"Mid Size Power Boats" - Buyers' Guide by David Pascoe

Luhrs 320 Open

Luhrs 320 Open

LOA 34'8" Weight 15,000
Beam 13'0" Fuel 340 gals
Draft  3' 1" Engines* Cat 3116, 300 hp
Year 1995 Production 1993-2000

* Engine options include various choices of gas and diesel.

Several weeks prior to this writing, I was out on a sea trail on a Bertram, heading down the New River, and as we passed a Luhrs dealership which had a number of new Luhrs models lined up along the river, the yacht broker and captain were making comments about how crappy the Luhrs boats are.

Several months ago, I was perusing a blue water fishing forum where I ran across discussion about a late model Luhrs that had gone down off the coast of Texas with some loss of life. There was much speculation that the cause of that boat sinking was a hull defect. It later turned out that lack of maintenance was the cause, but not knowing the cause didn't stop people from casting aspersions.

Yesterday I thought about these things as I crawled around in a 5 year old Luhrs 320, wondering if any of these people could be talking about the same boat that I was currently looking at. For the fact is that the hull on this boat was particularly well built. I couldn't help but be impressed by the size of the framing system, which greatly exceeds most everything else in its class. This hull is solid glass on the bottom and is foam cored on the sides. It has conventional glass over wood framing that looked to contain numerous layers of roving with no incompleteness of the laminating. In other words, no half-assed layup leaving exposed wood here and there.

The overlaps of the tabbing of bulkheads was a good 4" and none of the tabs had broken loose. Not so much as a single crack anywhere, which is not something I could say for recent surveys on a comparably sized Cabo and Albermarle. There were no stress cracks anywhere on bottom or hull sides, and very few stress cracks within cockpit or on decks. The struts had massive doublers backing them up. The engine bed stringers looked quite beefy, nor was there any defection while underway.

Luhrs 320 Open

With that in mind, I had to wonder why so many people have dim views of these boats. In part, it's the ignorance and snobbery of those who can afford higher priced boats. And in part, it's due to the fact that these ARE price boats wherein the cost is lowered as a result of having lower quality and fewer frills in the places where it is less important. There is no denying that there is a dearth of quality hardware, and that above decks you will find designs that are less fancy and not as good as you might expect. For example, the hatches on the cockpit under seat storage lockers do not have gutters, nor does the rope locker. Door and hatch pulls are mostly plastic. And so on. But the point here is that where quality is needed, you'll find it there.

Perhaps another contributor is the design style. Heretofore, we associated it with the likes of Rybovich and other high end custom or semi custom boats. Now we have one that is not only a high production boat, but one that comes with an affordable price to those who otherwise would be bouncing around in Bayliners.

Oddly enough, if you go stomping around up on that huge expanse of foredeck, you'll find it to be very solid. It won't bend and the whole boat won't shake when you do so. Same goes for the cockpit deck, which does not bounce when you jump on it, nor are there any cracks around the hatches like I find even on much higher priced boats.

Luhrs 320

The cabin is very nicely laid out. Thanks to the very wide beam forward and huge bow flare, it's far bigger than anything else in its class. The vee berth area is laid out like lounge seating, with the vee spread wide and with sufficient space overhead, which is permissible only because of the hull shape. The galley is a bit on the disappointing side, but possibly this was because the largeness of the interior leads one to expect more than most 32 foot boats can deliver. With this size boat, you can't have everything. For the lack of an adequate galley, you get a very adequate head compartment, which is walk-in, stand up, and fully fiberglass lined, albeit without dedicated shower stall which would be asking too much.

Luhrs 320

Paneled in teak veneers, it has solid drawer fronts and other trim that comes with maybe two coats of varnish, but needs more if you expect it to hold up. A molded fiberglass headliner is easy to keep clean, but does not provide nice interior acoustics. A 3/4 height reefer causes a split level countertop (cast plastic) and a 2 burner electric hotplate set at a rather high level, although the way it's recessed will prevent pans from sliding off.

One interesting feature is the way the electric panel is built in to the molded FRP overhead liner. It's in an angled console hanging from above and facing aft. As you walk down the companionway steps into the cabin, it looks like you'll mash your head on it, but you don't.

Luhrs 320

There's lots of cubby hole storage available. The spaces under the lounge seats are lined with carpet and the odd thing was that I didn't find much in the way of leaks. Although I could not prove the point, it seemed that the hull/deck join was likely glassed.

The cockpit is divided into aft and forward sections with a raised step up. In the midst of the forward cockpit is a center console with controls, a set up that I found most unimpressive. Various switches are mounted on a painted, stenciled aluminum strip panel which was in a condition that I hardly need to describe and had become an eyesore in only a few years time. This was a lousy place for designers to try to save a few bucks because it makes the boat look old before it's time.

The console is too small to mount any kind of optional gizmos, so the place to do that is in the drop down overhead electronic box molded into the fiberglass hardtop, a fairly decent arrangement in my view. It's high enough that you won't hit your head on it. The placement of the wheel and controls was good, this one having the high end Morse cable controls; don't know if these are optional or standard, but they look nice.

Luhrs 320

Engines closely spaced make this one very tight engine room. It would be nice to at least have some decking to stand on instead of the batteries.

The engine compartment was a sore spot for me, as are all these boats which have these huge hinged decks that tilt up on one end. This one had pneumatic cylinder lift assists that did not assist much, making lifting the hatches a grunt and groan affair. One person can do it, but it's not easy. Fitted with a pair of Cat 3116's that barely fit height clearance wise, the engines are brought very close together in order to get them in there, and that's where your maintenance nightmares begin.

Fuel filters, transmission dipsticks and stuffing boxes are all but impossible to reach. So is anything on the outboard sides of the engines, where there is actually a lot of space, but the hatch, lifting up to only a shallow angle, won't permit access. The generator is stuffed between the front of starboard engine and the bulkhead, rendering it a joy to service. It was no surprise that the engine room is dirty with a lot of rust over everything once you note that the cockpit seat boxes are drained directly into this compartment; the first thing I noticed after opening the hatch was water splashing around. Though this easily corrected, the amount of damage caused by this oversight is not. The helm console also leaks water into the deteriorating foil and foam deck insulation, spreading the water around. A recent engine starting motor replacement apparently having been a recent victim.

Offsetting these faults are two 8D 12 volt batteries so there's no shortage of battery power, though the location of the main switches and circuit breakers at the front of the engine room was piss-poor placement. So was locating the aluminum water tank outboard of the port engine: you have to keep it full to maintain proper trim. It wasn't until the boat was hauled that it was noticed that there are no internal sea strainers on the main engines, just perforated stainless screens on the bottom of the hull.

That's the bad news; the good news is that this boat performs reasonably well. We had a light chop on top of a two foot swell that resulted in a fair test of rough water performance, which I judged to be acceptable. Especially considering that I measured the dead rise at a mere 18 degrees aft. At 15,000 lbs. she's neither heavy nor light, yet the ride gave a definite sense of being a heavy boat. The bow did not fly up every time it hit a wave. Nowadays, with boats getting so light, our perception of what is a good ride versus bad is changing: If you can go 25 knots without your passengers getting injured, that is good. Forget about pleasant versus unpleasant. Boats just aren't heavy enough anymore to give a pleasant ride in anything but calm conditions, and even that is debatable at times.

In any case, I felt that the performance was neither great nor poor, but somewhere in the middle. The Cat 300's pushed her to a top speed of 29.3 knots with four blade props. The hull rides at a rather high angle of attack (around 9-10 degrees) and the trim tabs don't do a lot to bring the bow down. This is largely due to the single 340 gallon fuel tank being located far aft. Thus, it's a little slow to get up on an efficient plane which is not achieved until around 2000 RPM. Otherwise, considering her vital statistics, she should be a fairly efficient fuel burner.

Even though this style boat market niche has not, heretofore, been invaded by price leaders, this is a price boat. There's nothing wrong with that so long as her builders do not chintz on the important basics, such as solid structures. There's no problem with that here, for the basic structures are as good as you'll find at twice the price. The corners that are cut are in the area of fancy and/or top quality hardware and fittings, and a little less of this and that, but you'll have to look close to find identify where they've clipped the coins. Such as no cockpit coaming padding, a Spartan helm panel, and so on. On balance, these are intelligent trade-offs toward reducing costs. To sum up, I felt that the positives outweigh the negatives, and that altogether it's a pretty nice little boat that delivers good value for the money.

Posted June 10, 2001

David Pascoe Power Boat Books

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David Pascoe - Biography

David Pascoe is a second generation marine surveyor in his family who began his surveying career at age 16 as an apprentice in 1965 as the era of wooden boats was drawing to a close.

Certified by the National Association of Marine Surveyors in 1972, he has conducted over 5,000 pre purchase surveys in addition to having conducted hundreds of boating accident investigations, including fires, sinkings, hull failures and machinery failure analysis.

Over forty years of knowledge and experience are brought to bear in following books. David Pascoe is the author of:

In addition to readers in the United States, boaters and boat industry professionals worldwide from nearly 80 countries have purchased David Pascoe's books, since introduction of his first book in 2001.

In 2012, David Pascoe has retired from marine surveying business at age 65.

On November 23rd, 2018, David Pascoe has passed away at age 71.

Biography - Long version

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Power Boat Books

Mid Size Power Boats Mid Size Power Boats
A Guide for Discriminating Buyers
Focuses exclusively cruiser class generally 30-55 feet
With discussions on the pros and cons of each type: Expresses, trawlers, motor yachts, multi purpose types, sportfishermen and sedan cruisers.
Buyers' Guide to Outboard Boats
Selecting and Evaluating New and Used Boats
Dedicated for offshore outboard boats
A hard and realistic look at the marine market place and delves into issues of boat quality and durability that most other marine writers are unwilling to touch.
Surveying Fiberglass Powewr Boats
Surveying Fiberglass Power Boats
2nd Edition
The Art of Pre-Purchase Survey The very first of its kind, this book provides the essentials that every novice needs to know, as well as a wealth of esoteric details.
Marine Investigations
Pleasure crafts investigations to court testimony The first and only book of its kind on the subject of investigating pleasure craft casualties and other issues.
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Last reviewed February 27, 2020.