By Cam McRae
Cobalt has described their larger craft as having “Bentley-like swagger”. Which begs the question, “What vehicle comparison best suits the BR-Series ?” Easy – BMW. Like the legendary sports sedans, Cobalt’s new runabout/bowrider line is all about lean, muscular styling – aggressive without being arrogant. The R3 carries a lower, tight to the water silhouette with a sleek, cascading stern treatment that broadcasts the boat’s athletic temperament. At a glance, the hull design looks like traditional Cobalt, a twenty-one degree vee with long strakes. In fact, the BRs are the beneficiaries of a couple of decades of Cobalt’s experience with that basic shape. All that has been learned can now be found on the bottom of these boats. The result is a craft that’s even more smooth, more quiet and more agile. Sort of BMW-like.
The power capacity of this boat also speaks volumes about the hull’s capabilities. The R3 is 23 feet long with the swim platform, probably 21-ish in hull length. Although it’s a compact boat, it will be comfortable on any waterway, but perfect for so many of Canada’s cottage lakes. At less than 5,000 pounds, it’s a trailerable boat, serviceable at those smaller marinas that don’t have a railway or lift. Nevertheless, the recommended engines start at the 300 hp level and the R3 will handle a whopping 430. (BMW M3?)
Sporty demeanor notwithstanding, the R3’s interior is all about comfort and convenience.
Using a design tool dubbed “Free Space Reclamation” or FSR, Cobalt has managed to carve almost a foot of additional interior space out of the sides and gunwales. It looks like a simple slimming down, until you reflect on the structural implications. Cobalt has managed it with no reduction in hull rigidity or interior appointments. The added room allows for a double-wide passenger seat equipped with a fore-and-aft seat back, an equally wide stern bench plus a jump seat behind the helm. That little “talk-to-the-captain” jump seat is actually quite comfortable, and well supplied with grab handles, one on the helm chair and one on the boat’s side panel. The big sun pad at the stern includes a forward cushion that lifts to create what Cobalt calls a “rumble” seat. Google that! That sun pad also incorporates a mount for a tow pylon and sits above a broad swim platform with Cobalt’s wonderful flip-down boarding step, all surfaces covered with high traction Sof-Trac mats.
The upholstery itself has a new, more luxurious feel. It’s cushy, you sink in, but not too far. The secret is Cobalt’s “Vara-Dense”, layers of multi-density foam cushioning applied to formed composite (no rot!) seat frames.
This is the BR- Series, so we might expect something worthwhile in the bow seating area, and the R3 doesn’t disappoint. FSR provides enough width for two impressively spacious loungers, and still allows for recessed grab handles. The seat backs raise with gas assists to reveal vault-sized storage areas – also thanks to FSR. (On the R5 and R7, the port side space is large enough for a roomy head.)
I loved the helm station. Recent boat dashboards, including a few of Cobalt’s, have been unnecessarily over the top, gadgetry run rampant. The R3’s is complete, richly-equipped, but it’s simple and gracious, employing round multi-function digital gauges and aircraft style switch gear to create a classic look with modern ergonomics. Better, I might add, than some BMW dashboards.
What you can’t see in a Cobalt R3 might sell you on the boat. The substructure – stringers and bulkheads, is constructed of brute strong, rot free composite. The structural layers between the hull, deck and substructure, known as the “coring” is a honeycomb, also built of super strong composite. A Cobalt’s hull wall is still hand laid. Sixteen layers, including one of ultra-tough Kevlar. And the shining, hand-polished outside surface is finished off with a barrier coating, an end to the evils of osmosis.
Aggressive stance, crisp handling, powerful performance, luxurious interior, gleaming exterior, impeccable craftsmanship – Cobalt’s R3. Move over Bimmer…
By Cam McRae