• Whichever engine you favour, there’s no doubt that in moderate conditions at sensible speeds, this is a perfectly comfortable boat … 
  • Like every traditional, sensibly powered Buster I’ve ever helmed, the XL Pro is a pussycat for the beginner. 
  • Everything about it reaffirms the fact that this boat’s been doing its job very soundly for a great many years.

Buster XL Pro 
Alex Smith examines the latest incarnations of Buster’s perennial family favourite. 
Buster have forged an enviable reputation in northern Europe over the last 60 years. In that time they have built around 125,000 boats and the majority of those are apparently still in regular use. In fact, despite fierce competition from various builders, many of whom seem to be increasingly on board with the modern vogue for aluminium, this established Finnish specialist is so highly regarded that it remains the most prolific leisure brand in the whole of Scandinavia – and that’s a place populated by people who know their boats as well as any in the world.
Given this kind of success, Buster’s range has tended to deviate very little from the winning formula, and that certainly rings true with the XL. It was originally introduced as long ago as 1992 at a length of just over 17 feet. It grew by a foot in 2004 and then expanded again to its current length of nearly 20 feet in 2012 in order to better bridge the fluctuating gap between the models on either side – the X and the XXL. And today, despite the development of 20 models on 10 core platforms of between 13 and 31 feet in length, the Buster fleet remains conspicuously in touch with the principles that helped make its name. 

From XL to XL Pro
When the XL Pro first emerged in 2013, we already knew what to expect. We’d seen the Pro treatment before, with thicker aluminium alongside metal chequer plate decking and more robust, commercial-style fittings – and by adding a little more quality, versatility and durability to the mix, that same approach is evident in the latest incarnation of that boat.
In addition to more elevated bow rails for uprated security, the Pro also uses an aluminium deck and various patches of aluminium trim where the base XL model makes do with plastic. The cleats and grab rails are also higher grade, and in addition to its uprated graphics it also comes with a more sophisticated aft bench arrangement. In contrast to the simple screw-down, cushion-topped bench seat box of the XL model, the Pro uses a set of folding seat bases ahead of a lidded full-beam backrest. That means you can open up the deck space by folding the seats flush, while preserving decent and easily accessible storage space for large items. And it still makes room for the lateral step plates on either side of the cushions for safe and simple disembarkation and easy access to the swim platforms.
Naturally, however, the luxury of a configurable back end and an open cockpit does put pressure on the rest of the storage spaces to take up the slack from the absence of a conventional moulded seat base. To help with that, the storage inside the twin consoles is certainly very useful, but it’s also good to know that Buster’s modular seating system, with screw-down seat boxes that can be fixed to the deck, is available on the options list. As things stand, that classically empty Scandinavian bow is tailor-made for fishing or for the transport of bulky loads, but such is the versatility of the seating system that you can configure it (and reconfigure it) in whatever way suits the application of the day.
As for the much-vaunted ‘Buster Q’ system, that seems equally versatile and forward-thinking. It’s basically an integrated all-in-one control and display panel for your on-board equipment. Inspired by cars and handheld tablets, the smart, touch screen 10in display brings together a variety of features, including electronic charts, engine data, operating manuals, instructional videos and an Internet connection. It also provides easy access to FM and DAB radio, plus fuss-free wireless streaming of your music – and by doing away with conventional dials, it makes even a compact dash like that on the XL Pro feel very clean, with plenty of space for additional aftermarket gadgets. It’s a quality device, and despite looking, feeling and operating like a high-spec option, it is in fact a standard fitment on both the XL and the XL Pro. 

Modern and Manageable
Like every traditional, sensibly powered Buster I’ve ever helmed, the XL Pro is a pussycat for the beginner. Everything about it reaffirms the fact that this boat’s been doing its job very soundly for a great many years. True, the Pro model slightly tweaks the weight, the build, the aesthetic and the layout options of the XL, but this is a boat that will serve just as well for the gruff commercial commuter as the occasional fair-weather novice.
Of course, with those relatively shallow hull angles and that lightweight construction, there’s certainly more corkscrewing off the plane than I would like – and that means you have to give her continual wheel input to make up for her lack of longitudinal stability at pottering speeds. But once you’re in open water, it all becomes very straightforward. You hit the plane in 3.5 seconds, 20 knots in 9 seconds, 25 knots in 12 seconds and 30 knots in 19 seconds – and between 18 and 26 knots, with Yamaha’s new F100 purring away on the transom, the XL Pro is in her element. Even with a 10 per cent safety margin in hand, the integrated 100-litre tank buys us a range approaching 130 nautical miles – and as you recline in those impressive ‘Offshore’ seats, beneath the big, tempered glass screen, it’s easy to imagine you’re in a much larger, more expensive boat.
Push the envelope and, at 5600rpm with three men on board, the digital speedo clicks beyond the 33-knot mark. That’s perfectly acceptable for most applications, particularly given that, like most established Buster platforms, the XL is about safe, sustainable everyday boating rather than outright sport. But in view of the power rating of 80 to 130 hp, the impressively lightweight F130 remains a very real option for those keen to up the ante. The weight penalty is all but negligible (and still comes in at a similar level to the 100hp models from most manufacturers) – and with a price differential of around £2,700, it all comes down to how much you value that extra grunt.
Whichever engine you favour, there’s no doubt that in moderate conditions at sensible speeds, this is a perfectly comfortable boat, but inevitably, the broad surfaces and lightweight aluminium construction can generate a hardness of ride in the lumps. There also seems to be a fair bit of water ingress on the aft bench when the wind is on the beam, and yet it has to be said that the helm protection is outstanding – so much so that at no point do those at the helm incur even a hint of wetness. And in another nod to Nordic practicality, the trim tabs, with their excellent (and superbly intuitive) joystick control, also come as part of the standard package. On the test day, there was really no excuse to use them in anger, but the high screen, moderate deadrise and modest 640kg weight suggest that they would certainly earn their keep in British waters.

Whether the XL Pro is really any better for the everyday leisure boater than the basic XL is certainly a matter for debate, but what is not in doubt is the enduring value of the Buster approach. It’s been putting smiles on the faces of demanding buyers for a great many years, and while the details are continually evolving, the simple underpinnings remain the same. If you buy a Buster XL Pro, you won’t be blown away by its sex appeal, its power or its presence, but you will become fonder of its no-nonsense practicality, more grateful for its rigorously tested dynamics and happier with the simple correctness of your purchase with every decade that passes.

Notable Standard Equipment

  • Twin consoles with storage
  • Tempered glass windscreen
  • Door between consoles
  • One-key lockable stowage
  • Buster Q interface (10in)
  • Trim tabs with joystick control
  • Folding back seats
  • Offshore helm seats
  • Seat covers
  • Anchor lockers
  • Swim platform with ladder
  • Aluminium deck
  • Stainless steel railings, cleats and handles
  • Integrated 100L fuel tank
  • 12v power outlet
  • Hydraulic steering
  • Yamaha Y-COP immobiliser

Notable Options

  • Cushion set
  • Water sports bracket
  • Wakeboard rack
  • Rod holders
  • Auxiliary engine mounting
  • Transducer mounting
  • Compass
  • Sonar
  • AIS
  • Windscreen wipers


  • Novice-friendly drive
  • Versatile cockpit
  • Excellent helm protection
  • Wide range of internal options


  • Corkscrewing off the plane
  • Can be hard-riding in the lumps

RPM               Speed (kn)                Fuel flow (L/h)          Range (nm @ 90%)
750                 2.0                              1.4                              128.6
1000               3.4                              1.9                              161.1
1500               4.6                              3.3                              125.5
2000               5.8                              4.4                              118.6
2500               6.6                              7.8                              76.2
3000               9.2                              11.4                            72.6
3500               17.0                            12.0                            127.5
4000               21.6                            15.0                            129.6
4500               25.6                            18.4                            125.2
5000               29.0                            24.4                            107.0
5500               32.2                            35.6                            81.4
5600               33.3                            35.9                            83.5 

LOA: 5.94m
Beam: 2.17m
Weight: 640kg
Fuel capacity: 100 litres
People capacity: 7
Power: 80–130 hp
Test engine: Yamaha F100

With F100: POA


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