The sheer splendor of every new Chris-Craft is encapsulated by its steering wheel. Just look at the thing. Better yet, touch it. The upper part is a rich, dark mahogany, varnished to perfection. The lower section is covered in a creamy, embossed leather with contrasting crisscross stitching.
This isn’t just any steering wheel. It comes with a true surprise-and-delight feature: The mirror-polished central hub is weighted to keep the Chris-Craft logo level at all times, a parlor trick Rolls-Royce employs on the hubcaps of its $450,000 Phantom.
Right now, that lovely wheel is being put to good use as we dodge crab traps—at 50 mph, blasting across Sarasota Bay—in Chris-Craft’s exquisite new Launch 28 GT, a top-seller in the 146-year-old boat-builder’s ever-expanding lineup.
This one’s a little different, though. After decades of making the 28 with honking V-8 inboards hooked up to stern drives, the version we’re piloting has the latest Yamaha 425 V-8 outboard hanging off the stern. Yes, that’s 425, as in a towering 425 horses.
The advantage here is that outboard power typically means less maintenance, easier servicing, and better efficiency. Plus, there’s one humongous bonus: extra storage. With the Yamaha dangling off the back, the place where the inboard—either one or two—used to live is freed up. Now, at the press of a button, the rear hatch, which is typically topped with a comfy sunpad, powers up to reveal a vast, climb-in storage area.
Constant evolution of the Sarasota-made Launch 28 GT has led to some cool features. Take the new top. While you can still get a canvas Bimini, there’s also a power-folding aluminum Sport Arch that lowers to the windshield.
Step aboard and you’re greeted with an homage to old-school master craftsmanship. Everywhere you gaze, there’s a sea of quilted, leather-like vinyl—real leather just isn’t durable enough. The wood, however, is genuine, and it’s paired with so much polished stainless steel, you’ll swear you’re inside a Bentley convertible.
The Launch 28 GT is also pretty practical. It’s the perfect family boat, with an open, bow-rider design that can accommodate at least 10. Hidden behind a swing-out door is a roomy toilet compartment with decent headroom, a washbasin, and a pump-out loo.
Twist the key and the Yamaha fires straight up and idles with the hushed tick-tick-tick of a sewing machine. With the aid of the optional bow-thruster, we ease away from the Sarasota dock and head into the choppy open waters of the bay.
Hard down on the single-lever throttle, the engine roars like a V-8 big-block in a vintage muscle car, and the 28 GT leaps onto the plane in less than 5 seconds. We keep the lever hard forward and top out at an eye-watering 53 mph.
As we pull back and spin that sexy wheel, the boat leans gracefully into the turn with real confidence and agility. When we hit our own wake, the smooth-riding hull slices through, splaying the water away, keeping the interior bone dry.
Naturally, all this quality doesn’t come cheap. The base price of a 28 GT with a single 350-hp Mercury Verado is $200,470. Start adding the Heritage Edition trim with teak flooring ($22,100), the 425-hp Yamaha ($22,540), a painted GT hardtop ($29,950), and a bow-thruster ($9,800), and it’s easy to get to the $289,655 of our test boat. But the joy of knowing you’ll spin heads every time you pull up to that dockside eatery? Priceless.