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Formula 290 Bowrider (2016-)

2 x 320-hp Mercury 377 MAG


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Brief Summary

The aft cockpit in the Formula 290 Bowrider can seat up to eight, thanks to flip-back seats at the consoles, adding to the party-time seating when the backs are moved to the forward position. A wet bar with Corian top and an available electric refrigerator is located on the starboard side here, adjacent to the pass-through to the oversize swim platform.

Key Features

  • Stainless hardware and 316L welded rails
  • Cockpit/swim platform blue/white LED courtesy lights with remote control
  • Modular bow seating/sun pad system with armrests and removable seat bottoms
  • Color-coordinated molded wet bar with integrated sink, Corian countertop, 30-quart Igloo cooler and trash container
  • Port and U-shaped aft lounge seating with integrated storage 17.5-quart Igloo cooler
  • Weather-resistant cockpit seating featuring PreFixx coating
  • XL synthetic marine panel construction

Test Results

600 3.8 3.3 2.1 1.79 1.55 203 176 80
1000 6.4 5.6 3.85 1.66 1.45 189 164 87
1500 8 7 5.85 1.37 1.19 155 135 87
2000 9.3 8 10.45 0.89 0.77 100 87 89
2500 16 13.9 13.2 1.21 1.05 137 120 89
3000 26.5 23 16.55 1.6 1.39 182 158 89
3500 34 29.6 20.4 1.67 1.45 189 164 90
4000 39.5 34.3 30.65 1.29 1.12 146 127 90
4500 43.5 37.8 34.45 1.26 1.1 143 125 90
5300 53 46.1 49.9 1.06 0.92 120 105 91


Length Overall 29' / 8.84 m
Beam 9'
2.74 m
Dry Weight 8,950 lbs.
4,060 kg
Tested Weight 10,160 lbs.
4,608 kg
Draft 40''
1.02 m
Deadrise/Transom 22-deg.
Max Headroom open
Bridge Clearance 8' 2''
2.49 m (max)
Fuel Capacity 112 gal.
424 L
Water Capacity 20 gal.
76 L
Total Weight 10,160 lbs.
4,608 kg

Acceleration Times & Conditions

Time to Plane 6.7 sec.
0 to 30 11.6 sec.
Ratio N/A
Props N/A
Load 4 persons, 1/2 fuel, no water, 50 lbs. of gear
Climate 80 deg., 65 humid.; wind: 0-5 mph; seas: calm

Engine Options

Tested Engine 2 x 320-hp Mercury 377 MAG
Std. Power Not Available
Opt. Power Four MerCruiser MAG engines from 300-hp to 380-hp
Four Volvo Penta engines from 300-hp to 430-hp

Captain's Report

Formula 290 Bowrider 2016

The new Formula 290 Bowrider looks as good as she handles, as demonstrated in this picture.

The 290 Bowrider’s Layout

The layout of the Formula 290 Bowrider seems similar to the 2014 model, until one looks closely and sees all of the very important refinements. The boater enters via the swim platform, so let’s start there. The newly redesigned swim platform features the boarding ladder in the center. When unfolded, the boarding ladder not only has steps but a platform perfect for swimmers to sit on who want to splash around in the water.

Formula 290 Bowrider 2016

The innovative stern platform/ reboarding ladder is a three-part, fold-down, stainless steel creation that adds hours of enjoyment to the 290 Bowrider.

Formula 290 Bowrider 2016

The newly designed fixed swim platform features multiple cup holders and a control for the stereo system. The wood-grain vinyl decking adds a classy look that is normally found on much bigger boats. The fold-down platform/reboarding ladder is tucked under the fixed platform.

Formula 290 Bowrider 2016

The Formula 290 Bowrider has lots of refinements and improvements from bow to stern.

As one can see, the swim platform is now huge. This makes an ideal “stern beach” and also covers the out drives which we like. With the boarding ladder in the center opposed to the port side, the operator can now see if it’s being used from the helm. To port in the transom is a large storage compartment designed to hold fenders and the table pedestals, with special places for each item. Just before the transom door is a stereo remote so that the boater can change tunes from the stern beach.
The sun pad is large and features an aft-facing headrest. A nice touch is the ability to easily make it larger by going into the cockpit and pulling the aft seat-back forward and flipping down the sun pad headrest and the whole area becomes one big sun pad. One can also lean the head rest part way down to create a chaise lounge that’s perfect for a romantic sunset. It resets just as quickly. The gals will love this feature.

The Cockpit

The cockpit is entered via a swinging door that is a bit awkward to use until one gets used to it. Lift and swing it open or closed, and then drop it back down into position. I like how Formula does this on their other boats better, with a positive hold in either the open or closed position, or a firm push to get through.
Once in the cockpit, there is L-shaped seating to the starboard side with a pedestal base in the center for mounting the table. Both the helm and companion seats have adjustable backs. For either forward facing or aft facing seating, this arrangement helps to increase the entertaining space of the 290 Bowrider. The flooring of the cockpit has custom patterned cockpit carpet and covered with a woven cockpit mat. The entire cockpit features blue LED lighting. Even the JL audio speakers have optional blue LED lighting in them. For those cold nights, the 290 Bowrider even has an optional cockpit heater.

Formula 290 Bowrider 2016

The cockpit is accented by the stainless sport arch with a Sunbrella sun shade, mast light and raised wakeboard swivel-head rope mount.

Entertaining Real-Estate on the 290 Bowrider.

With the helm seats configured for aft facing seating, one can easily fit eight guests in the cockpit. The seats to port have storage under them. To starboard is the wet bar. Our test boat had the duel voltage refrigerator with a stainless front and sliding shelving designed to keep food and beverage from shifting around while underway.
There is a Corian top with a removable partial cover for the sink, and a flip up shelf to add even more space for making drinks or preparing food. The Corian top adds another level of sophistication opposed to the fiberglass wet bars that we have seen in other bowriders. The 290 Bowrider can carry 20 gallons (76 L) of drinking water on board.

Formula 290 Bowrider 2016

As we move forward, the companion helm seat to port is a nice addition for this year. In front of that is the walk-in head. It has 47’’ (1.19 m) of vertical headroom. It has a sink and a VacuFlush head. There is a 23 gallon (87 L) holding tank and can be pumped overboard where permitted. Dockside pump-out is standard.

Formula 290 Bowrider 2016

To starboard in front of the helm station, the red arrow points to a walk-in storage locker. The door to the locker also serves double-duty as an air dam when it is open and the front windshield is closed.

Formula 290 Bowrider 2016

The bow seating area features flip-down armrests, as the arrow points out.

Bow Seating

All the way at the bow, in its open configuration it can seat six passengers. It also has a recessed pedestal holder for positioning the removable table. The table itself can be used in the cockpit or the bow areas. It also has a classy Corian insert making it a good place to set plates or drinks. Formula is keeping up with the times and has added non-skid resting pads on both sides of the bow for cell phones or iPods.
The bow seats also have flip-down armrests (see black arrow), a welcome addition that we would expect to see on a boat of this size and class. The whole bow becomes one big sun pad with the addition of a sun pad insert.

Formula 290 Bowrider 2016

The bow with the inserts in place. The bow inserts are stored in the locker forward of the helm.

The Helm

The helm is nicely laid out with upper gauges mounted into molded mounts rather than just planted into a flat surface. The helm seat is double wide with separate flip-up bolsters. Waterproof rocker switches are lighted when activated, tilt hydraulic assist steering makes handling effortless. Dual Livorsi engine controls are stainless steel.
I particularly liked the old fashion steam gauges to supplement the Mercury DTS control system engine monitor. Another throw back Formula has stuck to is having separate throttle and shift levers. This is a detail that many builders are getting away from these days with fly-by-wire single lever controls. Certainly they are easier to use for the neophyte, but veterans will probably like the ability to dock by working the gears only, the way they’ve always done it. Below the shifts is a circuit breaker panel.


When accelerating, there’s a bit of a bow rise, about 15-degrees. We measured a 6.7 second time-to-plane and she reached 30 mph in all of 11.6 seconds. I think these are quick times, given the size and weight of the boat. Ski or wakeboard beginners will also like the quick hole shot that will get them up in a jiffy.

Formula 290 Bowrider 2016

We think the Formula 290 Bowrider is a picture of grace and elegance on the water.

Speed Trials

The Formula 290 Bowrider is Also a Fast Boat.

Top speed was 53.0 mph with twin 320-hp gas engines. Handling was textbook Formula – which means steady, solid and predictable.
The Formula 290 Bowrider turns like she’s on rails, really clinging to the water, but the bank angle of about 10-degrees keeps the boater planted in the boat so that they have little tendency to get thrown to the sides in hard turns. One of the things we didn’t expect was some porpoising at high speed. We encountered this on a couple of our speed runs and had to slow down to get it to stop. The conditions on our test lake were not ideal with lots of other boat traffic, making unpredictable wakes and a 1.5’ chop due to winds. Granted the owner of a boat like the 290 Bowrider isn’t going to be running this boat at top speed that often.
An option our test boat had that was really cool was the Captain's Call exhaust with diverters. The operator can tell the difference even at the dock, but get it into the higher rpms and they are going to really get noticed by fellow boaters. This option isn’t available with all of the optional engines, but I can just imagine the sound coming from the biggest engine option, the Volvo Penta V-8 430CE, with Captain's Call.

Hole Shot

Our test boat was fitted with twin MerCruiser 377 MAGs mated to Bravo 3 outdrives with counter-rotating props. With a total of 640-hp and a test weight of 10,160 lbs. (4,608 kg), we achieved plane in just 6.7 seconds. If the driver keeps the throttles on the pins they will pass through 30 mph in another 5 seconds.
Our recorded top speed was an eye watering 53 mph at 5300 rpms. I found the sweet spot for cruise considering speed and fuel flow to be around 3500 rpms, pushing the boat to 34.0 mph while burning 20.4 gph, giving the 290 Bowrider a range of 189 miles or 1.67 mpg.


Overall, the 290 Bowrider is a very exhilarating boat to drive, and we really think that 53 mph is fast enough in a 29’ (8.84 m) bowrider. Once the boat has been run at that speed a couple of times, there is no need to go there again unless Brand X waltzes by and kicks sand in one's face. Then just let him have it not only with speed, but also with Formula class.
As we always say, Formula boats are not for everyone. They are top of the line in quality, but they are also one of the most expensive boats in class made in the U.S. The MSRP price for the 290 Bowrider with twin MerCruiser 377 MAGs is $216,880. Our test boat was completely loaded with almost every optional piece of equipment. The suggested retail price for our test boat is $284,065. The most expensive option was the extended sport swim platform with seat at $9,425, followed by the stainless sports arch at $ 8,720.

Formula 290 Bowrider 2016

Captain Steve Gilchrist demonstrating the hole shot capabilities of the 290 Bowrider. We got about a 15-degree bow rise, and the forward vision was temporally hampered but the quick time-to-plane fixed that in 6.7 seconds.

Please note that Formula has one of the best five year warranty programs on the planet. It is one of many attributes which is built into the price that isn't seen -- until it is really needed.
Room, utility, ride, styling, speed, quality and class all in one package that is hard to beat.