The Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX is a dedicated watersports platform that includes a tower and Bimini, along with a high tow point for wake surfers. The model we tested had the optional Surf Package which includes 1,350 lbs. (612 kg) of ballast and the wake-shaping Aerial Surf Platform which redirects the thrust from jet pumps to create the ideal surfing wave. This model also had the optional Rotax iST digital fly-by-wire controls, unusual in a jet rig, and the Lateral Thrust Control system makes her one of the easiest to dock jetboats we have tested.
|Length Overall||24' 3'' / 7.39 m|
|Length on Trailer||
|Height on Trailer||
3.05 m (max)
Acceleration Times & Conditions
|Time to Plane||2.6 sec.|
|0 to 30||5.8 sec.|
|Load||2 persons, 1/2 fuel, no water, 50 lbs. of gear|
|Climate||65 deg., 61 humid.; wind: 10-15 mph; seas: 1-2|
2 x 250-hp Rotax 4-TEC
2 x 200-hp Rotax 1.5L 4-TEC ECT
2 x 250-hp Rotax 4-TEC 1.5L ECT
Contents of Report
- Mission Statement
- Distinguishing Features
- Features Inspection
- Options and Prices
It’s no surprise that several manufacturers are jumping on the jetboat bandwagon. Chaparral has introduced six new models, with the 243 Vortex VRX now being the largest. She has a larger capacity than most in this size range, and can comfortably hold 12 people. More realistically, it also means that for a typical load of between four to seven people, there will be more room to move about, making this an excellent platform for entertaining friends.
But there’s more to the 243 Vortex VRX’s story than just capacity. Chaparral also had two other goals for the design team. One of which was to maintain the trademark Chaparral DNA with regards to both exterior styling and hull design. This boat looks like a Chaparral to even the most casual observer with her high freeboard, sweeping sheerline and stainless rubrail, sloping down to join the integrated swim platform. She’s also pure Chaparral under the waterline and performs just as well as the company’s other sportboats. The third goal was to remove the stereotype that jetboats are hard to handle around the dock. With her clever lateral thrust control and Bombardier’s new iST digital shift and throttle system, we found that controllability around and away from the dock was unprecedented for a jetboat.
Available in Two Versions.
The 243 Vortex is available in either the VR or the VRX version. The VR has the more “tame” graphics available in black, blue, and red and comes standard with a Bimini top, folding tower is optional. VRX has the sportier graphics and colors (blue, gray, red, lime green, aqua, and yellow). VRX is also standard with folding tower with built-in Bimini top and ski mirror.
Medallion Touchscreen with Rotax Speed-Control Functions.
The standard 6.5” (16.5 cm) Medallion touchscreen makes it easier to access the Rotax control functions. This adds precise control over maximum speed, towing parameters, fuel efficiency, and a reduced power setting for docking. Additional features include a moving map display, digital depth and bottom scan readouts, control of the premium stereo system and fuel economy displays. App features allow the ability to see video, among many other things, from Bluetooth Go-Pro cameras.
Our test model was also equipped with Bombardier’s Intelligent Shift and Throttle (iST), a $625 option that uses fly-by-wire technology to smoothly shift the jet drive. The iST is derived from the Intelligent Brake & Reverse (IBR) system used on Sea-Doo personal watercraft. In addition to making the 243 Vortex VRX more responsive around the docks and more operator-friendly overall, iST lets a driver adjust the neutral position for the jet pump bucket. Using a toggle switch, the driver can raise or lower the bucket in 1mm increments plus or minus 15 settings. An added benefit of iST, if an operator suddenly tries to yank the throttle back into reverse, the system won’t allow it the pump to apply reverse thrust. It monitors boat speed, so it will gradually slow the boat and then start to apply reverse thrust.
Kevlar Reinforced Hull.
This provides the strength and solid feel to the Chaparral ride. It also allows Chaparral to stand behind its products with a lifetime hull warranty. Its premium hydropel resin is blister-resistant.
Twin Engines, Single Control.
The 243 Vortex VRX can be ordered with a pair of 200-hp Rotax 4-TEC 200 ECT or a pair of 250-hp Rotax 4-TEC 250 ECT engines, and both are controlled with a single lever at the helm.
The Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX has a LOA of 24’3” (7.39 m), a beam of 8’6" (2.59 m) and a draft of only 15” (38.1 cm). With 50% fuel and two people onboard, we had an estimated test weight of 4,586 lbs. (2,080 kg).
With the throttle fully forward, we topped out at 56.1 mph (48.8 knots).
Best cruise came in at 5000 rpm and 23.5 mph. That produced a fuel burn of 8.1 gph, a range of 136 statute miles, and an endurance of just over six hours, all while still holding back a 10% reserve of fuel.
Acceleration is brisk, as are the G-forces. She planes in 2.6 seconds, hits 20 mph in 4.1 seconds, and continues accelerating through 30 mph in 5.8 seconds.
Whether idle or at high speeds, this is a well-mannered boat. The 243 Vortex VRX puts out enough low power thrust to track nice and straight at minimum speeds. Her lateral thrust control allows her to make idle speed turns in her own length, a convenient feature even away from the dock. At speed, she slices cleanly through waves with spray kept low and wide for a dry ride. She rolls only 10-degrees into the turns and carves well with no tendency to chine walk or even bleed off speed. However, in extreme turns she’ll spin out, as we expected. When taking power off, she will settle back into the water from a level attitude, and she’ll coast for some time before doing so.
Docking is important because jetboats have an unusual characteristic that takes some time in which to adjust. They steer backwards in reverse. This is opposite of what we’re all used to and will frustrate at first, but with a little practice, it can be overcome quite easily.
For side-to docking, approach the dock straight on. Of course, before hitting the dock, turn the wheel hard over. Leave it there and shift into neutral. Rotax's lateral steering will allow the thrust to continue to steer her. Keep the thumb pressed on the shifter and now ease her gently from forward to reverse and she’ll start to slide sideways to the dock. It may be necessary to take a little turn off the wheel, but this back and forth, in and out of forward and reverse, will serve the job well and it quickly becomes easy to control. When close enough, shut off the engines and she’ll stop in position.
For backing into a slip, use the same technique of shifting in and out of gear with the thumb held onto the shift release. But now, do not steer the stern. Because things are opposite, it will mess with the approach. Instead, steer the bow. Want the stern to come left, steer the bow right, and over she’ll come.
For maximum wake surfing potential, owners can order the 243 Vortex VRX with the Aerial Surf Platform (ASP) with a ballast system. First, the ASP is a molded fiberglass extension that bolts to the aft end of the swim platform. It has a contoured bottom designed to form wakes. Unlike other trim-tab like devices, it has no moving parts. The ballast system consists of two 550-lb. (249 kg) bladders underneath the aft seats and a single 250-gallon (946 L) reservoir in the bow for a total of 1,350 lbs. (612 kg). The fill controls for the ballast system are at the helm.
The Rotax Difference
Chaparral went with Rotax 4-TEC engines for the 243 VRX, and owners can choose either a pair of 200 ECT or 250 ECT. We tested her with the Rotax 4-TEC 250 ECT engines, and they, along with the rest of the Rotax line, have some distinct advantages. Most notably, lateral thrust control.
Lateral thrust steering is achieved by departing from the traditional method of attaching the thrust deflector bucket to the thrust nozzle. Here, the bucket is attached aft of the steering nozzle, and it’s more elongated with open ends, allowing the thrust to come out the sides when in neutral or reverse. This provides for some amazing maneuverability at the dock. She’ll easily pivot in her own length, and with some deft touches that we discussed in the docking section, the 243 Vortex VRX can practically dock with the agility of a pod drive boat.
Closed cooling is a feature that will appeal particularly to salt-water boaters. The running pad is actually a heat exchanger. A hose runs to the thermostat and water pump, cooling the engine with the temperature-reducing effects of having this pad underwater.
Shaft protection is achieved by enclosing the shaft in a stainless sleeve. Normally, we have access ports allowing us to reach our hands down to the shaft to clear weeds. Here, the shaft is protected from getting fouled. Does the impeller get fouled? Sure, same as the competition. That gets cleared with a boost of power to send any weeds on their way. A grate over the intakes prevents larger objects from entering the flow to the thrust ducts. If those get clogged, typically all it takes is shutting down and letting gravity do its thing.
The helm is fabricated in gray tones that remove any concern for glare or adverse reflections in the windshield. A vinyl dash is stitched into place with contrast color-stitching that is color matched to the hull scheme. In this instance, green UV-resistant thread is contrasting the gray dash.
This is a twin-engine boat with dual start/stop buttons just above the ignition key to the left of the helm. Both engines are controlled from a single control at the helm. This means that there’s no putting one engine forward and the other in reverse to pivot the boat. The lateral thrust steering takes care of that nicely.
Our test model had three centrally mounted instruments with the tachometers for each motor outboard of a multi-function screen that shows the iST settings and four operating modes as follows:
• Cruise Mode – Allows for setting the desired cruise speed and maximum speed.
• Ski Mode – Allows for a controlled launch with up to five pre-set acceleration curves and user defined target speed. Once underway, it accurately maintains tow speed with a GPS based controller.
• Eco Mode – Optimizes engine efficiency by limiting engine torque.
• Docking Mode – Re-scales the throttle for increased resolution and maneuverability at the dock.
• Navigation Display – A moving map display comes pre-loaded with a Navionics SD card for the country of choice.
• Apps Display – this provides setup displays, engine gauges, control of the premium stereo system and allows for a video display of Go-Pro cameras via Bluetooth.
• Depth Readout – A display of the bottom depth as well as a contour scan are both available.
Seating is something of which the 243 Vortex VRX has no shortage. She can accommodate 12 people, thanks to her U-shaped seating that wraps around the cockpit, which is brought out right to the hull sides for more room.
The observer seat is reversible by moving the seatback fore and aft. This allows it to serve as either a forward facing or aft facing seat. Underneath the bench seats are storage to one side and a carry-on cooler to the other.
Virtually any family bowrider longer than 22’ has a provision for a private head, and the 243 Vortex VRX is no exception. The port console opens to reveal a private compartment with a standard hanging rod. Upgrades include a Porta-Potti or pump-out head, a screened port that opens and a sink.
If the port console compartment isn’t equipped with the head, the area provides cavernous storage. There’s also space in gunwale trays and beneath the cockpit seats. When the boat is equipped with the ballast system, the two aft lockers are occupied by the two 550-lb. (249 kg) bladders. There is space under the port lounge and in the large in-deck ski locker, plus dedicated storage for a portable cooler in the helm console.
The 243 Vortex VRX’s bow has the usual seating arrangement of twin V-seats with storage underneath. Looking closer shows how Chaparral goes a little further in its execution of the seating arrangement. The seats are hinged from the rear, so there’s more access to the storage underneath. The vinyl is 38-millimeters thick with a 10-millimeter topcoat for added protection. All vinyl is stitched on with contrast colored thread color matched to the hull color scheme. Chaparral tells us that the multi-density foam is 40% thicker than the competition, and there’s a mildew inhibitor inside. Speakers are recessed between cushions, so they don’t hit against the back when sitting. Both the speaker grilles and the drink holders are stainless steel. Flip-up armrests are standard.
Even the rails get a special treatment from Chaparral. They don’t have the typical round cross section. These are actually elongated, so small fingers can wrap around them easier. It’s hardly noticeable, but does make a difference, and it’s done in-house at Chaparral.
The transom didn’t get left out of the seating consideration. A pair of doublewide aft-facing seats make a great place to relax anytime the 243 Vortex VRX isn’t underway. It also forms a natural staging area for getting boards on before entering the water. The cushions lift to reveal space underneath that Chaparral says is additional storage, and the circuit breakers and battery switch are under the starboard cushion.
One of the things that Chaparral has managed to accomplish is finding a way to combine the anchor locker with an anchor and a reboarding ladder. In most cases, this is an either/or proposition, but here, they live together. The hatch is held open with friction hinges, the anchor is held in position with keepers to both sides, the navigation light is flush mounted and reverses when in use and the bow is notched to accommodate the ladder and anchor rode. With the hatch closed, the non-skid treatment allows for a comfortable re-entry from the ladder and a launching off point for entering the water.
The sport arch is included in the VRX package. The sport arch is powder-coated, but the coating is textured, so it’s got more of an ability to maintain a grip with wet hands. The sides of the arch -- right at head-level from the seated positions -- is padded, something we’ve not seen before.
The Bimini has the usual hardware running around the perimeter, but the tension supports, which are usually right over the heads of the operator and observer, are instead mounted to the center. In the middle of the Bimini is a padded area that eliminates flapping and reduces chafe. Lastly, the towpoint at the top has a mount to accommodate a Go-Pro camera.
• 2016 Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX with twin 200-hp Rotax 4-TEC 200 ECT and tandem-axle trailer: $60,595
• 2016 Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX with twin 250-hp Rotax 4-TEC 250 ECT and tandem-axle trailer: $63,995
Options and Prices
• Porta-Pottie with opening screened side port in console ($411)
• Aerial Surf Platform (ASP) with Ballast system ($2,995)
• Premium Bucket Seat (requires interior head upgrade with sink) ($281)
• Head upgrade with sink ($425)
• Wet Sounds stereo system upgrade with amp and subwoofer ($1,995)
• Leather wrapped steering wheel with spinner center ($399)
• Cockpit and bow covers ($870)
• Aluminum wheel upgrade ($565)
• Snap-in Beachweave carpet upgrade ($495)
• Center aft cockpit filler cushion ($156)
• Rotax iST E-Reverse ($625)
It’s hard not to have fun in a boat like this. The Chaparral 243 Vortex VRX was one of those boats that we just wanted to keep messing around in and not have to bring her back. At the dock, we turned heads not only because of the striking color scheme but because we were making her work so well with regards to the maneuverability. Of course, having the Chaparral name on the side only added to the bragging rights. This is a company well-founded on building quality boats, and now that it has firmly established itself in the jet arena, that reputation will only grow.