Author : Barry Thompson
Larson is not a brand that kiwis have been familiar with, but if Craig Lewis of Gulfland Marine has his way it will be one of the foremost of all American brands available on the local market within a few short years.
Larson is in fact one of America’s oldest boat building companies, having started business in 1913, when Paul Larson built and sold a duck hunting boat. Things have changed a lot since then and from its factory in Little Falls, Minnesota, Larson now produces over 6000 boats annually and is part of Genmar, the world’s largest boat building company. Larson built its first fibreglass moulded boat in 1954. The company was sold to Brunswick in 1960, but the original owners bought it back in 1963. The real turning point came in 1977 when Irwin Jacobs (who later founded, and still runs, Genmar Industries) acquired a controlling interest in Larson. In 1991 the company added the first of the Cabrio models to its cruiser range and in 2000 introduced VEC, a patented closed-mould process for building boats, which would forever change the way the world builds boats. Well, in the USA at least! The credentials are certainly there and with Larson, the local market has been introduced to one of the most successful boat brands ever in the US. Whilst ‘down-under’ the name doesn’t roll off the lips like Bayliner or Sea Ray, that could all be about to change.
I was given the first of the 2005 model year Cabrio 240s to test, although getting some reasonable sea time was difficult due to the fact that the two that arrived in the first shipment for Gulfland Marine were both sold just prior to Christmas and had owners waiting at the door with towbars at the ready. The Larson 240 Cabrio is one of eight Cabrio models from the Cabrio 220 to the Cabrio 370, although the trailerable models finish at the Cabrio 274. The Cabrio 240 is a mid-cabin weekender in every respect and follows a very similar theme to other US trailerable mid-cabin boats. It is this sector of the market that has little impact on locally built variants as there are none to compare. While we have seen a growth in the mid-cabin market in recent years thanks primarily to the imports, local manufacturers have not yet taken up the challenge. Maybe this is why amongst the first Larsons sold, both were midcabins.
A Livable Cabin
The Cabrio 240 has a bright, welldesigned fully lockable cabin with 1.86m of headroom. The mid-cabin (under the cockpit) features a queen-size berth with opening port into the cockpit. It’s a great area to stow gear when not being used and is certainly a favourite for kids. However, it is spacious enough for two adults to not feel claustrophobic. Reading lights are provided as well as ports with screens. Completing the accommodation, a forward dinette offers seating for four and then can be converted into a double forward berth. Light coloured fabrics have been used throughout, with a subtle use of mahogany timber panelling on the doors and around the galley adding a distinctive look of quality. Speakers and lighting are strategically placed throughout the cabins. While the Cabrio 240 comes with a long list of standard equipment, selected options included a 7000 BTU air conditioning, a water heater, and entertainment package. The galley is to port and features a Granulon countertop with moulded sink, a dual-voltage refrigerator, single-burner alcohol/electric stove, and a standard microwave and coffee maker.
Opening side ports expel cooking odours and provide extra ventilation to the cabin. The fully enclosed head features a standard manual-flush MSD, port light and power exhaust vent, and a Granulon vanity with moulded sink and hand-held shower. The Americans manage to pack a lot into a small space and what space there is has been intelligently and practically used to the best advantage.
A Versatile Cockpit
Larson uses a full one-piece inner liner for the cockpit which means cleaning is easy and all waste water is returned to a deep sump and bilge pump. Large drains either side quickly take care of any water that comes aboard. Unlike a lot of Larson’s smaller models, the Cabrio 240 is not built using the VEC system, but there is no questioning the quality of the finish. Heavy-duty UV resistant vinyls are used. Larson uses CAD technology, plus a five-axis robotic router that precisely shapes the hull and deck plugs and the plugs for all interior mouldings. However, a lot of the cabinetry is still crafted by hand and finished to a high gloss sheen. The cockpit of the Cabrio 240 can be configured with several seating options. The aft seat can be stowed to achieve maximum deck space and a port-side lounge converts from a fore-and-aft facing seating to a full-length sunpad. A large chilly-bin stows below the lounge seat, and the cabin dinette table can be installed in the cockpit for entertaining. A cockpit wet bar features a moulded sink with pressure water and storage below. The pedestal helm seat has a flip-up bottom cushion and built-in footrest.
Sweeping lines compliment the design of the dash and make gauges easy to read. Larson have designed the dash to handle a full array of automotive-style instruments at eye level, with space beside the helm for a GPS/plotter or fishfinder. All the necessary toggle switches for everything from lighting to the bilge blower, span across the huge fascia with its walnut trim. A compass, trim tabs and a Clarion stereo with 100- channel Sirius satellite radio receiver and a single CD player, remote and four speakers are standard on the Cabrio 240. The standard package for the Cabrio 240 is impressive, with the mechanical features including a pressure water system with 72-litre fresh-water tank and a transom shower, a remote spotlight, 30-amp shore power with 15m cable, battery charger and an engine-bay fire-suppression system.
Moulded steps in the cockpit and a walkthrough windshield provide good access to the foredeck, which is surrounded by a high, stainless steel rail. An anchor roller with an integrated line locker and hawser pipe is standard and the boat comes pre-wired for a dealer-installed electric windlass. At the transom end, the Cabrio 240 comes with a narrow full-width moulded boarding area. An extended swim platform is optional and well worth the investment.
On The Water
At over 2500kg on the water, the Cabrio 240 is a big, solid and comfortable boat to drive in most conditions. The moderate 20 degree V hull cuts through the water with the wide chine and long strakes helping the boat track cleanly and with relative ease. The hull features Larson’s own notched hull design which is designed to create a wave of water pressure that ‘lifts’ the stern of the boat. It also assists in making the boat plane more quickly and when running offers less drag on the water and very responsive handling. The MerCruiser MPI sterndrive packs plenty of punch to get the big boat onto the plane quickly and I found a real comfortable cruise at around 30.5 mph @ 3500 rpm. Top speed with this engine is 46 mph @ 5150 rpm. I loved the driving position and with the adjustable cushion height and seat base, you can just about set the helm up to suit any size of skipper. The full wraparound glass screen keeps off the wind for both the skipper and anyone lounging opposite. There’s an optional clip-on carpet available to cover the entire cockpit sole and also a full overall camper pack and bimini. This is a sterndrive-only boat, with the choice of thirteen MerCruiser or Volvo packages, from 220hp through to 320hp in either petrol or diesel. The Cabrio 240 represents an excellent weekender option and at $140,000 is exceptionally good value considering all the ‘standard’ options that come with the boat.
Larson may not yet be a name that Kiwi boat owners know all that well, but given time I am sure it’s going to find its niche in the market. Innovations in technology and materials have helped Larson build better boats, with the highest quality components. Meticulous standards are synonymous with Larson and after 92 years it’s no surprise to see why the company has got it right.
- Model: Cabrio 240
- Price (Boat Only): $140,000
- Price as Tested: $165,000
- Designer: Larson
- Type: Mid-Cabin
- LOA: 7.53m
- Beam: 2.59m
- Weight Hull Only: 2608kg
- Height on Trailer: 2.35m
- Deadrise: 20 degrees
- Trailerable Weight: 3300kg
- Engine Capacity: 220hp – 320hp
- Power Options: Sterndrive only
- Fuel Capacity: 318 litres
- Water Capacity: 72 litres
- Engine: MerCruiser 5 Litre MPI @ 260hp