Boat Test: 2023 Manitou Cruise 22 MAX Switchback

Boat Test: 2023 Manitou Cruise 22 MAX Switchback

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Manitou has literally changed the shape of pontoons. The sleek new 24-foot-­​4-inch Cruise 22 MAX Switchback model features curvaceous bodywork, and stealthy and uniquely engineered Rotax outboard power tucked below the expansive MAX Deck aft that unlocks 38 square feet of extra “back porch” space. The MAX Deck is a standard feature on three entry-priced Manitou Cruise and three midrange Explore models equipped with the Rotax S outboard.

Manitou Cruise 22 MAX Switchback running
The Manitou V-Toon tritoon hull carves neat turns at speed.
Bill Doster


Exclusive to Manitou in the pontoon market, the Rotax S is available in 115 and 150 hp iterations, and features standard digital controls, power steering and ­automatic trim. At both power ratings, the Rotax S utilizes a proven 1.9-liter three-cylinder, two-stroke powerhead—formerly an Evinrude product—oriented horizontally and enclosed in a watertight case so it fits below deck level. The point is to offer outboard power without having to see or play around the outboard.

Because the motor lives in the water, its cast-aluminum cover is secured with 15 bolts and a hermetic seal. Maintenance that requires removing those bolts for access to the powerhead is ­scheduled only after five years or 500 hours. A number of ­internal ­features—probes, small pumps and check valves—are intended to protect the powerhead from condensation forming in the sealed case and water backwashing through the exhaust. BRP says the rigged Rotax outboard weighs about 522 pounds—about 57 pounds heavier than a ­Mercury 150 FourStroke outboard, and a rather significant 150 pounds heavier than a Mercury 115 ­FourStroke.

The patented triple-tube Manitou ­V-Toon hull features 25-inch-diameter outboard tubes and a 27-inch center tube. The bottom of the center tube is 5 inches lower than the outboard tubes, so at speed the boat rides on the center tube with the outboard tubes acting as stabilizers. Initiate a turn and the boat heels over slightly, which helps the Cruise 22 MAX carve neatly and improves passenger comfort. All tubes are equipped with lifting strakes and reinforced nose cones with splash guards. We’ve noted the impressive agility of this hull in past Manitou reviews, and the Cruise 22 MAX upholds this reputation.
The Rotax S150 option ($1,530) powered our test boat to a top speed of 35 mph with a light load, a competitive performance with similar 150 hp pontoons. The motor is smooth, and we noted about 80 dB(A) at cruising speed—not whisper-quiet but not objectionable either. However, we think the higher-pitch tone created by the two-stroke Rotax engine makes it seem louder than a 150 hp four-stroke outboard.

Manitou Cruise 22 MAX Switchback helm
At the helm, all critical information is presented on a 7-inch Garmin touchscreen multifunction display. Bill Doster

The eye-catching Cruise profile is ­created by forming the sides of sheet aluminum in a process similar to that of pressing automobile bodywork. This technique is exclusive to Manitou and enables forming complex shapes and integrating forward lighting. The look is sleek and modern—the boat looks like a Tesla skimming over the water—and the sides are lighter than those formed from fiberglass. The aluminum panels are finished with a durable powder coat and secured to an inner composite structure that also forms the seat bases and storage ­compartments.

The motor trims below the platform. When tilted clear of the water, it raises a hinged center section of the MAX Deck by simply pushing it up on a pair of plastic sliders. We tried to lift the deck section by hand, and it’s really heavy—not much chance it’s going to bounce around in rough seas. But just in case, Manitou has placed powerful magnets below the deck to hold it down on the boat.

Interior and Accessories

Step aboard and note the clean, modern and integrated interior design. The seats have a new, contemporary shape and crisp colors in premium Simtex vinyl that complement the exterior. Drink holders and speaker enclosures are integrated into molded inwale panels. Switchback aft seatbacks pivot forward and aft, and there is another Switchback seat at the port console. The helm has no traditional instruments—all critical information is displayed on a 7-inch Garmin touchscreen multifunction display that also incorporates GPS navigation capability. Our boat featured the Signature Package ($2,500) that includes lighted center-tube storage, a helm seat bolster, LED docking and courtesy lights, a second battery with a Smart Switch, a privacy station curtain and a dinette table. The optional Sport Bimini ($3,140) is supported by a tubular aluminum arch with a hydraulic assist. This 12-foot-long one-piece top covers the deck from the helm aft and is speed-rated to 55 mph.

Manitou Cruise 22 MAX Switchback cockpit
Sport Bimini raises with one hand, and it’s speed-rated up to 55 mph. Bill Doster

There is no question the new Manitou Cruise and its Explorer sibling bring a new level of style and function to the pontoon segment—the MAX Deck is a revelation. But unless you are a rabid early adopter, there will be understandable hesitation to consider a boat with an engine this ­radically different. Bringing the Rotax outboard to market required a determined effort. A few seasons on the water will be the true test of this interesting marine-propulsion concept.

How We Tested

  • Engine: Rotax S150
  • Drive/Prop: Outboard/BRP Rogue 13.5″ x 17″ 4-blade stainless steel
  • Gear Ratio: 2.08:1 Fuel Load: 34 gal. Crew Weight: 380 lb.

High Points

  • LinQ integrated attachment points can be used to secure an accessory 13.5-gallon LinQ cooler to the MAX Deck.
  • Rotax S outboard requires no service for five years or 500 hours and self-winterizes.
  • TransCore composite deck resists rot and is 30 percent lighter and 50 percent more rigid than plywood. It is also made from 100 percent recycled materials.

Low Points

  • No track record for this new Rotax S outboard—how will it hold up?
  • Raised center section of the MAX Deck could be a serious toe-pincher; make sure the kids are clear before lowering the outboard.
  • Sound levels are not lower, and its stroke tone contrasts starkly with the newest four-stroke outboards.

Pricing and Specs

Price: $57,645 (base with test power)
LOA: 24’4″
Beam: 8’5″
Draft (max): NA
Displacement: 3,532 lb.
Transom Deadrise: NA
Bridge Clearance: 6’6″
Seat/Weight Capacity: 11/1,551 lb.
Fuel Capacity: 43 gal.
Max Horsepower: 150
Available Power: Rotax S115 or S150 outboard

Speed, Efficiency, Operation

Manitou Cruise 22 MAX Switchback performance data
Cruise 22 MAX Switchback Certified Test Results Boating Magazine

Manitou Pontoons – Lansing, Michigan;

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