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Larson Cabrio 310 Express CruiserBy CY Staff

Brother, can you spare $200,000? OK, what about $1,300 a month?

Now we're talking. Current interest rates and the time honoured tradition of a boat mortgage make an express cruiser like the Larson 310 Cabrio seem more like a great idea than a reckless extravagance.

With a berth in a location such as Swan's Marine in Frenchman's Bay, in Pickering Ontario, and the Larson's comfortable cruising speed of 25 mph at 3,000 rpm, you, your significant other and a second couple can get to Ontario Place or Harbourfront for dinner and back in an evening. It sure beats fighting the 401 across the top of Toronto!

For couples with fast-lane, dual incomes, this could be a no-brainer investment. Keep the boat in the water near your suburban home. It goes into the water in early May and doesn't come out until Hallowe'en providing you six months of use annually. Your "cottage-on-the-water" is always nearby for a spontaneous romantic evening cruise, a client outing or a weekend getaway on the lake without the 4-hour, cottage commute!

That's the thinking behind today's express cruisers and Larson's Cabrio 310 is a solid choice in this market segment. The size is ideal for two at 31 feet in length on a IO foot 6 inch beam.

Larson Cabrio 310 - helmTo get 6 foot 3 inch interior headroom throughout most of the cabin in this length, Larson has needed to make the boat deep and the deck shape high. A sweeping gunwale line and horizontal feature stripe help to visually lower the boat's appearance. But it is fairly high, especially to the top of the standard radar arch.

Although the lines are a bit ungainly, it does give good helm visibility and spacious accommodations. Let's begin at the swim platform as that's where you usually step aboard at the dockside; it's best to back these boats into their slips.

The swim platform has a boarding ladder, large transom locker for stowing fenders and lines, the shore power cable and there's a hot and cold shower as well. Great for a warm rinse after a swim - especially in salt water.

The transom door is a fairly light affair with a strap to hold it open and a deadbolt to keep it closed. It's OK, but very basic. Once into the aft cockpit, things improve. On the port side, the test boat had a U-Line ice maker under a molded-in sink with pressure water. Across the transom to starboard is U-shaped seating for up to 4, around an optional, removable table. Under one seat section is a carry-on dockbox; the side section is removable and the forward section is fixed. The engines lie below so things need to be removable.

Larson Cabrio 310 - HeadUp a step and forward is a lounge seat to port with storage underneath; the helm is to starboard. The double width helm seat adjusts fore and aft and has a flip up bolster and tilt steering. It was very comfortable and all the instruments were easily viewed. Short comings were that the circuit breaker panel faces the floor, so it's hard to access; the VHF and some other accessories were at knee height and protruding a bit; but the thing we like least is the stylish windshield.

To make the lines look as sleek as possible, the windshield is so low that we looked right over it in the normal seated position. It makes the standard windshield wiper a bit of a joke. The skipper will generally be exposed to the breeze or will want the bimini top and curtains up most of the time.

The companionway hatch is a fancy, curved affair with a full screen that all slides to port. Beside it are a series of three small steps so you can access the forward decks when mooring, but there's little to use as a handhold and you won't want to fall on the windshield. This design aspect could be better given that there are no side decks and it complicates docking on windy days.

Larson Cabrio 310 - DinetteEntering the cabin is easy though. There are four, floating type steps down a wide companionway with plenty of places to grab on. The sole is carpeted except around the galley unit and in the head. Immediately to port is the fully enclosed head with a curtained shower, hot and cold pressure water, mirror, marine MSD and cosmetics locker behind sliding doors. We didn't notice a latch on these, so they may slide open in rough waters and some things may end up on the floor. It's a reasonable head for this size of boat, but not exceptional.

The aft cabin, however, is exceptional - not big, but very useful. It's basically wide open for safety and has adult sitting height as a lounge area, for card games and conversation; it makes into a queen berth at night for guests. It's curtained off, so not very sound-proof, but easy to escape from and has lots of air circulation at night.

The salon area has a dinette to port with storage underneath. That's handy so you can leave the vee berth area (open to the salon) made up as a bed. The galley is to starboard with built-in microwave and coffeemaker, two-burner, solid top stove, large sink molded into the counter top and a large refrigerator. This galley will be useful and workable for cruising, has space for provisions, three drawers and two lockers plus large sliding storage above the refrigerator.

Larson Cabrio 310 - BerthWe liked the cabin with its plush upholstery, light carpeting and wood trim. Three deck hatches and four port and air conditioning for extended season comfort.

So, with all that equipment aboard, how did the twin MerCruiser 5.0 MPI's perform? The twin screws make dockside maneuvering steady and sure. The Larson tracks well even in windy conditions as you make your way out of the marina, needing little steering input. As you get into the open and advance the throttles, the bow lift is minimal and the Cabrio 310 is on a plane without help frorri the tabs, at about 2500 rpm. That translates into 185 mph on our GPS. You need a little more engine speed to be solidly up and at maximum fuel efficiency. Depending on load and props, 2,800 or 3,000 will end up as your favourite cruising speed. Things pick up quickly from there, as the "air-entrapment" stepped hull design delivers its best benefits at higher speeds. Advance to 3500 rpm and you're up to 31mph.Wide open, the test boat hit 4,500 rpm and ran 41mph.

Larson Cabrio 310 - Shore powerlineWe suspect the bottom had become fouled with marine growth because these great little V8 Merc's should spin to 4,600 or 4,800 happily and we should see a top speed of up to 44 mph. That didn't detract from the ride though. It's smooth, felt very solid and was sure-footed in high speed turns.

For an express cruiser in this size and price range, the Larson Cabrio 310 could return a lot of pleasure for the money.

Originally published in Canadian Yachting's August 2004 issue.

SPECIFICATIONS
Boat Make, Model and Year: 2004 Larson Cabrio 310 Express Eruiser
Location of test: Pickering, Ontario
Body of water: Frenchman's Bay and Lake Ontario
Length: 31 ft
Beam: 10.6 ft
Draft: 2.11 ft
Weight: 9500 lbs
Engine (s): Twin Mercruiser 5.0 MPI VB engines, 260 hp each, Ultra Low Emissions GARB 3-Star rating , with Bravo Ill Drives.
Test boat provided by: Swan's Marine, Pickering, Ontario
Speed testing by: Garmin GPS

Photo Captions:
Photo 1 – Running
Photo 2 – Helm
Photo 3 – Head
Photo 4 & 5 – Dinette converts to a berth.
Photo 6 – Shore powerline