A predictably exciting experience
By Zenon L. Bilas
Predictable can be boring, but for Formula Boats being predictable is good. Consider the new Formula 290 BR, which I put through its paces on the Intracoastal Waterways of Miami, Florida.
Yes, Formula brand boats are predictable in terms of family resemblance. The sleek line of boats, ranging from 24′ to 48′ in length, features a consistent look and theme: stylish use of quality materials with attention to detail. Above all, Formula takes an unwavering stance on building performance into its boats, a trait Formula customers expect. However, tons of quality doesn’t come cheap. As expected, Formula boats also feature a retail price on the high side for their class and size.
The 29′ length of the 290 BR fits perfectly between the 27′ 270 BR and the 31′ 310 BR. Formula ensured enough interior space for the 290 through use of a 9′ beam. This allows expansive seating, cockpit, and storage space.
The cockpit and bow are spacious and inviting for passengers. It’s clear that bigboat design and quality is featured in the 290 BR. If you build boats that reach 48’2″ in length, such as the 45′ Yacht with a 13’11” beam, the smaller boats that you make are likely to inherit characteristics of the big models.
This big-boat design theme is sprinkled throughout the 290 BR, which features the driver’s dash layout of the 400 SS. This dash allows for ample space for electronics. The plush carpeting of the 45 Yacht makes its way to the 290 BR along with hull sides that feature the more costly Imron painted graphics.
As is traditional with Formula, the windshield frame of the 290 features beautifully chrome plated stainless steel for added strength, durability against the elements, and high aesthetics.
Seating in the 290 is luxurious and comfortable throughout. Clearly, Formula focuses on passenger comfort. The helm seat, which adjusts electronically, is extra wide, affording enough space for a co-captain at the helm.
The design of the aft cockpit seat is smart and does much for passengers seeking comfort and enjoyment on the water. Besides offering forward facing seating in the cockpit, the back side of the stern seat features an aft facing chaise lounge that extends over the swim platform. This spot, ideal for one or two passengers, is perfect to rest on and watch the waterfront scenery as the boat sits quietly. However, there’s more: with a quick adjustment, the stern seat stretches into a large sun pad, ideal for relaxing and working on a tan.
The wraparound seating in the cockpit is ample for socializing. Instead of making the bow only a reclining section, Formula designed the bow seating for relatively upright sitting as well. The pop-up arm rest for the bow seat is quite nice too. The width of the seating throughout the 290 BR could be a bit wider to let passengers stretch and get more comfortable; however, Formula in its designs tends to give more space to the walk through to the bow and moving around space in the cockpit.
To provide for on-board entertainment, Formula includes a Kenwood stereo system with six speakers as part of the standard package. You can add a subwoofer to really enhance the musical experience.
Speaking of comfort, a major focal point of the cockpit is the head. The port side console is extended fore and aft, and the top of the console is tall – all of this adds space in the head. In addition, Formula created a step-down design into the head to create more overhead room. Even the hatch is extra big, making entering and exiting easier, especially for adults. But there’s more: with all the added space, Formula makes this section look right with a sizeable sink and a fauxstone counter top and porcelain toilet. The section is well lit and ventilated. The combination of abundant space and an attractive design makes this head inviting to use for its intended purpose – instead of turning into a storage section as is so often the case with heads that offer less space and comfort.
Beyond features, quality, and details handed down from its big siblings, the 290 BR benefits from Formula’s heritage as an offshore racer. After all, offshore racing legend Don Aronow founded Formula in Miami in 1962. The performance characteristics of the 290 draw from Formula’s Fas3Tech offshore racing lineup. For example, the 290 BR features a Livorsi stainless steel throttle and shift binnacles. Another nod to a racing pedigree is seen in the engine bay and power plant.
Whereas boat builders typically place a single big-block sterndrive as standard and sometimes offer for a twin-engine option, Formula does not compromise its performance image. The 290 BR comes standard with twin sterndrives to make acceleration and top speed ample for this almost 9,000-lb boat.
Formula’s image is so cemented toward performance: the company builds only two models -the 240 BR and 270BR ó as single engine boats. The base power plant for the 290 BR is a pair of 300-hp 5.7L stern drives either in MerCruiser or Volvo Penta.
Like the big Formula boats and the Fas3Tech line, the 290 BR’s engine bay is perfectly organized with plenty of space for access to both engines. The engine hatch rises electronically like those of the bigger Formula boats. Underneath, the wiring and hoses are placed orderly, and batteries are firmly attached. Clearly, the 290 BR engine bay is designed for the performance-minded aficionado.
When you’re at the wheel, the Formula 290 BR communicates the pleasure of boating. Formula places much effort on sound dampening. The 290’s twin engines produce only a hum that is pleasant to the ear. What doubtless helps to produce this pleasurable sound is solid hull construction. Nothing’s jiggling loose on the 290 BR.
Our test boat featured twin 320hp MerCruiser 377 MAG stern drive engines with Bravo III outdrives. The Formula 290 BR showed spirited acceleration. With two people on board, the 290 went from zero to 30 mph in a very impressive 5.9 seconds. And top speed was just as impressive: we reached 56.7 mph. With twin-engine power, the Formula 290 doesn’t have to work hard once it’s on plane. In fact, the 290 reaches a cruise speed at 3,500 rpm while delivering a notable 36 mph.
In a word, driving the 290 Bowrider is a predictable experience. With the 290’s hefty 22-degree deadrise at the transom, heading into ? foot to 1′ bumps is like a walk in the park. The steering is consistent with the 290 BR making precise, tight turns with the hull and props staying in constant contact with the water. Although the beam of the 290 BR is wide, it’s not overly wide, providing a good length-to-width ratio. Combine that with a solid hull design, and you’re enjoying the ride.
Yes, the Formula 290 BR is predictable but for all the right reasons.
Length Overall: 29′ (8.84m)
Beam: 9′ (2.74)
Draft (engine down) 40″ (1.02m)
Deadrise at transom: 22 degrees
Dry Weight with engine: 8950 lbs (4060 kg)
Fuel Capacity: 122 gallons (461 liters)
Maximum Horsepower: 640 hp
Standard Engine: Twin 300hp, 5.7L Volvo Penta GIC DP
Engine as Tested: Twin MerCruiser 377 MAG with Bravo III drives
RPM – MPH
1000 – 7.3
1500 – 9.4
2000 – 14.8
2500 – 23.7
3000 – 31.9
3500 – 38.4
4000 – 44.6
4500 – 50.6
5000 – 56.5
5100 – 56.7
For More Information Contact:
2200 West Monroe Street
Decatur, IN 46733