As the saying goes… “Don’t you just love a bargain?” Well, White River Marine Group has one in its SUN TRACKER® PARTY BARGE® 22 XP3. We found her to be a comfortable and easy handling boat that anyone can manage. She has basic systems that are practically foolproof. And her new fences and rails add to her good looks. She’s offered with engines from 115-hp to 200-hp, but far and away the most popular is the mid-range 150 FourStroke that we tested her with. In our opinion, it was a perfect match.
|Length Overall||24' 2" / 7.37 m|
Acceleration Times & Conditions
|Time to Plane||N/A|
|0 to 30||9.3 sec.|
|Load||2 persons, 4/5 load, no water, 50 lbs. of gear|
|Climate||70 deg., 45 humid.; wind: 0-5 mph; seas: calm|
1 x 150-hp Mercury 4-stroke
1 x 115-hp Mercury ELPT FourStroke
1 x 115-hp Mercury ELPT FourStroke Command Thrust
1 x 150-hp Mercury ELPT FourStroke
1 x 115-hp Mercury ELPT Pro XS FourStroke
1 x 115-hp Mercury ELPT Pro XS FourStroke Command Thrust
1 x 200 L Mercury Verado
When you combine the spacious and roomy layout of a pontoon boat with affordability, it seems like a match made in boating heaven. Well, such is the case with the aptly named PARTY BARGE® 22 XP3 from White River Marine Group. At just over $29,500, it’s everything we would want in a cost-effective solution for getting more people on the water for less money. Up to 11 in this case.
Starting with the outside of the PARTY BARGE® 22 XP3, the fencing comes in two colors, Black or the Red Ruby of our test boat, all behind a protective exoskeleton 26” (66 cm) high. The rails are insulated against vibration for a quiet ride, and now include the underside rail-lock system that holds the snapless mooring cover in place. This is a huge benefit and makes covering the boat so much easier, and easier on the fingers. We no longer have to have the strength of a circus strongman to pull the cover taught and snap those little buttons into place.
The deck is attached to full length M-brackets and heavy-duty bow u-channel reinforcement is behind deck trim. Under deck shielding is provided and prevents that feeling of constantly pumping the brakes that we see when water hits the cross members on boats that don’t include this critical detail. Decking is 7-ply pressure treated ¾”: (1.91cm) plywood with a limited lifetime warranty.
Moving inside, three boarding gates provide ample access. The forward gate measures in at 25 ½” (64.77 cm), with the 31” (79 cm) port gate being wheelchair accessible. The boat is nearly surrounded by available seating consisting of dual couches forward and aft.
The forward couches are three-wide to port (5’1”/1.55 m) and two-wide to starboard (4’5”/1.35 m), 33” (84 cm) apart and, because of the console, the starboard seat also serves as a forward-facing chaise. An included table can be mounted to a pedestal base in the deck. A floating armrest/beverage holder is also provided.
Aft seating includes dual couches, 34” (86.4 cm) apart, with the 6’9” (2.06 m) port side couch seating three and the 4’1” (1.25 m) starboard couch seating two. As with the bow, the starboard serves as a chaise, this time facing aft making it a perfect spotter’s seat when someone is at the end of the towline. Another floating armrest/beverage holder is provided, as is the pedestal base for the table. A pop-up changing room is ahead the port couch.
Overhead is a color-keyed 9’ (2.74m) Bimini top that has a unique twist. SUN TRACKER’s QuickLift system makes short work of what was otherwise a rather tedious task. Simply release the two latches, one to each side, and internal gas struts do the heavy work, making the top easy to deploy with one hand. Once up, click the same latches into place and secure the forward straps. Done.
The top includes courtesy lights, protective boot and even storage pockets.
One thing that sets this boat apart from others on the market is the amount of available storage. Sure there’s storage under the seats as usual, but SUN TRACKER takes it a step further with what it calls Stow More seating. Each of the seatbacks lifts to add up to 50% more storage to the roto-molded seats. Hinges hold the seatbacks open so we can use both hands to load or retrieve items. It’s a clever solution, and while it’s the first we’ve seen of it, it definitely won’t be the last, nor only from this builder we suspect.
Basically the only places that aren’t available for storage are under the port aft seat cushion, which is used for the battery, and the in-deck storage that we typically see in a three-log boat.
The helm console is to starboard and is minimalist and efficient. Still, it includes a small cubby for placing items in, and it’s angled downward so those items don’t come spilling out when the throttle is advanced. Multi-function gauges reduce the clutter and provide selectable information. Hydraulic steering is connected to a soft touch wheel mounted to a tilt base. Rocker switches are lighted when activated. The stereo is to port.
A small space for securing the phone is provided to the starboard side and the connectivity is next to the stereo to port in the form of MP3 and USB plugs. Additional connectivity to the stereo is via Bluetooth, which pretty much every phone is capable of and allows controllability from anywhere on the boat.
The helm seat has a high back, and it swivels and slides.
The SUN TRACKER® PARTY BARGE® 22 XP3 has a LOA of 24’2” (7.37 m) and a beam of 8’6" (2.59 m). With an empty weight of 4,880 lbs. (2,214 kg), 80% fuel and two people onboard, we had an estimated test weight of 5,550 lbs. (2,517 kg).
With a 150-hp Mercury FourStroke turning a 15.6 x 13 pitch Enertia propeller, we reached our top speed of 35.8 mph at 5800 rpm. Best cruise was measured to be at 3000 rpm and 15.6 mph. At that speed, the 3.7 gph fuel burn translated into a range of 200 miles while still holding back a 10% reserve of the boats 52-gallon (197 L) total fuel capacity.
Upon accelerating we reached 20 mph in 5.2 seconds and cruised through 30 mph in 9.3 seconds.
The 26" (66.04 cm) diameter XP3 high-performance multi-chambered pontoon logs include welded-on lifting strakes, wave deflectors, and internal bracing for additional strength. And notice the added trim work where it meets the deck. This all provides excellent handling characteristics that start right from cruise where we found that just a bit of up-trim got her into a roughly 5-degree bow high attitude where she performs best.
With calm conditions we were left with crossing the wake of our camera boat to show an easy transition and no hull slap or adverse feel. She turns well and has a nice response to the helm remaining fairly level in the turns. We did ventilate the prop a bit but bringing the trim back down solved that. Basically, with this 150 four-stroke, no matter how heavy handed we got it stayed comfortable throughout.
Of course pontoons are mostly about relaxing, and nothing beats a comfortable slow cruise where, in our opinion, they seem to look best.
Options and Pricing
SUN TRACKER® offers the PARTY BARGE® 22 XP3 with power ranging from 115-hp on up to 200-hp. With the Mercury 115 FourStroke she’s priced at the base $29,595. The Pro XS model will come in at $29,805 and with Command Thrust $30,335. Opt up to the 150 FourStroke for $32,395. And the top of the food chain 200-hp Mercury Verado will set you back $37,695.
Some other options to consider might be the rail mounted propane grill ($315). A woven floor upgrade ($250) will add an additional level of non-skid and style. The ski tow pylon ($175) is a must. If it stays outside then we’d consider the snapless mooring cover. And if transporting over the road, then the tandem-axle trailer ($3,295) will be a necessity. That’s the extent of the options list, and clearly there’s not much because everything else is included as standard.
But even fully loaded, PARTY BARGE® 22 XP3 is still a cost-effective solution for getting on the water with plenty of room for friends and family combined. It’s among the easiest boats to handle and pain free as well.