If you’re adamant that you want a direct-drive boat, but your family is pushing hard for a V-drive because of the wraparound seating, your boat-buying decision is about to become a no-brainer. Malibu offers for your consideration the Sunsetter 23 XTi.
Malibu’s XTi models are pioneers in the market for so successfully uniting the strengths of a direct-drive and a V-drive in one versatile family boat. The center engine box melts into a center sun deck, with the typical rear trunk giving way to a very atypical rear wraparound lounge. And at 23 feet long by 100 inches wide, the Sunsetter 23 XTi has extraordinary space for R&R — riding and relaxing.
For such a large boat, the Sunsetter 23 XTi still hangs on to the quality wakes of smaller Malibus. In fact, recreational to intermediate skiers will find that the wakes coming out of this boat aren’t as big as you might expect from a 23-footer. More serious skiers will notice the wide table and a bump at 15 and 22 off. But serious skiers aren’t the target market for this Sunsetter.
Instead, boaters looking to do some skiing with their wakeboarding and tubing will find what they want with this 23 XTi. Opt for the tower and Malibu Launch System, and you’ll be set for some serious riding. If you need to shape the wakes further, try the new Power Wedge to displace more water and sculpt the transitions and peaks.
This is a big, stable boat for cruising the lake, yet it also has the pinpoint control and turn-on-a-dime (well, maybe turn-on-a-quarter) handling that we’ve come to know and love from direct-drives. The handling gets an extra boost from several key Malibu features: three tracking fins along the hull, an adjustable rudder to hone the torque, the rack-and-pinion steering system, the digitally designed Diamond hull and the new standard Precision Pro Speed Control. Load it up with passengers — Malibu says 14 can fit aboard — and the driver can confidently pilot the whole crew across the water for a full day on this full boat.
It may or may not help to tell you that the Sunsetter 23 XTi sports 32-ounce polypropylene heat-set carpet and 38-ounce G&T marine vinyl. So let’s try this: This Malibu boat is about as comfortable and plush as you can get. Take a seat in the rear lounge and everything exudes quality and attention to detail. We couldn’t find fault with any stitch, any lined storage compartment, any cushiony seat. Plus, the rear lounge gives this 23-footer even more interior space than you might expect. Add to that a standard removable cocktail table, a driver’s bolster and great views of the water from every seat, and you may never want to leave the boat.
Base price: $44,600
Length: 23 ft.
Beam: 100 in.
Seating capacity: 14
Fuel capacity: 47 gal.
Test Prop: Acme 13 x 11.5 3-blade
Test Engine: Indmar Monsoon 5.7L, 340 hp
Top Speed: 44.1 mph 4,800 rpm
Accel. To 30 mph: 5.4 sec.130.4 ft.
Accel. To 36 mph: 7.2 sec. 214.5 ft.
Noise Levels (db): Neutral 60 D 63 R, 36 mph 86 D 91 R