By: David Lockwood, Photography by: John Ford

David Lockwood tested Glastron’s GX185 and reckons this high-volume bowrider is the company’s best offering yet

Never has the competition been quite so fierce in the dog-eat-dog world of turnkey bowriders. Therefore, their spin doctors adopt all kinds of fancy marketing handles to give them a perceived edge. But the fact is the multinational marine manufacturers will be forever faced with the conundrum: how do you make a mainstream boat that stands out from the pack? It’s like reinventing the hotdog. Only so much you can do with a frankfurter or wiener and a bread roll. Right?
Indeed. When you stop to consider that most production boats are fitted with the same ingredients, OEM-supplied windscreens from, say, Taylor Marine, the same pop-up cleats and soft furnishings, and the same petrol inboard engines, what are you left with? Changes in graphics? Yes. And the spin.
In the case of Glastron, the subject of this test, it’s been quick to play Virtual Engineered Composites or VEC as its trump card. VEC is a closed mould process that’s completely automated and computer controlled, resulting in boats built to greater tolerances than those that are hand-built.
The good thing about VEC for consumers is that the hulls are backed by a lifetime warranty and, with foam filling and plenty of deadrise, they always seem nice and smooth on the water. But let’s not beat around the bush. VEC has more benefits for the manufacturer than anyone else.
The automated boatbuilding process results in less wastage, less wages, and less emissions. This latter point is especially important in respect of tightening manufacturing laws regarding fibreglass-boat production in Europe and America. Fibreglass isn’t something you want to breathe.
The downside? I’ve found most American boats built using automated closed-moulded injection methods feel kind of impersonal. Too often they look and feel just like they’ve rolled off the end of a production line. Some sweet bumps here, good ergonomics, but no real attention to detail. And nothing human about them.
Enter the Glastron GX185. While it is built to a price and considered a mainstream boat to go, and while it is still very much a factory-rolled bowrider, the GX185 impressed this writer with something extra. Compared to other Glastrons I have driven, it had a much-improved finish, better mouldings and greater attention to detail, especially with the trim and upholstery.
Here is a good-looking, high-volume bowrider, with a social layout boasting a full-width rear lounge and beautiful bucket seats, handy storage, plenty of stainless-steel fittings for saltwater work, and extra comforts compared to Glastron’s entry-level MX series and mid-tier SX series. The really nice ride was there, with low noise levels and sporty handling. Thus, you have pretty much everything you want in a bowrider today.

Besides automation and closed moulds, a key part of the VEC process involves computer-aided design. Decks and hulls are designed onscreen in this process and two components are joined to form a one-piece or monocoque boat. Then the void between hull and deck is filled with foam flotation.
Thus, VEC boats have buoyancy in the unlikely event of swamping, stiffness for tackling rough water, sound deadening to further improve ride comfort, and an overall feeling of integration and keel-to-coaming purpose.
But the process often results in less storage space than conventional boats, with fittings and furnishings tacked onto an abundance of fibreglass, almost as though they are afterthoughts. And if the designer gets the mouldings wrong, with unflattering lines, it’s a big deal changing them. Those ugly hips quickly become a signature.
So it was doubly nice to see the much-improved finish and soft furnishings on the GX185. Add the aforesaid upsides of VEC construction and you have a family bowrider that deserves a spot on your shortlist. Take the tour and you should come away, as I did, impressed by what you see.

I started at the pointy end, noting the stainless steel fittings such as navigation light, pop-up cleats — too small for my liking — and grabrails. There was a clip-on cover that, when not keeping the dust off the bow while parked in the garage, can be left in place to create a less windy runabout in winter.
Bow storage exists in the under-seat compartments, with the centre section concealing a moulded liner and drain, so you can stow the anchor or drinks here. There were additional carpet-lined side-storage areas and, of course, drinkholders. The upholstered backrests were sculptured and, upon lifting the rot-free polypropylene seat bases, I couldn’t find any ugly staples like you would on a budget bowrider.
Importantly, the bow seats have room for a couple of lanky teenagers to stretch their legs, plus two speakers so you can drown out their whining. I ranked the freeboard to be sufficiently high to traverse bay and harbour chop without taking water aboard.
The wraparound windscreen has faux side panels without glass panes, so the frame doubles as a handhold. While the windscreen was well supported on its forward sections there was a lot of flex in the side frames. I wouldn’t like some burly bloke in a blue singlet putting his weight on it.
But full marks for the sturdy stainless steel grabrails ahead of the co-pilot and the aft lounge. Also ahead of the co-pilot was a (non-lockup) glovebox with Clarion stereo and storage box that, ahem, drains on your feet. Drinkholders are placed strategically about the cockpit.
The helm seats were top-shelf fully adjustable buckets each with flip-up bolsters so you can drive from an elevated position when, say, mooching into a shallow sandbank for a post-ski picnic. A note on the seats: the co-pilot/navigator also gets a bolster.
The driver also gets a decent adjustable sports wheel, low-glare dash with mock walnut trim, and a full spread of sporty Faria gauges including fuel, speedo, tacho, trim, engine temp and volts, and oil pressure.
Rocker switches operate the blower, lights, bilge, horn and 12V accessory plug. And it’s great to see a switch for the stereo, so the skipper can kill the music when he wants to bark orders. Under the dash I found fuses rather than breakers, with my preference being for the latter.

The fully-moulded liner was softened by the addition of a snap-in carpet. Storage came by way of a fully moulded underfloor wakeboard and waterski locker and two-tiered sidepockets with liners. The three-person aft lounge lifts to reveal net dividers either side of the MerCruiser 4.3MPI and the lounge has three lift-up bases for access to more storage space.
The upholstered full-width sunpad over the MerCruiser motor also serves as sound insulation. This is a quiet boat. With the sunpad raised on struts, I noted good access to the battery, steering reservoir and dipstick. The bilge was harder to clean under the engine block, so hopefully the float switch never fouls.
In respect of static comforts, the aft lounge takes the cake. I tested it for size — as I am want to do on a sunny day bobbing about the bay — and rate it as a quasi daybed on which you could catch 40 winks. Meanwhile, your partner will have room to do the same on the raised sunpad. And though you have to stand on upholstery to access it, the transom has some features worth exploring.
You can sit on the sunpad and face aft with your feet on the boarding platform while taking in the views. The optional extended platform is a boon for boosting sunning room. It can be removed from its alloy frame when stowing the boat and great for hanging out on at rest.
There is a subtle grade of non-skid, a ski hook, swim ladder with grabrail, and two small cleats nearby. A small detail, but the plastic engine vents are a bit naff and would be nicer if they were chrome or stainless steel.
But overall you can see that the GX185 surpasses those pitched at lower price points. Along with the improved finish, the wide cockpit will welcome a family of four to six. And the upgraded multi-point injected MerCruiser motor — the boat comes standard with a conservative three-litre MerCruiser in America — has plenty of punch.

We had one of those autumn mornings where the broad expanse of what is normally a choppy Botany Bay resembled a mirror pointing to the heavens. Mind you, I’m not complaining about the meek conditions. Rather, they allowed me to explore the top-end performance of the Glastron GX 185.
The speedo said we were doing 18mph at 2000rpm with full leg-in trim. A really comfortable cruise was clocked anywhere from 25mph at 2500rpm to 34mph at 3000rpm. Then the power really starts kicking in at 3500rpm, which gave 42mph, and 4000rpm for 46mph.
I wasn’t convinced that the speedo was entirely accurate, however, not with such a speedy maximum continuous cruise of 55mph at 4500rpm and top speed of 58mph at 5000rpm from a 220hp V6 motor. The GX185 felt fast alright, but I’m guessing the speedo was 10 per cent too generous. Based on the Bayliner 185 with the same motor, I’m supposing an accurate top speed of 51 to 53mph.
But it’s not the top speed that matters. It’s the attention to detail, extra luxury, and improvement to the finish that help make the GX185 the best Glastron I’ve driven. The qualities and the emotions it solicits are usually absent from the cold, calculated boats built by robots and upon assembly lines today.
But you’ll pay a premium for the cut-above-the-pack finish. The asking price of $47,990 on trailer was $8,000 more than the benchmark entry-level Bayliner 185 bowrider. So the bottom line is, well, the bottom line. How much are you prepared to pay for a better finish?

Much-improved finish
Wide and voluminous family boat
Smooth operator
Luxurious full-width aft lounge and bucket seats
Refined and sporty
Great attention to ergonomics

Small mooring cleats
Some movement in aft windscreen frame
Glovebox storage drains on feet
Tight access to bilge and bilge pump
Plastic engine vents
Premium price for better finish


Specifications: Glastron GX185

Price as tested: $47,990 w/ upgraded MerCruiser 220hp 4.3lt MPI petrol inboard, extended boarding platform, single-axle braked trailer, safety gear and registrations
Options fitted: Upgraded motor (std in USA w/ 135hp three-litre MerCruiser) and extended boarding platform

Material: Closed-moulded GRP hull and deck with foam-filled sub-floor chambers
Length overall: 5.66m
Beam: 2.31m
Deadrise: 21°
Weight: Approx 1,252kg (dry w/base motor)

Fuel capacity: 110lt
Passengers: 9 or 544kg
Rec/max HP: 220
Rec/min HP: 135

Make/model: MerCruiser 4.3lt MPI
Type: Multipoint injected V6 petrol inboard motor
Weight: 393kg
Rated HP: 220
Displacement: 4.3lt
Drive: Alpha One sterndrive
Propeller: 21in alloy

Webbe Marine,
541 Princess Highway,
Kirrawee, NSW. Tel (02) 9521 7944, or visit for interstate dealers

Originally published in TrailerBoat #206


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