Pontoon perfection

Get ready to fall in love with the Bennington 25QXFB. Relatively new to Australia, if you’re not familiar with pontoon boats yet, and Bennington’s luxury performance vessels in particular, you’re in for a very pleasant surprise.

Written by Clare Mahon
Photography by Breed Media

04 April 2024


Make no mistake, in North America pontoon boats are everywhere – they outnumber v-hulls 10 to one, and there’s hardly a lakeside cabin or holiday home without at least one secured to its jetty or marina berth. They’re a common sight on saltwater too.

In Australia and New Zealand, however, they’re relative newcomers. Over the last four years or so, we’ve started to catch up though as people realise just how versatile and fun they are.

“People underestimate them,” says John Potter, Sales and Operations Manager for Polaris Marine, exclusive distributors of Bennington across Australia and New Zealand. But once they experience one for themselves, perhaps at a boat show or on the water, they fall in love.

“They have such a broad application. From families with small kids, who enjoy being able to get out on the water safely thanks to their high sides, to those with teenagers, who love to pump up the music and use them for waterskiing or wakeboarding, they’re the ultimate all-rounder – they’re just so fun and super cool.”


But, with such a broad demographic enjoying Bennington’s range of pontoon boats right across Australia – from the Sunshine and Gold Coasts in Queensland to the Hunter, Sydney Harbour and Port Hacking in New South Wales, all the way down the Murray in Victoria and Port Philip Bay in Melbourne – it’s hard to typify those enjoying these versatile boats on our freshwater lakes, rivers and estuaries.

“They’re good in saltwater too,” notes Potter. “Obviously, they can’t handle a big swell, but 3 or 4 feet of chop is fine,” he says, adding they handle the shallower waters extremely well too.

“We have people in their 50s and 60s, as well as retirees, who just want to take out a group of friends to watch the sun set, glass of wine in hand.

“Then there’s the younger generation who want to cut doughnuts or push the throttle down and tilt them up on their sides like a normal boat – and everyone in between,” he says.

Benningtons can get up to speeds of 60 miles per hour, and are available up to 30 feet in length. You can even add a waterslide to the hardtop. “People are just really surprised,” he says.

“You can do everything from cruising to waterskiing and fishing – all with up to 15 passengers on board. The possibilities are endless, both in terms of their application and performance.

“With 40 different configurations for the Australian market, which are all fully customisable, we’re well supported by Yamaha – in fact, we’re their largest outboard purchaser in the world – but can fit any of the major brands of engines up to 900 hp.”

Bennington owns a large chunk of the Australian market, especially at the luxury end, having sold more pontoon boats than any other manufacturer. “We’re appealing to newcomers to the boating market, for sure, as well as those looking to upgrade their current pontoon boat – with boats ranging from AU$100,000 to AU$500,000, Bennington is definitely at the top end of the market, and many aspire to owning one,” Potter says.

Going for a spin

I’ve spent a fair amount of time aboard a variety of pontoon boats over the years, both on magazine assignments in the US and enjoying the hospitality of American friends, and I can definitely understand their appeal. Comfortable, incredibly stable and relatively easy to handle, they provide versatile, spacious platforms to enjoy time on the water.

So, I was keen to get on board when Potter and the dealer team from Cobalt – Bennington Boats Queensland organised a demonstration day on the waterways around Coomera on the Gold Coast, showcasing the luxury Q series. The boat Bennington made available, the 25QXFB – denoting the quad bench – represents the pinnacle of excellence and is part of Bennington’s flagship range. Let’s go.

First thing to notice: the 25QXFB rides on three pontoons – some Bennington models are also available with only two pontoons, making them slightly cheaper, but at the expense of performance and ride – and the boat was equipped with a single outboard, but twin outboard configurations are also offered.

The QXFB comes with Bennington’s Elliptical Sport System (ESP), with a larger diameter elliptical centre pontoon (with storage) for added performance and a carrying capacity of up to 15 people. Tube thickness can be upgraded, and the pontoons have spray deflectors and lifting strakes/chines.

Step aboard the vessels and you’re immediately struck by their sheer volume – there’s seating for as many people as you like, plus room to spare and storage galore.

And there are lots of clever features, like adjustable seat backs, generous ski lockers, bimini tops, drink holders, docking lights and the sort of entertainment options that American boatbuilders do so well.

The boat is fitted out with a Rockford PMX-2 sound system with transom speakers and Bluetooth controls, Simrad electronics, integrated ski/tow bar or solid drop-in ski pole, and LED mood lighting.

Quick-drying Simtex vinyl upholstery is used, with stitched diamond cushion tops and perforated accents. The QXFB also has a pop- up canvas enclosure under the rear lounger that provides a private space for changing or a portable toilet.

The QXFB is eye-catching, with fibreglass nose cones (more storage) and fibreglass rather than painted aluminium sides. The moulded fibreglass interior is modular, allowing different layout options from the factory, and the options list is extensive.

On the water

So, how do Benningtons perform? Very nicely, thank you. The boat climbs onto the plane without any real feeling of transition and steers and tracks nicely. I was surprised by how well the boat handles sharp turns at speed, and also how easy it is to manoeuvre at low speed.

Passengers and helm are exposed to the winds of passage, but the boat seems to be a dry runner – we had flat conditions on the river, but a few days prior, Potter had used the boat in quite choppy conditions and reports it handled it extremely well, and he stayed dry.

Although most owners wouldn’t consider taking these boats offshore, they are perfectly at home on lakes big and small, harbours, estuaries and waterway developments. In the US, Bennington pontoon boats are routinely used on saltwater, and the factory offers saltwater models. All Bennington boats have a 10-year structural warranty.

Equipped with a Yamaha VF 300 hp with power-assisted steering, it’s good for around 45 knots in this guise.

This package feels much more refined than other pontoon brands, smooth and quiet, with surprisingly nimble handling. It’s rather fun to drive.

Lavishly appointed with a clever layout, the QXFB offers so many options for a day on the water, whether parking up in a quiet bay for a swim and a bit of sun worshipping, rafting up with friends, towing water toys, fishing, or enjoying a few drinks on a twilight cruise – just make sure you appoint a sober driver.

Did I mention the luxury? Outstanding, with coolers/refrigeration options galore, heaps of storage, privacy enclosure, twin tables and seats and loungers that are better than those I have at home. The sound system is awesome, too.

Bennington has stock on hand in Australia, and it’s just a three-month wait from its 3,530-metre-squared Elkhart, Indiana, plant in the US, where they build around 55 aluminium pontoon boats a day. The boats arrive fully rigged and ready to enjoy. You’re just going to have to try one for yourself.



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