Driving Impression

Commander 2600LX

 

Hot Boat

December 1995

By: Kevin Spaise

When Commanderís 2500LX blew through the pack at our 1993 performance evaluations to capture the coveted 1994 Boat of the Year honors, it signaled a company direction that has picked up a full head of steam in recent years. Commander, which now offers a full menu of models ranging from 17 to 34 feet, had invested the lionís share of its resources and efforts during the past three years in developing a quality line of full-size family cruisers that are up to the task of recreating in crowed, choppy waters.


Sure, Commanderís still very much in the business of econorider 21- and 22-foot I/Os, custom entities that compare in size and design to the family performance mainstream. But, including the release of the heralded 2500LX, Commander has tooled four full-size models in the last two years.
The new 2600LX, released on the heels of Commanders latest accolade (the 2600 Signature was designated our Family Boat of the Year in í95), was inspired by the award-winning 25-footer. The 2600, in fact, borrows freely from the effective technology of the 25-footer, with its 20-degree bottom lengthened to accommodate the larger cabin and expanded beam (from 96 to 100 inches). The newcomer is offered in three deck variations: traditional hard-decker and open-bow versions as well as the midcabin version we recently tested.

Our Test Boat
Price is more often than not a consideration among Commanderís clientele, and the 2600LX is quite possibly the least expensive legit custom of its size. Powered with the 300-horse (rated at the prop) MerCruiser 7.4L (454) engine, the 26-footer bases out at $38,200 and tows out with an impressive war chest of standards. The standard boat includes unlimited gelcoat graphics, and ours was neatly dressed with six colors and three individual fades that interwove. Designer Interiors consistently produces one of the finest cockpit upholstery ensembles in the business, and its expertise is self-evident and standard on the Commander. Cutting corners isnít in the company vernacular, and splendid color work is combined with high-density foam that is as supportive as it is comfortable. Forward- and rear-seat height and positioning were excellent, and the 2600 is one of the rare boats that possess a truly effective windshield. Front passenger comfort could have been enhances even more by making the footrests a little larger.


The front buckets were placed to allow for maximum visibility of the gauges. The gauges and controls were basic, including side-mounted throttle/shifter with an internally mounted trim switch and gauge, tact, fuel gauges and voltage meter. There were no trim tabs in the rigging, and a few hours in the boat revealed that they were not missed.
Swim steps, available in either teak or gel coated fiberglass, were conveniently and practically placed and were large enough for easy use.


Casual overnighting is definitely within the capabilities of the new Commander. Cabin standards include a complete illumination system, an icebox, a sink, facing love seats, a deck hatch and port windows. The cabin is very roomy, and there is plenty of headroom inside. Our bow rider conversion ($2,000 extra) diminished the cabin area somewhat, but the space was put to more practical use with the bow seating area.


The midcabin bow rider may be concept too offbeat for many to fully embrace, but Commander makes the combinations work fairly well. Both cabin and bow areas were practical and suited to real-world use, which hasnít always been the case in some of these hybrid efforts. Commander does need to address, however, some unique concerns that result from the unusual configurations. One irritant was the inadequate method of securing the cabin hatch, which was blown open by the torrent of air blowing through the bow.


Base-boat hardware includes stainless-steel railing around the perimeter and smartly placed interior grab handles located on the dash and on the backs of the front bucket seats.
Our tester was equipped with the vase motor packages, and the 300-horse mill was linked to a Bravo Three counter rotator Ėa superb investment at $1,000 over base. For our money, weíd recommend buying as much motor as you can afford for any boat in this size range. After a few get-acquainted hours in the boat, we blipped of a 54.1-mph number from the gun, and mid-50ís is definitely respectable in this loaded, 4,000-pound cruiser. But 60-plus would definitely be better, and itís fairly easily attainable. The 502 EFI, which adds $8,000 to the sticker, gives up 115 more horsepower, which theoretically brings the 2600 into the 65-plus range. For $2,000 less that, the dynamite 454 EFI train serves up 385 horsepower.


Though our experiences with the 2500LX gave us good cause to believe this boat would respond to more power, the base boat was a pleasant surprise. It was snappy to plane and plenty stout to yank an industrial-size skier. It hit 20 mph in 3.75 seconds and didnít physically feel like it was running out of pull until it moved into the mid-40s. Its 0 to 40 ET of 9.59 seconds was well within the respectable range, though it turned sluggish to 50 mph (17.66). Furthermore, though it cruised nicely at 4,000 rpm (43.5 mph), it gained only another four mph to 4,500 and used up to a full 1,000 rpm to move from 43 to 50 mph.


MerCruiserís counter rotating Bravo Three has revolutionized big-boat handling around the docks, and this Commander is a prime beneficiary of this magnificent drive. No longer is low-speed maneuverability to cumbersome a prospect for the beginning boater to attempt, even around the crowed gas docks. The Commander was positive and responsive in all directions, and it is particularly sensitive to trim.


Though running the boat up from a fully tucked position produced a slight vibration, this dissipated as we found more throttle. The LX remained completely stable and predictable throughout its power curve, which began with an instant set that was void of any bowrise. Moving into midspeed gallop, the Commander remained responsive, and its ride cloud-like.


Satisfyingly responsive to wheel and trim, the Commander is one if the best-handling of the full-size breed weíve tested. Its gentle nature on the big end, easy and predictable turns and overall handling make it an excellent choice for a wide range of boaters, including the beginners who donít want to start at the bottom of the boat ladder and work their way up the rungs. This is a boat that will satisfy the experienced hand with its outstanding feel but with handling demands that are also with easy reach of the beginning custom boater.


At full speed, the platform felt as if it could use more trim (it cried for more muscle), but gunning the button all the way up resulted in blowout; the Three drive had been placed at maximum practical height.


For a large boat, the LX turned relatively well, though its radius at 20 and 25, mph was considerable at 35 feet (in both directions). It did so with minimal lean, and only the slightest blowout (on the port sided only) occurred during extremely demanding high-speed turning drills Ėthe likes of which the typical family boat will never experience. This boat was bred for the family, and shi outings will be served by it in fitting style.


The 2600 also proved to be an extremely capable wake cutter, and the softening of its bottom angle (compared to the offshore-oriented Signature model) didnít seem to adversely affect its ride in normal lake conditions. Indeed, it was particularly effective in the limited amount of rough water we could find and helped deliver a consistent ride.

Bottom Line
Once more Commander has scored great marks for value with this latest full-size custom. Those who didnít appreciate the angled good looks of the Signature and who want a bit more practicality and lake presence will find the 2600 typical of Commanderís latest series of releases in its stylish cosmetics, efficient underside and overall excellence for the family.

 

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