Boat Tests

January 23, 2011

The 2011 Checkmate ZT275: Rebirth of the Baja 275!

Photo: Checkmate Boats

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When laying eyes on the new Checkmate ZT275, we are overtaken by the feeling of “déjà-vu”. An element that is not at all surprising since this model is very similar to the Baja Performance 275 model, of recent fame in the years gone by. In fact, there is more than just a resemblance. The recent financial crisis has enormously perturbed the sport boating industry and through the numerous bankruptcies and rationalizations, the Brunswick Group, owners of multiple reputed makes, has gotten rid of Baja and sold part of its molds to the Checkmate constructors, while Fountain inherited the rest of the assets. In this way, the Baja 275 is reborn, under the traits of the Checkmate ZT275.

The importance of a name
The Checkmate constructor, I know, one should say naval shipyard, instead of constructor, but let us forget about terminology for a while and let us democratize water sports a little and talk about where the Baja left off. The ZT275 is a boat that is capable of good performances, without sacrificing convivial and practical aspects. The principal challenge of this constructor? Establishing this make in Quebec and Canada. In the performance market, buyers often look towards a renowned make and this is precisely why Checkmate is experiencing difficulties. In fact, in the USA, this constructor has been unable to establish itself in the proper market niche.

However, the ZT275 offers an exterior style that is definitely sportive. Its lines are typical of a high performance boat, with a profiled bow and a more accentuated hull angle. Graced with vibrant colors, this watercraft will definitely turn heads and will also show the owner’s taste for performance watercrafts. With its 27 feet 3 inches in length and 8 feet 4 inches in width, this Checkmate offers a large sun-pad at the front while a good dimension plate-form area is available at the back. This section, which by the way cuts off engine noises, allows for easy access on board and adds to good swimming activities.

The large rear seat can accommodate a lot of cargo and allows space for four passengers. The distance between this row of seats and the front row is well appreciated, a less common element found on performance watercrafts. Double cup-holders are built in on both sides. Esthetically, all is well done. However, lateral storage space is minimal, element that will induce you to use mostly the storage area located under the seat, where security equipment is stored. Otherwise, one would have to resort to storage areas inside the cabin.

Up front, sport wrap-around style seats are to be noticed, which can be moved manually. These seats hold you in a fixed position during rough going or in sport mode, also adding a touch of style.

Spacious cabin, no servicing required
Thanks to a V shaped couchette, this cabin allows for sleeping space for two adults. This accommodation is of a proper length, but a certain constriction is present because of its height. This is the compromise for longer and wider space available. In front, two rows of seats facing each other, with 4 cup-holders on the sides, if you want a drink. Two white acrylic hatches assure proper lighting and adequate ventilation in the cabin, but insect screens will be necessary to fight off predators during a night on board. Finally, apart from a portable toilet, no other services are provided. You will need a cooler to keep your refreshments cold.

At the steering wheel, one appreciates the excellent vision, whether standing or sitting. The windshield allows you to avoid unfavorable elements on colder days. The Checkmate ZT275 proposes a large choice of engines, along the Mercruiser line makes. As standard equipment, we find a 6,2 litre V8 377 Mag with 320 horsepower. This motor is not uninteresting, but in order to meet the high aspirations of this watercraft, one should not hesitate to turn to the V8 Mercruiser 8.2 Mag with 380 horsepower or better still to the V8 Mercruiser 8.2 Mag with 380 horsepower or better still to the 8,2 litre H.O., with 430 horsepower. Performance oriented buyers can opt for the 525 EFI with 525 horsepower, a more expensive proposition.

Once on board with the motor running, the sound of the motor is appreciated and not at all bothersome. A conventional cable steering mechanism is quickly noticed as this device is much heavier at low speeds, making the vehicle more difficult to handle, as it goes from right to left. Sport watercrafts often inherit a hydraulic steering, allowing for better high speed control. In this measure, the Checkmate model is at the limit of respectability. However, its heavy composure seems to attenuate once up to cruising speed.
Amply powerful with its 430 horsepower, the ZT 275’s ideal cruising speed is 40 mph (65 km/h) with an engine revolution of 3 000 revolutions / minute. We reached a top speed of 66 mph (106 km/h) at a maximal revolution point of 4 800 revolutions / minute, in conditions that can be qualified as vague. Bring the revolutions to 2 500 revolutions / minute and you get a very comfortable ride. In fact, the large power distribution band allows to appreciate the boat’s different qualities. It was our first time testing this new 8,2 Mercruiser engine, in replacement of the 8,1 litre 496 Mag, whose discontinuation was announced by GM. This new 8,2 stands out because of its reduced weight as well as for its catalyst that allows for reduced emissions.

“Cavitation” is now welcome
The Checkmate watercraft offers a stable composure as its hull digs in to the waves thanks to its pronounced V shape. Weight is well distributed which avoids the continuous bouncing effects at the front. The only surprise is the quickness with which “cavitation” comes about. If one accelerates too quickly on a take-off or in a high speed turn, the revolution control will kick in, a sign that the propeller is running wild. This is a normal characteristic of extreme performance watercrafts such as the Checkmate. This “quirk” is easily explained with t a few elements. First off, its Bravo X type base is in a higher position at the back, which allows for better performance but limits water propelling capabilities. The engine contributes an important amount of power in relation to the boat’s size while torque going directly to the propeller is quite high, favoring high performance once again, except for take-offs. In all, one has to adapt to this XT275 watercraft’s floatability, but sportiveness and efficiency always require a compromise.

In conclusion, the Checkmate ZT275 is not an extreme performance watercraft, but it offers a style, a set-up and a sport handling ability while still maintaining the typical traits of a family watercraft. In a niche where choices become more limited, the XT275 is offered at an affordable price and proves to be well adapted to our waterways.

Review boat provided by: Groupe Performance Marine

Evaluation

Test model : N/A
Test engine : MerCruiser 8.2 MAG H.O. - Bravo Three X
Base price : $103,653
Price as tested : $117,547
Manufacturer's warranty : 1 year
Planing time : 5.2 seconds
Planing speed : 22 mph (35 km/h)
Competitive models : Baja Outlaw 26 Outlaw, Baja Performance 278 Performance, Campion Chase 800, Donzi ZR 27 ZR, Formula Fastech 292, Sunsation S 28, Sunsation SS 28, Sunsation SSR 28
Strong points : N/A
Weak points : N/A

Editor's rating

Fuel consumption :          
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Performance data

RPM MPH GPH MPG KM/H LPH KPL Range
800 4.70 - - 7.56 - - N/A
1000 6.00 - - 9.66 - - N/A
1500 8.60 - - 13.84 - - N/A
2000 9.00 - - 14.48 - - N/A
2500 22.00 - - 35.41 - - N/A
3000 40.00 - - 64.37 - - N/A
3500 50.00 - - 80.47 - - N/A
4000 57.20 - - 92.05 - - N/A
4500 64.00 - - 103.00 - - N/A
4800 66.00 - - 106.22 - - N/A