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Chris Craft Launch 28 GT

Simon Murray

October 22, 2018

Chris-Craft boats have come a long way from the wooden runabouts of old. While we can pine for a time before the fiberglass revolution and mass production, the practicalities and sharp styling of Chris-Craft’s new boats cannot be overstated.

Enter the Launch 28 GT. Chris-Craft is positioning its new bowrider as a Swiss Army knife, which tends to be marketing speak for a multipurpose boat that can handle all types of interests—be it entertaining, swimming or towing kids—or one with transforming amenities. The 28 GT is both. Its amenities are numerous and varied, including a reversible sunpad that moves forward and aft (the transforming part), to create both comfortable seating in the cockpit or a larger sunbed when relaxing.

If you’re a Chris-Craft traditionalist, you might want to stop reading now. Unlike other models in this line, the 28 GT has been designed from the hull up for outboard propulsion (though a sterndrive is also an option). Depending on your preference and how fast you want to push the 28, it can be equipped with a 350-hp Mercury Verado, a 350-hp Yamaha or a 425-hp Yamaha. I wouldn’t be surprised if the first time you see an outboard slapped to the transom, it’s got a custom Chris-Craft painted engine that matches the hull color (see above). It’s an attractive addition cosmetically, and a nice rebuke to those who feel an outboard tarnishes a boat’s je ne sais quoi.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that there is a third power option, of sorts. With the “Wakesurfing Package,” owners can get a forward drive instead of the standard stern drive, with a GPS speed controller and Super Surf’R tab system. In what I imagine must be a rare overlap for those wakeboarding and Chris-Craft enthusiasts out there, this is the boat they’ve been waiting their whole lives for.

But the innovative additions don’t stop with the power. Like the larger offerings in the Calypso and Catalina lines, the 28 GT comes with a dive door—a first for Chris-Craft’s runabout range—plus three swim ladders and transom access, offering easy egress from the water. Sitting at the helm, I was attracted to the wheel, which has a nice interplay of varnished mahogany and leather stitching; a well-placed, accented touch. The helm comes standard with a Garmin electronics package, Fusion stereo system and custom retro gauges, blending together the new with the old in harmonious styling.

Finally, the elephant on the dock: the electrically accentuated hard top. According to Stephen Julius, strategic advisor of Chris-Craft, the company spent 18 months developing the 28 GT and “a decent chunk of it went into how we design and integrate that hard top.” If you’re an owner looking to spend time with your kids out on the water, the hard top with a tow bar is likely a welcome addition. But for everyone else, the hard top is a nice covering with a canvas top that extends aft, offering protection for those sitting in the cockpit, too. It also folds down electronically—a nice touch when trailering, storing or for the odd bridge clearance. “We’ve never spent this long designing a boat,” said Julius. “We wanted to include every single practical element that you would find in a family day boat.” It shows.

The 28 GT reveals how much quality materials and boatbuilding excellence still matter to this builder. The aesthetics and high-quality woodworking—both crafted in-house—are at the forefront for this new model. The touches of varnished mahogany, cross-stitched upholstery in the builder’s new “wave” pattern and custom stainless-steel fittings make the 28 GT a modern twist on a timeless classic. At least, that’s what Chris-Craft is betting on.