The SLS 3 balances PWC-like handling with seating for 12.
Incorporating cutting-edge pontoon designs and every performance tweak possible, Starcraft’s SLS series has always been known as the sporty side of the company’s extensive pontoon lineup. But when Starcraft decided to update the SLS design for 2019 they left no element untouched, giving the all-new SLS 3 an altogether new level of acceleration, handling and comfort.
The real beauty of the SLS 3 is that it’s such an unassuming ride. That’s especially true when you step aboard and note the elegant, plush interior upholstery, with full-length twin lounges front and back and a pair of swivelling Captain’s chairs with fold-down arm rests amidships. Our test boat, decked out in a sporty Caribou Brown exterior with bold white accents and black D-rails, came with Starcraft’s maintenance-free Sea Weave flooring from bow to stern. Sea Weave flooring is a sensible choice for a family boat, as it dries faster than traditional carpet and wears like iron while providing a neat, contemporary look.
The lounge seats front and aft are the perfect spot to stretch out and dry off after a swim. A removable, pedestal-mount table with integral beverage holders fits between either the front or rear loungers keeping a cold drink always within reach. There’s also a convenient fold-out change room located in the rear face of the port-side front lounger, so you can swap wet swimming gear for dry clothes in privacy. There’s even a cut-out provided so this space can accept an optional portable toilet.
The driver’s helm console houses the control head for the Infinity AM/FM stereo, as well as a small sink with faucet. The helm itself is straight-forward, with the classic black-on-white analogue gauges surrounding a Humminbird Helix 5 multi-function display and graph. The helm seat has a useful slider function, so you can adjust its position to where it fits you best. Overhead, a Bimini top mounted to the elegant black sport arch provided a welcome escape from the sun.
But the unique engineering that really sets the SLS apart lies below the floor. For starters, it rides on three 25-inch pontoons, the centre one providing a convenient in-floor storage well for large bulky gear, like wakeboards or water skis. It also gets Starcraft’s heavy hat chassis for enhanced stability and strength as standard equipment, along with the company’s PR25/20 HMX performance package which includes lifting strakes on both the outsides and insides of each outboard pontoon. Along with several other tweaks, the HMX package is what gives the SLS 3 its fighter jet-like ride.
In straight-line acceleration, the three big tubes pop this boat up on plane in no time, easily pushing it to the 50 mph mark. But with its HMX performance package, the real fun starts when you need to turn. It digs right in like a V-hull performance boat, delivering a fighter plane-like ride that’s thoroughly astonishing and crazy fun. I have to confess, I had a great time putting the boat through all sorts of turns and figure-eights. It really does drive more like a bike than a boat – you just point it and it goes. Crank the wheel hard and even when you’re going too fast, it just leans in and turns, without effort, without fuss, and without losing its grip. I was grinning like a little kid the whole time.
Looking for a pontoon boat with the luxuri-ous appointments and heart-stopping performance of a high-end sports car? Starcraft’s SLS 3, with its creature comforts, exhilarating handling, Lifetime Plus 6 warranty, and a thrilling ride, can’t help but delight even the most discriminating buyer.
By Craig Ritchie