Chaparral 327 SSX

By: John Zammit, Photography by: Ellen Dewar

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The Chaparral 327 SSX bowrider-sports boat-cruiser is a new breed of carbon-positive hybrid…

Chaparral 327 SSX
Chaparral 327 SSX

Size doesn't matter, big or small, some boats just have it and some don't. It's not easily achieved and difficult to define, but when it all comes together the result is "wow"!

And that's what I'm talking about, the "wow" factor, something that the Chaparral 327 SSX has in spades. It's not just the looks (which are really sporty) or the performance (because that's just sensational) or even the layout (very social), but it's the sum of all these parts and more.

We tested the 327 SSX on Sydney Harbour on what was the perfect day for this boat: bright sunshine, clear water and plenty of open space. We had a "wow" of a time, and when it was time to give the boat back, we did so reluctantly.

But the 327 SSX is not easily defined. It's primarily a day boat (a family bowrider with a social layout) but also a performance sports boat that gets up to around 50kts, and then again it's an overnighter, featuring a unique full-beam cabin and a separate head.

The uniqueness of this boat was recognised at the Miami International Boat Show earlier this year, where it was awarded the National Marine Manufacturer's Association Innovation Award for 2011. This category is the highly-competitive 25 to 60-foot cruiser class, including both sport and fishing boats.


The 327 SSX is one of the most revolutionary boats released by Chaparral since it commenced operations in 1965. "Innovation and new product development is one of the four cornerstones of Chaparral," says company president Jim Lane. "We rank the new 327 SSX among the most exciting boats we've ever developed. With its never-before-seen cabin design, the 327 is equal parts bowrider, sports boat and cruiser."

Chaparral has a patent pending for the cockpit/cabin layout – a unique design whereby the cabin is cleverly accommodated forward, spanning the full beam of the boat. At 32ft 6in overall, there's plenty of room for family and guests to spread out and find their own space.

The standard hardtop over the cockpit provides protection from the elements, and I like what they've done in terms of supporting the hardtop with a targa arch midships with two simple struts angled forward to the helm bulkhead. These supports double as grab rails as you move between the cockpit and bow section – it is clever engineering combined with good design. A pop-up hatch forward and centre in the hardtop means you still get plenty of fresh air, even if fitted with the optional Lexan (rigid anti-clouding) clears that slide into a sail track here.

The cockpit features a comfortable L-shaped lounge along the port side and across the transom, with an optional table that slots in when needed. Opposite to starboard is a compact utility bar housing an under-bench stainless steel fridge, a sink with a pull-out tap and a small refuse chute. There is also an option to incorporate an electric griddle in the bench top.

A vast storage locker in the cockpit sole makes the perfect place to store skis, wakeboards, water toys and even a dive compressor. There are twin batteries too, dedicated to the amp that drives the wet stereo system (waterproof speakers are fitted throughout the boat). Also in this location is the battery charger, with plenty of room left for an optional inverter and/or generator, although neither was fitted to our test boat.

Forward to starboard is the helm and a comfortable twin helm seat (bolstered, adjustable and with storage underneath), facing a custom-moulded dash in non-glare silver grey. It's reminiscent of a sports car, with the leather wrapped wheel, polished spokes and a self-centering Chaparral logo in the hub complementing the look.
A Garmin 8in screen takes centre stage in the dash, with columns of waterproof rocker switches either side plus an array of Chaparral gauges. Chaparral manufactures its own gauges, fitted as standard to all its boats and suit Mercury SmartCraft and Volvo Penta. The gauges are nitrogen pressurised, fog free and water resistant, so at the day's end you can take out the snap-lock carpets and hose the whole boat down, inside and out.

Across to port, a twin companion seat faces a stylish glove compartment with a removable 34-litre icebox housed under the seat. Handy grab rails in all the right places mean you can comfortably move around while underway.
Move forward through the split windscreen (with fold-back centre pane) to the bow and you arrive at comfortable all-round seating. As in the cockpit, there's provision for a removable table, while lifting the snap-lock carpet accesses another large, self-draining storage bin that can be used as an icebox. At the bow, a large spotlight and a hatch covers the anchor winch and substantial chain locker with remote controls located nearby.

Sitting outboard

The bow isn't the only place you can relax in the sun: there's more seating aft of the cockpit, outside of the transom, by way of a rear-facing settee looking out over the swim platform – it's a great spot to relax in the sun, take a cooling dip or sit and watch the kids frolic in the water.

At the flick of a switch, this seat folds down to join with the cockpit lounge forming a large sunpad. Drink holders and remote stereo controls are within easy reach, and another icebox built into the swim platform means that cool drinks are close at hand too. A fold-out swim ladder and a hot-and-cold transom shower are nearby. Meanwhile, a hatch on the transom houses the shore power lead plus more storage and the cleats used everywhere on this boat are the pop-up kind, out of the way when not in use.

Business end

The aft end of the cockpit rises on an electric ram to provide access to the twin 380hp MerCruiser 8.2-litre engines. Access around the engines is good and blowers are fitted, along with a fire-suppressant system. Nearby are house and engine batteries, a hot-water service (240V and heat exchange) and the holding tank. If you require more room to the engine bay, just disconnect the ram and roll over the hinged hatch.

The big surprise

If you stepped on-board the Chaparral 327 SSX without anyone telling you there was accommodation, you'd easily miss it. The moulded dash section forward of the companion seat is hinged and opens for a big surprise. Down a couple of steps, you'll be stunned by the amount of space available.

The AC/DC panel is located just inside the entryway and a bench along the port side has storage underneath and cupboards above where a microwave is housed. To starboard, an L-shaped lounge easily converts into a double bed, with more storage and cedar-lined hanging space aft of that. While it's certainly compact, it's an excellent use of space and you don't feel claustrophobic thanks to three opening portholes providing light and cross-flow ventilation.

At the front of the cabin is a three-quarter door to the fully-enclosed head/shower. Within is a mirrored vanity unit and solid counter top incorporating stainless steel sink with pull-out shower wand doubling as a tap, and a VacuFlush head under a hinged shower seat. While it's not exactly standing height, the head has all the basics and is sufficient enough to do the job. A handy grab rail, 12V lighting, extractor fan and an opening, frosted port light complete the picture.

As stated, the Chaparral 327 SSX is primarily a day boat, with the added advantage of being an occasional overnighter. As such, the accommodation is more than adequate, as is the freshwater capacity of 114 litres. The small fridge in the cockpit is the only one on-board, but given the number of iceboxes spread around the boat, that too is probably adequate. The only other things you might consider adding are an inverter to power the microwave and a couple of power points so you can prepare a light meal or possibly breakfast in the morning.

Performance and handling

This is a real mean fun machine, reminiscent of a tricked-up muscle car. The Chaparral 327 SSX looks like she can perform, and in that regard, doesn't disappoint. The deep burble coming from the exhaust on start-up is the first hint of what to expect; push forward on the throttles and you're up and out of the hole before you know it.

Chaparral uses a traditional deep-V forward hull design with extended V-plane aft where the hull extends either side of the sterndrives. This allows the boat to get on the plane quicker, stay there at slower speeds and, because there's more running surface on the water, remain stable even when turning at high speed. And on the day, we really put that to the test.

The 327 is a boat that likes to be driven hard, and that we did, with sports car-like handling that's responsive off the wheel, fun to drive and so predictable. Even when we threw her into full-lock turns at more than 40kts as if on rails – a bit like driving a 3-foot go kart.

I found the helm comfortable, particularly the bolstered seat as I like to stand at the wheel going flat out. The sea on the day was calm, and the Chaparral, being a bowrider, is not the boat you'd take out in one-metre seas. Having said that, Chaparral does sell itself as "saltwater tough" and claims that these boats can take a bit of rough stuff – I'll take their word for it!

The verdict

A really impressive number! Chaparral sure does fit its boats out well. It's all the little things: LED mood lighting; fuel fillers on both sides of the hull; drink holders everywhere (we counted 17 on this boat); premium sound system with remotes throughout; Dura Life Max vinyl upholstery; and more, all combined into one neat package. And that's before you get to enjoy the ride and performance, both of which are exceptional.

I think this boat would particularly suit young couples and families with kids (of all ages). There's plenty of room to entertain family and friends, with loads of space to sit and lounge about. The Chaparral 327 SSX has the performance and handling to tow wakeboards, and a turn of speed to get to your playground fast for a longer stay. And when you're having this much fun, you can always stay over.

The test boat was supplied by Chaparral Boats Australia, Williamstown, Vic, ph +61 3 9397 6977,


Top-quality fit and finish
Performance and handling
Loads of standard inclusions

No anchor deck wash
No sight gauge on fuel tanks
Needs at least an inverter


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