Bigger Deal



May 2003

Released several years ago, the 26 Signature quickly became the most popular model in the Commander line. “That boat has been the darling of out fleet,” says Sy Singhal, owner of Commander Boats in Perris, Calif.

The 26-footer also left Commander fans wanting more –more length, more space, more everything –with the kind of competitive price tag the for which Commander offering are known. The company start to design a 29’-long model, then upped it to 30’ and finally settled on the 32-footer. Enter the 32 Signature, a twin-engine stepped V-bottom. The boat come standard with MerCruiser MX 6.2 MPI motors, a trailer and a $99,800 sticker. A few extras and an engine upgrade added about $16,000 to the price of the model we tested, but it still was a bargain.

The 32 Signature was designed to run in the open ocean or large lakes prone to nasty conditions and as such it should have been tested during the offshore segment of out 2003 Performance Trials in San Diego. Unfortunately, the first boat out of the molds wasn’t ready in time for our San Diego event, so Singhal and company brought it to our trials stop on the Colorado River in Parker, Ariz.
What that means is that we can’t tell you how well the 32 Signature performed in rough water. The best, or worst if you prefer, the Colorado River could muster during our test day was 6-inch wind chop and the occasional pontoon-boat wake, and they presented no challenge to the 24-degree deadrise, 7,900-pound model –not even close.

We can tell you that the 32 Signature, which rode on a two-step bottom with a sharp keel, four strakes and flat chines, handled very well, especially at lower and middle speeds. Like many stepped-bottom boats, our test model did not respond well to negative drive trim in turns and handled best with neutral or slightly positive trim.

Equipped with 1.5:1 Bravo One drives spinning 15 ¼” x 28” four-blade stainless steel propellers, the mild 375-hp engines were a good match for the boat. In wicked 102-degree desert heat, the 32-footer reached 74.5 mph at 4,550 rpm. Relatively quick for its weight and propulsion package, the boat came on plane in 5.8 seconds and 40 to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds –not explosive, but good for the power.

A taller fairing or wind deflectors would make the 32 Signature a lot more pleasant at speed. Our test model was among the windiest 75-mph boats we tested during our 2003 Performance Trials.

For a prototype, the 32 Signature was an uncommonly well-finished product. The boat's four-color gel coat graphics included subtle fades and sharp lines, and beyond a dimple here and there, its mold work was strong. There were no waves in the boat's plastic rub rail, which incorporated a rubber insert for additional dockside protection.

Vinylester resin and multiple layers of bidirectional fiberglass were used in the 32 Signature's lamination recipe. For additional strength, Commander employed balsa coring, Decolite panels and Prisma composite reinforcement in select areas.

Knowing that Commander competes with higher-priced West Coast custom products, the people at the company made sure the boat came standard with plenty of anodized and powder-coated hardware,` including billet grab handles and multiple flush-mounted cleats.

Hydraulic hinges from Dana Products raised the wooden engine hatch, which was carpeted on the underside. The engines were installed using standard MerCruiser mounts and L-angles through-bolted to the stringers. Knowing that the builder rushed to get the boat to our Trials, we were particularly impressed with the neat rigging and stainless-steel cushion clamp support for the wire looms and cables.

Accessible behind a hinged plastic lid, under-dash wiring complete with terminal blocks also was impressively tidy.

Singhal took great pains to point out that our 32-footer was the first of its kind and far from the final form it would take when offered to the public. Planned improvements included doors for the cabin and the proposed stand-up head, a fiberglass floor liner and a different seating configuration in the cabin.

Although all of those improvements would be welcomed, there still was much to recommend about the interior of the 32 Signature we tested. True, only a contortionist could use the head under the V-berth in the carpeted cabin, and the tall lower section of the ring bulkhead made reaching the berth a chore. But the horseshoe-shape lounge aft of the berth offered generous seating with excellent padding.

Other nice touches in the cabin included shelves with valances, stowage lockers and an ice chest. And with two deck hatches and no cabin door, natural light and ventilation in the cabin were excellent.

We'd probably redesign the levers for the twin manual dropout-bottom bolsters so they didn't poke the legs of the co-pilot and driver, but they felt strong and supportive. Gray marine-grade carpet covered the cockpit sole, which had an in-sole locker. Gunwale trays and a locker under the four-person bench seat provided additional stowage.

The co-pilot's spot to port needed no improvement. Generously equipped by any measure, it had a giant locking glove box in the dash and a contoured grab handle on the gunwale. Also at the dash was a Pioneer CD stereo and a 12-volt receptacle.

Privately labeled for Commander, the gauges were grouped by engine on each side of the non-tilting steering wheel, which had the company logo in the hub, at the helm station. Mechanical indicators were provided for the drives and tabs, and rocker switches activated the accessories. The builder opted for Gaffrig by Livorsi throttles and shifters on the starboard gunwale.

It's always nice to see a company pushing itself to satisfy its customers, and that's what Commander is doing with the 32 Signature. The company recently expanded its facility. From what we've seen of the 32-footer, that extra space should come in handy.





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