Test: Chaparral 310 Signature

By: John Ford, Photography by: John Ford


Chaparral 310 Signature With twin 260hp MerCruiser V8s, the 310 can race to 35kts, with a champagne cruise of 23kts. Chaparral 310 Signature
Chaparral 310 Signature Hatch in the T-top and opening windscreen centre-pane, along with inbuilt steps in the helm bulkhead and handrails assist in going forward to the bow. Chaparral 310 Signature
Chaparral 310 Signature For al fresco dining, just clip the table with handy cupholders to the sidedeck. Chaparral 310 Signature
Chaparral 310 Signature Cockpit’s starboardside wetbar maximises well the available space. Chaparral 310 Signature
Chaparral 310 Signature Courtesy of the Wide Tech hull is a great feeling of space below – in fact eight can sit on the lounge that meanders around the saloon. Chaparral 310 Signature
Chaparral 310 Signature Galley is minimalist but has all the essentials. Chaparral 310 Signature
Chaparral 310 Signature Nicely moulded bathroom will be an easy-clean propostion. Chaparral 310 Signature
Chaparral 310 Signature Chaparral 310 Signature

Chaparral’s 310 Signature is either a big-little boat or a small cruiser. Whichever way you look at it, this sporty conveyance will suit a wide range of activities for families looking for something extra.

The Chaparral 310 Signature has an overall length of 9.45m and a 3.05m beam, taking it out of the trailerable category but still small enough to be handled by entry-level boaties with a waterfront property or access to a marina or mooring.

In this part of the world Chaparral isn't among the mainstream brands, being more of a boutique name with a reputation for higher build-quality and innovative design. Much better known in its home country Chaparral claims to be the world's largest independent builder of sterndrive powerboats, with a list of industry awards spanning its 50-year history and a production run in that time of more than 300,000 boats.

Chaparral 310 Signature

This style of midrange sportscruiser is generally considered a great dayboat and entertainer but the owners of the 310 we tested saw potential for the boat as a coastal cruiser and embarked on an extended voyage over several months.

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Exterior

The full-width boarding platform is 0.75m wide and has a removable stainless steel safety rail in the centre, leaving clear sections each side. A recessed swimladder is built into the starboard platform floor and there is a storage locker and rear-facing seat on the transom that is a pleasant place to relax. This seat converts to a sunpad over the enginebox at the flick of a switch and lifts to reveal a monster storage locker for water toys, fenders and lines.

A small step up to the cockpit deck is where I found front and rear-facing lounges to starboard forming a roomy space that converts to a dinette with the addition of a table that fixes to the sidedeck. More storage is found under each lounge and there is a step to the non-slip gunwale for boarding from the side.

Interior

Access to the bow is via stairs moulded into the bulkhead and through the windscreen. An opening hatch in the hardtop means crew won't be banging their head every time they go forward to the sunpad on the front deck.

Chaparral -310-Signature -2

Three steps lead down to the cabin from the cockpit through a sliding door. The wide, timber steps blend with the teak floor and dark cabinets and complement the rich cream leather upholstery for a quality, classic feel below.

It's in the cabin that the benefit of the Wide Tech hull is most obvious; it's a great feeling of space, especially for a 31-footer. Up to eight people could cosy around the deep-gloss mahogany dining table on the lounge that meanders around the cabin aft of the bed.

To port is a minimalist galley with granite benchtop, sink with stainless steel mixer, 240V cooktop, small microwave and a 12/240V Isotherm fridge. Appliances can run from shorepower or two house batteries connected to an inverter. Opening ports over the galley and to starboard, as well as a hatch in the roof, give good airflow, while the generous 1.9m of head height adds to the roomy feel of the cabin.

There's 1.2m of headroom in the second cabin aft of the companionway and under the cockpit floor. It's confined but can be set-up as a second lounge or as a queen-sized bed for a couple.

To starboard of the companionway is a head comprising a ceramic vacuum-flush toilet connected to a 106lt holding tank, vanity and a pull-out shower with hot water that can be delivered from electric power or from a heat exchanger when the engines are running. Head height is around 6ft and ventilation is from an opening port and an extractor fan.

Engine

Chaparral 310 Signature FactsPower for the Chaparral is from a pair of 260hp 5lt MerCruiser V8 engines attached to Bravo 3 legs driving duoprops. The engine cover lifts on a worm-drive rather than hydraulics, so it can be raised manually if necessary and I found lots of room in the engine bay and a set of stairs to assist inspection.

The driver's seat is set on a pedestal and has about 8in of forward-aft travel as well as height adjustment, so it was easy to find a comfortable position with feet set on the bulkhead footrest. The twin-passenger seat has storage below and both seats are fitted with bolsters and clad in rich vinyl with quilted patterns on the backrests that add a touch of class.

Twin throttles are within easy reach and SmartCraft synchronisation couples the engines or can be switched to individual control as desired.

The ride

Full throttle acceleration got the boat moving sedately at first but once over 2700rpm it started to rise onto the plane and boogied to a wide open throttle of 5000rpm and 35kts. By this stage it was up high on the running plank and felt light and nimble enough to go for a bit of trim from the tabs.

Cruising at midrange of 3500rpm delivered 23kts and a fuel burn from both Mercurys of 72lt/h. With 447lt onboard, that would deliver a cruising range of 128nm with 10 per cent fuel in reserve.

Verdict

My time with the 310 Signature only helped convince me of the Chaparral appeal. They are well-constructed with lots of features that put these boats in the upper category of brands.

Positives

  • High-quality finish and contemporary design
  • Good, predictable & sporty handling
  • Roomy for its size

Negatives

  • Air-conditioning is a good option

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