REVIEW: SEA RAY SLX 230

By: JOHN FORD, Photography by: JOHN FORD

Presented by
  • Trade-A-Boat

Is a bowrider the perfect day boat? What about one with 300hp on tap and room to carry 13 in comfort? We sent John Ford to see what this Sea Ray has to offer.

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HIGHS

  • Performs like a big V8 should
  • Room to spread out
  • Enduring stylish appeal

LOWS

  • No head
  • Wide load (towing restrictions)

REVIEW: SEA RAY SLX 230 priced from $111,962 (250hp engine)

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The 80s music thumped in time to the splash of the waves as they slipped past our speeding bowrider.

"I can see you,

Your brown skin shining in the sun.

You got your hair combed back,

And your sunglasses on, baby."

While the setting sun played on the glistening towers of Sydney’s CBD and workers contemplated the mindless commute back to the suburbs, we savoured the joy of boating on the harbour. If there’s a better way to experience our biggest city than a fast blast on the water, I’ll bet it’s illegal.

That the Sea Ray SLX230 isn’t illegal must be an oversight because I felt almost guilty having this much fun. Driving this superbly kitted boat took me back to an age when big V8s ruled and the speed limit was whatever you could wring out of the iron. Except for some obvious limits, the harbour – like most of our waterways – doesn’t restrict how fast you can travel. Alcohol limits sure, but no seatbelts, helmets, roundabouts or bloody stop lights.

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Down the back, a 6.2L bent eight sets the pace and at 45kt the engine howls and your eyes begin to water. Those are tears of joy, perhaps. Years of building deep-V hulls conceived to rip up the water are evident in the limpet-like grip the boat displays.

The Sea Ray story harks back to simpler-seeming times. In 1959 Connie Ray pioneered the use of fibreglass to build runabouts. Taking inspiration and maybe the company name from the then-revolutionary designs of C Ray Hunt, the brand became a leading innovator, a worldwide force in recreational boating and a major American manufacturer.

When the company introduced the moulded-in swim platform in 1991 it established a design parameter that permeated the ski and wake-boat worlds and also cemented inboard power for that style boat as the benchmark it remains today.

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Joined in the Sea Ray catalogue by luxury cruisers out to 65 feet, this 23-footer is the smallest in the upmarket SLX group – bowriders that includes a mind-blowing 40-footer. In local terms, the 230 is a big sportsboat whose stunning looks and big-engine sound ensure you and your 12 best friends will be noticed on the water – or at the ramp, if you go all the way with a custom Sea Ray aluminium trailer.

The SLX range competes with the best in the vast American market of bowrider sportsboats, so the finish and attention to detail have to be a cut above. This is evident in the fine detailing and fit of the pleated three-tone upholstery, the powerfully built hardware and the solid hull construction.

To comfortably accommodate up to 13 adults, the layout has been well thought out, with comfortable bow seating, wide walkways and a U-shaped lounge in the cockpit. At rest, the crowd can spread out onto a rear-facing transom seat or fold down a wide step on the swim platform for underwater seating. This area converts to a sunpad and also doubles as a natural staging area for watersports, with a large storage hatch under the seat to store boards and skis.

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A locker in the bow hides an innovative fold-out ladder that makes boarding from a beach a cinch. Unfortunately, like most similar American boats, the anchoring system is rudimentary – you can store a small sand anchor under a front seat and use a side cleat to secure it. I’d have to say, though, it’s the only example I noticed on the boat of this ‘style over practicality’ approach.

Upholstery is the Sand option, with light and dark grey features over off-white to match the onyx and arctic white exterior. Features in the bow include comfortable backrests against the bulkhead for sitting full length, recessed grab rails, a pair of bangin’ speakers, recessed cup holders at floor level and a slot to install a bow table. Lined hatches in the bulkheads have dedicated places for the bow table and sunpad infill to be stored out of the way when not in use.

Wrap-around seating in the carpet-clad cockpit allows for a starboard walkthrough at the transom as well as a wide and reversible co-pilot chair. Storage options include a long floor hatch, a moulded ice bin under the port-side seat and a place for a carry-on Esky to starboard.

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I counted some 10 drink holders around the boat, and you’ll notice in the photos that a black anodised arch supports a bimini in a zippered bag; this folds out to cover most of the cockpit, keeping the party going.

The full-width moulding under the transom sunpad lifts on an electric ram to provide access to an engine bay with room enough for regular maintenance and checks. Inch-thick acoustic foam is attached to the engine bulkhead and around the hull to quiet mechanical noise while an Omni Products material laminated into stress areas of the hull converts the pounding energy of water into heat rather than noise.

I felt immediately at home as I settled into the helm behind the sharply angled windscreen. The swivelling skipper’s chair slides and the sporty wheel fell naturally to hand. The side-mounted digital throttle control is also well placed, and an armrest adds a touch of comfort.

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The main instruments – tacho, speedo, fuel and engine temperature – are easy to see, set in a dark vinyl panel with a shading brow above. Switches for accessories are well marked and the horn is separated so you can sound it quickly if needed. To the left is a digital controller for the high-end Rockford Fosgate Bluetooth sound system – there’s a secondary control for this at the swim platform.

We launched out of the hole with hardly any bow lift and were planing almost immediately, clocking a low 10kt with the engine at 2000rpm, barely ticking over. It’s an easily driven hull and combined with 300hp there’s an abundance of get up and go. The moderate 19-degree deadrise at the transom is accompanied by three sets of wide strakes and a convex central planing plank for optimum lift, while up front the sharply raked bow offers little resistance to the water.

Acceleration is rapid and linear right through the range to that exhilarating wide-open throttle speed of 45kt at a howling 5300rpm.

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The hull tended to ride over waves rather than through them, yet the boat felt soft and stable at all but maximum speed where it became a little flighty, skipping over the harbour chop. Steering is light, and the hull turned smoothly without too much lean and with no cavitation or tendency for the rear end to slide away.

Twilight had fallen by the time we dawdled back to the marina in the slow lane. The city workers were long gone and all was peaceful – apart from our sound system cranked to 11. Blue deck lights flooded the floor and sent an eerie glow over the passengers, but it wasn’t too dark to see the big grins over all our faces.

THE WRAP

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The Sea Ray SLX230 is a family fun boat with few equals. Not being a dedicated wakeboat, it offers the space and comfort of a harbour day boat and the lively performance and handling for a fast cruise. The price as tested is $134,587 and includes tasty extras such as the arch and bimini, coloured hull, bow ladder, fire suppression and the fancy blue LEDs. Reduce the bling and cut the sting – you can get into a 230 for $111,962 with a 250hp V6. 

SPECIFICATIONS

PRICED FROM

$111,962 (250hp engine)

OPTIONS FITTED

Engine upgrade, Targa arch and bimini, coloured hull, bow ladder, fire suppression, blue LEDs, cockpit cover, wash-down, more

PRICE AS TESTED

$134,587

GENERAL

MATERIAL GRP

TYPE Monohull bowrider

LENGTH 7.01m

BEAM 2.59m

WEIGHT 2195kg

DEADRISE 19°

CAPACITIES

PEOPLE 13

FUEL 189L

ENGINE

MAKE/MODEL Mercruiser 6.2L

TYPE Fuel-injected petrol V8 inboard

RATED HP 300hp

DISPLACEMENT 6200cc

WEIGHT 391kg (engine only, dry)

GEAR RATIO Bravo 3

PROPELLER Mirage 24in

SUPPLIED BY

Chapman Marine Group Pty Ltd

Suite 2, Sydney Boathouse,

2 Waterways Court, Rozelle, NSW 2039

PHONE +61 2 9818 2000

MOBILE +61 412 449 174

WEB chapmanmarinegroup.com.au

Check out the full review in issue #496 of Trade-a-Boat magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration. 

 


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