Every year, we meet up with some of the top manufactures in the pontoon and deck boat world to test their newest models. All of these reviews are compiled in a special Boat Test issue that comes out during the first part of the year. Here is one of the best 2012 models. Enjoy!
Sweetwater 220 SL
Our First Impression
Our industry could use great all-around models like this Sweetwater that has just enough bells and whistles, while still coming in at a good price-point. The black and tan colors throughout as tested help increase the higher-end feel the engineers were going for when they designed this one.
Rated for up to 12 passengers, we love the floorplan on this 24-footer. For starters there are a total of four lounges onboard, two in the bow and two rear-facing ones in the stern. But a nice added touch is the bench seat opposite of the helm that faces forward and with the removable table, the first-mate can really get comfortable. All the furniture uses GX48 soft-touch vinyl, which really makes a difference on the look and feel of this model.
Below three of the four chaise lounges is additional storage space and built into the port bow lounge is an easy-to-use pop-up changing enclosure that stands nearly 6 feet tall when open and includes snaps for the curtain on the floor.
Also worth noting is the contour and unique styling of the fiberglass helm stand that includes rocker switches, easy-to-read gauges and a Sony stereo where you can insert your iPod to help make listening to your tunes even easier.
One of the most comfortable seats onboard is the adjustable helm chair that slides, swivels and reclines, but if we had to be picky, we wish the access to the rear lounge storage compartment was a little easier and the door didn't hit into the back of the chair. We realize we're just being picky here and by sliding the chair all the way forward it is easier to access, but a side door might be a better option.
Outside the rear gate is a large swim deck, complete with a fold down ladder and a large ski/tow bar that is one of our favorite options on this model.
Three 25-inch diameter pontoons are the solid base of this boat and the chambered tubes include a keel as well as lifting strakes. The lifting strakes are on both sides of the optional center pontoon and on the insides of the outer tubes. The C-channel cross-members are bolted to the plywood deck and are on 24-inch centers overall. There is a full-length splash skin and the wiring as well as weld quality below deck is above average.
Up top there is over 17 feet of usable deck space inside the gates with a very open floorplan. The wiring below the helm console is bundled and protected and we found the hidden areas to be well finished as well.
It's amazing how much the optional fast-planning center pontoon (part of the G-Force TOTAL package) improves the handling of this Sweetwater. She slightly banks in the sharp corners and smoothly moves across the water. The Evinrude 150 E-TEC is just large enough for the power-hungry drivers, yet is just right for those long days on the lake. At full speed we reached a top speed close to 40 miles per hour and she had a quick 0 to 20 mile per hour time of 5 seconds flat, which we weren't expecting, but were pleasantly surprised.
Who Should Buy It
You can really spread out and get comfortable on this model, but the layout and plush seating are just two reasons why this pontoon will appeal to a lot of different families. As far as amenities, this Sweetwater has just enough and when you combine the looks with a great 150 E-TEC outboard you have the recipe for a fun day out on the water.
Why We Love This Boat
Just enough amenities and power to appeal to a lot of families looking for a solid and well-built pontoon.
Just Being Picky
The storage compartment below the rear-facing lounge behind the captain's chair is a little hard to access and might not get a lot of good use because of the door location that's close to the helm seat.
Color-coordinated bimini, soft-touch GX48 vinyl, 4 lounges, stereo with MP3 input, 4 speakers, rear boarding ladder and table.
Options on Test Boat
Triple tube sport package, changing room, ski/tow bar, Sony stereo upgrade with iPod input, 4 stainless speakers, Lowrance X4 depth finder and hydraulic steering.
Vital Stats & Specs
Number of Occupants - 12
Price As Tested With Power - $36.9K
Maximum Speed - 37.5 mph
Wild Ponies - 150hp
No. of Gates - 3
0-20 MPH - 5.0 seconds
Ladder Steps - 4
Ladder Measurement - 3' 1"
LOA - 24'
Beam - 8' 6"
Hull Design - Three Pontoons
Dry Weight - 1,914 lbs.
Fuel Capacity - 24 Gallons
Tallest Rail Onboard - Sides 25.5"
Lowest Rail Onboard - Bow/Stern 25"
Changing Room Height - 5' 11"
RPM vs. SPEED vs. D-A
600 3.0 mph 72
1000 4.1 mph 74
1500 6.0 mph 78
2000 8.9 mph 81.5
2500 13.9 mph 89
3000 17.2 mph 92
3500 20.3 mph 98
4000 24.0 mph 95.5
4500 29.0 mph 105
5000 32.6 mph 107
5500 37.1 mph 108
5600 37.5 mph 108.5
Price As Tested $36,910
(Boat and Motor)
Don't forget to check out the video of this test: