Manitou’s flagship model is destined to become a modern classic.
BY ALAN JONES
Manitou is one of the builders that has made twin-outboard pontoons more mainstream than anyone would have imagined a few years ago, which makes sense given the pontoon’s similarities to catamaran hulls that often have twins. Unlike twin-outboard monohulls that have their motors close together on the transom, the 25 Legacy LT has its twin engines placed far apart on the outer pontoons, making those horsepower more useful than just for propulsion. Spreading the engines far apart helps with maneuverability at speed and around the dock, but it also opens up the center for getting in and out of the water using the stout stainless steel boarding ladder with swimming pool–style grabrails.
The setup allows the swim platform to be pushed far back in the middle, because there’s no engine there, delivering more real estate exactly where it’s needed. Manitou cleverly solved the riddle of how to integrate the ski tow and the ladder in the same location. It made the standard stainless steel ski tow large enough that any passenger can board and enter the water within its perimeter, a configuration that also keeps the tow line from chafing the engine cowlings, even during the hardest skier cut.
Eschewing the ubiquitous aluminum fencing/rail exterior used on most pontoons, Manitou uses an all-fiberglass exoskeleton to give the boat a bold look and an intricate molded shape that aluminum-clad pontoons can’t achieve. While Manitou offers some of the industry’s boldest color choices, such as the metallic lime green model we tested last year, the top-of-the-line Legacy LT takes a different approach. The four color choices for the center panel are more conservative, as are the four different color choices for the surrounding fiberglass. For a little extra panache, buyers have a choice of four colors for the powder-coated rubrail and its stainless steel protector.
The model I tested took the current hot trend of gray to the extreme, incorporating a two-tone automotive paint job on the exterior that was a perfect match with its Yamahas. Inside, the upholstery was dark and light gray with black piping. It exuded classiness. The bow entry gate is cut from one piece of billet aluminum and was powder-coated to match the boat’s color scheme. It’s heavy, so Manitou wisely designed it to lock into place, whether open or closed, for extra security.
Manitou will rig its boats with any outboard brand, a smart move to satisfy customer preference that’s made even smarter by the fact that in certain areas of the country buyers might only have one outstanding dealer nearby. The dual-engine options on this boat range from 150s all to way to Mercury Racing’s new 400R, but the cost for the alpha dog package — the Mercury XL Carbon Edition with twin 400R outboards — is an additional $101,475.
Our test boat featured Yamaha F300s, which add $66,075 to the base price of $92K. Buyers can take the Yamaha option all the way to a pair of F350 V-8s, but the additional 402 pounds, not to mention the extra $16,275, make the F300s the Yamaha sweet spot. The acceleration was breathtaking, giving the 25 Legacy LT a time to plane of 2.1 seconds and a time to 30 mph of four seconds flat — one of the quickest times we recorded during testing for 2018, regardless of boat type. Top speed was an un-pontoon-like 63.3 mph.
Wisely, Manitou offers only one tube configuration for the Legacy LT, and that’s its industry-changing SHP (Sport Handling Package): twin 25-inch logs on the outside and an oversized 27-inch center tube that’s been dropped so it’s 5¼ inches lower than the outer tubes. The arrangement results in a pontoon that mimics a V-hull and leans in noticeably during hard turns — despite having positive-angle lifting strakes on both sides of all tubes, which we’ve learned tend to “push back” in hard corners and normally result in a flat cornering attitude. Despite being nearly 27 feet long and weighing 4,310 pounds, the 25 Legacy LT was very nimble and stayed hooked up even when I turned the wheel all the way to it stops.
The 25 Legacy LT is a good choice for boaters who live on large bodies of water and need the buoyancy the big center tube and six lifting strakes generate. The tubes are tipped with what Manitou calls Barracuda nosecones. Saber-sharp and reinforced, they effortlessly cleave through larger waves.
Twin engines make docking easier, especially when they are spread as far apart as they are on the Manitou. Our test boat took it to the next level with joystick docking, though it’s the only Yamaha-powered joystick boat I’ve seen that didn’t use the Helm Master system. Instead, Manitou offers SeaStar Solutions’ Optimus 360 system ($16,250), which worked very well. With it, drivers can walk the pontoon sideways. Remember, though, to let go of the joystick control before reaching the dock, because the outboards can reach outside the protection of the pontoons and get their cowling dinged.
Our test boat was fully rigged for watersports, including an optional Sport Arch ($10,000) that was color-matched to the exterior and had a Bimini top, a ski tow — combined they give the Legacy LT two tow points than can handle any watersport — and an optional in-floor locker set deep into the 27-inch center tube ($1,500). The boat had an optional forward Bimini ($1,100). A pop-up privacy booth was set into the port bow recliner.
To enhance the entertainment factor, the 25 Legacy LT might have one of the best standard stereos I’ve ever seen: an 800-watt JL Audio system with a subwoofer and six lighted speakers, including two on the transom that fire rearward, for some tunes while swimming. The only stereo option is a pair of coffee cans on the Sport Arch that cost $1,875.
The 25 Legacy LT features quad loungers with fiberglass frames that continue the overall theme. The two in the stern are slightly shorter. Perhaps the best option on the boat is the upgrade to a companion bucket seat called Aqua Lounger that includes a kick-out footrest ($250). Standard features abound, so buyers won’t have to check very many boxes on the options list. At the helm, there’s both a standard Simrad Evo 3 smart screen and a seven-inch Murphy display that allows the driver to control any of the boat’s systems. Our test boat had the optional Yamaha CL seven-inch smart screen ($550), which replaced the Simrad unit. Manitou offers a choice of beige or gray vinyl flooring as standard, but 13 options range from $1,250 to $1,300.
The standard 25 Legacy LT is well lit with both interior and exterior lights, and items such as speakers and cupholders glow blue. For refreshments, Manitou offers several custom cooler options, including an Orion 45 Super Cooler ($561) that has a Manitou-logoed top pad or a more modestly priced soft-side carryon ($63). For on-the-water dining, grab the Magma grill option for $388.
Purchased by Steve and Marilynn Myers, Denver, N.C.
Purchased at Foothills Marina, Mooresville, N.C.
WHAT WE LIKED
Fit and finish/Attractive styling/Rough-water handling/Turning ability/900-watt stereo/Power Bimini top
WHAT WE WOULD CHANGE
I would like to have gone with the twin-engine option but my budget ran out at one 250 hp outboard.
WHY WE BOUGHT IT
We have had the same Correct Craft ski boat since 1980 and a twin-tube Sweetwater pontoon we bought in 1994. We had no intention of buying another boat until we went to the Charlotte Boat Show and fell in love with the Manitou Legacy. We loved its styling and realized it could replace our two older boats. We live on Lake Norman, which is large, and visiting someone across the lake could take an hour on our old pontoon and we worried about weather kicking up. With the Manitou, we can make it in 25 minutes. We were tempted by the twin-engine version, but the Yamaha VMAX SHO 250 pushes it really well. On our first trip, we had 11 people on board and one of our guests wanted to go slalom skiing; we were surprised when he got up easily. We have four grown kids and a 5-year-old grandson, and they like to go sightseeing, tubing and skiing. The buying process at Foothills Marina was great. I told them what features I wanted and what I wanted to do with the boat, and they made sure it was properly equipped. After the sale, they went to great lengths to make sure my
For many people, pontoon boats are associated with Grandpa’s old ‘toon idling lazily around the lake with the grandkids fishing off the side. Early pontoons were not fast enough for watersports and had few of the modern conveniences that cuddy cabins and bowriders could provide.
In the late 1980s, manufacturers like Manitou Pontoons from Lansing, Michigan saw the potential of a faster pontoon boat and started designing models that could handle bigger engines. When 115-hp outboards appeared on the back of pontoons, customers that once said they would never get a pontoon took a second look.
The addition of a third tube to pontoon designs increased structural stability and buoyancy, and opened the door to even heavier, higher-horsepower engines. The increase in power allowed pontoons to pull skiers and tubers, and created a boat that was more appealing and versatile.
The 2018 Manitou X-Plode XT is a shining example of pontoon potential. With the X-Plode, Manitou set out to change the pontoon stereotype of a party barge into that of a fast, colorful, full-featured sportboat that could outperform many of its V-hulled cousins. The Manitou X-Plode XT accomplishes that mission with style and ease, while carrying more passengers, too.
A 70 mph pontoon?
When someone invites you to go for a ride on their shiny new pontoon boat, the last thing you expect to need is a pair of goggles. But goggles were the one thing I was missing when I met Greg and Tim from Manitou Pontoons at Duck Lake — about 20 miles south of Lansing, Michigan — to go for an afternoon cruise.
Manitou has built pontoon boats at their headquarters in Lansing for more than 30 years. They use Duck Lake for testing because it has a clean, predictable bottom free of prop-eating obstructions and submerged surprises that might create an unpleasant situation if struck at 70 mph.
Yes, that’s correct. Seventy mph. Seven, zero. And yes, on a pontoon boat.
Sitting at the dock, the 27-foot X-Plode XT looks like it’s straining at the lines. The boat comes in several color combinations, including more tame options like black or white. Customers who want to stand out from the crowd can choose a bright orange or electric lime green X-Plode.
Manitou works closely with several outboard manufacturers to ensure their engines are installed to the highest factory specifications and to offer their customers power options that best fit their needs. Our test boat featured twin Mercury 400-hp engines, but twin 300s are the most popular choice for the X-Plode series. Customers can also choose from smaller or single engine configurations.
Manitou takes their manufacturing standards to the extreme. With finished storage compartments, built-in seating hardware, one-piece aluminum safety doors, and engine mounts built to withstand the power and weight of twin outboards, Manitou’s workmanship, fit and finish are exemplary.
The Manitou X-Plode XT is offered in several floorplans, including the new-for-2018 27-foot RFX layout. All of the structures from the deck up are fiberglass. Vinyl seating and non-skid vinyl decks with snap-down covers resist stains and damage, making the entire boat easy to clean with a boat brush and a hose.
Felt-lined storage compartments are hidden underneath the seats, and a hatch in the floor allows access to the interior of the center tube. This 6-foot storage space is great for stashing longer items like skis or covers, and also includes an automatic bilge pump to ensure the contents stay dry.
Loud and proud
Creature comforts such as LED accents in the cupholders, around seat bases and on the sport arch are just plain cool. JL Audio is a standard feature with an amp, a subwoofer and LED-lit speakers throughout the boat. A color-matched Bimini and mooring cover are also included. A pop-up privacy station allows guests to change out of wet swimsuits before dining at the standard aft table.
Electronic options from Manitou’s engine partners are a nice touch. Systems such as Mercury’s joystick controls and VesselView provide engine feedback and precise handling in tight spaces. Manitou’s own Smart Touch screen gives the captain control over lighting, entertainment and navigation features.
Manitou recognized the benefits of the third pontoon early on. Structural integrity is improved with the extra tube, but Manitou went a step further and created a patented V-Toon design. The result is a faster, better handling pontoon boat.
With precise placement of the third tube and the addition of scientifically designed lifting strakes, Manitou has create a pontoon hull profile that mimics a V-bottomed boat. The design climbs up on plane with minimal bow lift, rides softer and more stable in rough water, and takes a hard turn with the same control and feel as a V-hull.
With Tim at the wheel and Greg up front, we went for a ride down the lake. I didn’t really know what to expect from a 70 mph pontoon boat. As we began to climb in speed, I was very glad I remembered what it was like to fly across open water and had taken off my glasses before they were ripped from my face.
When we hit just under 70 mph carrying three big guys and a full gas tank, I understood why a dog hangs out of a car window with his cheeks flapping. I had to fight the urge to grin like a cartoon character and let my tongue hang out.
Turning back, I was really impressed by the stable feel as the boat leaned into turns like a V-hull. We climbed back up to full speed again before criss-crossing our own wake and that of another boat. The ride was always dry and smooth.
Best of both worlds
The Manitou X-Plode XT is difficult to label. It’s a hard-charging, smooth-riding dayboat that reminds you it’s a pontoon when 15 people can find comfortable seats. With the sport arch, it could be mistaken for a ski boat and easily tows adult wakeboarders and tubers. The best classification I could come up with is “high-speed aquatic entertainment platform.”
We ran the X-Plode XT back toward the dock, then stopped and idled up the lake for a while so we could talk. As I tried to think of any last questions or clarification I might need, we all grew quiet, enjoying the fall air and beautiful view. After riding in silence for a few minutes, I turned to Tim, and with a silly grin I said, “Do it again.”
Tim’s grin matched mine as he leaned forward and pressed his glasses securely onto his face. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Greg grab one of the handrails as the twin Mercury 400s started to wind up, and we tore off down the lake like a rocket.
One thing is certain: This is not your grandpa’s pontoon boat!
What’s better than floating along in your pontoon boat? How about waterskiing or tubing behind the back of it while your friends drive you around? When you’re out on the lake cruising around, you can take things up a notch with a number of pontoon-friendly water sports, including wakeboarding and kneeboarding. There is more to it than just cranking up the speed, though. It is important to always put safety first and stay at the appropriate speed to keep things fun and friendly.
While traditional waterskiing is best done with the boat going between 21 and 26 mph, slow it down to about 16-20 mph when tubing. You should also equip your pontoon with an engine that is capable of reaching the speed you need, as well as equipment storage solutions and a tow bar. With the right gear on your pontoon, you and your friends will be able to enjoy your favorite water sports in no time!