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)


Although best known for its classic line of vee-bottom models, Hallett hasn't neglected the popular performance deckboat market. More than a decade ago it debuted its 285 Party Cruiser, a well proportioned air-entrapment family boat that undeniably fit comfortably into the now established deckboat genre.

As the performance deckboat marketplace grew ever more crowded in recent years, Hallett became aware for the need to distinguish its deckboat brand from the rest. Its running surface was already delivering top of its class numbers, but its styling had been diminished by others who imitated it.

In 2011, Hallett made the decision to re-tool the entire deck and interior of the 285 and give it a new and more modern personality without losing the classic heritage that's an inherent part of every Hallett. Always willing to step- out-of-box, Hallett turned a young, not-of-the-industry designer with an automotive background loose on the project. Guided by the steady hand of the Hallett staff, the new 2.0 Party Cruiser began to take shape, first on a computer monitor, then on paper and finally in the flesh. As you can see from the accompanying photos in the report, the Party Cruiser 2.0 definitely achieved its goal of creating a unique, fresh and pleasing visual personality all its own.


Stepping on-board at the dock, you can't help but be reminded that Hallett is synonymous with everything solid when it comes to construction. This is a full fiberglass inner-liner interior/deck with wood stringers and transom. What is a little out of character is that Hallett opts to forego their traditional teak and holly flooring on this model and go exclusively with easy maintenance fiberglass covered by a nice fitting and rather plush snap-in interior carpet. Although the laminate schedule for the 285 hull and deck and not particularly exotic, it is one-hundred percent hand laminated using liberal amounts of both bi and tri axial woven fabric with top quality vinyl ester resin. It's also interesting to note, and probably a good reason why the hull feels so stiff, is the fact that Hallett is a big proponent of using multiple cross bulkheads throughout the boat.

If you're in the market for a performance deckboat, one of the main reasons you're heading down that path other than wanting some zip to your family boat ride is functionality... something that is both fun and practical for more than just five or six on-board passengers to enjoy at the same time. For good reason, I am obsessed about deckboat floors. Maybe it's because you usually have a boat-load of passengers and they always seem to be moving around, bow to stern. If that's the case, the last thing you want is an interior obstacle causing a trip or fall, like a small step. Hallett has taken a smart approach to avoid that common pit fall (no pun intended) by designing a three-step bow entry with each step nicely covered with more snap-in carpet pieces which gets you down into the boat and presents a completely even elevation floor all the way to the aft bench seat. By putting the floor as low in the sole of the boat as possible, it also creates a more comfortable seating position, especially for those in the forward bow lounges so your legs have the option of bending ninety degrees at the knee like a normal sofa or stretch out fully extended in front of you.


Another key element of any first-rate deckboat is storage space, and this 285 Party Cruiser has plenty. Start with the two generously sized in-floor lockers forward and aft. Then, there are two bow built-in ice chests in the forward sponsons which are large, very accessible and wisely drain directly into the bilge so any residual water (melted-ice) can be pumped overboard by the bilge pump. The 285 is also configured as a dual console so more storage or privacy areas (possible optional porta-potty location) are available beneath each module. On top of both are convenient built-in trash receptacles with hard-top lids. We also checked out under the two long hinged lounge seats in the bow and found finished fiberglass storage bins there too.


In the aft portion of the Party Cruiser, storage is a little sparse. Nothing under the rear seat or in the engine compartment but accessory items can be stowed along two gunnel recessed pockets with more cup holders. Also, thumbs up for the starboard side walk-up (two and a half steps) which gets you to the integrated swim step and then a larger full width swim platform. This dual level swim platform idea is quite ingenious since it allows the aftermarket platform to be mounted lower, at or very near water level. Skiers, wakeboarders and swimmers will appreciate that convenience. And for the less than Olympic gymnastic accomplished among us, Hallett installs fold-down boarding ladders both on the bow and the stern.


Before hitting the ignition switch on the Mercury Racing 520 package under the engine hatch, a quick survey of the helm didn't disappoint. The instrument cluster of Livorsi gauges surrounded a Mercury Vessel View monitor screen and the Livorsi throttle/shift controls were well positioned as were the LED trim indicators. Nothing fancy, just a clean and very functional dash where everything was in clear view and easy to access.


A quick word about Hallett upholstery...exceptional, and it's all done in-house. The comfort factor of the seats is definitely a "10" and it doesn't hurt that the upholstery material is a much softer and smoother to the touch vinyl than you normally find on most boats. The seat styling is definitely Hallett, very classy and somewhat conservative, but not likely to go out of vogue anytime soon.


If you're looking for first-rate gelcoat work and wrinkle free molds, you've come to the right place. Obviously Hallett put plenty of time and effort into its 285 tooling, finding a flaw is a tough thing to do, we didn't. Same can be said for the gelcoat graphics. Again, typical Hallett, somewhat understated in the exterior graphics by today's standards but something you're not going to be tired of seeing at the end of just one boating season. Pin lines and blends were executed with precision.


In the engine compartment, the Mercury 520 almost looks small. Lots of access space on all sides for easy maintenance. The overall rigging is very sanitary. If there's one area that improvement could be made, less use of zip ties to secure wiring and hoses, replaced by stainless Adel clamps would be an upgrade. The billet battery box holder is a nice touch but maybe a covering of some type over the fuel tanks would give the engine room a more finished look.

The underside of the 285 Party Cruiser (yes, we do get down on the asphalt and check-out the bottom) is Hallett's own blend of air-entrapment designs. The outer sponsons each have a single lifting strake with two smaller ventilation steps. The center pod is flat on the bottom and is notched/recessed at the transom which encourages the use of a slightly higher X-dimension for the Mercury Bravo XR drive. Center pod designs, especially in the deckboat category, vary widely among manufacturers. Some, like the Hallett, have pads with no deadrise while others offer a variety of vee shapes ranging from shallow (3 to 6 degrees) to moderately steep (8 to 12 degrees). Generally speaking, deckboats with flat center pads tend to accelerate a little quicker, have slightly less bow rise when getting on plane, and if you're super sensitive, the ride in choppy water could be a bit more firm than a vee'd pod.


One of the things most impressive about the Party Cruiser 2.0 is its efficiency in the mid speed range (40 to 60 mph). What you don't want from a deckboat is subpar performance where the majority of your cruising is going to be taking place. With a 24 pitch Mercury Bravo One stainless propeller (4-blade), 3,500 rpm was 45 mph, 4,000 was 52 mph and 4,500 was 59 mph, great numbers for a 28' 6" hull. For those no yet familiar with Mercury Racing's new 520 package, get to know it because it's probably going to be around a long time. The power/torque curve on this 523 cubic inch engine is awesome. Its got great bottom-end, pulls hard in the mid-range and doesn't seem to have a problem coming up to its 5,400 rpm redline when appropriately propped as the Hallett was.

The most surprising performance characteristic of the 285, however, was its acceleration. It was one of the quickest boats we tested during this battery of exams with a 4.51 second push-you-back-in-your-seat 30 mph to 50 mph punch, and less than 20 seconds needed to go from a standing start to a max speed of 73.1 mph (at 5,320 rpm). Give credit here for a spot-on set-up of engine and prop.


As we put the 285 Party Cruiser through its paces, it became increasingly evident what fun it was to drive. This model was equipped with the standard electric Lenco 16" x 12" adjustable trim tabs. Honestly, we didn't find much use for them. After trying the tabs in a variety of positions, the full up mode seemed the wisest choice. If there was a boat-load of passengers or perhaps a wakesurfer off the stern, these tabs most likely would be a plus in compensating for a variety of activity-specific recreational boating applications.

One question that was quickly answered, however, was Hallett's steady and consistent ride attitude. Drive position did matter (slightly up or marginally positive on the trim) but regardless of the on-plane speed, the 285 felt comfortable and solid. No hint of porpoise or lope as speed increased above the critical 60 mph mark. As for turning, it was much the same. No noticeable banking to the inside, just flat and even as we rounded multiple 180 degree U-turns and a half dozen slalom maneuvers at a variety of speeds. At no time did it feel like there was a chine grab by the outside sponson, bow steer or a sliding of the transom.


Inherently, deckboats are breezy and the Party Cruiser was no exception. Passengers in the forward lounge seats have no wind protection, however the angled deck style forward of the driver and co-pilot dual consoles at least afford some relief. Maybe the addition of a flip-up windscreen might be an appreciated option for those seated in the main interior cockpit.

Although Hallett isn't universally known for its air-entrapment hulls and has only a single offering deckboat, that doesn't mean they aren't serious about their 285 Party Cruiser. The fact that the model was redesigned in 2012 speaks volumes about Hallett's commitment to the project. The 2.0 version is among the newest and certainly most modern deckboats currently available. It is a head-turner at the dock and unquestionably will bring smiles to anyone fortunate enough to drive one. Coming in at $132,400 retail with the upgraded Mercury 520 package, it definitely sits in a comfortable and very competitive place among the best performance deckboats on the market.


Manufacturer: Hallett Boats

Model: 285 Party Cruiser 2.0
Hull type: Air-entrapment
Length (centerline w/swim platform): 28' 6"
Beam: 102"
Deadrise at transom: N/A
Weight (approx. total as tested): 5,200 lbs.
Fuel capacity: 120 gal.
Price (base suggested retail, excluding trailer): $124,900
Price (as tested): $132,400


AM/FM/CD/Ipod w/4 speakers

Automatic bilge pumps (3) & 2 bilge blowers
Bow boarding ladder and foot washer
Built-in drop-in storage boxes
Built-in ski storage
Cockpit & engine courtesy lights
Custom switch panels w/circuit breakers
Dual batteries w/switch
Electric engine hatch lift
Fiberglass and billet air vents
Fiberglass engine cover
Fiberglass floor liner w/removable carpet inserts
Forward built-in ice chests (2)
Full balsa core hull construction
Full interior seating/upholstery w/custom colors
Full marine instrumentation
Glove box
Integrated swim platform w/hide-away boarding ladder & built-in ice chest
International navigation lights
Mercruiser Vessel View System
Nylon boat cover
Offshore style 2-lever shift & throttle control w/trim in throttle
Pull Up Cleats Each Additional
Pull up SS cleats (3 per side)
Ski tow
Stainless steel bow & stern rails
Tilt steering helm


12 Volt Receptacle

Bimini Top Stainless Steel Frame
Coast Guard Package w/Anchor Bag
Drive Shower Braided
Full carpeting
Full Hydraulic Steering (SS Tilt Helm) Single Engine
Stainless Steel Seat Frames
Trim Switch On Transom


Manufacturer (engine): Mercury Racing 520

Number of engines: one
Cylinder type: V-8
Cubic inch displacement: 523 c.i.
Max rated PSHP @ RPM: 520 HP @ 5400 rpm
Propulsion type: Mercury Bravo XR
Gear ratio: 1.50:1
Propeller make: Mercury Bravo I
Propeller blades: four-blades/SS
Propeller diameter x pitch: 15.25? x 24?


Top speed @ Max RPM (radar): 73.1 mph @ 5,320 rpm

Top speed @ Max RPM (GPS): 72.9 mph @ 5,320 rpm


0-30 mph: 6.38 seconds

30-50mph: 4.51 seconds
50- WOT: 8.43 seconds

acceleration-graph hallett-285.jpg

RPM @ Speed and PEF (propeller efficiency factor)

1000rpm @ 5.4 mph = 35%
2000rpm @ 9.6 mph = 33%
3000rpm @ 33.6 mph = 74%
3500rpm @ 45.1 mph = 84%
4000rpm @ 52.3 mph = 85%
4500rpm @ 59.4 mph = 86%
5000rpm @ 65.2 mph = 87%
WOT: 5320 rpm = 73.1 mph = 90%

boat test-graph hallett-285.jpg

SCORE CARD (subjective ratings/opinions by test team)

LEVEL 1 (rating scale, 1=least, 10=best)

Hull/mold: 9.5 - Looking for flaws but didn?t find any.
Construction: 9.5 - Proven build techniques, with state-of-the-art materials. Solid throughout.
Rigging/installation: 9.0 - Clean and sanitary. More about substance, less on frills.
Interior/upholstery: 10 - They haven't lost their touch. A level of excellence others still pursue.
Innovations/unique features: 8.0 - Lots of attention to details, things to be appreciated in long-term boater ownership
Driveability: 9.5 - Comfortable from the moment you start the engine and leave the dock.
Attitude/set: 9.5 - In balance at all speeds.
Turning/slalom/handling: 9.0 - Has the right stuff. No surprises. Confidence to the left or right.
Acceleration (low speed): 9.0 - More get-up-and-go than you?d expect.
Acceleration (mid-range): 10 - Comes on strong. 30 to 50 mph in less than 5 seconds is remarkable.
Acceleration (high end): 9.0 - Pulls hard right to engine redline.
Performance (low speed): 9.0 - It looks like a big boat, but more agile than you?d expect.
Performance (mid-range): 9.5 - Performance where it counts the most.
Performance (high end): 9.5 - Just starting to tap its potential at 70 mph.
Suitable purpose/function: 9.0 - Redesign in 2012 paid big dividends.

LEVEL 2 (rating scale, 1=least, 5=best)

Gelcoat/graphics: 4.5 - A textbook example of excellence.
Helm/instrumentation: 4.5 - Nothing lacking here.
Comfort/ergonomics: 4.5 - Lots of forethought, love the two-tier swim platform.
Amenities/storage: 4.5 - Hinged seat cushions are always welcome, more available compartments forward than aft.
Engine serviceability: 5.0 - Plenty of room for a mechanic and all of the tools if needed.
Cockpit noise level: 4.0 - Only moderate exhaust noise, conversations need only slightly elevated volume.
Cockpit wind factor: 3.5 - It is what it is. Driver and co-pilot receive moderate protection thanks to the deck line.
Appropriate power: 4.5 - Probably not a better value package choice in Merc's line.
Tracking: 5.0 - Riding on rails.
Lateral stability: 5.0 - Twin hulls can't be beat plus adjustable tabs add extra stability/adjustment too.

SCORECARD TALLY: 184 out of a possible 200 max


Hallett Boats
4800 Rivergrade Road
Irwindale, CA 91706

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)