, blender, Halon fire system, cabin fan, LED bow lights, stereo upgrade, storage cover, tournament ski tow, SS rub rail, carbon-fiber face gauges,expanded driver seat, grab handles, front boarding ladder, powder coat foot rests.


ENGINE/PROPULSION


Manufacturer (engine): Mecury Racing 565
Number of engines: one
Cylinder type: V-8
Cubic inch displacement: 533 c.i.
Max rated PSHP @ RPM: 565 HP @ 5400 rpm
Propulsion type: Mercury Bravo XR
Gear ratio: 1.50:1
Propeller make: Mercury Bravo One
Propeller blades: Four
Propeller diameter x pitch: 15-1/4" x 24"


PERFORMANCE:


Top speed @ Max RPM (radar): 71.7 mph
Top speed @ Max RPM (GPS): 71.6 mph



Acceleration:


0-30 mph: 5.78 sec.
30-50mph: 5.75 sec
50- WOT: 12.03 sec.

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RPM @ Speed and PEF (propellerefficiency factor)


1000rpm @ 5.6 mph = 37%
2000rpm @ 18.5 mph = 61%
3000rpm @ 33.3 mph = 72%
3500rpm @ 42.5 mph = 79%
4000rpm @ 48.4 mph = 79%
4500rpm @ 61.6 mph = 88%
5000rpm @ 67.8 mph = 88%
WOT: 5,280rpm = 71.7mph = 90%

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SCORE CARD (subjective ratings/opinions by test team)



LEVEL 1(rating scale, 1=least, 10=best)
Hull/mold: 9.5 - Tooling is something that Advantage does in-house and extremely well.
Construction: 9.0 - Hand lamination and top of the line materials throughout.
Rigging/installation: 8.5 - Not a lot of bling, good attention to details.
Interior/upholstery: 9.0 - Attractive, comfortable and stylish
Innovations/unique features: 9.5 - X-Flights will never be accused of being "cookie-cutter" - a bold move bringing something this new to the deckboat market.
Driveability: 9.5 - Feels and drives like a well-mannered vee-bottom should.
Attitude/set: 9.0 - Trim is important, it likes a lot of it.
Turning/slalom/handling: 9.0 - Agile and responsive for a 27-footer.
Acceleration (low speed): 9.5 - More bottom end go than expected.
Acceleration (mid-range): 9.0 - Definitely in its torque zone.
Acceleration (high end): 8.5 - Keeps pulling hard right to wide open throttle.
Performance (low speed): 9.0 - Easy to maneuver even with extra wide beam.
Performance (mid-range): 9.0 - Trim it, set it and forget it.
Performance (high end): 9.0 - Fun to drive, no stress, no effort.
Suitable purpose/function: 9.0 - A hybrid concept that works for lots of boaters.


LEVEL 2(rating scale, 1=least, 5=best)
Gelcoat/graphics: 4.5 - Does it as well as anybody in the business
Helm/instrumentation: 4.5 - Sometimes simple is better "well organized dash, unobstructed visibility" everything in easy reach and sight.
Comfort/ergonomics: 5.0 - Feels like you?re down in-the-boat, not on top of it. Kudos for the nice upholstery.
Amenities/storage: 4.5 - Storage space well above average, extra credit for enclosed seating area.
Engine serviceability: 3.5 - Starboard side is great, port side not-so-much.
Cockpit noise level: 4.0 - As quiet as you might expect with header style exhaust.
Cockpit wind factor: 4.0 - Breezy in the bow area, good protection in the driver's cockpit thanks to the deck contour.
Appropriate power: 4.5 - A $15,000 upgrade that seems well worth it.
Tracking: 4.5 - Keep the trim up and it's straight arrow.
Lateral stability: 4.5 - Wide beam and outriggers always help.



SCORECARD TALLY: 179.5 out of apossible 200 max
VALUE VS POINTS SYSTEM : 838.83

To read what our members are saying about this boat and review please click HERE to visit the thread in our forums.


CONTACT:
ADVANTAGE BOATS
1000 N. Lake Havasu Ave.
Lake Havasu City, AZ 86403
(928) 680-2628

info@advantageboats.com
www.advantageboats.com