Issue: June 2004
Manufacturer: Sugar Sand
Sugar Sand boats are built in the US and imported here by Australian Leisure Marine (ALM), the forward thinking South Aussie-based company who introduced us to pontoon boats with the Sweetwater range. Pontoon boats have been quite a success, so much so, that Australian builders are today producing them here in numbers. But now, after testing ALM's latest import, the Sugar Sand Tango 4+2, the Modern Boating team can tell you this interesting range of jet driven sport boats are here to stay. Modern Boating's test team love what we do.
That time worn quote from the Wind in the Willows about nothing being half so much fun as simply fooling around in boats, that's us the toads talking about. Lousy weather's about the only thing we (sometimes) find reduces our fun factor during boat tests, but only by a little. Perhaps it's just as well the weather was awful during the Sugar Sand Tango 4+2 test, because we had twice as much fun as we usually do and we usually have a lot. We weren't the only ones either, the Gold Coast's Northside Marine main man Chris Yates was along to run the boat for our cameras. At the start of the day he was unfamiliar with the Tango 4+2.
But as time wore on and Chris and the boat got to know each other, the moves he pulled got wilder and wilder. By the time the photo shoot was complete he was soaked to the skin, grinning like a kid on Christmas morning and (to our surprise) he still hadn't found the little Sugar Sand's limits. Then it was time for the staid and sensible MB team to try a few doughnuts The point being not only that this super little fun boat just asks to be thrown around, but that when you do so it's so forgiving.
Given commonsense about where you do so of course, the Sugar Sand Tango 4+2 just begs you to let your hair down, big time. We had so much fun some of the team even forgot they don't have enough hair to let down anymore. The boat's fun factor comes in part, because Sugar Sand boats are jet driven. But it's the Tango 4+2?s unique manoeuvrability, which makes moves totally out of the question in conventionally driven craft mere fun, is far from all a jet drive offers. Top of the list is certainly safety. It's dificult to imagine owning a boat like this without intent to tow wake toys of some kind or other.
The peace of mind that comes from being able to board skiers and the likes over the standard fitment boarding ladder, mounted centrally on the Sugar Sand Tango's transom, without constant concern about a razor sharp propeller can't be overvalued. All Sugar Sand boats use Mercury Jet Drives. These are basically a Mercury outboard motor powerhead mounted inboard atop a Mercury Jet Drive unit. There's no gearbox, to select forward and reverse, a simple single Morse control lever lowers a metal bucket across the drives outlet nozzle to redirect thrust backward. Without a gearbox the Tango 4+2 can be dropped into reverse at any time. And once you become accustomed to doing this you discover a boat with very effective brakes, which can come in quite handy on occasion.
At low speeds, because steering moves the jet outlets nozzle from side to side, directing thrust accordingly, once you get used to that an entirely new dimension in sideways manoeuvrability becomes possible. The water intake for the Jet Drive is mounted flush into the hull's bottom and, shall we just say, that navigating southern Moreton Bay at the northern end of the Gold Coast also takes on a new dimension. Locals reckon if you've never been onto a sandbank in southern Moreton Bay you've never been there. In this part of the world the extra half a metre added to your draft by a drive leg and propeller is never an asset.
Plus, not having a lower unit and propeller means you can't damage them. Already impressed, the team's attention turned to detail. The Tango 4+2s (which refers to four seats and two windscreens apparently) layout is a little different to other bowriders. The bow lounge features an upholstered pad instead of the conventional seating usually seen in locally built bow riders. MB's test team were ambivalent about the pros and cons of this, but did agree that the spacious fully lined dry storage compartment revealed when that upholstered pad is raised was a good thing. Superb build quality is found throughout the entire boat and as they say, that's not all folks.
The Sugar Sand's brochure carries a small photo of one of their boats swamped with six people aboard, all standing up and the boat still level and right way up. They hardly boast about it, but few boats in the world today are capable of this level of safety when the chips are down. Sugar Sand hulls are completely hand laid with & fiberglass cloth; the dreaded chopper gun has no place there. Internally the stringer system is a separate moulding from the hull and deck moulds and the entire hull is foam filled for flotation and integrity. Between the helm and passenger seats there's an underfloor ski locker (7' long,) with moulded liner of course.
Even underneath the instrument bulkhead and the glove box area in front of the passenger are finished off with moulded panels. Both helm and passenger seats are deep buckets, all the better to keep people safely in place during radical moves. The driver's seat has a fore and aft adjustment and the passenger seat swivels, so an observer can look aft. Behind the bucket seats are another pair of seats moulded integrally into the aft deck. Unusually, the aft seats are angled at 45 degrees, which seems unusual until you realise that angling them so allows adequate legroom for passengers riding there. Between the aft seats a ski pole is mounted centrally with a rope locker recessed into the engine cover behind that.
The rope locker has a padded lid, which serves as another small aft facing seat. Lifting the engine cover reveals the motor mounted centrally in a compartment. It has storage on each side that is separated from the power plant by mesh panels. Even in here, there's a moulded liner. This is one beautifully & finished boat! People using the Tango 4+2 on dams where mud inside the boat at the end of a day is a fact of life, will be pleased to hear that the passenger area inside the boat also has a moulded liner. Drains set under the aft seats mean a hose will clean the boat thoroughly with minimum fuss.
Build quality is maintained in the neat upholstery and after our close inspection it came as no surprise to & find an electrical system routed through a set of circuit breakers mounted underneath the dash. An auto bilge pump, a bilge blower and navigation lights all come standard and the CD player/radio in our test boat sounded great when you could hear it over the excited babble in the cockpit. The test boat was powered with the 175hp engine option. A 200hp OptiMax version is the other choice. But considering the sparkling performance of the boat we tested, the 200hp version would be an eye popper. The Tango 4+2's steering is quite direct, less than a turn from lock to lock.
This took a few minutes to become accustomed to, but once mastered you can see why the direct steering is essential during the First 180- degree turn you try. It stands to reason 360s are twice as much fun! What really impressed the Modern Boating team was the brisk acceleration provided by the jet drive, there's no wheelspin under acceleration and ventilation or cavitation in turns went west with the propeller. Give the single control lever a push and the Tango leaped forward, turn the wheel and it turns instantly. There's no trim adjustment on jet drives, but we didn't find ourselves looking for one. The hull doesn't respond to power by lifting its bow or digging in its stern, it just gets out of the hole and goes.
And don't forget that the Sugar Sand can be slammed into reverse to stop it. This boat was truly 200 per cent fun. As tested the Sugar Sand Tango 4+2 will set you back less than $34,000, plus on water and dealer charges. This includes a galvanised hydraulic braked trailer and a full towing cover. Sugar Sand boats will be supplied by a single dealer in each state.