Boat Test Monday: Berkshire 243SLX Premium BP3

December 2012 Boat Test Monday Brady L. Kay

Berkshire 243SLX Premium BP3

Our First Impression

Improving on what you already do well is a challenge, yet it's something the engineers at Forest River Marine seem to thrive on. Proving you don't need the biggest horsepower engine available to have fun, this Berkshire is a nice blend of performance, style and luxury.

Consumer Test

Even though those two extremely comfortable rear-facing lounges in the stern, complete with pop-up armrests, are going to get the most attention on this boat, we feel it's the helm that deserves a closer look.

The simplicity of the user-friendly dash console is refreshing. We love the Humminbird 385ci GPS that is recessed into the console and perfectly centered for the driver. Like the GPS, the Clarion stereo with a huge sub-woofer speaker is also top-quality, and there is even a remote for those in the stern lounges to access the tunes. Forward of the fiberglass helm is a well-hidden faucet and sink that when closed you wouldn't even know it was there. This is just one of the many hidden features that we liked on this model.

Hidden in the back of one of the bow loungers is a unique pop-up enclosure that takes up very little room, yet still offers enough of a changing room. It stands at five-foot, five-inches tall and it's easy to use.

A nice added touch to the rear-entry design is the synthetic teak flooring that really completes the high-end feel of this boat. Also in the stern is a solid ladder with great handholds, as well as a ski/tow bar that will be well-used on this Berkshire. Speaking of skis, the storage on this boat can be found just about everywhere including inside the large in-floor ski locker that is plenty big for all of your water toys.

We love the added effort that went into making this boat safe, including the rear loungers that are perfectly contained inside of the rails. There are a total of three lift-and-lock gates that lock in the open and closed positions and each have pinch protection for the hinges. Also worth noting is the snap-in carpet that helps with the overall high-end feel to this luxurious boat, yet makes cleanup when necessary very easy.

Inspection Test

Three pressurized 25-inch diameter pontoons with lifting strakes are the solid base of this pontoon. The lifting strakes are on both sides of the center pontoon and on the insides of the two outside tubes. The C-channel cross members are bolted to the plywood deck and are on 16-inch centers overall and even closer near the transom. Wiring below is excellent and there is a nice aluminum splash skin that covers the full length of the undercarriage. The weld quality and fit and finish work overall is outstanding. 

Above deck we found no dangerous or sharp edges and all the hidden compartments are well finished. For both fit and finish work and construction quality, this boat earned high marks for its safe design. 

Performance Test

Even though this particular performance model is rated for up to a 250hp engine, we feel the Yamaha 150 still showcased what this Berkshire can do just fine. She was quick to plane and at full throttle we reached a top speed near the 40 mile per hour mark. The overall smooth and responsive handling could only be overshadowed by how well she banked in the sharp turns as if we were on a v-hull boat. 

Who Should Buy It

This is a value-driven, high-end pontoon boat with maybe one of the most user-friendly helm consoles we tested this year. On a boat like this, the rear lounge seats will get all the attention, but there are plenty of other reasons to take a closer look at this Berkshire.

Middlebury, Ind.

Phone: 574-825-8696


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