Released several years ago, the
26 Signature quickly became the most popular model in the Commander line.
“That boat has been the darling of out fleet,” says Sy Singhal, owner of
Commander Boats in Perris, Calif.
The 26-footer also left Commander fans wanting more –more length, more
space, more everything –with the kind of competitive price tag the for
which Commander offering are known. The company start to design a 29’-long
model, then upped it to 30’ and finally settled on the 32-footer. Enter
the 32 Signature, a twin-engine stepped V-bottom. The boat come standard
with MerCruiser MX 6.2 MPI motors, a trailer and a $99,800 sticker. A few
extras and an engine upgrade added about $16,000 to the price of the model
we tested, but it still was a bargain.
The 32 Signature was designed to run in the open ocean or large lakes
prone to nasty conditions and as such it should have been tested during
the offshore segment of out 2003 Performance Trials in San Diego.
Unfortunately, the first boat out of the molds wasn’t ready in time for
our San Diego event, so Singhal and company brought it to our trials stop
on the Colorado River in Parker, Ariz.
What that means is that we can’t tell you how well the 32 Signature
performed in rough water. The best, or worst if you prefer, the Colorado
River could muster during our test day was 6-inch wind chop and the
occasional pontoon-boat wake, and they presented no challenge to the
24-degree deadrise, 7,900-pound model –not even close.
We can tell you that the 32 Signature, which rode on a two-step bottom
with a sharp keel, four strakes and flat chines, handled very well,
especially at lower and middle speeds. Like many stepped-bottom boats, our
test model did not respond well to negative drive trim in turns and
handled best with neutral or slightly positive trim.
Equipped with 1.5:1 Bravo One drives spinning 15 ¼” x 28” four-blade
stainless steel propellers, the mild 375-hp engines were a good match for
the boat. In wicked 102-degree desert heat, the 32-footer reached 74.5 mph
at 4,550 rpm. Relatively quick for its weight and propulsion package, the
boat came on plane in 5.8 seconds and 40 to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds –not
explosive, but good for the power.
A taller fairing or wind deflectors would make the 32 Signature a lot more
pleasant at speed. Our test model was among the windiest 75-mph boats we
tested during our 2003 Performance Trials.
For a prototype, the 32 Signature was an uncommonly well-finished product.
The boat's four-color gel coat graphics included subtle fades and sharp
lines, and beyond a dimple here and there, its mold work was strong. There
were no waves in the boat's plastic rub rail, which incorporated a rubber
insert for additional dockside protection.
Vinylester resin and multiple layers of bidirectional fiberglass were used
in the 32 Signature's lamination recipe. For additional strength,
Commander employed balsa coring, Decolite panels and Prisma composite
reinforcement in select areas.
Knowing that Commander competes with higher-priced West Coast custom
products, the people at the company made sure the boat came standard with
plenty of anodized and powder-coated hardware,` including billet grab
handles and multiple flush-mounted cleats.
Hydraulic hinges from Dana Products raised the wooden engine hatch, which
was carpeted on the underside. The engines were installed using standard
MerCruiser mounts and L-angles through-bolted to the stringers. Knowing
that the builder rushed to get the boat to our Trials, we were
particularly impressed with the neat rigging and stainless-steel cushion
clamp support for the wire looms and cables.
Accessible behind a hinged plastic lid, under-dash wiring complete with
terminal blocks also was impressively tidy.
Singhal took great pains to point out that our 32-footer was the first of
its kind and far from the final form it would take when offered to the
public. Planned improvements included doors for the cabin and the proposed
stand-up head, a fiberglass floor liner and a different seating
configuration in the cabin.
Although all of those improvements would be welcomed, there still was much
to recommend about the interior of the 32 Signature we tested. True, only
a contortionist could use the head under the V-berth in the carpeted
cabin, and the tall lower section of the ring bulkhead made reaching the
berth a chore. But the horseshoe-shape lounge aft of the berth offered
generous seating with excellent padding.
Other nice touches in the cabin included shelves with valances, stowage
lockers and an ice chest. And with two deck hatches and no cabin door,
natural light and ventilation in the cabin were excellent.
We'd probably redesign the levers for the twin manual dropout-bottom
bolsters so they didn't poke the legs of the co-pilot and driver, but they
felt strong and supportive. Gray marine-grade carpet covered the cockpit
sole, which had an in-sole locker. Gunwale trays and a locker under the
four-person bench seat provided additional stowage.
The co-pilot's spot to port needed no improvement. Generously equipped by
any measure, it had a giant locking glove box in the dash and a contoured
grab handle on the gunwale. Also at the dash was a Pioneer CD stereo and a
Privately labeled for Commander, the gauges were grouped by engine on each
side of the non-tilting steering wheel, which had the company logo in the
hub, at the helm station. Mechanical indicators were provided for the
drives and tabs, and rocker switches activated the accessories. The
builder opted for Gaffrig by Livorsi throttles and shifters on the
It's always nice to see a company pushing itself to satisfy its customers,
and that's what Commander is doing with the 32 Signature. The company
recently expanded its facility. From what we've seen of the 32-footer,
that extra space should come in handy.