Recently there were a few other non-auto Oppo reviews, so I decided to collect my photos and share a review of a product I’m rather enthusiastic about: the 2006 Four Winns 180 Horizon. There’s no question I enjoy driving four wheels, but when the weekend comes, there’s no other place I’d rather be.

Let me show you around.

Disclaimer: Four Winns wanted my family to drive a boat so badly in 2006 that they heavily discounted it at the boat show and made the Canadian dollar close to even. Thanks, guys!

Four Winns is a recreational boat manufacturer based in Cadillac, Michigan. They make a range of models from the 18’ 180 Horizon bowrider to the king-of-the-seas H440, a 44’ monolith that sleeps you and your entire extended family. Their trademark is handsomely styled boats with classic lines, extra standard features and value pricing.

Exterior

I realized I don’t have any proper photos of the boat in the water, probably because most of the time I’m actually in it. But the internet has photos, and believe me when I say it’s a classy shape. This particular generation of Horizon has a smoother outline than the current models and I always take a glance back at the dock when I leave. The fiberglass hull is primarily white, with a solid colour tape stripe around the rub rail. Optional graphics were something we didn’t spec.

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Canvas options are plenty, and we typically store the boat at the dock with a cockpit cover and secondary mooring cover. It’s more work, but the result is we have a nearly spotless 10 year old boat.

Interior

The 180 Horizon is a bowrider, so the front has space for about 3 people. The boat’s overall length is 17’6” so there’s space for 7 people officially. I like the deep seats. We tried some other brands at the show originally and the shallower seats just didn’t feel as secure.

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I’d say this is my view about 95% of the time the boat leaves the dock. The full assortment of gauges includes a depth meter that we optioned and has come in handy many times (although if you’re navigating by depth meter, you’re gonna have a bad time). Switches are for the bilge blower, bilge pump (also automatic), navigation lights and horn.

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My 6’4” frame looks directly at the window frame when I sit in the seat, so I leave the seat bolster permanently in position. That means I generally have to wear glasses every time I go out, otherwise I get hit with bugs, Ariel Atom style.

Tunes on the water are provided by a Clarion head unit and 2 marine speakers. We really don’t use the stereo all that much, mostly because when there are multiple people onboard, we prefer talking. You can spec some sick systems on the current models, though.

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The stern of the boat comes in two different configurations: standard and SunSport. We have the standard interior, which includes 2 jump seats beside the engine compartment that can be moved down for seats and up for a larger sunpad. It works really well and doesn’t reduce the available interior space like the SunSport bench seat.

Performance

The boat weighs 2300 lbs wet (ha!) and is powered by a Mercruiser 3.0L 4 cyl engine. Mercury Marine sources many of their blocks from GM so I believe this one is a bored out version of the 2.5L 4. It produces 135 hp and 180 lbs-ft of torque. Boats have a higher torque requirement so that added displacement is needed to keep the boat on plane. That displacement, combined with the single gear transmission, is likely the reason that boats like to drink the dino juice a little more liberally. WOT comes at about 5000 RPM and that pushes the boat to 42 mph. I’ve tried just about everything to get the boat going faster and it always ends up at 42.

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This inboard-outboard unit is the smallest displacement engine generally used in marine applications. It’s very well matched to this boat. We’ve never really been wanting for power, despite having up to 5 or 6 people on board when skiing or tubing. Four Winns’ hull design means we consistently get up on plane in about 3 seconds and it turns beautifully. When the lake is calm, it’s such a blast to build a slalom course.

The current generation of 180 Horizon models can be built with up to a 4.5L 6cyl engine producing 250 hp. Now that’s a rocket ship!

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Portability

My family tows the boat with a V6 Mazda Tribute. At about 3100 lbs with trailer, we’re basically at the top level of what might be considered safe for the car’s 3500 lbs limit but considering we generally transport it from the lake to the dealer twice a year, it works well. That brings up the other point in that we’re basically paying a trailer fuel economy price all the time. How do those guys with V8 pickups do it!

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Any larger boat and we’d need a bigger car so that’s another reason why this boat fits our requirements very well.

Operating Costs

One of the main things I wanted to explain with the review is how operating costs shake down. The saying “it’s better to know a friend with a boat than to own one yourself” comes to mind, but really it’s not all that much different than a motorcycle or even a luxury car. The problem we have in Ontario is that the season is only about 4 months long, both for time and climate reasons, so whatever you spend to keep it running keeps the hourly cost high.

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The single largest fixed operating cost is storage and winterization. For an 18’ boat like this, along with seasonal insurance, that cost is about $2000. Like owning any car, this goes up or down depending on your situation. My family’s situation is such that the most effective solution is to have our dealer prep, store and maintain the boat at the end of the season. The upside is that we can just get in and go in the spring and we’ve never had mechanical issues (touch fiberglass). There are lots of ways to save money here, though, because if you’re comfortable changing fluids and plugs and putting in some elbow grease to clean in the fall, you only have the cost of parts. Plus if you’re able to store it safely in a garage or something, there’s no need for shrink wrapping.

The secondary cost involved is fuel and that’s generally the smallest cost, percentage wise. The boat has an 89 L (23 gal) fuel tank that we fill once in the spring while on the trailer, then top it off with 20L cans throughout the summer. In the end we might put 2 full tanks through, so that’s about $250. Naturally if your boat is 26’ long and is powered by 8.3L V8s, that number is significantly larger, along with the storage fees.

Value

Any recreational vehicle would be considered a luxury, so I consider myself very fortunate that I get to enjoy it so often. I love spending a day out on the water and showing people around. Back in 2006 this model was listed at the Toronto boat show for a price of $18,000 CAD. By the time you add options and canvas and taxes, the “off-the-dock” price is about $25k. In those terms, this boat represents great value, and it looks even better against the current models available. The 2015 Four Winns H180 is now a full 18’ long (model bloat!) but starts at $27,000 CAD. Inflation doesn’t account for all of that, and I’m not sure you actually get the difference back in new features or performance.

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I won’t compare it to a particular car model, but it offers great performance, high quality materials and stylish design for an industry-relative great price.

All photos from me.

  • Length overall: 17’6’
  • Weight: 2300 lbs (3100 lbs with trailer)
  • Horsepower: 135 hp
  • Engine: 3.0L 4cyl Mercury Mercruiser inboard/outboard
  • Seating: 7
  • Fuel capacity: 89 L
  • Fuel economy: not really important
  • Max speed: 42 mph
  • Experience: the best