Cobalt 323 / Volvo Penta 8.1 Duoprop
In recent years, we know some of our readers have started to worry about facing that sad day when they finally sit down and admit that they don’t use their big boat very much anymore.
But, no one wants to give up boating.
As children grow up and move on, the big boat that was your floating summer home, your weekend escape and probably the source of your most memorable family adventures, may just be too big for today’s realities. And yet, you still want to have the size, sea-keeping abilities, and the sheer space to take the whole gang out when the opportunity arises.
We think that the Cobalt 323 is a great solution for that situation and many other uses as well. This is a big comfortable boat that thinks it’s a performance runabout. And, it’s not just wishful thinking, the numbers tell the truth.
With an overall length of more than 34 feet on a spacious 10ʹ7″ beam, this is still a big boat but the hull design owes more to offshore performance boats than cruisers. The deep vee design of the Cobalt 323 has 22 degrees of deadrise at the transom to really cut through the rough water — stout construction for a solid feel and a dry weight of 12,500 pounds. This is a lot of boat!
Available with either MerCruiser or Volvo Penta big block engines, this boat can hustle. With the Volvo Penta engineers on board, our test boat hit 55.15 mph at wide open throttle and perhaps more impressive, it planed off in just 4.36 seconds.
That’s ski boat acceleration!
The Cobalt 323 is a boat you’ll love to drive. The helm seat is both spacious and comfortable and you can sit down like you’re driving a runabout — throttles in your right hand and the elegant leather-wrapped steering wheel in your left. One quick jab at the throttles or a snap of the wheel brings immediate response. We found it easy to drive the boat smoothly and comfortably through the wakes and chop from the other boats out in the bay at the Miami Boat Show last February where we drove the 323.
The Cobalt 323 has the power to perform, but also the size and accommodations for all-day comfort even with a group.
You could certainly do an overnight or a weekend trip in comfort, sleeping in the spacious forward vee berth. A screened, opening deck hatch and two opening portholes on each side ensure that you’ll have plenty of airflow for a comfortable sleep. There is storage under the seat cushions and a cedar-lined hanging locker in the starboard side.
If you do spend the night on board, you can relax and enjoy the available flatscreen television, DVD player and entertainment system mounted on the starboard side bulkhead.
There is a high/low dining table and this area can easily seat a family of four for dinner if the evening gets chilly.
The interior galley is nicely appointed but geared more for snacks than dinners with a single-burner stove top, refrigerator, microwave and fairly generous storage. There’s a second galley or refreshment area in the cockpit as well.
Opposite the galley is the head compartment which includes a shower and a Vacu-flush MSD as well as a sink in a vanity with storage below. There is a mirror where you can shave or apply make-up and there is an opening porthole to keep things fresh.
Because many buyers look more for a big-water day boat, they make air conditioning optional and there is a second option for cabin heat if that’s more of what you need. Either of these helps keep the cabin comfortable.
The cockpit and transom areas are where the real living happens though!
Cobalt offers the 323 as an open boat with a Bimini roof or with an optional fixed hard top on a beefy metal frame.
Thanks to the big beam, there is room for both the double wide helm seat and a double wide companion seat as well. Sitting up and looking forward through the windshield is the way I think most people like to travel, especially when running at higher speeds.
Cobalt has given the 323 a flip-flop companion seat back. That way, when moored and relaxing with a beverage, the companion seat adds to the total cockpit seating package.
Down the port side is a big inward-facing bench with storage under the cushions and Cobalt includes a clever picnic table that flips out for use or hides away when not needed.
Opposite is the cockpit refreshment area with another sink, storage underneath, bottle rack, trash locker and a pretty generous counter area for serving. Just aft is another seat and our test boat features a serious looking sub-woofer beside that! Cockpit tunes are important.
Finally, the big attraction in modern designs is transom access to the water. Cobalt went all-out with the 323 giving this boat a very large aft sun lounge (that lifts electrically for engine room access) and the sun lounge has another adjustable seat back. This one serves to add another section of bench seating to the cockpit space, or it flips to give a large aft-facing sun bed.
There is a starboard side walk-through and the swim platform is at two levels for added visual interest. A clever option is the swing-down centre section. With the standard swim ladder on the starboard side in either case, you can order a centre section that flips down and gives a wide step that is a few inches underwater.
Sit there on a hot day or use it to help a pet come aboard...good thinking from Cobalt!
Overall, this is a great weekender, a fun party boat with stellar performance or an ideal cottage boat if you vacation in big water like on the Pacific coast or in the Thousand Islands.
Test boat engines: Twin Volvo Penta 8.1 GiCE-Q, 8.1 L / 496 ci V8 engines with electronic fuel injection, 400 hp each and with Duoprop drives and stainless steel prop sets.
ENGINE RPM SPEED MPH
CRUISING SPEED rpm / mph
3,000 / 35.05
LENGTH O.A. w/Swim Platform: 34' 9'' / 10.59 m
BEAM: 10' 7'' / 3.23 m
DRY WEIGHT: 12,300 lbs / 5,579 kg
FUEL CAPACITY: 174 gal / 659 L
WATER CAPACITY: 18 gal / 68 L
WASTE CAPACITY: 28 gal / 106 L
PRICE: Base M.S.R.P. w/Twin V8-300C DP: $257,930 USD
Test boat provided by and price quoted by: Volvo Penta of the Americas, Inc. and Cobalt Boats www.cobaltboats.com.
Performance data by: Volvo Penta of the Americas, Inc. www.volvopenta.com
By Andy Adams
Cobalt 323 / Volvo Penta 8.1 Duoprop