Chaparral 216 SSi test

By: John Willis, Photography by: John Willis & Barry Ashenhurst

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If you’re looking for a top-line family boat, put this one on your list...

Chaparral 216 SSi test
Chaparral 216 SSi test
  • Comfortable helm position with premium seat
  • Solidly-built, buoyant and quiet hull
  • Terrific stability and tight in the turn
  • Excellent design and quality mouldings
  • Plenty of storage and space for watersports

I love the Chaparral 216 SSi and so does my family. In fact, I honestly believe it’s one of the foremost bowriders in the world today. With its appearance dripping with modern luxury, enhanced by lashings of good old Yankee balls, this truly is the southern belle of the boating industry.

Waking the dead

The Chaparral 216 SSi is fitted with the MerCruiser 350 Magnum V8 via an Alpha One leg although there’s also a Volvo equivalent. Its superb handling only surpasses its performance as a fast runabout, social ski and wakeboat, or as a refined entertainer.

It employs the latest in safe, strong manufacturing techniques and is loaded with high-tech but easy-to-operate equipment. Chaparral incorporates DuPont Kevlar (yep, the same stuff they use for bullet-proof vests, motorbike and chainsaw pants) in the Quad Radial lamination process, as well as fully foam-filled hulls, and you can instantly feel and hear the difference.

You won’t need a saddle for this thoroughbred – this is a driver’s boat. The helm position is very comfortable, with a fully adjustable, thickly padded bolster seat dressed in a premium, stain-resistant marine vinyl called Dura-Life Max.

The swivel locks and slide adjusters in the Chaparral are on the leading edge of the seat armrests so you don’t have to fiddle around blindly under the seats to find them. There’s also an armrest combined with the flush throttle controls to make things more comfortable on long cruises. This even provides added support to critical speed control when powering fast through choppy waters.

I took the Chaparral for a fun-filled frolic at sea, running fast through the chop as well as a few larger wakes and waves. We quickly reached a very speedy 44kts (81.4km/h) at wide open throttle – just over the old 50mph – doing 4400rpm. My 15-year-old daughter was thrill-seeking in the roomy Wide-Tech bow and loved the feel of the wind in her hair. Most importantly, I felt safe with her up there.

Chaparral describes the hull as having "Extended V-Plane Performance", meaning the keel extends all the way to the back of the boat so as to provide full-length bite, ride and buoyancy. Not only is it a solidly built, foam-filled hull that transmits very little noise – it’s a design that some of our bluewater experts should inspect for its excellent seakeeping abilities. It has terrific stability at rest and a pleasing rumble from the grunty V8.

The 21in propeller bites hard both through immediate acceleration and in tight turns without a hint of cavitation and there was minimal bow rise from rest. The wake is quite suitable for some family skiing and the engine probably has the power for multiple slaloms, provided the maximum recommended 10 adults aren’t partying on board. Trim her out a bit and add some weight, and the wake height will rise for boarding and surfing.

Layout and design

The Chapparal’s Wide-Tech bow is designed to safely carry the added weight of thrill-seekers, with all seating and upholstery made to the highest possible standard. There is a separate anchor locker in the bow to keep muddy ground tackle out of the seating area, as well as storage under the seats and a couple of waterproof speakers for the Clarion remote-controlled stereo.

Coming back through the walkway into the cockpit, the first thing you will notice is the strength of the safety glass windscreen, as well as little extras like a snug cushioned latch to hold the opened screen and stop it banging. The windscreen is swept up right across the front, giving wind protection and maximising forward vision. The doorway to the large storage compartment under the passenger dashboard conveniently doubles as a wind barrier in the companionway. A similar doorway gives access to the rear of the instrument panel on the driver’s side. There’s also docking, navigation and cockpit lighting that even has its own dimmer switch.

I really liked the dashboard presentations for both the driver and passenger positions. At the helm, the square set combination analogue and digital instruments are easy to read.

There is room for a sounder/GPS/plotter to be recessed into the removable centre-section of the dash, but none were fitted to the test boat. The switch panels, Ritchie compass, Clarion remote, key start and 12V accessory plug are neat and uncluttered. There is a stylish leather-look sports steering wheel with tilt adjustment and very smooth and responsive power steering. The passenger dash has a large glovebox with separate 12V plug for accessories and a stainless Jesus bar. The passenger seating position has its own armrest, the same deluxe bolster seat, plenty of leg room, and more speakers and drink-holders.

The contoured side panels show an absolute devotion to quality moulding that is evident throughout the entire Chaparral range. Just take a look at the badge inserts, the stainless bar and the tailored upholstery at the rear of the front swivel seats. Sure, you can buy a cheaper bowrider – but quality like this is priceless.

The combination rear lounge, enginebox, sunlounge and storage all match the rest of the boat for excellence in design. The lounges stop short of extending across the entire beam to create a walkway on the starboard side, which means no more dirty shoes and wet feet on the nice upholstery.

Lifting the hatches and cushions to inspect the quality underneath, I was pleased to find non-virgin polyethylene frames, gas struts, thick acoustic liners and double French-stitched trims. There’s also a huge wet and dry storage area and easy access to the engine for servicing. Perhaps the best part was a moulded recess that holds an Esky.

The side-mount table is stored under the rear lounge and my daughter loved the sunlounge at the rear. The lift-up back opens right up for the walkway; then tilts to 45° to form the chaise lounge, or right back down for full-length sunlounge.

At the stern is an integral non-skid staging platform for watersports. It has a telescopic stainless steel ladder for boarding that’s enclosed with its own moulding and hatch. Under the cockpit floor is a huge wet storage area that will take skis, wetsuits, fenders and all manner of boating accessories. Removable carpets are standard throughout.

Chaparral completes a premium presentation with a large bimini canopy made with Sunbrella canvass and a strong stainless steel frame, which features some innovative breakaway fittings for easy assembly.

The verdict

My family and I give the Chaparral 216 SSi full marks for a terrific, tasteful, inspiring and exciting presentation.

This premium social and sports machine has exceptional value for money. Its power and handling is thrilling, and the visual appeal is simply stunning. The Chaparral 216 SSi exudes individual character in a market full of imitation.

See a range of Chaparral boats for sale.


Type Deep-vee monohull Material GRP composite LOA 6.55m Beam 2.54m Weight 1588kg (boat and motor) People 10 Rec hp 300 Max hp 300 Fuel 151L Engine make/model MerCruiser 350 Magnum Type Multi-point, fuel-injected, four-stroke V8 Weight 390kg Displacement 5.7L Propeller 19in stainless

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