Boating families who want an entry-level cruiser that shows significant influence from bigger express cruisers and even sport yachts should look at the Monterey 260 SCR, all new for 2009.
In recent years, Monterey has been making its boats more progressive looking and stylish but also more family friendly. Your eyes notice this design theme immediately when you see the 260 SCR. This boat and its big brother, the 280 represent the first sweeping changes to Monterey's cruiser line since 2002.
The predecessor of the 260 is the 250 SCR, whose overall design stemmed from Monterey's sport boat line. In contrast, the 260 SCR clearly echoes the design of larger cruisers and Monterey's sport yachts. Influences from the Monterey 340 and the new 320 sport yacht, are clearly seen throughout the 260 SCR. That's what makes this cruiser a standout for 2009.
First, the 260 SCR is longer than its predecessor. The 260 SCR still features a trailering friendly 8 foot beam, but the length including its integrated swim platform is 27 feet lengthy for an entry-level cruiser (most measure about 24 feet). With all the features needed in a cruiser especially the cabin's galley, head, and sleeping accommodations, Monterey's design choice is clear: create a boat that's spacious, useful, and comfortable for families. Avoid designing an affordable but cramped boat.
With length and a new perspective, the 260 SCR shines in many ways. Check out its tall, shiny, stainless steel bow rails, and its edgy step design to the foredeck that adds space to the cabin while providing a progressive look.
To further enhance the look of the 260, Monterey offers an optional radar arch –in fact the same radar arch for the new 280 SCR. The arch features an edgy design and has an extended forward lip that not only lends a progressive look to this cruiser but also helps to shade the cockpit.
With hull length, a cockpit is much more useful for entertaining. So, instead of a bench seat in the aft cockpit as found in most entry-level cruisers, the 260's seating layout is roomier and more social minded -- thanks to a semi-circular seat that wraps around on the starboard side. This design element is seen on express cruisers in the 30-foot range.
Instead of an exposed removable cooler located under the sink in the cockpit as seen on deck boats and entry level cruisers, on the 260 the cooler is hidden behind a beautifully designed hatch for a clean interior.
Another clean design choice is seen with shore power. Instead of featuring shore power outlets on the port side exterior, the 260 SCR keeps shore power nicely hidden behind a hatch at the stern.
At the helm, the dash is sleek and stylish with a hint of automotive racing to it. The dash, which is a clear design cue from the Monterey 340, looks especially fetching when filled with electronics.
For entry-level cruisers, the entrance to the cabin can be tight, but not on the 260 SCR. There's plenty of room for big adults to step down into the cabin. However, it's still an 8 foot wide boat, so the chaise lounge suffers a bit: a wider one would be more comfortable.
Small cruisers can be a bit dark and gloomy in the cabin. But the 260 SCR's cabin is significantly brighter than the 250's, making it much more inviting for families to spend time in. Monterey accomplished this by including a large mirror located at the forepeak and large windows.
Instead of carpeting in the cabin, the 260 features a vinyl surface, featuring a wood look for a nautical look. I like how Monterey tied together the wood look in the cabin to the faux teak on the swim platform. Cabinets made of cherry laminate add style and brightness to the cabin and perfectly complement to the look of the cabin floor.
And instead of a pointy fore peak that deprives the v-berth sleeper of space, Monterey's signature straight-edge forepeak from port to starboard creates room. There's also plenty of space between the galley and head, making meal preparation easier.
Another shiny accomplishment for Monterey is the engine bay. The designers made the engine bay extra spacious and easy to step into for checks and maintenance. Wires and hoses run in an orderly fashion, never crossing -- a clear design cue from saltwater fish boats. The new florescent tube lighting, as seen in the engine room of yachts, attaches to the bottom side of the engine bay.
AT THE WHEEL
On a windy day in bumpy water off Sanibel, Florida, I took the 260 SCR through its paces. Superb turning and handling is immediately noticeable. Monterey gave this boat a low center of gravity that's noticeable in the turns. The 260 SCR doesn't have a tipsy feel to it even during aggressive turns in either direction. Thanks to heavy winds on test day, the 260 SCR did need adjustments of the trim tabs. Monterey built in some hefty trim tabs, which do the job.
A 17-degree deadrise along with a solid construction provide for a confident feel through the bumps. I got the 260 SCR on plane in 5.9 seconds and took 14.1 seconds to reach 30 mph.
The test boat featured a 320hp, 6.2L MerCruiser stern drive coupled with a Bravo III outdrive, swinging a 22" stainless steel propeller. Speed topped out at 41.5 mph, a speed expected for a cruiser of this size. The 260 SCR's ideal cruising speed was 31.9 mph; this speed used 15.1 gallons an hour for 2.1 miles per gallon and a range with its 80 fuel cell of 151 miles.
Performance numbers are typical and expected for this size cruiser. However, beyond the numbers, the 260 SCR is a shining example by Monterey of a well-designed cruiser that will make families think they are on a yacht.
Zenon Bilas TEST
Name of Boat: Monterey 260 SCR
Location: Sanibel, Florida
Number of people on Board: 2
Fuel Load: 3/4
Manufacturer Name and Address:
Williston, FL 32696
Web address: www.montereyboats.com
Hull material: Fiberglass
Length Overall: 27 ft (length includes integrated swim platform)
Beam: 8 ft
Draft (engine down) 40''
Deadrise at transom: 17
Fuel Capacity: 80 gallons
Maximum Horsepower: 320hp
Standard Engine: 6.2L
Engine as Tested: 6.2L MerCruiser/Bravo III
Propshaft hp: 320
Number of cylinders: 8
Gear Ratio: 2.2
Full-Throttle RPM Range: 5200 rpm
Propeller: Stainless Steel 22''
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(Zenon Bilas is a 7-time US Barefoot Champion, professional photographer with over 50 published water ski and boating magazine covers, and author of 1,000 articles on boat tests, product reviews, and water ski coaching tips. Zenon can also be scheduled for an appearance anywhere in the world. Click this link to view Zenon's bio and booking page)