VIDEO: WHITTLEY SL 20

By: TIM VAN DUYL, Photography by: ELLEN DEWAR, Video by: JOSH ROBINSON

Presented by
  • Trade-A-Boat

Most boat builders take a proven great hull and stretch it for all they’re worth. Not Whittley – meet the two-foot shorter Sea Legend, the SL 20

  

WHITTLEY SL 20

I don’t normally start a review with one of the key findings but – spoiler alert – I would buy an SL 20.

To put this into perspective, I rarely say that as I’m spoilt for choice thanks to my role here at Trade-a-Boat but the SL 20 did it, it won me over.

Born of the need to create an entry-level Sea Legend complete with stern drive, the team at Whittley decided not to rewrite the book but to use the winner of a hull they already had in the SL 22.

Whittley SL20 On Trailer

With two feet less in the hull – directly aft of the cuddy cabin – comes the SL 20. An entry-level boat it may be but it’s still a fairly big decision, especially on price. Although around A$20,000 cheaper than the SL22, a decent package is still going to set you back some A$80,000. You do get a large list of standard inclusions and the high-tech Volvo Penta 200-G V6, however.

SL 22 v SL 20

The SL 22 is a fishing legend, efficient at cruise and troll, and known for its reliability in pushing through the worst conditions with confidence, time and again. Add in the standard live well, stainless rocket launcher, non-slip rubber flooring; a good, high bait station and plenty of storage and it fast becomes clear why the SL 22 is so popular offshore. The smaller 20 has a lot to live up to then, and the factory knows it, hence the live well is an option and the fuel tank is a touch smaller – 150 litres versus 180 litres – with other small changes to keep the cost down. But these cutbacks don’t spoil the value or sacrifice the quality of the package; they’ve created a more affordable way to get into the Sea Legend family, but I’ll get back to that later. 

Capture

VIDEO: Watch the Whittley SL 22 in action

LAYOUT

The rear of the transom is moulded around the engine, creating space either side of the engine cover as boarding platforms. I like the approach; it’s common enough, but while not ground-breaking, it does away with the need for a swim platform. Twin gated step-throughs are moderate in height and easy enough to transverse but I’d recommend adding the optional non-slip rubber matting to the transom if you are not surefooted.

On the dancefloor, one feature immediately stands out – Whitley’s use of twin Cool-Ice Eskys as queen seats. The team expertly cut the lids so they can be opened in situ; they’re secured by sturdy rubber straps. With padding on top, they’ll do as second seats for the kids or as a place to watch your spread, yet they don’t encroach on fishing space too much. Moulded side pockets feature rod tubes while small plastic edges create shelves for odds and ends.

Whittley SL20 Details (4)

The coamings are a comfortable height to stand at and although two feet have been pulled from the length, you can still fish two per side comfortably, if not so comfortably as in the SL 22.

Our test boat, the first of the series, features a slightly larger fuel tank than the production models, which ate into our in-floor kill tank – newer boats will have a larger version. The alloy rocket launcher will be fine for most buyers and anyone wanting more strength can opt for a stainless version. The standard bimini and clears are good and, as mentioned, a great standard inclusion.

Whittley SL20 Details (6)

The helm feels familiar – the same as the SL 22 – which means limited space between the steering wheel and seat. Although manageable for my big frame, it could cause issues for the more rotund skipper. The dash can take 12in monitors; our Garmin 7407 fitted nicely. The berths are as per the 22 – about 1.9m long and with infills big enough to take a couple easily. Underneath there’s more storage and provision for a cassette toilet, while to round it out the boat comes with standard cabin lining which softens the space and adds warmth.

THE RIDE

I met Alan Whittley at Patterson’s Lake ramp and while we waited for the video team to do their thing, we had a frank discussion about the 20 and what to expect by way of ride and stability. Alan told me the factory thought the stability of the 20 wasn’t as good as the 22. After driving both back-to-back, I disagree. The SL 22 had a lot more fruit on board – winch, extra batteries, fridge, the heavier stainless steel rocket launcher – but it didn’t matter. The SL 20 sat deep in the water and thanks to the two feet removed from the centre of the hull, its squarer length-to-beam ratio made it as stable as the SL 22, if not better.

Pushing the SL 20 against a moderate nor’easter and 0.5-1m chop, an immediate positive became evident: a good positive reaction to trim input. Port Phillip can be a real test for hulls and with minimal separation between the common short chop, it felt great being able to pull the bow up to let the rear quarter of the hull do the work. I feel confident that in a rolling sea, owners will be equally, if not more happy, with the flexibility in trim.

Whittley SL 20 Running (6)

Returning from our shoot near Black Rock, the only shelter we could find nearby, model Shazza said she preferred the ride in the 20 over that of the 22 too. It could have been who was driving – she rode with someone else in the SL 22 – but when questioned, she mentioned the boat’s motion in the ocean was smoother. I don’t think I took it easy in either direction, as the SL 20 and I were first to and from Black Rock, driving around 18-25km/h. 

VOLVO PENTA V6, SX DRIVE

I have now tested four versions of the 4.3L Volvo Penta V6 and all left a good impression. Though the lowest horsepower version, with only 200 ponies measured at the prop, this hasn’t lost the high-tech backbone of the higher-power versions. It features variable timing, direct injection, closed-loop freshwater cooling and full NMEA2000 integration. The engine is a joint venture with General Motors and the all-alloy block is found in a lot of US-made light trucks and cars.

Whittley SL20 Details (7)

REVIEW: Read about the Volvopenta 240-G V6 Stendrive

A good fast troll of 12km/h came at 2000rpm while the most comfortable cruise was at 3000rpm, where we saw 20km/h. Wide open, at 5800rpm, I recorded a GPS-verified 65km/h. We weren’t able to get full fuel-flow results (the conditions were not ideal, in any case) Our thorough testing of the 240hp V6 in the back of the SL22 delivered best economy, at 4000rpm and 26kt, of 0.74nm or 1.37km per litre. I’d expect a touch better in the SL 20/Volvo Penta 200-G/SX Drive combination.

The drive here isn’t the DuoProp I’ve come accustomed to but the entry SX. Running only a single propeller it has a little less grip off the line and some prop-walk at idle but it still performed well enough that I wouldn’t recommend upgrading to the DuoProp; your money is better spent elsewhere.

Whittley SL20 Rear On (2)

Underway the SX offered a lot of grip in turns, and coming off the plane a good amount of deceleration. Like all sterndrives, in and out of gear is met with a sizeable clunk. I know you get used to it and it’s not a problem but it would be nice to see manufacturers build in a shift-dampening system.

VALUE FOR MONEY

To the best of my knowledge, there isn’t another 20-foot sterndrive package readily available in our market so the SL 20 should get a perfect 10/10 for value as it’s the best in its class. But the SL 20 will be cross-shopped with outboard boats because, by its nature, it’s an entry-minded package.

Rivals will be the Haines Hunter 585R which, with a 175hp Mercury FourStroke; a CruiseCraft 595 Explorer/Yamaha F175 package; or Signature 600RF with Suzuki DF200. All these packages come on trailers and depending on spec, will likely end up a touch more expensive than the typical SL 20 package. Adding value to the Whittley SL20 are the standard inclusions. This is something I’ve noted in all Whittleys I’ve tested, down to the cheapest, the Clearwater 1650 – you get a lot for your money. The standouts here are the alloy rocket launcher, bimini, clears, cabin lining and berth cushions. There is more, such as rubber matting up to the helm, but just the aforementioned represent a fair amount of money that would add a lot to many other packages. Add in the tandem-axle trailer with spare wheel, electric over-ride brakes and skid/roller combination, and the SL 20 starts representing great value. 

Whittley SL 20 Running (2)

THE WRAP

As I said at the start, I would buy an SL 20; it’s that good. The changes made to separate it from the SL 22 haven’t taken away from the useability of the boat but have made it more affordable. Add a ride that’s hard to beat, a sensational drive thanks to the excellent trim response, good stability from the squarer beam to length, and you get a package that ticks all the boxes. Expect to see more Sea Legends on the waters around you and give them a wave – you never know, I might be aboard!

 

HIGHS

  • Ride
  • Handling
  • Standard inclusions

LOWS

  • Threat to my wallet

 

FACTS & FIGURES

Whittley Sea Legend 20

PRICED FROM A$77,490 

OPTIONS FITTED
Deep Blue hull paint, bunk infill cushions, deluxe bait board, Garmin 7407 MFD, plus more

PRICE AS TESTED A$80,686

GENERAL

MATERIAL Fibreglass

TYPE Cuddy-cabin monohull

LENGTH 6.2m LOA

BEAM 2.4m

HEIGHT ON TRAILER 2.2m

WEIGHT 2000kg (approx. BMT)

DEADRISE 23deg

CAPACITIES

PEOPLE 6

FUEL 150L

ENGINE

MAKE/MODEL Volvo Penta 200-G V6

RATED HP 200hp

DISPLACEMENT 4300cc

WEIGHT 404kg

GEAR RATIO 2.18:1 (SX leg)

PROPELLER Three blade 14.5x19in

SUPPLIED BY

Whittley Marine

99 Freight Drive, Somerton, Vic 3062

PHONE +61 (3) 8339 1800

WEB whittleymarinegroup.com.au

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