Feb 5, 2013

The New 2050 SD Boat

Astro makes an impressive splash into the pontoon-boat market with the new 2050 SD.

The most common question boating writers get asked is “What kind of boat should I buy?” Should I go with the traditional pontoon boat, or the speedy motorboat this year. The correct response to this query is asking the person what kind of boating they want to do. Some boaters have only one activity they want to do on the water. Whether it’s fishing, skiing or cruising, there are plenty of single-purpose boats that will fit the bill. Hey, there are probably some people who get their taxes done in January too, but the majority of us view boating like a smorgasbord; we want the ability to do a little of everything.

For this reason, few types of boats have been as hot as pontoon boats during the last five years. Many companies jumped on the pontoon-boat bandwagon early, but Astro’s first attempt, the new 2050 SD, is worth the wait.

Our first look at the Astro 2050 SD gives a favorable impression. The styling is contemporary and is devoid of garish graphics and upholstery swirls. Rather unique is the engine box treatment. Most inboard/outboard-powered pontoon boats feature the ubiquitous stern sunpad. While this feature is desirable for those who like to do some recumbent ray gathering, it unfortunately gives a pontoon boat look. The sculpted look of the 2050 SD’s padded engine compartment and the styled gunwale “fins,” on the other hand, give this boat a decidedly modern look. In the alcoves on either side of the engine are two in-pontoon toy storage compartments for items such as ski ropes and vests. The roomy back comes standard with a stainless-steel boarding ladder and has a well-placed grab rail for easy entrance.

Although we’re testing a prototype of Astro’s first pontoon boat, it’s far from being a green rookie. The 2050 SD — at 20 feet long and with a full 8-foot-6-inch beam — is conducive to mass revelry with its 10-passenger capacity and open layout. Passengers in the stern have an L-lounge on the port side that features loads of storage underneath. Up front is a pair of opposing settees that are curved to fit the contour of the gunwales that bend to the spacious bow pontoon, which has an ample anchor locker and an effective non-skid surface. Like the stern seats, storage can be found under the settees. A nice feature is the pair of low bow rails that give passengers a hand hold in case the captain engages in some erratic driving. There are two standard removable tables in the bow and stern for snacking or dining that feature built-in cupholders. Amid-ships on the port side is the refreshment station, which includes a freshwater spigot with a 5-gallon tank.

The helm station features full instrumentation and receives high marks for visibility. The array of instruments includes a standard Humminbird digital depthfinder to keep skippers from becoming “well-grounded.” Another unusual standard feature is a four-speaker AM/FM stereo that comes complete with a CD player. With an adjustable bucket seat and padded sport wheel with tilt steering, almost any captain can find a position that suits him.

We couldn’t have picked a better day for testing the Astro; the temperature is in the 80s and the winds are light, making Lake Lanier (located outside of Atlanta, Georgia) relatively calm, not counting the numerous boat wakes crosshatching the surface. Cranking up the 210-hp, 4.3L MerCruiser EFI inboard/outboard, which is the option engine for the 2050, showcases an impressively quiet noise level. Measuring only 62 dB-A at idle gives mute testimony to the effectiveness of the engine box insulation. Idling out while letting the engine warm up, the 2050 doesn't wander at slow speeds such as a lot of boats this size are prone to doing.

Once clear of the idle zone, I firewall the flush-mounted Quicksilver control lever and reach 30 mph in less than 8 seconds. At this econo-cruise speed, the sound level is a quiet 79.5 dB-A. While running, the 2050 displays benign handling characteristics; not much seems to upset it. The 15 degrees of deadrise at the stern is perfect for a boat that’s designed to be used for skiing and cruising inland waters. The wake is small but well-formed, making it ideal for slalom skiing or low-impact wakeboarding. Cornering is flat and responsive. Cranking the Astro in a ridiculously tight turn is a controlled event with the trim down. There’s a little ventilation with higher trim settings, but even with the trim indicator needle in the middle, you can make quick maneuvers without excessive sliding. At a respectable top speed of more than 50 mph, the 2050 is still easily controllable, but the Astro seems most comfortable around 40 mph. As one would expect, the moderate deadrise makes it advisable to run slower in rougher water, but in light chop the Astro reveals a soft ride.

Astro designed the 2050 SD to be a versatile boat that can wear many hats. Ski buffs will enjoy the deep in-ski locker with enough capacity for wakeboards. And fishermen will appreciate the stern livewell with a 13-gallon capacity — more than enough room for a couple of dozen wild shiners. Although the 2050 SD’s not designed as a fishing boat, I find the engine box is a decent seat for casting, and the front has enough room to accommodate an angler either sitting or standing.

Despite having a budget-friendly estimated retail price in the $26,000 range with the option engine, the 2050 SD features quality construction. Thumping the sides and stomping on the floor reveals a solid boat. Even when we cruise over big boat wakes, I hear nary a rattle.

Astro’s first pontoon boat is a good one. With a competitive price and complete package, boaters will receive a lot of value for their hard-earned dollars. The Astro is easy to drive and has a high fun quotient. The old saying, “Good things come to those who wait” turns out to be true.