In these wakeboard and ski boat tests, we see a lot of direct-drives, even more V-drives, yet we rarely see anything like these XTi models. If you’ll excuse the cliché, Malibu has combined the best of both worlds in the XTi — taking the direct-drive handling and ski performance that we rave about and giving it a V-drive social seating configuration that could host a rave.
The Sunsetter 21 XTi is an ideal example of what this innovative design can accomplish. Whether taking our test ski sets or cruising the lake to study the acceleration and S turns, we found this boat to be just as much fun for skiers as it is for the driver and passengers. This XTi takes you from dawn patrol to evening cruise.
Intermediate skiers and wakeboarders will love this boat. We put the Sunsetter 21 XTi through its paces in both sports, and our testers can back up Malibu’s claims about the true stand-out versatility of this boat. For skiing, we found that the wakes just got softer and softer when we went shorter and shorter, with the quality at 28 and 32 off being worthy of the tournament level.
For wakeboarding, we have to admit, our test boat was outfitted with the new Power Wedge, which works wonders with just a few clicks. It has five settings you control from the dash, which can displace water as if you had 400 to 1,200 pounds of ballast. The landing zone was smooth and long with the Wedge down, and the transition was good for wake-to-wake moves.
Driving these Malibus is something we look forward to every boat-test season because the handling is just so, so solid. That starts with how Malibu mounts the engine to distribute weight evenly, then radiates out to other special ways that Malibu dampens sound and vibration. There’s also the adjustable rudder that you can tweak if you want to hold an accurate line with a skier in tow. With all that going for it, the Sunsetter 21 XTi maintains a sense of nimbleness and tight responsiveness thanks to its direct-drive setup and Malibu’s attention to performance. You’re bound to appreciate those qualities no matter what water sport you’re doing with the Sunsetter 21 XTi.
The Sunsetter 21 XTi has impeccable fit and finish. This particular attention to detail in gelcoat lines, upholstery stitching, storage-compartment lining and so on is exceptional in the boat industry, but it’s typical for a Malibu. Year after year, Malibu builds on its track record of high-quality interiors that offer comfortable, vibration-free rides. We’re still blown away when we step into each boat. The company puts so much work into this boat, it’s amazing. Among direct-drives, the Sunsetter 21 XTi earns extra comfort points from us because of that wraparound lounge. Plus, it’s built for relaxing, from the standard cocktail table you can stow next to the engine to the new oversized stainless-steel cup holders seemingly everywhere.
Base price: $40,000
Length: 21 ft. 6 in.
Beam: 98 in.
Seating capacity: 12
Fuel capacity: 46 gal.
Test Prop: Acme 13 x 12 3-blade
Test Engine: Indmar Monsoon 5.7L, 340 hp
Top Speed: 44 mph 4,750 rpm
Accel. To 30 mph: 5.1 sec. 120.4 ft.
Accel. To 36 mph: 6.8 sec. 198.1 ft.
Noise Levels (db): Neutral 64 D 63 R, 36 mph 84 D 91 R