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2011, November; Wisemans Ferry, Hawkesbury River: Malibu is highly regarded for its specialised ski and wakeboarding designs, and the company has also shown it is well aware of market trends. So this Axis A20 makes an interesting comparison with the car industry – but in reverse!
When Toyota wanted to expand its market potential, it moved into the more upmarket arena by introducing its Lexus brand. Lexus is wholly owned by Toyota but is run as an autonomous operation. When Malibu decided to address a different market segment, it also created a new brand but, as Malibu was already in the ‘upmarket’ domain of watersports boats, the new line was positioned in a lower price bracket.
The new name is Axis, and Malibu has formed the company Axis Wake Research to design and build boats that hold the quality and performance levels for which Malibu is renowned, but which are more suited to owners who are a little more budget conscious. For example, this Axis A20 is priced from around $65,500 as against the more upmarket Malibu Wakesetter VLX from around $80,500 (at the time of review).
In Australia, both brands are built at the superb Malibu factory in Albury and, if you’re at all interested in these tow boats, a factory visit is a great way to truly appreciate how well they are put together.
Axis boats are designed by a dedicated team, separate from Malibu-branded designs, but the same construction techniques are used including hand-laid, cross-core laminates and the all-fibreglass FibECS - Fibreglass Engine Chassis System. The boats retain a string of included features to make them more than competitive in their size and price bracket, but to achieve the lower price point there are less interior components and reduced electronics than their Malibu counterparts.
Nevertheless, the A20 still comes with cruise control and triple sub-floor ballast tanks plus it provides a pro-level wake. Additionally, it can be optioned up with items such as a plug-and-play ballast system and an auto-set Power Wedge (the Malibu transom-mounted hydro-foil that can be deployed to boost wake size and shape). Even if you are not interested in serious watersports, these facilities are great fun with which to play!
The Axis independent design team sure came up with a boat that looks different; the black colour with blue accents adds to a quite aggressive stance that’s further highlighted by the forward hull shape and a unique windscreen too. Even the rear vision mirror looks extra cool! It’s mounted on a bracket that curves inward from the front frame of the wake tower to be positioned in the best possible spot above and ahead of the driver. It’s a great combination of style and practicality.
Let’s get back to the hull through first. The chines, as they run toward the bow, lift up and stay parallel without the usual curving in toward the stem. The effect is to carry the beam of the boat right forward, so there’s lots of lift and buoyancy there, and loads of space aboard, but the keel line stays sharp for a soft ride. It looks quite like a tri-hull, or cathedral hull as they were sometimes called, but it’s not truly that – just a clever innovation of design that again mixes a terrific and unusual appearance with practical performance.
From amidships towards the stern, the hull is more conventional with a single strake on both sides and a small planing delta broadening toward the transom from a start point at the single turn fin. The inclusion of that last word in the name of the new company – Axis Wake Research – would indicate some careful investigation went into the hull design, and it certainly works well out on the water.
Although visually different from a ‘mainline’ Malibu such as a Wakesetter, the Axis is very similar when it comes to driving and performance. The skipper’s position is amongst the best around with a top seat offering good support, both from underneath and the sides. It’s comfortable too, adjusts fore-aft and swivels so the driver can more readily join in the conversation when the boat is stopped. For varying your stance at the wheel, an optional flip-up bolster gives a higher sight line. Even when sitting properly in the seat though, the view ahead is unrestricted as are the two big dials on the dash. All the switches and the throttle/shift lever are within easy reach and fall naturally to hand. The padded rim of the sports-style wheel feels good, and it looks good too with a polished hub and broad scimitar-curved alloy spokes. The wheel is tilt-adjustable while an angled floor panel makes an excellent foot rest regardless of individual leg length – helpful for those like me who are not so tall.
The dash panel area has a dark non-glare finish so there are no reflections in the screen. The two dials on the dash comprise a rev counter with inset digital readings that cycle through data such as (river/lake) water and air temperatures plus engine water temperature, oil pressure and volts, and a speedo that also has read-outs such as fuel level. Alongside the ignition key to the right of the wheel is the control for setting speed (cruise control), while the Sony stereo controls are to the left. Banks of switches are set a bit higher on both sides where they are easy to both see and operate.
Adding to the convenience of the driver are an armrest shelf behind the throttle/shift and a drink holder down to the right below a small storage pocket – the whole set-up is excellent, very well thought out and beautifully executed. And then there’s that superb ski (rear view) mirror on a magnificently manufactured arm that gracefully curves in from the wake tower; the arm looks marvellous and it positions the mirror perfectly – it’s maybe a small point, but it’s original and it just looks and works so beautifully – well done Axis Wake Research!
Motive force for the A20 came from a (standard equipment) 335 hp Indmar V8 that had all the grunt you’d need for any form of watersports. A 400 hp Raptor V8 is optional. For sure the boat would be great at any of skiing, wakeboarding, wake surfing or toy-towing, although the design criteria are more targeted at wakeboarding – and it’s a happy cruiser too for those times you just want to stay on the water rather than in it.
The V8 is rear mounted and operates through a V-drive to spin a four blade 14.5-inch diameter by 14.25-inch pitch prop. Throttle response was smooth and steady with strong punch away from rest; the bow lifts under the thrust from that 4-blade prop but is soon back down to an efficient running angle. The steering was light (3.5 turns lock-to-lock) with a pleasing level of feel as to how the hull was behaving – which was invariably just right as at tow and cruise speeds the boat felt balanced, and it held that stance even through tight turns. Again the ‘Research’ has paid off with an excellent matching of hull, engine and prop.
We carved up the water with a few figure eights then ploughed through those to see if it would upset the A20, but it didn’t and the hull slipped through the slop with no bumps or rattles. The wide bow area with those ‘non-curve-in’ chines didn’t seem to stop the boat riding softly and keeping its crew comfortable and dry.
I looked ahead below the top frame of the screen with a good view all round – including astern with that beaut mirror. The screen doesn’t have a side return and the end frame is wider than usual, but that didn’t affect my vision, and there was only just enough slipstream around the edge to provide fresh air so I doubt on cooler days that it would be too cold. The aerodynamics seem to have been thought out carefully, and the styling is clever too in this area for the sharply forward-angled lower frame for the wake tower makes it look like there is a screen return, but the open area makes it much easier for the driver to talk with a ‘boarder in the water. It’s another little aspect of the A20 that’s different and adds to its visual ‘stand out’ impact.
At 3,000 rpm the V8 and the A20 were just loafing along at 35 kph and a relaxed cruise was faster at 3,500 rpm and 47 kph. Edge the throttle further forward and you’d be really starting to eat the river at 4,500 rpm and 59 kph, whilst we found top speed to be 65 kph with 5,100 rpm. At any velocity, the A20 was a delight to drive and gave a calm, silky run for the crew. With all that Malibu tow-boat experience in the hull, and the Axis research, plus the ‘playability’ of triple ballast tanks and the Wedge, the wake could be set for any individual predilection.
Those triple ballast tanks (one amidships, two aft either side) add 360 kgs of displacement to boost the wake, and the optional ‘Plug ‘n’ Play’ adds extra water sacks under the bow seats and in the rear storage lockers (still leaving room for stowage) that give a further 590+ kgs of ballast. If that’s still not enough for you, add the Auto-Set Wedge for an effective jump of another 454 kgs and you have a total of a monster 1,400 kgs! Both the standard tanks and optional sacks are filled and drained through switches on the dash.
To cryptically sum up the interior of the A20, all you have to say is seats and storage. Not only the whole bow area can be set up with seats, but even the passage through the screen has seats! These can flip-up for seating or lay flat for movement fore and aft. With the removable bow fill-in cushion, maybe calling it a huge lounge arena might be a better description. The seats continue from that through-screen passage and wrap to port for a very good observer’s spot before flowing aft, then across the back of the cockpit and forward again to behind the skipper’s seat. The cockpit aft lounge can be slid forward for a different seating position, or it could be used as a table for snacks. Storage spots are everywhere including under all the seats, behind the observer under the screen console and either side of the engine under the full beam sunlounge. Drink holders, grab handles and stereo speakers abound too. The standard of upholstery and trim cannot be faulted, and there are LED courtesy lights and storage area illumination.
Soaring above the boat is the standard ‘FatAX’ tower with dual wakeboard racks and bimini shade cover which was stored in its sock for our run. The tower folds down so the A20 can be parked, on its trailer, under a ceiling or carport that clears two metres. The boarding platform is removable and the trailer draw bar hinges back so that overall length for parking is reduced to 6.45 metres (6.55 if a Wedge is optionally fitted). Incidentally, the galvanised custom trailer has 15-inch alloy wheels on dual axles, Dexter electric-hydraulic four-wheel disc brakes and a four-way bearer system to properly support the hull.
Axis set out to provide as much room and as good a wake as a larger boat can provide, and the A20 achieves those goals admirably. Despite the lower price point compared with its sibling Malibu-branded boats, the A20 carries an impressive list of standard features and inclusions.
Overall Length: 6.10 metres
Beam: 2.49 metres
Draft: 0.68 metres
Weight (boat): 1,451 kgs
Fuel: 182 litres
Power: Indmar V8 335 hp
Top Speed: 64.9 kph
Price from (at time of review): around $65,499
Here at Deckee we are dedicated to helping boaters make better decisions. Every month thousands of Aussie boat owners use Deckee to find and compare local marine services, insurance providers, destinations and anchorages, boats, products and gear.
Today we are excited to announce a new partnership with MySail, an Australian-owned crew management platform, to help our community in even more ways than before. You can access MySail by clicking on the new Crew link in Deckee's main menu.
MySail is great for two reasons. As a skipper, you can use MySail to manage your race team and find crew members matching your requirements.
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A recurring issue for many racing yachts is getting their crew sorted. Many yacht owners or crew managers spend countless hours trying to organise their racing crew through spreadsheets, phone, text, and email, often having to follow-up with crew constantly to find out who will be there on race day. Many yachts also find themselves short of crew and have trouble finding the right people to join their team.
For experienced sailors who are in high demand, keeping track of their race schedule can be a headache, and for new sailors, it’s often not easy to find yachts to race on.
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2014, December; Broken Bay: This is a top line offshore fishing mini-battlewagon with all the experience that long-time builder Quintrex (since 1945) can pack into it. Matched with a potent new-release 250-hp Evinrude on the transom, it delivers impressive features and performance.
From the visual-appeal angle, it’s a personal thing of course, but I do like to see a bit of colour on a boat and this Quintrex 690 Trident not only offers some brilliant green graphics on its topsides, but they are matched by the exchangeable colour panels on the side of the mighty 250 hp Evinrude G2 outboard that dominates the view from astern.
A quick summary of the G2 will help position the engine in the context of this review of the Quinnie itself. Evinrude started the G2 program some five years ago and developed a totally new design. It retains only the V6 configuration and the basic injectors of the advanced direct-injection fuel delivery system that gave the first-generation E-Tec outboards such a revolutionary balance of performance, economy and environmental friendliness.
Essentially, only recently developed computer simulation programs enabled more precise evaluation of how the fuel-air mixture ignited inside the cylinder, and that led to new porting and ignition design for higher efficiency. The new injection/combustion design is called ‘PurePower Combustion’ and offers claimed improvements of up to 20% in torque and up to 15% in fuel economy over rival four-stroke outboards.
Practical aspects of owning the G2 Evinrudes have been considered too, with the first service not required until after 500 hours or 5 years operation; other neat touches are an integral oil tank that gives about 100 hours running and a tube running up from the gearbox into the engine area that allows easy checking of the gear oil.
Apart from these powerhead developments, the G2 outboards offer a stronger, simpler, cleaner mounting and rigging system, an hydrodynamically superior gearcase shape (it’s asymmetrical to offset engine/prop torque), lower-level water pickups for improved cooling, and integral hydraulic or power steering.
With initial G2 models offering power levels at 200, 225, 250 and 300 hp in a 3.4 litre 74-degree V6 configuration, the new Evinrudes also carry a striking external appearance that looks both aggressive and contemporary. The quite tall powerhead side panels are exchangeable and come in a variety of colours so you can match them for blending or contrast with your boat. Custom colours or graphics are possible too.
And that was done on this Quintrex with the green graphics of the hull extended and complemented by the green side panels of the outboard. The overall effect was quite an eye-catcher and typically draws admiration anywhere the boat goes. Of course, if you prefer a more traditional look for your boat, other panels will tone down the visual impact.
Spinning a four-blade 18-inch pitch prop, the 250-hp G2 fairly hurled the big Quintrex on plane and ran it out to an impressive 78.4 kph at 5,440 rpm. From an on-plane 37.8 kph at 3,000 rpm, the Evinrude gave particularly strong mid-range acceleration as the improved torque of the new powerhead design showed its mettle. Fast cruising at 65.8 kph and 4,500 rpm would run you home or out of trouble real quick, and at all speeds the steering was light and responsive.
The G2 comes with standard integrated hydraulic steering (about a $1,500 option for an add-on after-market equivalent) and is also available with optional power-assist for the hydraulics at about $500 (an after-market version could be around $4,000). This 250-hp G2 had the power-assist and it certainly made steering light and easy for such a high level of power. It still had a good level of ‘feel’ though, so you could sense the 690’s reaction as you carved through turns or just cruised along.
Swooshing through turns was the most fun though, and it was remarkable how well the hull, engine and prop partnered for turns that were far cleaner and tighter than I’d expected. There was no slipping or lurching even when I had the wheel held for exceptionally close turns; the prop held on perfectly with no ventilation and the hull retained its grip in quite extreme situations. That’s all and well for having fun, but it also means the overall rigging and set-up are excellent and give full confidence that the Quintrex would behave itself in just about any conditions. It’s one of those sought-for combinations where adverse circumstances would have the crew crying for mercy long before the boat.
The power-assist can be turned on and off and, even with it off, the ‘native’ hydraulic steering remained relaxed to use. On long days at the wheel, it would stay pleasurable to steer the Quinnie. The overall driving position was good too; the seat is adjustable fore/aft and has a flip-up bolster. Sliding the seat forward allowed me to sit back with my spine supported by the backrest whilst retaining a relaxed reach to the wheel. The throttle/shift controls were also well placed – and that remained true when I slipped the seat aft a bit and stood to drive for a while.
I prefer standing to drive in many conditions and, especially with a boat like the 690 that’s designed for offshore work in rougher waters, you can better brace yourself with your feet apart and your posterior firmly planted against the bolster when the boat is moving around as it reacts to swell and chop. Having all that power at my fingertips was re-assuring and would mean in coastal waters you could position the boat at any instant exactly where you wanted on a wave or when running a bar.
There was a pleasing response also to use of the G2’s trim; it wasn’t finicky at all and the hull would behave at just about any prop-thrust angle, but equally it wasn’t difficult to sense the angle that gave the best performance at various speeds. Helping to trim the boat, the 690 had a set of Volvo trim tabs fitted.
These work differently to most tabs in that they do not have the usual plates that extend laterally aft from the transom to form an extended running surface and that trim the boat by angling up and down. Instead, Volvo uses much smaller plates that extend vertically downward to deflect the water streaming back along the hull’s running surfaces. The deflection of each tab provides added lift that raises that side of the back of the boat, and pushes down the opposite bow side.
With either approach to trim tabs, you can quickly trim the boat side-to-side by lowering either tab. The Volvo tabs did the job well on the 690 and it quickly became an automatic reaction to use them to keep the boat level as the crew moved around or as the boat was affected by cross-winds. In combination with the G2 trim, you can keep the hull perfectly balanced in all conditions – and change it as often and as rapidly as required.
Visibility all round was good and the helm position was well protected behind a screen on top of the cuddy cabin. The dash panel was well laid out and featured a Lowrance HDS12 colour display which combined a GPS chart plotter and a fish-finder sonar - with optional (not fitted in this case) radar. It’s NMEA 2000 compatible and so can be integrated with other similar standard onboard systems.
To the right of that was a smaller Evinrude digital display which is also to NMEA 2000 standards. Evinrude offer these displays at various sizes – 3 inch (as on the 690), 4.3 inch and seven inch – and they can present either digital or analogue readings such as rpm, speed, engine water temperature and/or pressure, oil level, fuel consumption, engine trim, external air temperature, and even more including onboard engine diagnostics.
Both the skipper and first mate get comfortable seats that swivel and which are mounted on top of lockers that have recesses on their inner sides for items such as a fire extinguisher or EPIRB, and with drop-down hatches facing aft that reveal tackle storage drawers. Behind the seats, a large open cockpit has a non-slip patterned alloy sole with spacious storage side pockets and a large kill tank underneath a hatch at the rear of the floor.
Across the back is a clever arrangement that makes great use of the space. There’s a fold-away three-quarter-width lounge behind which is a large hatch to storage under the aft deck including access to the battery; above that is another useful open storage slot and then to starboard is an entry passage from the boarding platform that’s equipped with a drop-down swim ladder and grab rail.
Centrally above the aft deck is a bait prep workstation with five rod holders, and there are more holders in the side decks along with strong bollards in the transom quarters. A hatch in the port aft deck is for a live bait tank which features a clear viewing panel so you can readily check the condition of the bait from the cockpit. Throughout the 690 were plenty of storage spots including large compartments under the cabin floor where carpeted panels lift out for easy access.
The cabin on this 690 was bare although neatly finished with side storage pockets. There’s enough room for camping overnight or for shelter in bad weather – or for kids to rest or play. Long side ports admit plenty of light. A bimini above the front of the cockpit provided welcome shade, and a tubular targa arch carried a set of rocket launcher rod holders.
A centre screen section folds forward on top of a large hatch in the cabin roof that in turn hinges to starboard so you can quickly and safely move forward and handle mooring duties that were assisted on this 690 by a power anchor winch. The anchor locker is big enough for serious chain and rope lengths and the deck hardware upfront is strong and intelligently located.
The hull itself is made of serious stuff too with 5-mm plate for the bottomsides and 3-mm for the topsides. The stem carries a quite sharp entry to cut through the swells and pressed-in strakes and pronounced chines are key factors in the good handling. This is a big boat at just on seven metres and has high topsides with plenty of forward buoyancy for a safe, dry ride in most conditions.
Anglers will quickly identify and appreciate all the thoughtful touches that are either standard or available as options. To obtain the full details you really need to see the boat, so contact your nearest Quintrex dealer and discover how this famous Aussie boat builder really does live up to its tag line of ‘Boating Made Easy’.
SPECIFICATIONS: QUINTREX 690 TRIDENT
Length: 6.96 metres
Beam: 2.48 metres
Weight (boat only): 1,030 kgs
Capacity: 8 persons
Fuel capacity: 200 litres
Power: Evinrude G2 E-Tec 3 250 hp
Top Speed: 78.4 kph
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