Mustang 3200 SE

Such are New Zealand conditions that boaties might need a little convincing before taking to the sports cruiser concept. But, as Steve Raea discovered, the Mustang 3200 is full of surprises.

Mustang 3200 SE
Mustang 3200 SE

Australian boat manufacturers are making big inroads into the New Zealand domestic market with aggressive pricing and marketing plans. Take a stroll around Auckland marinas and you will find a veritable feast of Aussie-built vessels ranging from large sports fishers to mid-size sports cruisers. It is the sports cruiser segment of the market that is attracting most attention, with recent model arrivals from Mariner, Sunrunner and Mustang Cruisers.

The sports cruiser concept is relatively new in New Zealand, but it is Australia's fastest growing form of recreational boating. Buyers are literally queuing for boats that require nothing more than a belly full of gas and a case of chardonnay before heading out for a day, weekend or a week on the Southport Broadwater.

Although Australia's balmy climate and labyrinth of coastal and inland waterways are the stuff of sports cruising, New Zealand conditions are such that boaties here are likely to require some fairly strong convincing before stepping down from their fly bridge to take the wheel of a sports cruiser. If they did they, the chances are they would discover a whole new concept and a level of luxury and cruising appointments traditionally the domain of much larger and considerably more expensive launches.

The Mustang 3200 Sports Cruiser SE epitomises sports cruiser qualities with sporty good looks, power to burn and an interior/cockpit layout that defies the boat's physical dimensions.

Mustang Cruisers is Australia's second largest boat manufacturer behind the Riviera Group and is at the forefront of sports cruiser design. Mustang is also a company on the move, winning the Australian Exporter of the Year Award last year. The company's 38-footer is also Australia's most awarded boat, picking up Australian Boat of the Year, Australian Cruiser of the Year and Australian Family Boat of the Year 2000/2001. The 3200 SE is no stranger to accolades either, winning Australian Family Boat of the Year in 1999/2000.

All aboard
Step onto the 3200 and you instantly get a taste of what's in store. The teak-laid split-level dive platform is wide and open with room to fold out a deck chair, throw over a line or take a late afternoon shower from the retractable shower tucked into a moulded cabinet on the port side aft combing.

Take two steps up and you find yourself on the second transom platform with ample room to throw down a towel and catch some sun. It is here that the first of Mustang's clever bits comes in to play - a moulded transom recess for the all-too-hard to stow fenders. If fishing is your thing then twin rod holders set into the aft combings will be useful. Swing open the moulded transom gate on the starboard side of the cockpit and you're struck with a conundrum: where to sit - the aft cocktail lounge, the helm station or the two-seater wrap around settee opposite? Why not try them all?

Immediately to port in the 3200 cockpit is the removable U-shaped Granicote table and twin two-seater vinyl covered settees. These can be used to form a spare double berth by simply by removing the table and folding the aft settee back into a transom recess. This opens up the entire cockpit sole to provide a dance floor if and when required. Opposite the lounge is the moulded wet bar. This features a sink with hot and cold water and a large top-loading chilly bin that could be fitted with 12 or 240-volt eutectic refrigeration for longer-range cruising. The boat's circuit breakers, battery switches and inverter are all housed in a separate locker under the wet bar.

Immediately forward of the wet bar is the helm station. This features a large white moulded helm module with recessed carbon-fibre facia housing an extensive array of VDO marine instruments and Volvo engine management systems. Twin switch panels control everything and there are separate trim-tab buttons, but no trim gauges. The view through the wraparound five-piece safety-glass windscreen, with side opening vents for fresh air, is excellent. A mahogany-looking Italian-made tilt sports wheel gives the boat a Miami Vice-like quality.

Seastar hydraulic steering takes the fight out of the twisties and the Volvo dual throttles and leg-trim buttons are ergonomically placed and easy to use. The helm seat folds down to provide comfortable seating for two and can be folded back giving plenty of room to stand at the wheel. Nice touches include a moulded foot well under the wheel and a side pocket for cellphone, keys and wallet. Access to the foredeck is through the centre pane of the windscreen and reached via three steps moulded into the helm console.

Directly opposite the helm station is the curved two-seat lounger set on a moulded platform a step above the cockpit sole. This is an ideal spot to kick back when underway and provides good all-round views for passengers. Moving about the cockpit is a treat with a wide-open and carpeted companionway that makes for easy foot traffic. The look of the boat is greatly influenced by the moulded targa arch that wraps around the boat just aft of the helm station. This is the ideal location for stereo speakers and cockpit down lighting.

The review model was fitted with a solid hard top and full length clears that detract somewhat from the lines but are imminently more sensible for New Zealand conditions. The hard top, however, can be removed. All up, the cockpit is the place to be. It's smart, functional, roomy and nicely finished with pin-stripping and embossed squabs.

Bedtime bliss
While the Mustang's cockpit is nothing if not accommodating, the same unfortunately cannot be said for the open-plan interior. This is accessed through a sliding door that slides behind the helm station bulkhead. Immediately to starboard is the head and shower. There is six-foot plus headroom and the one-piece liner will ensure easy cleaning. The bathroom features a curved Granicote vanity unit with a single Novelli mixer with retractable shower head. There is good storage both above and below the sink unit and a recessed holder for the dunny roll. The electric head in the test boat is plumbed through a Lectra/San onboard treatment plant - a standard upgrade on New Zealand boats. The head has fluro lighting and a side-opening port hatch complete with curtain. Directly opposite the head is the galley. This again features a Granicote top with a two-burner gas hob set in with a polycarbonate top. Bench space is limited, but there are plenty of cupboards and drawers for kitchen utensils. There is a microwave oven, but no stove. A small 12/240-volt fridge is set under the counter top. The lockers and drawers are timber and finished in gloss off-white two-pot paint. Options here include highly varnished teak-like veneer, which would add a sense of warmth. Directly forward of the galley is the entertainment console and this features a television set on a swivel base with a front-loading DVD player set into a corner unit.

The main double is set up into the vee but this, unfortunately, is where things become a bit unstuck. The berth requires an infill stored under the squab to be pulled out to form a full double. This locates on the outer edge of the kidney-shaped saloon table. An infill squab is then placed on top to form the double. While this takes a bit of time to set up, the end result is a queen-size scratcher and the perfect pad to kick back and watch DVDs late into the night. The down side is the loss of use of the saloon table and the leather-trimmed couch. The berth is finished with richly upholstered side pocket shelving, mirrored headboard, chrome down-spots and circular overhead Bomar hatch. There is nowhere, however, for personal clobber other than a single hanging locker set into the aft bulkhead. There is plentiful storage under the berth, but this is not so easy to access.

Overnight guests are catered for with a full-size double set athwartships under the cockpit sole and accessed from the port side. This, too, has twin spot lighting and mirrored head board, but suffers a bit on sitting headroom and personal storage.

The overall interior finish is very high with stitched vinyl linings that butt up nicely to the internal joinery and the leather-covered sofa adds a touch of panache. Courtesy lights on the companionway steps and in the foot of the forward berth are also a nice touch. Headroom is generous throughout. The test boat was fitted with cream carpet, but options include teak and holly for those with a bit more brass.

Drive time
There are various petrol and diesel options available with the 3200. The test boat, however, was fitted with twin Volvo 170hp four-cylinder diesel engines with Volvo duoprops. Engine access is excellent through a large gas-assisted hatch in the cockpit sole that hinges up giving ample room to perform required maintenance. The engine room also houses the twin diesel tanks and the battery charger.

Despite grey skies and impending rain we were determined to go sport cruising, even if our cruising wasn't that sporting with a short run up the Upper Waitemata and back down to North Head and home. Conditions were flat and ideal for speed trials that had yet to be carried out on the boat. The 3200 is an agile performer and showed no hesitation pulling itself out of the hole and onto the plane. The twin-Volvos worked harmonious and were unobtrusive.

Low speed cruising at 2900rpm with the legs trimmed slightly in produced an economical speed of about 19 knots. Put another 800rpm on the clock and the boat levels out and takes off, recording a respectable 27 knots. Handling was a no-fuss affair, the hydraulic steering light and the duoprops made easy work of digging the boat out of hard twisting turns. Either seated or standing, the 3200 was comfortable and predictable and no apparent vices for the unwary. Handling could be described as sporty and the performance more than adequate for gulf cruising.

Overall the Mustang 3200 SE lives up well to its sports cruiser label and will no doubt find its niche in New Zealand's eclectic market. The boat will ideally suit a couple looking for romantic weekend escapes and a stylish platform from which to entertain clients and guests. Perhaps the best thing about the boat is the price, which at $289,000 represents excellent value given the level of fit out and equipment supplied as standard. Check it out - you too could become a sports cruiser.

Mustang 3200 SE Sports Cruiser
Centreline length: 9.8m
Beam: 3.16m
Draft (leg down): 1.05m
Weight (dry): 5200kg
Deadrise: 20 degrees
Fuel capacity: 520lt
Water capacity: 280lt
Manufacturers warranty: 10 years
Price as tested: $289,000
Boat supplied by Mustang Cruisers NZ, tel (09) 915 0094, fax (09) 522 8464, e-mail or visit

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