Robalo R317 2024 review (2024)

The biggest dual-console Robalo in the range lives as good as it looks

Overview

Think premium dayboats and US saltwater fishing boat specialist Robalo isn’t a brand that leaps to the mind of most Australian buyers.

Robalo is part of the same group that builds the Chaparral range of dayboats. And while the Chaparrals are built for relaxation, Robalo tends to cater for the fishing fraternity, building boats that are accomplished saltwater specialists but still keep a premium air about them.

As well as centre consoles, Robalo produces a range of dual-console models that lose some of the hardcore fishing edge, and replace them with family comforts to create a hybrid bowrider-styled boat that plays to both business and pleasure.

There are only two of these models, the 6.3-metre R207 and the subject of our test, the 9.5-metre range-topping hard-topped Robalo R317.

We jumped on board the Robalo R317 rigged up as a dual-engine platform for the Australian launch of Honda’s all-new BF350 outboard engine.

Price and equipment

This is Robalo’s flagship dual-console model and is priced accordingly. Fitted with twin 300hp Mercury Verado 30-inch outboard engines with fly-by-wire steering and shift and throttle control, the Robalo R317 starts from $565,000.

A basic boat is equipped with everything you need to hit the water. Standard fit-out includes a 95.0-litre plumbed live bait well, a co*ckpit table with four drink holders; a suspension helm seat on both sides with flip-up bolsters; premium Envision Marine silicone upholstery; an electric anchor windlass; powder-coated alloy-framed fibreglass hardtop with side-mounted rod holders, LED map and spreader lights and outrigger mounting plates; freshwater washdown system; a portside co*ckpit door; trim tabs with dash-mounted indicator lights; a fully lined cabin; enclosed head compartment with porthole and electric-flush head; and a 20-amp triple-bank charger.

As tested, the price of our sled increases to $660,000. As well as the box-fresh twin Honda BF350s hanging off the transom, we have a custom Harbour Grey finish inside the co*ckpit; a gelcoat finish on the underside of the hardtop; a set of clears to enclose the console on three sides; an electric retracting Sure Shade aft (and the reason there are no rocket launcher rod holders on the trailing edge of the hardtop); a forward sun canvas; stainless steel drink and rod holders; a wet bar with a fridge; a teak-look Plasdeck swim platform mat; EVA foam flooring throughout; a macerator for the head; and co*ckpit and bow covers.

The boat is also equipped with Dometic’s Optimus 360 joystick control system, which is handy given the length of the Robalo R317 and the fact there is no bow thruster fitted.

Hull and engineering

The Robalo R317 is a premium boat built in the US at Robalo’s Nashville, Georgia-based factory.

At the core of the build is Robalo’s patented, low-drag Hydrolift vee-monohull, which is the foundation for every Robalo offshore model.

Beneath our Robalo R317 test boat, the Hydrolift hull has a fine entry at the bow in combination with a sharp and fine deadrise to slice through the chop, falling back to 21.0 degrees at the transom to help with offshore comfort.

Downturned outer chines, a pair of full-length running strakes and a wide waterline beam ensure the R317 is stable at rest and smooth riding underway.

The hull is 9.45 metres in length overall with a maximum beam of 3.20m, making it long and somewhat narrow. The coamings and the beam both widen as they carry forward, helping to maximise the amount of space around the console and in the bow lounge.

Quality state-of-the-art materials and techniques are used throughout the Robalo R317’s build.

Each foam-filled fibreglass hull is handbuilt with a Kevlar-reinforced keel and vinylester resin used below the waterline to prevent osmosis blistering.

The hull and deck are chemically bonded for maximum strength with reduced cost, while composite materials are used to reinforce the stringers and transom.

Stainless steel fixtures are used throughout the boat for maximum corrosion resistance, while all hatch and compartment lids are fitted with gas-assist struts and a fibreglass finish on both sides.

The boat is also large enough to fit with a 12-volt Seakeeper system if anyone onboard is prone to seasickness.

The hull comes out of the factory with a limited lifetime warranty, while components are covered under a five-year limited warranty.

Design and layout

The Robalo R317 is no ordinary dayboat. In a lot of ways, it bucks convention to make it stand out from what is a pretty crowded corner of the market.

Nothing is de rigueur about the interior layout. Starting aft, there’s a full walkaround transom with swim decks extending on either side of the outboard engine pod. The starboard swim deck houses a swing-out extending ladder that makes it easy to get in and out of the water, and a freshwater washdown system for rinsing off after a swim.

This aft section also has a remote control for the more premium six-speaker Clarion audio system fitted to the boat.

A large bench takes up most of the aft section of the deep-freeboard co*ckpit. Leave the seatbacks upright, and you have forward and aft-facing benches. Lay that backrests down and it becomes one large sunbed. Below, a pair of drawers pull out to provide easy storage space – US boatmakers seem to prefer drawer systems over lidded seat tops.

Tucked into the port side is a 95-litre plumbed live bait tank with a see-through lid. To starboard is the companionway leading between the swim deck and the co*ckpit, which can close off using a low swinging door.

The hardtop extends part-way into the co*ckpit space, with an electric Sure Shade extending from its trailing edge to offer more sun protection over the space.

Aft is a large storage space below the floor giving access to the batteries and bilge, with a long-lidded ski locker forward.

The standard boat has two L-shaped seats on the forward side of the co*ckpit. However, ours has the optional wet bar fitted to the starboard side featuring a 30.0-litre Isotherm fridge, 12-volt charging point and a sink with a handheld faucet. To port is the L-shaped seat layout, but it also has a 34-litre icebox tucked in underneath and a mount for a drop-in table.

A companionway leading through the centre of the console – a section of the windscreen folds back, and a wind block swings out of the way – leads to the bow lounge.

Robalo could have done what everyone else has but has instead bucked convention to fit the Robalo R317 with a seating layout that stretches all the way to the bow on the port side, with a short single seat to starboard.

The reason for this is simple, as the starboard seat forms the door that swings sideways to reveal a space below that contains a family essential – a fully enclosed head. Headroom is tight, but there is more than enough space for the head to act as a changeroom, and it is also equipped with a cabinet featuring a sink with a faucet, and an opening porthole to provide ventilation. A timber sole provides a more premium finish.

Seating in the bow lounge is comfortable, with integrated backrests, plenty of cupholders, twin speakers and drop-down armrests for the forward-facing pews. Low handrails on either side, inset so they do not protrude above the gunnels to ruin the clean lines of the hull, provide a safe handhold when moving around.

You can remove the cushions to create a forward casting deck. The forward section of the bow seat hides a drained fish box for storing catch, and there is a bracket to mount a table.

Robalo R317 2024 review (1)

The Robalo R317’s forepeak is quite deep, housing the electric windlass and an anchor locker hidden beneath a lidded foredeck that is comfortably large enough for someone to stand on while fishing.

The R317 has three sets of pull-up cleats on each side of the boat that make springing it to a dock quite easy.

Helm and console

US console boat makers tend to build their helms up to a standard rather than down to one, and the one fitted to the Robalo R317 is no exception.

Behind the helm, and in front of an integrated footrest is a seat made for two, with side supports and a lift-up boster that makes standing easy. The wheel is mounted low and central, which means handing over steering control to your copilot is possible, although the digital shift and throttle control for the powerful BF350s behind you is mounted to a soapdish-style moulding on the coaming.

Because our test boat is fitted with the Domietic Optimus 360 joystick control system, the skipper misses out on a cupholder – one of the few, and maybe the worst of the criticisms we can level at the boat. USB and 12-volt charging ports are at hand.

The helm console is large, feeling open and uncluttered. At its centre is a 16.0-inch Garmin GPSMap multifunction touchscreen display framed in a clear array of backlit electrical control buttons to either slide. Beside the controls for the Honda engines are the ones for the Lemco trim tabs, and the Honda MFD4.3 digital display (not the new one that shows the Honda NSX supercar-styled dash display.)

The Garmin head unit is mounted on a removable panel, so come upgrade time if you’d rather go with a pair of smaller side-by-side screens, fitting them will be easy. The top of the dash is finished in soft-touch double-stitched material.

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Oh, and that steering wheel? Carbonfibre, and made by a company called Carbonautica. We looked up the price and, well, woah.

On the other side of the console is a similar seat to the helm, also winged inboard to prevent someone sliding off it, and with a lift-up bolster to make standing easy. There is ample small-item storage around the seat, including a coaming recess and twin cupholders, and a big, lined glovebox mounted on the console.

The front of the console on this side opens up to reveal a large space that can either double as dedicated storage or as a day berth for someone to go below and have a secluded time-out.

The hardtop overhead also has a couple of storage spaces.

Fishing features

You could argue the Robalo R317 is more family- than fishing-focused, and maybe you’d win. But if convincing the exchequer of the family that this is a boat that everyone can enjoy, you’re more than likely to get it over the line.

The big thing missing from the Robalo to make it a convincing dual-purpose boat is a bait/rigging station. You’re probably going to have to use a rod holder to hold a bait board, and maybe dedicate one of the drawers below the aft seats as a terminal tackle locker.

Four cupholders mounted on the coamings double as rod holders, which is good because space to stash them is limited. There’s the ski locker, four hardtop frame rocket launchers and the console storage space to stash rods, and the starboard coaming has a recess to store another two rods. But that’s it.

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The live bait tank is accessible from the co*ckpit or the swim deck, so swapping out an exhausted livey for a fresh one should be easy. It will also make jigging for bait easy, as you can drop the line from either side of the transom and easily flick the baitfish into the tank.

You can fit a pair of outriggers if the aim of the game is targeting sportsfish while the family is landlocked.

However, once you catch a fish, the question is what to do with it. The forward fish tank is quite small, so anything larger than a snapper will be troublesome to stow. It looks as though fish bags may be the solution.

The best place to reel in a fish is the starboard side of the co*ckpit, which has a built-in toe rail to help you fight a fish while fast up against the padded coaming. The Dometic Optimus 360 system should help to play to the boat’s strength and keep the angler facing the fish.

On the portside is a large in-swinging door that will let you either retrieve or tag a fish for release.

But the best fishing feature is what's below the waterline.

On the water

We've praised other Robalos before for their seakeeping chops, so it will be an interesting exercise to see how this big split console model compares.

For once on a test, the waters outside the Gold Coast Seaway are ugly. Big standing waves are rolling in sending the Robalo R317's bow skyward as we punch through them at reduced speed. However, while landing heavily, the Robalo's steeply stemmed deep vee and big flare forward soften the landing so it's a thud rather than a bang.

We're carrying around 1000 litres of fuel onboard, as well as five passengers, so we're running quite heavy as we drive to the conditions, backing off and rolling on the throttle to time each wave as it threatens to break. While the head sea is rough and we're pitching and yawing plenty as the confused conditions toss us around, the Robalo feels sure-footed and well-planted.

There's a moment of calm as we run with the sea behind us, the 350hp Hondas responding instantly to the digital throttle inputs, especially in the mid-rev range, to keep us between sets. Almost into the shore break, we need to turn around again and punch back to the entrance of the seaway.

Once safely back inside, it's time to see what the 700hp of Honda's only production V8 engine can do.

Settling in at 3500rpm, the BF350s were using just over 80 litres an hour for a comfortable cruising speed of around 26 knots. Pushing the lever all the way forward, we hit a top speed on test – loaded heavily, remember, and possibly with a bit more prop tuning to do – just shy of 50.0 knots, plenty quick enough.

Performance

REVSSPEEDFUEL USE*RANGE
1000rpm4.3kt (8km/h)8.5L/h471nm
1500rpm6.3kt (11.7km/h)18L/h326nm
2000rpm8.2kt (15.2km/h)26L/h294nm
2500rpm10.3kt (19.1km/h)42L/h228nm
3000rpm15.6kt (28.9km/h)67L/h217nm
3500rpm26.1kt (48.3km/h)83L/h293nm
4000rpm28.7kt (53.2km/h)104L/h257nm
4500rpm33kt (61.1km/h)133L/h231nm
5000rpm37.4kt (69.3km/h)160L/h218nm
5500rpm40.8kt (75.6km/h)180L/h211nm
6250 (WOT)rpm49.9kt (92.4km/h)274L/h170nm

*Both engines
Maximum range based on 95% reserve for 980L fuel tank: 293nm @ 3500rpm

The twin-engine setup is wonderfully tuned to the steering, with the fly-by-wire Dometic system finger-light and easy to adjust.

The reversed outer chines offer plenty of lateral grip through tight turns and at speed; you'll need to warn everyone onboard before you tip it in.

Verdict

Hybrid boats are meant to offer a compromise between feature-rich dayboat and offshore fishing chops. It's a difficult thing to balance.

To my mind, the Robalo R317 has tipped the balance more in favour of family duties than fishing, which is not necessarily a bad thing if you are buying it for family experiences.

Were I buying a boat purely for fishing, I'd walk past the R317 and kick tyres over at Robalo's centre console range, one of which is the 8.9-metre R302 that shares the same hull as the R317 below the waterline.

But if the family had to have a say in what style of boat we owned, this is the path I'd push them down.

Specifications
Model:
Robalo R317
Length overall: 9.45m
Beam: 3.20m
Bridge clearance: 2.74m (with hardtop)
Deadrise: 21deg
Weight: 4128kg (dry, with engines)
Engines: 2x300hp (min)/2x350hp (max)
Engines as tested: 2x350hp Honda BF350 outboard engines
Fuel: 980L
Water: 95L

Priced from: $565,000 including fibreglass hardtop rod holders, map lights LED spreader lights and outrigger plates; electric anchor windlass; 2x suspension seats with flip-up bolsters behind console; Envision marine-rated silicone upholstery; co*ckpit table with 4 drink holders; port-side access door; enclosed electric-flush head with opening porthole and lined ceiling; 95.0-litre live well; freshwater washdown on transom; full-beam swim platform; trim tabs with indicator lights; power-assist hydraulic steering; 2x300hp Mercury V8 Verado outboard engines

Price as tested: $660,000 including wet bar with fridge; Plasdecxk swim platform mat; EVA flooring; stainless steel sink and rod holders; SureShade electric retracting aft sunshade; forward sun canvas; Harbour Grey co*ckpit interior; hard top underside gelcoat; hardtop clears; co*ckpit and bow covers; macerator; battery charger; 2x350hp Honda BF350 outboard engines with iST digital shift and throttle controls

Supplied by: Aussie Boat Sales

Robalo R317 2024 review (2024)
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