The Triton 21 TrX Elite is a performance bass boat, from top to bottom. She was powered by a new Mercury 250 Pro XS 4.6-liter V-8 outboard. A discerning angler with a long list of well-considered fishing feature requirements should be pleased with what Triton delivers.
- Built-in LED bow navigation lights
- Built-In ice chest
- "Stay-Full" livewell overflow system
- Two hi-capacity rear insulated livewell with insulated lids
- One-bike seat and Power Pro-Pole
- Centric II pedestal seat with mesh suspension
- Built-in fish measuring board with tool holder
- Oversized rod lockers
- Lowrance HDS 7 Carbon
|Length Overall||21' / 6.40 m|
Acceleration Times & Conditions
|Time to Plane||N/A|
|0 to 30||7.4 sec.|
|Load||1 person, full fuel, no water|
|Climate||74 deg., 64 humid; wind: 15-20 mph; seas: chop|
1 x 250-hp Mercury 250 Pro XS
1 x 250-hp Mercury Pro XS
Anyone who likes to fish knows the Triton brand and the reasons for that go beyond the metallic paint job. These boats come in at a high level of fit-and-finish, and it’s evident when we got close that Triton pays attention to the details. We didn’t actually cast a line, but the hull finish did gleam in the sun.
The boat has a full fishing package with twin consoles for the passenger as well as driver comfort. She was rigged with Power Pole shallow-water anchors aft, ample in-deck storage, and a stereo system to crank the tunes. But we were more tuned into the Mercury 250 Pro XS outboard, which emitted a spirited burble (more on that later) that really amped up the excitement. The carpeted decks felt good underfoot (as did the Hot-Foot pedal-style throttle control), and the helm layout gave us the confidence to put the hammer down and take her on a screaming run across the lake.
- • Mercury 250 Pro XS 4.6L V-8 outboard with Torque Master gearcase
- • Two livewells equipped with a Stay Full Livewell Overflow system featuring multiple pumps
- • Adjustable upholstered and suspended driver and passenger seats
- • Pro-style trolling motor rigging with six-gauge wire and recessed foot control
- • Rod racks for a dozen 8’ (2.43 m) outfits
- • Choice of 10 color schemes
Power – Mercury Pro XS 250
We tested the Triton 21 TrX Elite with the Mercury 250 Pro XS outboard. This is the latest generation of Mercury outboard, a naturally aspirated 4.6-liter V-8 that used its large displacement designed specifically for bass boats.
Typically, bass boat owners want fast hole shot times and high top speeds. That’s quite an order because props that will maximize speed will usually hurt hole-shot times and vice versa. Mercury’s solution was to create the largest displacement outboard in class, tune it from 200-hp to 300-hp, then optimize its spark timing with a transient spark sequence to generate short bursts at close intervals. Mercury says that this can increase torque from 5 to 10% and gives the engine significant punch at 4500 rpm.
At the top end, the Pro XS is rated to turn an extra 200 rpm up to 6200 rpm. Our test engine had a 20” shaft and the hub is shorter, and has lower water pick-ups and fewer of them to reduce drag. This gearcase and hub are designed to run with the hull barely skimming the water for max speed.
Innovative Engine Design
The 4.6-Liter V-8 250 Pro XS weighs only 505 lbs. (229 kg). This is a substantial improvement in its power-to-weight ratio. The 4.6-liter double-overhead-cam design, with four valves per cylinder, combines with an enlarged intake to deliver plenty of air and fuel when it’s needed.
Electronic Controls Dial It In
These outboards have their air-fuel-spark combination carefully controlled by a computer brain that is quicker and more consistent at tuning the mix than any throttle jockey. For example, when accelerating, Mercury employs what is known as transient spark which has calibrated spark timing to improve torque. Mercury says this increases torque from 5 to 7%.
The engine controls also have the ability to break out of set parameters, and Mercury has tuned the engine so that there’s always punchy acceleration available up to cruising rpms as high as 4500.
Advanced Range Optimization
The flipside of that coin is efficiency. When the helmsman leaves the throttle alone for a long run the engine controls modify fuel, air, and spark timing to deliver more efficient performance. This is called Advanced Range Optimization, and it means the engine is running leaner while giving the crew no noticeable deficiency of power. The system works in conjunction with the optional Active Trim feature, Mercury’s proprietary automatic engine trim system, which tunes the trim for optimal efficiency.
While expert drivers may sneer at the idea of Active Trim, it has been shown to work in our testing, and can even offer something to those who may think their feel for boat trim is more effective than that of a computer. It lets the operator tweak the rig, in order to find just the right balance and control when running at high speed when very little of the boat is actually in the water.
The Fuel Injection System
The new engine uses a DOHC architecture with 32 valves that are operated by self-tensioning chains. Two intake valves charge each cylinder, with the injector for each cylinder positioned between them in the intake manifold.
We asked Mercury’s techs why the injection design was chosen, rather than a direct in the cylinder injector. They answered, “A port fuel injection (PFI) system has many advantages, chief among those being simplicity, reliability, and cost,” said Brian Meyer, category manager for 75+ hp outboards for Mercury Marine. “Direct injection (DI) systems certainly can improve fuel economy and performance of an engine. However, Mercury has chosen to address the performance needs of our customers by optimizing the displacement and efficiency of our PFI engine, while also employing our Advanced Range Optimization (ARO) technology. We believe that the ARO system yields comparable improvements in fuel economy to a DI fuel system at a significantly lower cost.”
The Pro XS has fitted with what Mercury calls the Conventional MidSection (CMS). Mercury engineers determined the vectors of vibrational force on the new V8 are athwartships. They then designed the mounts to offset that vibration at suitable angles. They were engineered to be firmer, rather than just softer to damp any vibration, we are told.
Unusual Exhaust System
The exhaust manifold is in the V of the engine, not on the outside. Exhaust is routed down the centerline, in the middle of the V, then splits in two where it enters separate mufflers in the leg and finally down to the exhaust in the hub. This allowed Mercury to keep the cowl width slimmer so that the outboard could be installed on 26’’ (.66 m) centers – 2.5’’ (.06 m) less than its primary competitor.
When at idle, a relief valve opens on the rear of the outboard body.
Torque and Power
The outboard we tested had the 20” (.51 m) shaft length and the optional Torque Master gearcase, which has a 1.75:1 ratio and is designed to provide greater acceleration and speed from the hole shot to cruising at the upper end of the rpm range. The Torque Master is identifiable by the forward hydrodynamic plate, located just above the side water pickups.
Bring on the Rumble
The Mercury 250 Pro XS has a very specific clientele with specific expectations, and so the engine is modified from other Mercury 4.6L V-8 outboards to have its own distinctive throaty rumble. This audio extra comes standard and should not be confused with the optional “Sport Exhaust” which is available on some of the other models.
Top Cowl Service Door
Perhaps one of the more noteworthy features of this new outboard line is the watertight hatch in the top of the cowl to provide access to the dipstick as well as the oil fill. There’s a decal outlining service requirements along with a QR code to allow a smartphone to link to additional service information.
Under the top cowl service door, there’s a handle that lifts with a red button. Lifting that handle releases the latches all around the cowl, so it can be lifted off easily.
Ease of Maintenance
Once the cowl is removed, many service points are apparent. The oil filter is easy to spot near the fuse box on the port side. The spark plugs are arrayed in neat columns aft and the fuel filter is handy there as well, on the starboard side.
“Idle Charge” Battery Management
The alternator on the Pro XS 250 4.6L V-8 engine has a maximum output of 85 amps at WOT, and Mercury tells us that it produces the highest net amps in its class. At idle the alternator provides 20 amps for the boat.
Simply put, the Idle Charge management system detects when the batteries drop below acceptable levels due to increased power draw. Today’s boats have more electrical and electronic devices on board than ever before, and they all require a flow of juice to keep operating properly.
If 20 amps aren’t enough to bring the batteries up to snuff, the system automatically eases the idle up to 725 rpm to deliver 30 net amps. While the engine is revving slightly higher, it’s still at a speed where it’s able to shift.
The Triton 21 TrX Elite has a LOA of 21’ (6.40 m) and a beam of 95” (2.41 m). With a dry weight of 1,840 lbs. (835 kg), full fuel, no water, and one person on board, we had a test weight of 2,812 lbs. (1,276 kg).
WOT Speed. With a Mercury 250 Pro XS turning a 24” Fury prop, the Triton 21 TrX on our test had a top speed of 73.7 mph (118.6 kph), burning 24.5 gallons per hour (gph) or 92.73 liters per hour (lph).
Best cruise for the Triton 21 TrX is 29.4 mph (47.3 kph) at 3500 rpm with a fuel burn of 7.5 gph. At that speed, the Triton 21 TrX gets 3.9 miles per gallon (mpg) or 1.66 kilometers per liter (kpl), giving the boat a cruising range of 166 statute miles (267.15 kilometers) with a ten-percent fuel reserve.
Hole Shot. Time from 0 to 20 mph was 4.8 seconds. Time from 0 to 30 mph was 7.4 seconds. As noted above, a boat can be propped to max WOT speed or hole-shot times, but not both. Mercury’s solution was to use a 24” Fury prop, a reasonable compromise for this application, in our opinion. Certainly, we would not have wanted to be going much faster, as conditions were a bit choppy with winds 15 to 20 mph. All test runs were conducted across the wind.
Bass boats deliver extreme straight-line performance and they’re not built to dig into sharply banked turns. That said, if an angler wants to get to the fishing spot before anyone else in the tournament, this is the way to do it. Just point the bow and go. Minding the inevitable chine walk that manifests at speed takes a bit of practice, and it’s also a very good idea to throttle back if conditions get beyond the driver’s skills to handle it.
But on a flat-calm lake with miles of open water laid out before the boat, who can resist pressing that hot-foot throttle to deck for a while? Still, it’s important to remember that at high speeds it does not take much for things to go wrong with any boat.
The Triton 21 TrX Elite is all-composite construction that Triton says provides upright and level flotation if the boat is swamped. There is no wood in any Triton boats, instead, the company uses Tri-Core composite construction. Tri-Core, a high-tech, super-strong polyurethane core material used in high performance aircraft, can never rot, bonds chemically with fiberglass, and is unaffected by climate changes. In addition, structural tests show Tri-Core to be lighter than wood, yet stronger than most wood/fiberglass laminates, according to the builder.
Unibody. Triton hulls are laid up by hand and have what the company calls “unibody” construction. The stringers are molded outside the boat then chemically bonded to the hull. After the boat has been foamed, including in the stringer cavities, the deck is chemically bonded to the hull, thus created the “unibody.”
The hull is rigged with automatic bilge pumps and built-in LED navigation lights in the bow. The stern light is removable to get it out of the way for the task at hand. Wiring is all protected by circuit breakers, and cockpit courtesy lighting makes it easy to get around safe in dawn’s early light. The consoles have tinted Plexiglas windshields and there’s an available option to make the passenger console removable.
Steps to bow and stern casting decks are covered in non-skid. Grab handles are placed intelligently to ensure passenger comfort at high speeds (and this boat will be hitting some high speeds) as well as for boarding. The outboard is mounted on a custom, adjustable jackplate.
The Triton 21 TrX Elite is a bass boat and as such this will be the best seat in the house when she’s not racing for the fishing grounds. There are two pedestal positions available for the forward fishing seat, and a choice of no fewer than five Minn Kota and two Motorguide trolling motors, and there’s a sunken foot-pedal remote. There’s also a wide range of optional fishfinders from Lowrance, Garmin, and Humminbird that can be mounted to the bow (as well as on the console).
There are three in-deck storage boxes on the deck, and the center and port lockers include rod racks ready to take on more than a dozen 8’ outfits each. We would set up one to carry rods and use the others to stow tackle boxes and gear. The step down into the cockpit flips up to reveal a built-in cooler to keep drinks cold and lunch at the ready.
A pair of comfortable helm and passenger seats wait abaft a pair of consoles, suspended and adjustable and available with brightly contrasting upholstery finished in a diamond pattern. A removable storage box can serve as a passenger footrest and there’s more storage in the console between the seats. This console does double duty as a step to the aft casting deck and also has cup holders in its leading edge.
Storage comes easily for all of the odds and ends that anglers use, particularly in a space to outboard of the passenger footwell, where cubbies and fiddled spaces make it easy to keep track of gear, pliers, and other rigging tools, sunscreen, cell phones, and the like.
The helm of our Triton 21 TrX test boat had a nicely set up instrument cluster with analog gauges showing all of the details we want at a glance: speedometer, tachometer, voltmeter, and fuel, trim and water pressure gauges flank a large touchscreen Lowrance HDS multifunction display. Rocker switches are positioned below on oval-shaped panels set into the helm dash.
We would not mind seeing the single-lever Mercury control placed a little further forward, but Triton’s Hot Foot Throttle seems popular to many, and can be custom-fitted to suit the driving position of the buyer.
Aft Casting Deck
Behind the passenger seat is dedicated storage for a long-handled fishing net. The stern casting deck has dedicated in-deck storage for Plano tackle boxes in outboard lockers, which flank a pair of livewells inboard to port and starboard of centerline. There’s a seat pedestal here as well and the carpet is all edge-finished to the same high grade as the rest of the deck, with careful attention paid to hatch openings and covering of the hatches themselves.
The Triton 21 TrX is built by White River Marine Group (formerly called Tracker Marine), which is the boat building division of Bass Pro Shops. That says a lot about the brand, the boat, and its features. Over the years, Bass Pro Shops, the mothership, has accumulated the many of the best bass brands, including Ranger, Nitro and, of course, Tracker, where it all started.
In terms of units, White River Marine is the largest builder of recreational boats in the world. Financially, it is probably one the soundest builders in the world, in an industry that is known for companies going out of business when the economy turns south. Warranties on boats built by companies that are out of business are pretty much worthless. It is something to consider.
Because the folks at White River Marine have been in the boat business so long, they understand good boat building. They know what works and what doesn’t, what is safe and what is not. All of their boats, no matter what the brand, are well built and meet all of the appropriate standards. What differentiates them are their features, methods of construction, size and weight, hull shape, material, styling, equipment installed as standard, details, and their price point.