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Catching sun on the run: G3 Sun Catcher Elite 325 Cruise.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

When G3 set out to build a boat that could compete with some of the most luxurious pontoons on the market, they gave it three tubes, upgraded carpet and upholstery, a classy paint scheme and put a Yamaha on the back. The latter isn't so surprising since G3's Sun Catcher line is owned by Yamaha. Coming from a motor company that totally revamped its outboard lineup this year, this G3 is nothing short of cutting-edge.

Unique Factor

The Elite 325 can be classified by comfort, convenience and class. Its tasteful black and gold exterior graphics, multi-tanned 34-ounce upholstery and sculpted 28-ounce carpet exude richness. Twin Bimini tops come standard so passengers can still spread out as everyone tries to escape the midday sun.

The overstuffed recliner lounges in the bow are prime real estate for leisure seekers, and there's no dearth of storage underneath, with easy entrance via the stay-open piano-hinged seat bottoms. Each compartment features rotomolded bins to avoid creating the perfect mushroom-growing habitat.

Performance

Our test boat is powered by the Yamaha F225 four-stroke, the maximum available power for this pontoon. Although our sea trial was conducted just before Yamaha unveiled its remarkable new lineup of V MAX SHO and Offshore V-6 models, performance was still outstanding. Because this engine is so quiet and buffered by the oversized stern sunpad, we didn't register any engine sound until it reached 1500 rpm--a first for me.

This Sun Catcher floats on three U-shaped logs that measure 23 inches by 25 inches, which is standard for the Elite series. We jammed the throttle and hooked up unbelievably well, hopping on plane in just 2.8 seconds and reaching 30 mph in 5.9 seconds. Bumping against the rev-limiter, we topped out at 41.8 mph, pretty respectable for a hull that weighs 3,150 pounds dry.

Handling

Three-tube pontoons tend to fall into two categories. The first has a larger center tube with two smaller outer logs that don't have outside lifting strakes. This gives the pontoon a distinct inward lean in hard turns, like a monohull.

The Elite 325 goes the other route, with three identical logs and lifting strakes on both sides of all pontoons. This accounted, in part, for our excellent holeshot and speedy acceleration, which come in handy when towing skiers. This setup also gives the 325 plenty of lift, so the pontoons ride high and dry as the strakes direct spray down and away from the logs. With the outer strakes braced against the water, the G3 cornered extremely flat through hard turns, which gives the passengers a greater sense of G-force.

Best Uses

There's really not much you can't do aboard the Elite 325. It has the chops to be a competent ski platform, with a standard ski pylon that inserts into the middle of the large stern sunpad and a flat wake that's slalom-friendly. We had a bit of fun while filming the beginning of the walk-through video for BoatingWorld.com. It starts with me wondering where the G3 representative, Steve Matt, has disappeared to. He then pops out of the centerline storage locker, showing that you can't own enough ski equipment to fill this cavern.

Hoisting yourself out of the water after a ski run is facilitated by the swimming pool-style boarding ladder with wide steps for a sure grip. Popping up from under the sunpad is a double-wide changing room/head compartment that has a seat so you won't have to dance the "staggering flamingo" when removing a wet swimsuit.

The Elite 325 Cruise is really designed more for short-range pleasure cruising, but long-range touring is a possibility with a 40-gallon fuel tank that, optimistically, will give you a 130-to140-mile range. Add the camper enclosure and a few inflatable beds and you're ready to roll down the river. The captain will be styling in his adjustable overstuffed throne and may not even get lost with a full instrument setup that comes with a standard Garmin 430S GPS flush-mounted in the dash.

Preferred Setup

G3 makes it easy for owners to equip the Elite 325 by delivering a fully loaded anything-but-standard pontoon. There are still a few clever options that will take your entertaining to the next level.

To expand the bow seating and create a semicircle of friends, there's a removable fill-in couch sectional that fits into the bow walk-through area. This, however, temporarily closes off the bow walk-through. Of the four entry points, two are wheelchair accessible, but only the stern door has a stopper to keep it open.

Another option worth ordering is the movable cooler that also creates lots of snack presentation room, and with the sliding top you won't have to disrupt the spread to reload your drink of choice. A more whimsical option is the floating ottoman/cooler that you can use as an onboard footstool or toss into the water to serve as a bobbing beverage bin.

Unless tied to one body of water, pontooners on the move should order the 325 with a trailer, and G3 provides several options depending on the saline content of your water of choice.

Owner Feedback

Bill and Sue Churchill, Vonore, Tenn.

PURCHASED AT MADISONVILLE MARINE, MADISONVILLE, TENN.

What we liked:

* Loads of storage

* Double Bimini top

* Comfortable seating

* Power steering

What we would change:

I wish it had a small lockable compartment for valuables.

Why we bought it:

We were all set to buy the 22-foot Sun Catcher model, then we saw the fantastic layout of the 25-footer and we were sold. We later upgraded to the new-generation 4.2L Yamaha F225 and love it. Tellico Lake is a pretty big body of water so we wanted something that is stable, and the three-tube Elite 325 rides very well and can carry lots of our friends. We like to find a cove, anchor next to our friends and jump into the water.

I have arthritis and sometimes spend hours in the warm water at a time, but climbing back aboard is easy. Madisonville Marine custom rigged it with a windlass, so anchoring is no problem for me. We love cruising and looking at the scenery in places such as the Little Tennessee River in the nearby foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. We've been into boating for 40 years and have had all sorts of boats, but this has been our favorite so far. The quality of the 325 is top-notch.

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IN BRIEF: FEATURES

1 Overstuffed furniture is comfortable and there's a cockpit table for snacks

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2 The Elite 325 features a huge centerline storage locker suitable for skis

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3 Entertainment center has a sink for quick wash-ups

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4 Compact helm comes with flush-mounted Garmin GPS and Sony iPod stereo with USB port

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5 Doublewide changing room/head compartment deploys easily

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]
G3 Sun Catcher
Elite 325 Cruise

SPECIFICATIONS

Length                          25 ft.
Beam                      8 ft., 6 in.
Capacity                            15
Dry Weight                  3,150 lbs.
Fuel Capacity                 40 gals.

PERFORMANCE

                   mph     rpm     dBA

Peak              41.8    6100      90
Cruise              17    3500      73
Time to Plane                 2.8 sec.
Time to 30 mph                5.9 sec.

POWER

Test                       Yamaha F225
Max hp                          225 hp
Cylinders                          V-6
Displacement                      3.4L
Weight                        593 lbs.
WOT Range                5000-6000 rpm
Base Price     (w/Yamaha F225) $51,395

VALUE-ADDED
STANDARD FEATURES

Sony stereo w/remote, double Bimini top,
Garmin GPS/fishfinder, ski pylon, full
canvas cover

MUST-HAVE OPTIONS

Trailer, Porta Potti, bow filler couch, sliding
refreshment center, camper enclosure

BUILDER

G3 Boats (a Yamaha company)
g3boats.com
COPYRIGHT 2010 Duncan McIntosh Company, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:tested: G3 Sun Catcher Elite 325 Cruise
Author:Jones, Alan
Publication:Boating World
Article Type:Product/service evaluation
Date:Jul 1, 2010
Words:1263
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