Center-Console vs. Bowrider

Center-Console vs. Bowrider
Scarab Open Wake 235 ID versus Wake 235 ID
The Open Wake 235 ID and Wake 235 ID are similar, but also have some important differences.
Courtesy Scarab Jet Boats

In many ways, the raging popularity of center-console boats mirrors America’s infatuation with pickup trucks. Both vehicle types have evolved from ­utilitarian origins—trucks for tradesmen and farmers, center-console boats for dedicated anglers—into versatile platforms that might compromise some of that original utility for comfort, luxury, muscular performance, or the image that each one projects about the captain, creating a platform with much broader appeal.

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Scarab Jet offers one of the newest interpretations of the center-console format with its multisport 235 Open Wake ID, a boat that combines powerful jet propulsion with a “tailgate” transom, and available options to support angling, dayboating and wakesports. Available Fishing and Premium Sound packages can be combined to support just about any on-water activity. Also new for 2024 is the Scarab Jet 235 Wake ID bowrider, which features similar wakesports features and can be ordered with the Premium Sound package. Both boats were waiting on Lake Cadillac when we visited Scarab Jet in Michigan late last year, presenting us with the perfect opportunity to conduct an in-depth comparison—not just of these two boats, but of the runabout and ­center-console formats as each relates to family boating. Are you thinking about jumping on the center-console ­bandwagon? Read on for our perspective.

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The Foundation

These new Scarab Jet 235 ­models use the same 22-foot-6-inch hull, the first all-new Scarab Jet running surface created since Groupe Beneteau launched the Scarab Jet brand 10 years ago. Its first boats were based on designs, often modified, that were acquired from BRP when it dropped its Sea-Doo boat line. This hull incorporates lessons learned from a decade of experience with jet power, although Groupe Beneteau declines to discuss specifics other than ­pointing out new reverse chines for improved stability. Much effort was made to shape the bottom to create an appealing surf wake, because wakesurfing has become a key reason to buy a boat for many people.

Scarab 235 Wake ID
The 235 Wake ID offers a secure and sporty ride.
Courtesy Scarab Jet Boats

Both of our test boats were powered by twin 1.6-liter three-cylinder supercharged 300 hp Rotax 1630 jet drives ($10,125 over base twin 170 hp engines). This four-stroke engine features freshwater cooling and four power modes: Ski, Eco, Dock and Cruise. For 2024, only these two Scarab jet models feature the BRP iDF system, which uses reverse thrust through the pump to clear intake-­clogging weeds with the push of a button. With 600 hp below the hatch, we experienced instant acceleration and blazing speed—both boats topped 60 mph with a light load—and all the benefits of jet power, including agile handling, the ability to spin the boat within its own length, minimal draft and ease of maintenance, plus wake surfability because there is no prop risk.

Scarab 235 Open Wake ID
The 235 Open Wake ID offers two-wide helm seating along with other comfy options.
Courtesy Scarab Jet Boats

The Inside Scoop

Boating has previously reviewed both the Scarab Jet 235 ID and Scarab Jet 235 Open ID, so we won’t rehash all of the features here. The 235 ID offers an attractive but fairly conventional bowrider layout, with a broad bow to enlarge the forward cockpit. The 15-inch depth between seat and gunwale here adds security when young boaters are aboard. There’s a table mount, speakers and USB power outlets in the bow, but no anchor locker. Bucket seats and two L-shaped lounge seats fill the main cockpit. The Scarab Versa-­Lounge offers three ways to configure the aft seating/­lounging space over the low-profile motorbox, and a full sun lounge when optional filler cushions ($1,285) are ordered. The center walk-through provides great access to the lounge area and swim platform, which is 30 inches deep. The boat is rated to carry 12 passengers, but we think that there’s room for eight or nine family members and friends to head out for a fun day on the water.

Scarab 235 Open Wake ID aft tailgate
The aft tailgate on the 235 Open Wake ID folds down to create a large back porch.
Courtesy Scarab Jet Boats

The clever aft tailgate is a ­highlight feature of the 235 Open Wake ID. With the gate up, there’s a 12-inch-deep platform abaft the rather tall transom of this center-console. But that entire transom can be folded down over the platform to create a back porch that’s 3 feet, 4 inches deep, an ideal staging area for fishing, swimming, gearing up to dive or for board sports, or lounging on aft-facing seats, and makes for easy boarding from the dock. The boat may be operated at speed with the gate down if no rear-seat passengers are facing aft. To raise the gate, we had to get down on one knee to reach the grab handle, but once in hand, the gate was easy to pull up. The top of the motorbox is about 10 inches higher than the platform. Fold down the cockpit seatbacks, and this area becomes a flat sun lounge or a casting platform. The seatbacks can also be adjusted for aft-facing lounging or for forward-facing seats within the cockpit. A two-wide helm seat features individual flip-up bottom bolsters and seatbacks that pivot for aft-facing comfort. The aluminum T-top has a textured black finish, and its fiberglass top features a Marine Mat covering intended to protect a stand-up paddleboard or kayak that can be secured using top rails. There’s a double lounge seat forward of the console, which lifts to reach a changing area with canvas enclosure. The forward deck is about 3 feet long, with a hatch that covers a 28-quart Cordova cooler. This is a broad casting platform or, when equipped with the sun pads, another lounge area. This boat shines as a multisport tool ready to support a variety of activities.

Scarab 235 Wake ID wakesurfing
Ballast can be easily deployed and stored on the 235 Wake ID.
Courtesy Scarab Jet Boats

Wake Up!

Both of the Scarab Jet 235 ­models that we tested were Wake Sport editions, equipped with features designed to support any ­tow-behind activity. To the 235 ID model, the Wake Sports package adds a folding wakesports tower with two pivoting board racks and a water-ballast system; at the helm, there’s a premium 12.3-inch Medallion Viper III touchscreen used to set up speed/acceleration profiles, to control the ballast pump, and to manage the audio and RBG lighting systems, in addition to displaying engine- and boat-function information. Up to 1,071 pounds of ballast is contained in Fatsac bags located below the port and starboard cockpit seats. These bags collapse when empty, so storage space remains available.

Scarab 235 Open Wake ID
There aren’t many center-console boats that throw a surfable wake.
Courtesy Scarab Jet Boats

Order the Scarab Jet 235 Open Wake ID, and the boat comes equipped with the Medallion Viper III touchscreen, a tow point on the T-top plus two board racks, and a ballast system. A pair of Fatsac bags provides up to 1,235 pounds of ballast—one bag deployed on the swim platform and the other on top of the motorbox. There’s a connection on the transom to a built-in pump to fill the bags. When not in use, these bags can be stowed within the console, although that will probably hinder using this space as a head. Not an ideal setup, but unlike outboard-powered models, the 235 Open Wake is a center-console that you can surf.

Scarab 235 Wake ID helm
The Medallion Viper III touchscreen is top-notch.
Courtesy Scarab Jet Boats

The Medallion Viper III touchscreen is top-notch, and with this much power on tap, setting up profiles is almost a must. Clearly, the ballast system on the center-console model will not prove handy to use. You’ll need to climb over the bag to use the platform or the aft deck, and stow the bags when they are not in use. In the bowrider, the bags are out of sight and out of the way. We found that placing the ballast weight on the platform also caused the center-console boat to run with a very bow-high attitude at surf speeds. In both cases, the ballasted Scarab Jet models provide a decent surf wake that pro Ryan Bezemek describes as “not huge but offers a deep pocket and good push, especially for the boat size.” If wakesports are a big part of your agenda, the runabout would be the better choice.

Scarab 235 Open Wake ID
Visibility at the helm of the 235 Open Wake ID is outstanding.
Courtesy Scarab Jet Boats


As we’d expect, the center-console 235 Open Wake ID offers more to an angler than does the 235 Wake ID bowrider. The layout makes it possible to work all around the boat, there are decent casting decks fore and aft, and the lowered tailgate grants unobstructed water access off the stern. Jet power means there’s no outboard or drive in the way. Scarab Jet had a second example of this boat set up with its Fishing Package ($2,735), which adds a baitwell within the helm seat pedestal, two sets of slide-in tackle boxes below the forward platform, port and starboard rod holders, three rocket-launcher rod holders on the T-top, and a mounting board at the bow for a trolling motor, prewiring at the bow for the trolling motor and an MFD, and a spot for three batteries within the console. There’s room for at least one 12-inch MFD at the helm. You’ll need a cooler for a fish box, but we think that this could be a pretty good setup for inshore ­angling. The minimal draft of the jet propulsion will let you slink into some skinny water. Finished in Liquid Blue or Seafoam Green, this boat will even fit the ­coastal decor.

Of course, you could fish from any runabout, including the 235 Wake ID, but there is no fishing package offered, and no accommodation for fishing gear. This boat, like most bowriders, is really not a good choice for even casual angling.

Scarab Jet 235 ID at anchor
The Scarab Versa-Lounge offers three ways to configure the aft seating/­lounging space.
Courtesy Scarab Jet Boats


If your main aquatic activity is hanging out at the cove or sandbar, then refreshments, audio and lounging assume top priorities. Both the 235 Wake ID and 235 Open Wake ID come equipped with dedicated cooler space for chilled beverages. Both can also be equipped with a JL Audio Premium Sound Package ($3,935 for the 235 ID and $4,235 for the 235 Open ID), which includes transom speakers and a subwoofer, plus RGB lighting in the speakers, as well as underwater RGB lighting. Both boats can be set up for lounging comfort with sun pads for the bow and aft decks. The center-console T-top enables installation of bow and aft sail shades ($3,525), and with the tailgate down, there’s room for dancing. Both of these boats will support fun in the sun.

Read Next: Flats Boat vs. Bay Boat vs. Hybrid

Scarab 235 Open Wake ID forward seating
There’s a double lounge seat forward of the console on the 235 Open Wake ID.
Courtesy Scarab Jet Boats

Pros and Cons

We always enjoy the centered, stand-up operating position of a center-console. Visibility is great, it’s easier to see the dock, and when standing at the helm, you are in an athletic position that just feels commanding ­compared with a seated position in a runabout.

On its trailer, the Scarab Jet 235 Open Wake ID is 10 feet, 9 inches tall, which means it is probably not going to fit in your garage. This won’t be a problem with most runabouts, even with a wake tower, because the tower will fold down.

Jet-propelled boats from ­Scarab Jet and Yamaha can enable surfing at a casual, family level. The jets can make quite a bit of froth right behind the boat, but in the case of these Scarab models, this is not an issue. With its in-cockpit ballast, the 235 Wake ID runabout just works better for watersports.

The cockpit of a runabout such as the Scarab Jet 235 Wake ID is probably better-suited to socializing than that of a center-console, which divides the boat into smaller sections. The gang can sit and face each other in the runabout.

Regarding performance, both of these boats compare favorably but not identically. The 235 ID tested a bit faster and netted a bit better economy. The difference in air drag between the wake tower and the T-top probably accounts for the difference.

A center-console boat allows its captain to project an adventurous persona, like a four-wheeler pickup—you’re ready for anything in this rig, especially fishing. You might just be headed to the sandbar or the grocery store, but you are prepared for action. The bowrider is a minivan by comparison, one with style and quick-handling performance. It offers more comfort and a better watersports experience. The price difference between these two probably isn’t swaying too many boat buyers one way or the other. Which is the one that’s right for you? Only you’ll know.

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