Arguably the most fun category in the boating industry is the humble speed boat, which can pack a lot of fun into a compact package…
The best speed boats all share several simple yet joyous aspects that combine to create the ultimate recipe for fun on the water: a fast-planing hull, plenty of horsepower to push it along, and easy to trailer size. This formula has been around since the 1930s, however in my mind the 1970s really brought the best speed boats to the masses.
Boats like the Glastron GT-150 (as driven by Roger Moore’s 007 in Live and Let Die) are the epitome of this type of boat – powered by a 135hp Evinrude Starfire outboard, this boat brought us what is still to this day one of the most exciting boating scenes in movie history.
England also had its share of excellent iconic speed boats with the likes of Fletcher whose Arrow range brought speed boats to the masses. After 20 years, the Iconic Fletcher brand has recently been revived, with an exciting new model the F23 due to be launched in 2024.
At the more exotic end of the spectrum, boats like the Riva 22 Ariston were driven by cognoscenti and movie stars alike and iconized the Cote D’Azur lifestyle in the 1960s and 70s.
My choices for the best modern speed boats follow the simple recipe mentioned above, however as with all things to do with boating, the boats themselves have got bigger over the years, so I will be focusing on boats between 22 and 25ft.
This is one of the most popular segments with a phenomenal choice of excellent and exciting boats, and a large budget range to match.
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6 of the best speed boats
Donzi 22 Classic
Best American muscle boat
Introduced nearly 30 years ago, the 22 is the larger brother to the classic Donzi sweet 16 and it is an iconic and thrilling boat to drive. The hull has remained virtually unchanged throughout its production life, and is available as a new boat with up to 565hp on the back, care of Mercury Racing.
Respected as one of the finest boats built by racing legend Don Aronow, the Donzi carries the highest pedigree. A simple Bravo 1 outdrive mated to the big block V8 will push the boat over 80mph.
For the more experienced driver, the 22 is a thrilling proposition. The 22 Classic holds its value exceptionally well and used models are still highly coveted boats. With excellent rough-water handling, the hull is only 7ft wide, and with so much power and straight-through exhausts, the Classic is a real crowd puller.
Expect to pay around $175,000 for a standard boat, however this includes a premium Fusion and JL Audio sound system, DTS controls, Livorsi race gauges and a 10-year hull warranty.
Italian speed boat beauty
Founded in 1956 and still built on the shores of Lake Como, Comitti is an exclusive boat builder that produces some truly special craft, and the Venezia 22 is the smallest boat available from the yard.
Similar in style to the highly covetable Riva 22s of old, the Comitti 22’s modern power options include diesel, petrol and now electric. In top spec Elegance trim, the 22 has a hand-laid mahogany deck and can whisk up to six people to 48 knots with its most powerful petrol option.
As much an object of desire as a boat, the V22 doesn’t come cheap, starting at €124,000. It is very much a premium boat, especially when fitted out at the highest trim level, but in terms of speed boat performance, few boats come close in this segment – its flared spray rails and deep V hull give a dry, comfortable ride and the top-notch build quality further justifies its lofty price tag.
Best jet-powered speed boat
Better suited to inshore and lake use, the Yamaha 222SE is an excellent alternative to traditional propeller driven speed boats. Using twin high-output 1,898cc 180hp engines delivering their power through jet drives, you can expect brutal acceleration and excellent cornering ability.
Jet boats benefit from the safety aspect of having no external propeller, making the boat, particularly with its optional wake-tower, an excellent tow sports platform and very safe to swim off of.
Slow speed handling on small jet boats can be challenging, but once mastered the Yamaha is hoot to drive. With a capacity rating for up to ten people and a comprehensive specification, its $75,000 price tag offers exceptional value for such a well-built boat.
Standard features like the 12.3” touchscreen dash provides GPS navigation, boat data and full interface with the boat’s excellent sound system. The upholstery is treated with a coating that reflects heat from the fabric for long days in the sun. Easily to trail with a shallow draft, the Yamaha is a very easy boat to own.
X Shore Eelex 8000
Best electric speed boat
It may not be the speediest of speed boats here in terms of top speed, however the X Shore is capable of a highly respectable 30 knots and can accelerate from 0-23mph in an incredible 4.2 seconds.
With tech from the pinnacle of the automotive industry, such as WiFi based telemetry that is always monitoring the boats systems and batteries remotely, it also updates the boat’s essential software on the fly.
The simple shaft-drive set-up is controlled by a unique rotating throttle mounted on the side of the steering wheel. This ultra-high-quality runabout has a class-leading range of just over 100nm and with 10 different configurations, its sure to have a layout to suit your needs.
The X Shore, however, is not a cheap option, with prices starting at over $320,000. Stem to stern, the Eelex is a unique and highly capable boat that can easily compete in this segment, and with fast charge times of only 1hr 10mins, this electric option is class leading.
Built with a majority of sustainable materials, including a cockpit sole made from recycled cork, it is certainly the most environmentally conscious boat on this list.
Frauscher 747 Mirage
The ultimate exotic speed boat
Austrian brand Frauscher has been building boats since 1927. Their smallest combustion engine boat at 7.47m in length is the starting point for the brand’s line of exotic peed boats. The boat featured in a Heineken mini movie chasing Daniel Craig as Bond driving a Riva.
Built to order with supercar styling, the Frauscher is James Bond-level iconic, with a single 350hp V8 producing a top speed of nearly 60 knots.
With exceptional handling and high-speed ride quality, exotic looks and top of the line build quality, the base price of €242,000 Euro is exclusive but justifiable.
An electric version of the hull, the 740 Mirage, is also available and is capable of just under 26 knots.
Axopar 22 Spyder
Best overall speed boat
Literally breaking the mould, with its twin stepped hull, variable deadrise and Axopar’s trademark axe bow, the 22 Spyder is capable of over 45 knots from a relatively modest 200hp Mercury outboard.
Prices at around €50,000 and for this you get a super-stiff boat with excellent handling, a secure, dry ride and excellent fuel economy. The 22 is offered with multiple cockpit arrangements, a T-Top and engine options from 115hp.
A thoroughly modern alternative to the classic speed boat, the Axopar 22 Spyder is an excellent value runabout, however with all the options ticked, electric flushing head and seating for six, the Axopar’s potential extends beyond the realm of speed boats to potential become a fully-fledged family day boat.