Take a Thrill Pill Sea-Doo 230 Challenger SE

The first time we saw the number 510 on the stern of this new Sea-Doo, our initial thought was that this must be a new model number. But upon seeing the letters “HP,” the mind-blowing process began when the realization hit home: This thing packed 27 more horsepower than the Ferrari F430, which has a top speed of 200 miles per hour. Sick … you finally grasp what that slang word truly means.


Unique Factor

At a little over 23 feet, this is about as big as it gets in the world of jet drive sport boats. Contrasting the toy-like aspect that many sport boats emanate, the 230 Challenger SE has the look and feel of a “real” boat.

Unlike the pointy bows on other sport boats in this class, the Challenger has a beveled bow with a flat top section that makes it easy to board from the front, although it could use a bow boarding ladder for beach landings. One of the most interesting options is the windshield windows than can be electronically lowered – just like the side windows of your car. Each is independent of the other to give crewmembers the choice of hairdo or hairdon’t. Another unique feature is the full safety-glass dam and flip-up window, called the Fold’n Stow walkthrough door, that fully blocks off the space between the main windshields. When not deployed, it slides away neatly into the starboard console.



Unless you have driven one of Sea- Doo’s “muscle craft,” as the company terms its fiery brand of high horsepower PWC, it’s unlikely you’ve ever experienced anything like the acceleration you will feel when jamming the throttle on the 510 hp version of the 230 Challenger SE.

The 230 Challenger SE gets its incredible performance from twin 255 hp Rotax 4-TEC four-stroke engines that use inter-cooled supercharger technology to create the craft’s massive amount of “right now” power. Unlike some other sport boats with twins, there’s only one shifter and one separate power lever. Thanks to Docking Assist, which gently raises the rpm when you have the wheel fully turned, you can spin it on a dime, so single-lever docking causes no worries.

Challenger SE Review

Despite having this much horsepower, the 4-TECs are rated as 3-star “Ultra-Low Emissions” engines by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). You do pay a few penalties for all these ponies. First, you have to use 91 octane gas. But because it weighs 3,500 pounds, this is an easily towable boat, and filling it up at the local gas station isn’t a problem. One thing to be aware of is that it is 3 inches wider than is normally permitted on the road without a wide load permit, but most police officers will probably be checking out its cool look instead of noticing a couple of extra inches. The other issue is the predictably low mileage numbers. At WOT, you are burning 38.5 gph while traveling 57.9 mph, which works out to 1.5 mpg.


At a speed of 40 mph, you can swap ends at will, and with 510 horsepower, you don’t come to a floundering stop either. But make sure to warn your passengers in advance of “gettin’ jiggy” with it.

Perhaps the most impressive capability of the 230 is its remarkable rough-water handling. With 21 degrees of deadrise at the stern and an even sharper entry, the 230 Challenger SE has plenty of slicing power.

Recommended Setup

Challenger SE Review

The 230 comes so well equipped that you don’t have many options other than the scant two choices of color (Ocean Salt or Cabernet Red). Other than engine choice and trailer, your only other major call is whether you want a wakeboard tower or not. Wakeboarders should consider Sea-Doo’s 230 Wake, a similar boat with a built-in ballast.

Because the CX18 is so well equipped, there aren’t many options to choose from, but there are a couple of must-haves, like the Bimini top and in-dash digital depth finder. One of the biggest dilemmas potential buyers will face is whether to go with the lightly tinted, full-coverage windshield that gives normal-sized crewmembers good hairdo protection or the very cool looking low-profile dark smoked model that looks like a pair of wrap-around Oakleys.

Best Uses

The 230 Challenger SE can do a lot of things many other boats can’t. There are 60 cubic feet of storage, but you have to remove the entire seat bottom to access it – something you usually only see on entry-level boats. Its rough-water capability makes it appropriate for larger bodies of water – including coastal waters. Not only can it provide hair-raising thrills, but its interior comfort and amenities make it a great cruiser with a passenger capacity of 12. Big, bad, and beautiful. It’s the sickness that will cure what ails you.

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