While it’s true the Panther XPS Power Steering system by MarineTech is for all outboard power boats – primarily in the 90hp to 250hp range – you could make a strong argument about why it seems to be designed just for pontoon owners.
The system has been in development for at least three years and we got our first look at it back in January when we stopped by the MarineTech display at the Toronto Boat Show. However, it wasn’t until we got it out on the water that we could truly appreciate its key features.
Mighty Wish List
The challenge was first issued to create a new power steering system unlike anything else available and it had to meet three specific criteria. First, it couldn’t be power hungry and be a drain on the battery. Second, the actual steering needed to be more auto-like so handling was quick and easy. And finally, it had to be priced right for the average consumer, as in be one of the least expensive power-assist systems on the market.
Now that’s a tall order that at the time probably felt more like a wish list, but top engineers got to work and soon that dream list turned into a reality.
PDB magazine recently had a chance to try it out on a Lowe Retreat 230 and immediately felt the difference. Powered by the new Mercury 175hp outboard, the Lowe performed beautifully. Normally there is a drop off in steering when you go from your SUV that brought you to the lake to driving your pontoon, but that’s not the case with this Panther steering. It only takes about three to three and half turns to go from lock to lock, which is especially nice for docking when a second or two can make a big difference in how your day goes. And of course at full throttle you can feel the difference with the ease of turning and all of this is done with around 3 pounds of force when turning for quick and easy steering.
While other steering systems are constantly running or kick on every time you use them, another advantage to what Panther is offering is a system that won’t run your battery dead.
“The pump only operates when the volume of fluid in the accumulator drops to a pre-determined level so it’s like having stored power,” said MarineTech National Sales Manager Barret Dickinson. “Typically it runs less than 10 percent of the time the engine is running.”
As an added bonus, this system is safer too. The safety factor actually turned out to be the most impressive feature.
“It combines the durability of cable steering with the ease of power hydraulic steering and having that cable as a backup is safer in case of electric failure, significant hydraulic hose failure or a major steering fluid leak,” added Dickinson. “Plus it is competitively priced when compared to other systems.”
Currently the MarineTech system is available for all Brunswick brands, which includes seven pontoon or deck boat companies with plans to expand to other lines of boats within the industry in the near future.
Being able to steer so effortlessly was well worth the wait as it now appears the system all boaters has been waiting for has finally arrived.
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