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Sylvan S5 - 2014

Published By: Jonathan Lee

Test by Craig Ritchie

The evolution of pontoon boats over the past 20 years has been a lot of fun to watch, particularly where sport models are concerned. Thanks to a steady stream of product refinements, today’s sport pontoons deliver a level of performance that was unimaginable only a few years ago.

One manufacturer that has been leading this charge is Sylvan Marine. The company’s Revolutionary Planing Technology, or RPT for short, created a sensation when it was first introduced in 2010. In a nutshell, RPT uses an ingenious tube design that in a cross-section appears round above the waterline, but incorporates a deep V keel and chine-like lifting strakes below. The result is a pontoon that lifts and planes while underway, just like a V-hulled boat. The RPT tube displaces less water, which creates less resistance and drag, allowing greater speed with less horsepower. It’s a simple idea that works very well. RPT has positioned Sylvan as a leader in pontoon performance.

For 2014 Sylvan raises the bar yet again with its all-new S-Series, consisting of the 25-foot S5 and its slightly smaller sibling, the 23-foot S3. The “S” in S5 stands for “Sport,” but might just as well represent “Sexy” given the way this all-new-for-2014 pontoon looks. Natural-finished D-rails sweep over the glossy exterior fencing in a graceful, arcing bow, imparting a look of motion while the S5 is still tied to the dock. Its elegantly sculpted fibreglass stern, along with upscale touches like stainless pop-up cleats, further contribute to giving the S5 a glamorous, flowing form. It almost looks panther-like, with those graceful curves subtly hinting at the speed and agility that lies beneath.

The new S-series fills a void between Sylvan’s top-of-the-line Signature series and its popular Mirage models, while benefiting from performance and interior refinements that can only be gained by spending a lot of time on the water.

That’s apparent when you step aboard the S5 and take a look around. The boat’s generous rear swim platform, stainless four-step telescoping ladder and substantial stainless ski tow bar leave no doubt that this pontoon was built with water sports in mind. The rear deck features Sylvan’s new Sea Weave flooring, which offers a secure, non-skid and utterly comfortable surface that really fits with the boat’s fresh and contemporary look. 

Step through the rear gate and the S5 invites you aboard with a pair of long, luxurious rear loungers facing aft, offering the perfect perch for spotting skiers. But look closely and the loungers also provide forward-facing seating with neatly integrated, low-profile backrests along the transom, capped with integrated, lighted beverage holders. I really like this arrangement as it allows for much greater versatility that a pair of standard, rear-facing loungers alone. Being able to comfortably seat four people here while underway, in a two-facing-two arrangement, creates an attractive, semi-private area to the rear of the boat. Sylvan has used this type of seating before and I was pleased to see they retained it in the S5.

The starboard-side lounger flips up to reveal a generous-sized change room concealed beneath. Having this feature located near the stern of the boat makes a lot of sense for skiers or wakesurfers who want to change quickly back into dry clothing.

Amidships, the driver and navigator are treated to pedestal-mounted captain’s chairs with fold-down armrests. An entry gate sits just in front of the passenger seat to port, while the molded fibreglass helm console provides a couple of lighted beverage holders just ahead of its neatly integrated windshield.

The helm itself has all the critical gauges mounted up top, flanking a square dash trim panel that can be easily removed for installation of a GPS plotter. Instrumentation includes a 60 mph speedometer with digital compass, digital depth gauge, volt meter, speedometer, fuel gauge and trim. Twin storage pads for smaller items like sunglasses sit astride the sports tilt steering wheel, while below, a pair of panels with LED rocker switches control cupholder lights, deck lights, underwater lights, horn, floor lights, docking lights, courtesy lights, navigation lights and master power. All of the LED lighting amenities – including the cupholders, speakers, courtesy lights under the furniture, the underwater lights, under deck lights, docking lights and more – are all standard equipment in the S series. Also standard is the plush grey deck carpeting in the main cockpit.

The bow also features a pair of loungers with a third entry gate between them, and a removable, pedestal-mounted table with two integral beverage holders to the centre. The forward-facing seat backs for each lounger offer a convenient (and comfortable) flip-down arm rest.

The S5 comes in a choice of three colour palates – platinum black, arctic white or sand champagne, with colourful blue, yellow or lime accents on the furniture piping and stitching. This new upholstery really contributes to the S5’s youthful, stunning look. But apart from looking great, it’s really quite comfortable besides.  The raised headrests are just the right depth, while the arms are placed at just the right height. Beverage holders are all just within reach, but without getting in the way. No detail has been overlooked.

Indeed, attention to detail can be seen throughout the S5. All of the fencing is foam-backed to prevent rattling, and reinforced for added strength. The entry gates all use pinch-proof protectors and positive locking latches. Spacers inserted between the fence bottom and the carpeted deck allow water to drain easily, so the carpet dries more quickly.

Our review boat, decked out in its striking platinum black finish with grey interior, also came with an optional power Bimini top. This is a feature that every buyer will want, along with the optional wakeboard tower.

Befitting a sporty, fast pontoon, our review S5 came with Sylvan’s RPT tubes and an optional third log. Strapped to the transom was a Mercury Verado 250, which with a bit of positive trim easily pushes the S5 to speeds of over 50 mph. Yes, I said trim. While it’s often been suggested that the trim toggle serves little purpose on a pontoon boat, remember those RPT tubes plane and run on top of the water, rather than plowing through it. It doesn’t take much adjustment to feel the boat lift then settle in to a smooth ride that feels very much like a traditional V-hull.

With the tri-toon option, the S5 will accept outboards up to 300 horsepower, just the ticket for those who demand the pinnacle of pontoon performance. Frankly, I wouldn’t put anything less than a 150 horsepower outboard on this boat. It’s truly built for exhilaration.

It’s also built to last. Sylvan backs the S5 with its Lifetime Plus 6 warranty, which provides a limited lifetime parts-and-labour warranty on the hull and major structures, plus six years of coverage on all components, carpet, upholstery and electronics. Best of all, it’s fully transferable to the second owner should you ever decide to trade your S5 in on a newer Sylvan.

There’s a whole lot to like about the new-for-2014 Sylvan S5. Between its sleek styling, luxurious appointments and exhilarating performance, this is one pontoon that’s guaranteed to please.

Sylvan S5

Length:  26‘ 10“
Beam: 8’ 6”
Dry weight: 2,575 lbs.
Fuel capacity: 114 L/30 gal. US
Passenger capacity: 18
Tube Diameter: 27”
Power: 300 hp
Power (as reviewed): Mercury Verado Pro 250 hp
Retail price (base):    $44,957 (w/Evinrude E-Tec 115)
Retail price (as reviewed):    $59,756

Quoted setup may not be exactly as depicted in photos. Prices are subject to currency fluctuations and do not include freight, PDI or additional optional equipment.