The versatile Party Barge 24 DLX

December 2012 Feature Brady L. Kay

Every day is a good day when you have the opportunity to test an all-new boat that is just being released to the public for the first time. So to say the least, I was more than excited to get behind the wheel of the Sun Tracker Party Barge 24 DLX. But what made this day even better is that I was also going to have a chance to be one of the first to test drive the new Mercury 150 FourStroke as well.

This new Sun Tracker with the Mercury 150 might just be the perfect "transformer" of the pontoon world. When I first approached the Party Barge it was tied up at the dock, but that didn't keep my mind from wandering from my first impression. I could envision the pontoon accommodating a couple on a cruise to escape from reality, then a few minutes later, picking up friends and family at the dock as the boat now transforms into a party for water lovers of all ages with their water toys, beach towels and fishing poles.

Whatever its assignment for the day, the Party Barge 24 DLX has the room to fit the bill. And because of this versatility based on our first look, we liked what we were seeing.

Solid Foundation

Measuring just over 26 feet in length, the Sun Tracker has two 24-inch diameter multi-chamber marine grade .080 aluminum pontoons underneath. With the well constructed craft, you can rest assure the 24 DLX is going to deliver nothing but the safest and most comfortable ride for the conditions at hand, although on this day the lake was smooth as glass and begging to be fished.  

The boat's color is a vibrant blueberry, which makes it stand out and look great on and off the water. But it wasn't until we stepped onboard that we could truly appreciate all that this pontoon has to offer. This is a brand new model so all of the furniture onboard is newly designed for 2012 as well and features sun-resistant upholstery. The port couch with lounge arm has radiused corners and storage in the base. The extended starboard lounge also has the radiused corners and storage underneath, but is stylishly integrated into the boat's console as well.

The fiberglass console adds its own touch of class, with simulated burl wood accents, a tinted windscreen, accessories tray, storage cooler and instrumentation. The highly styled bucket helm seat puts the driver in position and in control of all navigation tasks. 

For passenger convenience, there are two movable, couch-mounted drink holders, and an in-couch trash receptacle, as standard equipment.

In the back half of the boat is an aft "L" lounge, with even more storage. With so many seating options and all of the storage space, the 24 DLX really is all about flexibility. The table is also movable with two mounting locations to choose from. And there's a lockable dry storage compartment to keep dry goods dry, and your more important items safe. An under seat storage net also helps to hold items in their proper places.

Added Touches

Another new attribute of this 2012 model that really stands out-and up-is the craft's new high sheen corrugated fence. The new fence adds style and function, giving the structure more strength and stunning beauty. Its elevated fence rails allow for rapid drainage and improved ventilation.

Gates are double-latched and open inward for safety and the port side gate is wide enough to allow wheelchair access. Plus new for the Signature PB 24 DLX is a starboard side gate.

There's even a pop-up changing room with a bench seat and padded sun pad at the back. And speaking of features that we like, the aft swim platform includes an oversized boarding ladder as well as a non-skid surface.

Another standard feature is the boat's color-keyed, polyester bimini top with a boot and snap-in fittings. The top is easy to erect and it provides ample shade over the captain's chair and forward seating. The bimini is also easy to return to its stow position.  

For entertainment or monitoring the weather, there is a built-in AM/FM CD-player stereo with an MP3 player jack. Add the optional package and the radio is compatible with Sirius satellite radio.

Outboard Power

Mercury Marine's new 150 FourStroke is being touted as the ultimate 150hp EFI outboard engine for boaters seeking an engine that offers unprecedented world-class durability under all conditions and is light enough to deliver superb fuel efficiency and tremendous performance. The hype had brought us to this point and now we were ready to put the throttle down and see what she could do.

With three of us onboard to run our test numbers, I was surprised by the amount of torque from this engine as we quickly jumped up on plane. Despite the naturally aspirated engine's remarkable small size and low weight, the new 150hp outboard boasts a 3.0-liter, four-cylinder in-line configuration that easily creates superior power. In fact, it has more displacement than any other 150hp four-stroke engine, yet it delivers fuel efficiency at cruising speed that you almost have to see to believe.

And despite the list of precedent-setting features and benefits, Mercury's new 150 is also affordable. According to Mercury reps, the new outboard is about $2,500 less than the competition's 150hp engine.

The combination of the new Party Barge 24 DLX and the Mercury 150 equaled a fun day testing on the water for us. We reached a top speed of over 35 miles per hour, yet the real fun was sneaking off to a secluded cove for a little fishing. Hey, these tests need to be thorough, right? 

For family fun and versatility, it's hard to beat the new Sun Tracker Party Barge 24 DLX, which we referred to as the Pontoon Transformer during our test. With Sun Tracker's no haggle pricing, now is great time to get out on the water.  


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