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Ranger Launches New Z-Comanche

Friday, August 13, 2004

Photo: Ranger Boats
Here's a shot of the new Z-Comanche running. Note the flush aluminum stringers that run bow to stern on the deck.

Is it news when one of the major bass boat manufacturers completely redesigns its flagship bass boat? Darn right. But when's the last time any company did that? The Stratos ASX comes to mind, though that was more of a one-time hot rod than a true line of boats. Other manufacturers – including Skeeter, Triton, Champion and Bass Cat – have made continuous improvements to their boats, but a complete redesign?

Seems like a tough question, but not really. Don't think too far back because the last time such a redesign occurred was (or is) today, when Ranger Boats unveiled its new Z-Series Comanche at the FLW Tour Championship in Birmingham, Ala.

The Z-Comanche is the product of an 18-month stem to stern (literally) revamp that flaunts the conventional wisdom of not messing with a good thing: Ranger is the acknowledged market leader in bass boat sales, and Ranger's 500 series boats are its flagship bassing machines.

So is redesigning everything but the drain plug a smart move or a risky bet? Ultimately BassFans will be the judge of that, as measured in boat sales. And believe it or not, Ranger has already taken orders for the Z-Comanche sight unseen. It won't divulge the number, but company president Randy Hopper said: "If the number of orders we've received are any indication of the success of this product, we'll be very pleased."

Ranger calls the Z-Series "a series of total performance fishing machines with more best-in-class features than any other tournament rig on the water." A big claim. Here's a thumbnail sketch of what's new and different. (Editor's note: This is not a review of the Z-Series boat. Since it was just unveiled today, no one from the BassFan staff has had a chance to actually drive it.)


  • New Dri-Latch compartment locking system. Car door-like latches and locks are embedded in aluminum stringers, with the result that no holes are in box lids – so there's no opportunity for water to pool and funnel through the key latch (the new latch also is more secure, Ranger says). And to help with having a dry box, the trim is raised 30 percent.

    Photo: Ranger Boats
    The new console has a racy look and feel.

  • 95-inch beam, the largest beam on the market, which also gives more vertical space under the console (more legroom up, down and across), and aids with a more comfortable ride and better visibility at the console.
  • More, larger and slightly different storage, including rod storage. New tapered rod tubes allow for rods up to 7' 6" in the Z21 and Z22, and 8 feet in the Z20.
  • Digital, solid-state switching. No fuses to replace, and reset buttons are at your fingertips.
  • The center seat folds down differently and has a tread surface on the back for stepping on.
  • The all-new hull design is "built for handling" on the water, and is designed to handle the heavier outboards now on the market as well as "regular" outboards. Ranger says the Z-Comanche has the best maneuverability of any Ranger, yet still retains that solid Ranger feel and has a "lightning" hole shot.
  • Z-Series trailers have standard: Road Armor (like a truck bed liner, but looks like paint), torsion suspension (like 4-wheel independent suspension), LED brake lights (no bulbs), aluminum brake calipers and a cool new center jack.


  • New dash design – Wood grain is out and hot rod-like brushed aluminum is in, supplied by the same vendor that builds side panels for Harley Davidson.

    Photo: Ranger Boats
    The 95-inch beam is the widest of any bass boat.

  • The Soft Ride Seats (S-R-S) remain, but are now covered in a new type of faux leather that has an automotive-type feel to it.
  • Last but not least, the Comanche stripes are a little different.
  • Hopper Weighs In

    Hopper, who spearheaded the design process, said: "A lot of things in the boat will be recognizable. This thing isn't Star Wars, and we didn't want it to be that way. Fishability is at the core of what we're trying to accomplish – overall performance has to be considered very carefully."

    He added that everything isn't different. "We have a pultruded fiberglass transom in this boat (same as other Rangers) because we don't believe there's a better system anywhere. We wanted a different look – no doubt about it, we were looking for a different boat – but we couldn't erase all of our (construction) knowledge that we've accumulated."

    "We're constantly developing new products, but this time we started from blank sheet of paper more than ever. Even though this is an evolution of years of boat-building, this has more unique part numbers than probably any introduction we've done in many years. But nothing has been changed just for the sake of changing things. Material selection has been carefully considered, and we've really taken advantage of the latest technology available to us, as far as boat-building is concerned. New products are necessary in any marketplace, and this is what we believe is the epitome in the latest and greatest materials, technology and performance."

    What Ranger Seeks to Achieve
    "We've set the pace for many years, and we want to continue to be the leader in the industry. All product development should be based on delivering more value to your customer, and we believe this boat does. It raises our own standard, which we believe is the benchmark for everyone else. We are permanently dissatisfied as a company. Even though this Z boat has a chance of displacing the business of our No. 1 seller, we believe in giving the customer a choice, and we're not going to hold anything back on product. That's not saying anything bad about the 500 series – we just believe this product offers even more."


    Photo: Ranger Boats
    Note the redesigned Comanche stripes.

    > Hopper on heavier outboards: "Four-stroke means heavier, DI means heavier. The Mercury Verado, Honda, Yamaha – all these guys are coming out with bigger, heavier motors."

    > An 18-month design time is typical for new Ranger boat models, but "the scope of this project was larger," Hopper noted. What helped Ranger accomplish so much in such a short period of time is that the Z-Comanche was the first boat the company designed "beginning to end" with computer technology modeling software.

    > It's been more than 20 years since Ranger redesigned a boat this much. The 400 series, designed in 1989, was pretty different, and the 500 series updated and improved the 400. But not since the 350s came out in the late 1970s has Ranger done something so totally different, Hopper said.

    > To read the press release, which has some different details, click here to go to the Ranger Cup section.

    What do you think? Click here to let us know.

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