This 2008 AMIF Boat of The Year award winner (fishing-trailerable, fibreglass under 6m) six-person boat will appeal to both keen anglers and family boaters.
At a full 5.5m from transom to bowsprit with a beam of 2.49m, she’s a big lady. But having spent time aboard, (after which I had to be pried out of the craft,) I believe the new Evolution 552 X-Series Gold will appeal to all manner of boaters.
A quality finish, angler-friendly fit-out, plenty of features, a gentle ride and easy handling mean this finely appointed craft can be enjoyed equally by old hands and complete novices.
Manufactured in Victoria, the Evolution 552 slides easily from its tandem trailer and is soon ready for work or play.
The interior dimensions will impress. The cockpit’s work area is well over 1m deep, over 2m long and 2.1m wide. Cockpit corners are rounded for comfort, there’s coaming padding at the transom and solid grab handles along the gunwale tops. An aft lounge is optional.
The Evolution’s cuddy cab could sleep two on the well-padded single bunks and there’s plenty of light coming through the windows.
The cuddy has a lockable sliding door and full-length overhead shelves. There’s enough space for genuine comfort when sheltering from the elements.
The test craft was equipped with an anchor winch but the bowsprit is long and well-formed to keep the anchor off the lustrous gelcoat, even if the pick is handled manually. Access up forward was via step in the cuddy and a wide hatch. I had no problem leaving or entering the craft via the bow.
The four-piece windscreen features a sturdy grab rail and the targa top has a grab rail and six-pot rocket launcher within reach. The well-made bimini has a zip-open front and side clears for easy visibility and excellent shelter from wind and spray.
Skipper and passenger sit on strong and supportive swivelling seats mounted on drum-like pedestals large enough to hold PFDs or similar bulky items.
The Evolution’s moulded helm area had a neat dash featuring a Humminbird 898C sounder plotter on the upper level, engine gauges below and then switch panels and the marine radio.
The soft-feel wheel and hydraulic helm was well-sited for driving while standing or seated while the side-mounted engine controls were within easy reach.
The Evolution has useful side pockets, with the 2m long pocket to port set up with a saltwater deck wash and a two-rod rack, with more storage space for a gaff or extra fishing gear below.
The starboard pocket offers ample storage up forward near the skipper but terminated mid-cockpit at the sliding side door, built by Evolution to the customer’s request. Designed to allow the crew to boat a big fish, this door is a credit to Evolution’s manufacturing in every aspect.
Two underfloor lockers sat in the hose-out, non-skid cockpit. Between the front seats was a locker ideal for drinks or tucker; right aft was a big fish box complete with plumbing for easy clean-out at the end of the day.
Other cockpit features included a locking transom door to starboard with storage below, further storage compartments in the full-height transom for engine and house batteries and engine oil bottle, and livewell to port complete with window.
Five rod holders were set into each cockpit corner to compliment the four rod holders in the gunwales. The large bait station had another two rod holders, cutting board and a drained sink.
All fittings, handles, rails and other brightwork were top-shelf stainless steel.
Twin boarding platforms, with rails, plus a berley muncher to port completed the transom.
The 150hp Evinrude E-Tec made easy work of powering the Evolution’s 820kg hull. It planed easily at 2200rpm at 9.7 knots (18kmh); at 3000rpm we saw 18 knots (33.4kmh) on the GPS; at 4000rpm 24 knots (44.5kmh); at 5000rpm at 33.5 knots (62.1kmh) and top speed at 5800rpm was 38.7 knots (71.8kmh).
Speed runs were done with two aboard plus the near-full 150L fuel tank.
While many four-stroke engines have improved their performance, the direct injection V6 two-stroke came across as a very strong, willing and gutsy performer.
The Evolution’s ride and handling were up with the very best. The rig handled superbly; sharp turns and quick changes of direction were easy and predictable and the hydraulic steering made them effortless.
The Evolution 552 shrugged off the 1m to 1.5m swells with the greatest of ease. A rough weather boat? Certainly!
The fine bow entry, the 21° transom vee and full-length strakes added up to produce an impressive and very dry ride in all conditions. The wide reversed chines aft gave the hull serious grip when turning or at rest.
I found it was very difficult to impart any degree of lean on the nboat even with both of us standing against the leeward gunwale.
The big Evolution has almost every fishing feature needed to fulfil anglers’ every wish.
Not every angler will want the custom removable side panel in the big wide cockpit, nor the snapper rod holders astern, but the remaining features are all must-have items.
The 850mm interior cockpit height plus impressive ride quality and stability at rest ensure this boat will win favour with offshore and bay anglers.
I give the Evolution 552 full marks in every department; this is a really top quality craft in every way.
Finish was eye pleasing; it had great ride and handling; performance was effortless and there were ample features for every angler. The strongly made fibreglass hull is foam filled and comes with a seven-year hull warranty.
Given the easy performance of the hull and its good design, a smaller motor such as a 115hp could save dollars afor the economy-minded boater.
A six-cylinder sedan or wagon would be the minimum tow vehicle for this rig.
Blakes Marine at the corner of Mulgrave and Windsor roads, McGraths Hill, can supply an Evolution 552 with 150hp E-Tec power and a tandem trailer from $69,990. Call 02 4577 6699 or visit www.blakesmarine.com.au for details. Don’t forget, up to $750 Evinrude Cashback deals finish on January 31.
|Length on trailer:||7.40m|
|Height on trailer:||2.15m|
|Engine as tested:||E-Tec 150hp|