12 of the best bowriders

Here are 12 of the best bowriders recently reviewed by Trade-a-Boat.

Despite what hardened fishermen would have you believe, a good day on the water doesn’t have to revolve exclusively around stinky bait and fish guts. In fact, the popularity of the bowrider has grown over the last few years, with many manufacturers competing for your attention by fitting out their bowriders with clever new features and innovations.

From versatile cross-over boats that double as fishers and family sports boats, to floating luxury palaces, the bowrider has come a long way, with American boats generally leading the way in the luxury and finish department.

With so many new bowriders available in Australia right now, here are…


12 of the best bowriders

Bayliner 170 Outboard

Bayliner 170 Outboard bowrider

If production volume is any indicator, Bayliner is the world leader in bowriders. The Bayliner 175 BR with a 3lt MerCruiser sterndrive is said to be the most popular boat in the world — more Bayliner 175 bowriders are sold in the world than any other boat model.

The Bayliner 170 Outboard bowrider is a close sibling to the Bayliner 175 that’s been fine-tuned for Australian boaters. You’ll note it has a Mercury outboard motor instead of a sterndrive, hence the "170 Outboard" designation.

The Bayliner 170 Outboard is an ideal family bowrider at a realistic (and rather attractive) price. It’s beautifully trimmed, is filled with features, has plenty of storage, looks great and can perform.

We tested one with a Mercury 115 FourStroke outboard motor where it easily handled Port Phillip Bay chop at high speeds and proved to be nimble and manoeuvrable in sharp turns.

Our review boat came to $47,169 as a dealer BMT package, and cheaper variations are available depending on options.


Crownline 19XS Outboard

Crownline 19XS outboard luxury bowrider

In a market crowded with sterndrives bowriders, Crownline boats went back to the drawing board with its 19XS to produce a luxury bowrider — again, with a Mercury outboard on the back. In fact, we know for a fact that the Australian Crownline representative went to considerable effort to get these fine American bowriders developed with outboards suitable for the Australian market.

The Crownline 19XS Outboard was a contender at the Australia’s Greatest Boats 2014 Family Sports Boats category. It’s everything you’d expect from an American-made 19ft luxury bowrider: sleek, elegant, sporty, and loads of fun for a family. Its luxurious, premium-grade upholstery and versatile layout makes it a superb trailerable cruiser and entertainer.

Five Australia’s Greatest Boats judges tested the Crownline 19XS Outboard, who found it to be soft, quiet and powerful on the water, capable of turning exceptionally well, while remaining extremely stable and responsive to trim. Its 150hp Mercury FourStroke outboard motor provided gutsy performance, with frugal economy and low noise levels. Price as tested at the time came to a tad over $55,000.


Scarab 195 HO

Scarab 195 HO jet boat bowrider

When BRP discontinued its Sea-Doo jet boats range in 2012, some of the defunct models’ technology was incorporated by Rec Boat Holdings, the American boatbuilder that also builds Glastron, Four Winns, and Wellcraft. In doing so, it re-introduced the Scarab Boats brand that had been in hiding since the extravagant ’80s, when its petrol-guzzling Cigarette-style monster boats reached the end of their fashion cycle.

Rec Boats had recently designed a range of 4.8 to 6.4m hulls, with the Scarab 195 HO sitting in the middle. All Scarab boats use the Rotax 4-TEC 1503 engines found in thousands of BRP products.

Trade-a-Boat tested a Scarab 195 HO with an upgraded 250hp Rotax engine (as opposed to a standard 200hp). Driving a jet boat is quite different to driving one with a propeller because the jet’s propulsion comes from a flow of water through a pump, driven by the engine and forced out through a nozzle or jet.

During our Scarab 195 HO review, applying the throttle was found to give an immediate response as the tacho climbed to more than 7000rpm. The hull lifted imperceptibly onto the plane and surged forward. There was no trim to adjust, as speed climbed to a maximum of 39kts at 7500rpm. Mind you, that was on a factory-fresh boat that still had a limiter in place for breaking in the engine. This thing can go all the way to 8000rpm.

As with all jetboats, the jet and hull of the Scarab 195 HO combine for incredible turning ability as it leans confidently and carves its way through the water. Our test package came to $65,900 on a trailer including registration.


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Crestliner 1850 Fish Hawk WT

Crestliner 1850 Fish Hawk WT bowrider

And now for something completely different. The Crestliner 1850 Fish Hawk WT is a tinnie made in America. It’s ostensibly a tournament fishing boat but a simple flip-over rear-lounge changes it into a family fisher/ski bowrider.

The Crestliner 1850 Fish Hawk WT won the Aluminium Fishing Boats title at the Australia’s Greatest Boats 2014 shootout. Its plate-aluminium hull has a flat 12˚ deadrise, a formula that traditionally results in excellent stability but a poor ride. Yet the Crestliner 1850 Fish Hawk WT’s solid transom and foam-filled underfloor construction defied everything our five judges had ever learnt about hull design. According to conventional wisdom, the hull should have ridden terribly in the rough — yet the ride and cushioned landing in poor conditions was astounding. We’re not entirely sure what Crestliner do to these hulls, but it works.

The Crestliner 1850 Fish Hawk WT also has plenty of storage, big livetanks, an expansive cockpit and equally large bow platform, plus a superb seating arrangement and extra-high windscreen.

Although technically an aluminium fishing boat with all the credentials for inland and estuary anglers, the Crestliner 1850 Fish Hawk WT still has immense appeal to families — but you can still do some limited offshore venturing.

Price as tested for our review package at the time came to $59,990.


Scout 210 Dorado

Scout 210 Dorado bowrider

The Scout 210 Dorado is a big family-friendly fishing boat that will happily handle just about any watersports. Americans call boats of this style dual consoles; They have a console in front of both the skipper and observer, leaving a walkway forward to the bow. We just call it a bowrider.

Where the Scout 210 Dorado differs from similar boats is in the build. Many boat manufacturers take a sports bowrider and offer flexible seating arrangements to give it fishability. The trouble is that you end up with a boat that isn’t designed to tackle anything more than a moderate chop.

Scout Boats took a different approach. The Scout 210 Dorado is a sea-friendly fishing boat that’s also capable of skiing, wakeboarding, diving and generally mucking around on the water. It can handle all sorts of water fun but it’s a hull that can safely take you offshore.

We tested one with a 150hp four-stroke Mercury outboard motor. In sheltered waters, its handling was precise and sporty, allowing it to turn with a flat stance at speed without any untoward behaviour. Out through the heads and over swell and chop it was as soft and dry as you would expect given its credentials. The Scout 210 Dorado was comfortable at rest and it was easy to walk around, so bottom bouncing should be no problem.

The handling of the Scout 210 Dorado is a boat that will inspire confidence in people new to boating. Our nicely-optioned test boat came to $92,000.


Grady-White 375 Freedom

Grady-White 375 Freedom big luxury bowrider

The Grady-White 375 Freedom admittedly stretches the limits of the interpretation of the term ‘bowrider’. It’s a quality family and fishing boat that represents everything that’s great about luxury American boats: it’s big, brash, and with an unbeatable ride.

At 11.15m (36ft7in) the Grady-White 375 Freedom is a beast of a boat. Its big, flared bow, rolling back into sleek lines, give it instant appeal for family boating, entertainment and sport fishing. It’s also kitted out with some of the most innovative and luxurious features imaginable, including a triple 300hp Yamaha outboard motor setup. Creature comforts include an endless list of options and features: electric griller, bar area with fridge / freezer space, TVs, big sound systems and much, much, more. Fishermen will also love the massive rear deck, complete with huge fridge / freezer killtank, buss livewell and loads of other features to suit offshore sport fishing.

With 900hp on tap, the ride was just tremendous. The triple 300hp Yamaha outboards synchronised and growled their way onto the plane effortlessly, with a Rolls Royce-like feel. Yet if you feel the urge to drive like a maniac you can, as the hull performs more like a smaller sport boats than a large sport fisher under full gas.

As you can imagine, the Grady-White 375 Freedom isn’t cheap. Our review boat was tested in the United States; in Australia you can get a turn-key package landed for $799,000 landed — and that’s with triple 350hp outboard motors.


Robalo R227

Robalo R227 fishing boat bowrider

The Robalo R227 is a sporty bowrider that was entered into a Trade-a-Boat contest against dead-set serious fishing boats. That’s right, the Robalo R227 was a highly rated contender for a title at the Australia’s Greatest Boats 2015 shootout, in the Fibreglass Fishing Boats division.

The Robalo R227 is about as versatile as it gets. It’s a big, beamy dual console with loads of room in a very efficient 21° deep-vee hull. The beamy, voluptuous hull is a sheer delight, offering an incredibly soft and quiet ride.

The bow has a clever insert that allows you to remove the cushions and create a solid casting platform while the enclosed toilet under the passenger console will appeal to family boaters.

While the 2.59m beam means overwidth towing conditions, on the water it equates to a massive feel that gives the skipper complete confidence. The foam-filled hull’s composite Kevlar construction means it’s incredibly strong and safe, while the user-friendly layout combines comfort, practicality and function. This boat was rated 8.9 / 10 by our five judges in the Fibreglass Fishing Boats category, making it one of the best fishing boats of its class — yet it has huge family appeal.


Beneteau Flyer 6

Beneteau Flyer 6 bowriders

The Beneteau Flyer 6 range has been the Benetau boat yard’s quiet achiever for several decades. We tested three variations of this dayboat concept, all sharing the same beamy 21-foot (6.4m) hull.

This hull concept was designed by the Beneteau R&D team and the result is quite innovative, giving the Benetau Flyer 6 range several selling points.

The extensive usable deck area is for families or groups of friends to jump on and take off without fuss. The beam carries forward at deck level, resulting in a wide, rounded foredeck, while beneath the water lies a sharp bow entry with deep-vee, intended to give a smooth ride without slamming. The other advantages of this forward beam are buoyancy and space inside, which includes useful bilge storage.

Another feature is Beneteau’s patented Air Step, which is defined by moulded indents that pull air in and reduce drag, beginning amidships and running forward.

The same hull is used across the range, so all three Beneteau Flyers are rated for the same engine — up to 200hp, with Suzuki outboard motors. There are also three trim levels that offer a wide variety of gear including rodholders, canopy / tent for sleeping topside and electronics options.

We tested the Beneteau Flyer 6 Spacedeck, Sundeck and Sportdeck last year, with the price ranging from $94,000 to $95,000.


Chaparral H2O 19

Chaparral H20 19 bowrider

The Chaparral H2O 19 is a highly versatile cross-over sports / fishing boat. It combines a simple, clean internal finish with slightly less-plush upholstery than would be expected in similar sports-dedicated models.

Leap aboard and your first impression will be that it’s a beautifully presented watersports package. But then the seating quickly transforms to reveal livebait tanks, casting platforms and dual casting seats front and rear.

You can fish, you can ski, you can wakeboard, you can cruise, you can tube, you can dive or you can do anything else you want. Go for a sociable waterski or quickly convert it to wakeboarding, for a picnic, or a cruise.

Power comes from a V6 MerCruiser sterndrive and the ride was optimal in a range of conditions, with the five judges rating it 9.4 / 10 for Handling and ride.

Despite all this, the Chaparral H2O 19 was considered an entry-level boat in its category. We tested a model that was optioned with a complete Fish-ski package, priced under $50,000, with the standard model coming to considerably less.


Larson LX195SS

Larson LX195SS bowrider

Larson Boats is one of the oldest boat builders in the United States, with a history extending back over 100 years.

The Larson LX195SS is a family-friendly yet fully-fledged sports rig. No timber is used in the construction and even the transom is made from a thick composite sheet. The build uses a technique known as VEC (Virtual Engineered Composites) where the hull is formed via a robotic, closed moulded process. This injects a precise amount of resin and fibreglass at a constant temperature and pressure to form the perfect hull.

The hull itself has a deep deadrise and an underwater profile with deep chines and flat running surfaces. This allows the hull to perform well in the ocean and still maintain great stability at rest.

Indeed, when we tested the LX195SS, the importer suggested we try a run down Port Hacking and into Bate Bay and the Tasman Ocean. With a lazy swell on the bay, the Larson LX195SS got out of the hole briskly and onto the plane at just under 13kts (24kmh) without any marked bow lift. A fast cruise of about 28kts (52kmh) saw it cut through the water cleanly, while an overall top speed of 47kts (87kmh) was recorded on the GPS.

Despite the precise finish, the Larson LX195SS is classed as an entry-level boat and is priced accordingly. As tested with the 220hp MerCruiser 4.3MPI engine upgrade, our review boat came to $43,000. A base model was available for $10k less.


Regal 2100 Bowrider

Regal 2100 Bowrider

An Australia’s Greatest Boats 2014 contender, the Regal 2100 Bowrider’s combination of fast-flowing lines, sharp mouldings and sporty sheer line plus huge horsepower left our judges begging for more.

The Regal 2100 Bowrider is based on the tried and tested FasTrac hull design. The ride was exhilarating with a 300hp Volvo Penta V8 on the back and the judges recorded 49kts (90kmh) on the GPS. They could also throw it into full-lock, high-speed turns and point it exactly where they wanted it to.

The quality of the upholstery, fittings and overall finish is world-class and the addition of the Power Tower added tremendously to the watersports appeal, making the Regal 2100 Bowrider very much an all-round premium watersports boat with tremendous family appeal.

As tested, the Regal 2100 Bowrider had as price of $77,500 but a base price model was available for considerably less, under $70,000.


Haines Signature 580BR

Haines Signature 580BR bowrider

The Signature 580BR by the Haines Group is a general skiing and family runabout. Entry is via the open bow or the transom’s dual boarding platforms. The stern has a comfortable full-width removable rear lounge that traces the engine-well. It’s cosy enough for one person each side, but can accommodate more if needed. Lifting the seat squab reveals a large moulded bin that’s ideal for soft coolers or dry bags.

Our review boat was fitted with a 175hp Suzuki outboard motor. Transition out of the hole was smooth and quick and a top speed of 42kts (78kmh) was attained at 6100rpm. At more moderate speeds, the Haines Signature 580BR was tested in Stradbroke Island’s rough-as-guts South Passage bar. Afterwards, those aboard did not look as if they’d crawled out of a swimming pool, and importantly, they remained free of bruises and grazes.

Ideally suited to cruising and — with a few options — a spot of fishing, the Signature 580BR is a well-appointed rig with a fit and finish that sets the benchmark in its class. We tested a top-of-the-range and therefore very comprehensively optioned model for $75,000. However, a more basic model with a Suzuki DF115ATX was available for almost $20k less.



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