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SN 206 v. RLXi

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I just stumbled upon this post I made last year...

disclaimer: This is a slalom-only comparison. Wakeboarding and barefooting are not discussed here.

I got a chance to ski with a friend of mine last night who has an '04 206. I spent time at 22 and 28 off between 32 and 36 MPH. Here are a few opinions and comparisons from behind the boat and behind the wheel. I'll compare it to the RLXi specifically since it's the most direct competition from the Malibu camp.

Behind the boat

The trademark Nautique hump is still there at 22 off and 32 MPH, although it's quite a bit smaller than the older hulls threw. The wake is rather hard at that speed though and I found my ski coming out of the water quite a bit at that length and speed. At 34 and 36, things flatten out some and my ski was tracking better through the wakes. At 28 off, the wake was quite a bit softer and smaller (to be expected) but still slightly harder than I expected. At all speeds, my ski would track through the wakes well though, so I can deal with the hardness with a little extra absorption in the legs.

Comparing these wakes to the RLXi (keeping in mind that I haven't been behind an RLXi in about a month)... I'd say the RLXi is more skier-friendly at these line lengths and speeds. You just don't notice the wake as much behind the Malibu, although the SN is no slouch. I'd be happy skiing behind either as my primary tow rig, but if I had my druthers, it'd be the Malibu. That 22 off hump is a PITA for us not-so-good (not-so-frequent) course skiers and it is an impediment when trying to teach new and younger skiers the course at slower speeds.

Behind the wheel


Is Malibu the only company that knows how to make a comfortable driver's seat? I didn't care much for the seat at all. The back was reclined too far back for my liking. Ergonomically, the controls are comfortable; the throttle's in a good position with a decent armrest, the wheel isn't too high or too low, the dash is a good height, and you can actually drive it by looking through the windshield, rather than over or under a shield border. In case you don't know my opinion of the RLXi ergos, here's a brief rundown. The seat is too low, the dash and throttle are too high, and the windsheild stinks. For thoughtful layout, the SN206 is better than the RLXi, despite the poor seat design. As a side note, if the RLX were in this comparison, it would be the champ in this category.

layout and features:

As far as gauges and controls go, the Malibu wins hands-down. The Nautique gauges, while functional, are on a dash that doesn't look like it belongs in a $40,000 ski boat. It looks like it belongs in a Rinker. The speedometer adjustment on the CC is a mechanical knob up under the dash. On the Malibu, it's a digital rocker switch. The Malibu also has a much "smarter" gauge package with the integrated water temp sensor, depth finder, etc... When it comes to aesthetics and luxurious appointments, the Malibu is king. The interior layout is similar in both boats, but the rear seating area of the Nautique seems smaller due to the tapering design of most CCs. Both boats offer netted gunnel storage, but the Malibu gunnels are quite a bit wider and are capable of holding more stuff. The Nautique has a motorbox that's narrower at the top than the Malibu. This is a nice touch. The Nautique also comes with bow speakers... something you can't even get on the RLXi. Both boats have their strong points in this category, but when you look at what you're getting for your money, the RLXi comes out ahead.

performance and handling:

Malibu needs gear reduction trannys. With the 330 PCM, the Nautique jumps out of the water with or without a skier in the water. The RLXi isn't "underpowered" but it is more obvious when you have a skier in the water. The HammerHead and Monsoon make more torque than the PCM (if you believe Indmar) but you wouldn't know that from driving them. I attribute this to the tranny, which was so smooth, that I couldn't really tell when I was going in and out of gear. There was no obvious RPM drop in the engine, no clunk, no click, no obvious point the throttle "snapped to." At first, it was actually kindof hard to idle around picking up a downed skier, tightening the line, etc. Slow speed handling is nothing to write home about with either boat, but when circling around a downed skier, the RLXi's prop torque gives it a tighter low speed right turn. CC should swallow their pride and start making a boat with the prop turning in the right direction (even if their torque argument does hold water). Docking Nautiques is no fun (French engineering... go figure tounge.gif ). Handling at speed is good with both boats, but good in different ways. The Nautique seems firmly glued to the water and maybe not quite as responsive as the Malibu. The Malibu seems more quick-to-react to light steering inputs, but perhaps at the expense of tracking. Unfortunately, I didn't get to drive the Nautique in a course (yet) but I know the RLXi has "good" tracking, but perhaps not "superb."

Some of that perceived "flickability" from the Malibu may come from the more neutral rudder state and the zero friction steering. You can one-finger steer the Malibu. The Nautique requires a firm grip. There's a lot more steering torque on the 'tique. The muffler design on the CC is great though. This is definitely something Malibu should incorporate into their DDs. Even if they keep dual outlets, they need some sort of expansion chamber like their V drives have. The CC is quieter, plain and simple.

The CC isn't nearly as prone to playing U-boat commander as the RLXi is...

If I had to pick a favorite in this category, I don't know if I could do it, so I'll say this. If you like a sportier, more responsive feel, and you do a lot of skiing from the dock, get the Malibu. If you like a more solid feel and are willing to sacrifice some of the athleticism the Malibu gives, or if you are going to be pulling several skiers (7 or more) at a time with frequency, get the Nautique.


Personally, if I were buying, I'd get the Malibu for a few reasons.

1. I like the wakes better.

2. I like the looks better.

3. More standard features for less money.

4. I tend to prefer the sportier handling.

5. I like the gauges and dash better.

6. We ski from the dock a lot, so docking is important.

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I've spent a good amount of time behind both boats, more with the RLXi, and IMO, the RLXi wins hands down. I am actually getting farther and farther away from being a Nautiques fan. I trick a little and the Nautique trick wake is horrible. I would buy a PS197 and the Supra LTS before I would venture toward a 206. You won't believe it, but I like skiing behind our Eclipse better than the 206. I don't like that wake at all.

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I realize this was strictly a slalom comparison, but I have to give my 2cents on the "power" issue. If MAlibu ever used a redustion transmission, I would never get it. A nautique wide open (without the zr6) will barely run 45. Put a barefooter back there and you'll get 44, not even enough for high-end footing. Even if I give up some holeshot, I'd rather have a boat that will come close to 50. If the monsoon isn't enough holeshot for you, prop down. I bet malibu would be happy to do that, but they don't because a lot of people foot behind their boats, whereas NOONE buys a nautique to barefoot because it's horrible. Overall, I think that the Rlxi wake is so much more user-friendly than the nautique, propwash and humps are just the most pronounced problems on nautiques, not to mention width, hardness, and shape. As for the overall experience and drivability, I would pit a Rlxi against any ski boat. One thing that I especially like is that the ease of driving the Rlxi makes it less intimidating to novice drivers. Super -easy steering is great for inexperinced drivers becasue they can keep a hand on the throttle without panicking. anyway, my 2c

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Having owned some nautiques I will say they make a solid boat, but as it has been mentioned nautique gave up a good trick wake for a slalom wake and have lost balance, and for what they are (and the fact that they cost less to make than a malibu) they are not worth it.

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