GLASTRON GS 259 TEST
A lot rests on the narrow shoulders of this punchy sportscruiser. Fortunately its performance and design are more than up to the challenge
Glastron is now part of Bénéteau Group, but is the American-made flagship of the range suited to European tastes?
Never underestimate the importance of mid-20ft sportscruisers. This is the absolute heartland of first ‘proper boat’ ownership, the place people gravitate to when, with the onset of a family and the need for a separate loo and space for the kids to kip, the cuddy cabin can no longer cut it. Even for those that have outgrown this sector, the success of boats like this brand new 25ft Glastron might be what stands between a future buyer of your used Princess V39 signing on the dotted, or choosing to take up golf instead.
It’s a sector that absolutely has to work in order to springboard its owner and family into a lifelong boating addiction, yet paradoxically it’s also potentially the most compromised arena in the motor boat market because it has to do everything – be a driving machine for dad, a weekend cottage for mum and an aquatic play centre for the kids. And it has to do all of this while delivering compact dimensions that keep running costs down and manageability up. And it has to be affordable.
Glastron has form in this segment of the market. A decade ago, the previous model GS 259 sportscruiser sold strongly in the UK. Things have moved on for Glastron since then, not least of all, ownership of the company. Rec Boat Holdings, which also owns Wellcraft and Four Winns, is now wholly owned by the monolithic French Bénéteau Group. Currently the boats are still built at Glastron’s base in Cadillac, Michigan. But don’t rule out Frenchbuilt Glastrons in future, or indeed American-built Bénéteaus, as the group seeks to capitalise on its international factory base.
But what of the boat? Fundamentally, the concept echoes the GS 259 of old, and indeed pretty much every other sportscruiser in this sector. And like most other similarly sized sportscruisers, particularly those hailing from the USA, the biggest area of
compromise is the beam. Americans think nothing of trailering boats like this, so the beam is set to comply with their towing width restriction of 8ft 6in. With a sub-8m length overall (length is pegged at 25ft 2in/7.7m), the designers have their work cut out delivering a meaningful sportscruiser experience within these compact parameters.
The biggest difficulty is that, annoyingly, buyers of smaller boats tend to be about the same size as those of larger ones, making proportions challenging. Standing headroom is a prerequisite for the successful sportscruiser, and the GS 259 delivers, offering a full 6ft of clearance at the base of the cabin steps. The layout is standard-pattern sportscruiser, with a horseshoe of dinette forward that drops to create a double, a small galley opposite the head and a double berth stretching back beneath the front of the cockpit. That head is a particularly good size – people are less prepared to sit on the loo with a shoulder against each wall these days, and the GS 259 ensures that they won’t have to. Pale wood and classy linings are well lit by triple overhead skylights (the forward one an opening hatch) and slim fillets of window. But unfortunately, for every inch you take, something else has to give, and in this case that something is storage. Apart from unlined lockers beneath the seats and a couple of shallow shelves in the galley, the only proper storage space is two slim open-fronted lockers next to the cabin steps (the lower of which looks like a hanging locker but lacks a rail) and three cave lockers in the mid cabin aft bulkhead – again, open fronted. Travelling light would seem to be a prerequisite.
Head upstairs and that narrow beam makes itself felt via a total lack of side decks; the only route to the foredeck is through an
opening centre section of the windscreen. It’s not an uncommon arrangement in boats of this type, although optional high-level pulpit rails would offer a little more confidence. The payback is a full-beam cockpit with a single-level floor that maximises available space and sports a couple of neat details. Both backrests flipflop fore and aft, the front one alternating the forward section of seating between a helm seat or additional aft-facing dinette seating. The back one does the same, giving more space around the dinette or a bathing platform seat which offers a terrific view out across the water at anchor. A chaise longue provides additional seating next to the helm (backrests are padded at both ends making this a perfectly usable forward-facing seat underway), as well as offering more space inside at the head end of the bed. Nothing new there, but the galley just aft of it is a neat and unusual touch, allowing cockpit caterers a second fridge as well as a hob and sink. Triple-tone upholstery with diamond-quilted inserts lends this area a touch of class. An optional full-length ‘camper’ canopy gives standing headroom throughout, turning this area into a cosy second living area with the side curtains in, or creating an effective bimini with them out. If you wish to run completely alfresco, the intelligently configured stainless-steel frame concertinas forward, self supporting with the folded top furled around it.
ON THE THROTTLES
All that height and space within such compact dimensions and narrow beam create two obvious areas of compromise. A slabsided look is a potential inevitability, but one that Glastron disguises reasonably well with a low-profile windscreen and bold hull graphics in a choice of three colours as standard. Of more interest is the dynamic effect of all that height within a narrow beam, and with a brisk wind blowing through the pretty French town of Le Lavandou, we’ve got the perfect test conditions – a sheltered bay with a large swell running down the coast just off the headland.
There are no diesel options, currently at least. Glastron offers the GS 259 with Mercruiser’s 4.5-litre V6 giving 250hp as standard, or a feisty 6.2-litre V8 giving 300hp for those that want more power and speed. Similarly sized Volvo Penta motors are also on the options list, giving a broadly similar spread. Also on the options list is a bow thruster, something that the windage of those slab sides makes a desirable one. We have the latter, but no upgrades on the engine, our test boat running the basic Mercruiser. But in truth, the boat runs well with it. Two up, it’s fast on to the plane, and tops out at a respectable 32 knots at WOT and 4,800rpm. A comfortable cruising gait spans 20 to 25 knots, the engine turning over at between 3,500 and 3,900rpm. Those high sides mean that the trim tabs receive a good workout – in a stiff breeze, be prepared to re-tab for each direction change. But it’s nothing that the standard-fit Lenco tabs can’t easily cope with, and it’s entirely expected for a boat of this size and style.
What’s less expected is how well the hull copes with the rough stuff off the headland. Yes, we got a bit wet occasionally and no, you probably wouldn’t choose to be out in these conditions in such a small boat. But Glastron’s flagship cruiser offers greater ability than you might expect, and one day, that extra dose of confidence might just make that difference between upgrading to a Princess V39 or hitting a small, white ball around a field.
The optional full-length bimini provides plenty of welcome shade
The heads is very spacious for this size of boat Light wood and coloured linings add visual interest The mid cabin gains headroom at the pillow end from the chaise longue above