By: Mark Bracks, Photography by: Mark Bracks

Sea Ray’s 185 Sport, the newest addition to an already comprehensive lineup, is a high-quality, high-performance blaster at a budget price that only confirms the manufacturer’s commitment to improving the breed


Two years ago there were 16 craft to choose from in the Sea Ray sportsboat category alone. Now summer’s here and you need to make a choice for a new marine steed, but what have they done? They’ve introduced another luxuriant day tripper model to scratch your head over.
It goes to prove that Sea Ray — part of the Brunswick Corporation, the largest recreational marine company in the world — is not content to sit on what is already a proven product. Instead the company is taking another step in bowrider design with the introduction of the all-new 185 Sport for 2006.
Sea Ray may claim that the 185 is all-new, but nothing has changed in the solid construction of the ZIP monocoque fibreglass stringer hull that has a proven ride and sensational structural strength.
The designers in the American company have used different brushstrokes to take a fresh and subtle approach to this entry level craft, with a couple of features that add to its practicality and safety while maintaining the ride and manoeuvrability that is synonymous with the brand.

The test day dawned with pounding rain and winds that would normally discourage performance boats from venturing out onto Lake Macquarie. Thankfully, by the time we boarded the Sea Ray, the seas were calm and the skies had almost cleared. So, the lads from Lifestyle Marine (formally Hirecraft Marine) at Toronto were keen to get out on the water.
Those sleek Sea Ray lines that speak of speed — even standing still — are retained but the Sport incorporates a new upper hull design that will certainly appeal to families. The craft looks like what it is: a quality speedboat with a stable full of horsepower for frolicking on a day out, while still being safe for young tackers. And with a reasonable price tag — this particular model rounds out just shy of $44k.
At the dock, jumping aboard any part of the craft is a snack but in the summer months most access would be climbing out of the water via the three step ladder on the duck board.
Although the day was dodgy, and volunteers for a ride were thin on the ground, it’s not hard to imagine a bunch of giggling kids diving off the spacious duck board. Two metres wide at the transom, it’s nearly full beam width, stepping down to 150cm wide at the very stern and 66cm deep overall. Not bad for a vessel that’s a knat’s knacker less than six metres. And with a beam of 2.21m, there is plenty of room for the folks to be away from the tribe and not cop too many splashes!
After a quick dip, it’s a matter of sliding over the expansive sun deck (170x 86cm) to flop in the aft bench seat and grab your frosty treat from one of the four drinkholders situated around the deck to have a chinwag and a sunbake.

The sun deck doubles as the engine cover, opening in the middle with gas struts assisting to raise and hold the covers in position for easy engine access. The breather tubes from the engine bay housing the optional 4.3l 220hp Alpha MCN MerCruiser sterndrive are inconspicuous hidden under the sundeck. Either side of the powerplant is a 50cm x 70cm platform for storing things like engine oil with the battery, bilge pump and blower tucked out of the way.
Also easily accessible is the 98.4lt fuel tank that sits transversely in front of the engine with the tank covered by the large 164cm wide aft bench seat in front of the sundeck.
Deck space is well utilised in the 185. The sun deck and aft seat consume quite a lot of room but leave available floor space for walking to the bow and cockpit. There is no genuine space to hide an esky or such, but guests will not begrudge the compromise that creates a layout just crying out to be lounged upon!
Running the length of the self-draining deck is a huge storage locker for skis and wakeboards. The deck itself is a moulded non-slip pattern and the test boat was fitted with optional clip-in carpet. There are also two handy steps (with drinkholders) amidships to enable even easier footwork.

The helm is what has become expected of Sea Ray: stylish and practical. The dash has the usual array of easy-to-read instruments, and is protected by an upholstered screen. There are toggle switches under the gauges for bilge and blower pumps and lights, as well as the primeless one touch ignition key — although this could be better situated for easier access.
The captain’s and passenger’s perches swivel on aluminium pedestals and are adjustable fore and aft. They are comfortable, easy to operate, can be locked in place and offer good support.
As in most Sea Rays, the steering wheel is a highlight. The trucker-style, flat, multi-adjustable wheel is a boon when docking and in close proximity steering when it is necessary to be standing up as it allows far greater control. The throttle is also well balanced to the layout of the cockpit in all wheel positions.
For key and wallet storage there are two well placed compartments at knee level as well as gunwale storage either side for odds and ends, while in front of the passenger is a lockable unit for the standard two-speaker Clarion stereo with option to upgrade to a four-speaker MP3 player.
The three-piece wraparound screen gives surprisingly good protection, no doubt aided by the redesign, which provides a higher freeboard of nearly 900mm behind the pilot. It’s an excellent safety attribute for families with young kids, but it doesn’t detract from lateral vision with the seats well positioned. One criticism is that the screen rail is right in line of forward sight for average height people but I’m sure with a little seat fine tuning this would be overcome.

Access to the bow is via 40cm-wide walkway through the opening screen. In the bow lies another Sea Ray innovation, which the company claims is an industry first in its class.
In many bowriders the padded lounge takes up a fair percentage of the available room — but the 185 has a solo seat either side of the centreline in front of the cockpit with generous supportive wraparounds – very thoughtful considering how much more lively the ride normally is at the front. With less seating there is more leg room.
There is plenty of storage space under the seats for lifejackets in one and ice in the other. There is also the option to upholster the lot – the choice is yours.
Two moulded steps allow for bow boarding access and there are a grab handles and additional drinkholders to port and starboard.
All upholstery is immaculately finished although it may help to wrap the support padding at the aft seat around to the gunwales. When things start warming up for a bit of hot-dogging, it would be good to have a bit of support to bounce off but there are easy-to-reach grab handles for a bit of bracing.

It would be easy to think that there’s a V8 behind you, but very surprisingly, this little dynamo is still powered by a twin-barrel V6 carbie.
Sliding the throttle to the stop had the 1200kg hull with two adults aboard punching out of the hole and charging within a few seconds. Soon after it’s thumping along at nearly 80kmh on full V6 burble at 5300rpm.
Many people may dismiss the attributes of carburetion on a 4.3l V6 compared to the bigger brother Mercs with multi-point fuel injection, but there are some interesting figures in support of the configuration.
As for the fuel economy, while I didn’t have the time fro a proper appraisal, Sea Ray claims that over 100 hours of use the V6 vaporises 22lt/h. That’s not too shabby in anyone’s language.
Another plus is how quiet technology and soundproofing have allowed a motor to become. It’s near silent running is virtually indiscernible at idle and at speed it has a delightful low rumble.
There is very little to criticise about the handling, although there was a little cavitation in radical turns. The denseness of the hull provides a smooth ride while the 19-degree deadrise and the chine design make for confidence-inspiring steering.
There is a noticeable improvement in revs and speed when the leg is trimmed correctly and on level water the boat holds a straight line with little effort at the helm.
Simply, if you desire an adrenalin-producing day craft that does everything well with a bit of luxury and trendy styling for a decent price you can’t go wrong with the new 185 sport. End of story.

Sturdiness and quality of finish
Wind protection when seated
High freeboard for added security

Awkward screen rail position
Loud upholstery
Ignition switch could be better situated
Rear seat needs more lateral padding


Specifications: Sea Ray 185 Sport

Price as tested $43,990 
Options fitted: Engine upgrade to 4.3lt V6 190hp Alpha MerCruiser, two-tone gel coat, snap-in carpet, bimini, trailer, boat and trailer rego, safety gear, spare wheel and carrier, trailer walkway
Priced from  $40,490 with 3.0lt 135hp Alpha MerCruiser

Material: ZIP Monocoque fibreglass stringer
Type: Monohull
Length overall: 5.99m
Beam: 2.21m
Draft: 94cm (sterndrive down) 50.8cm (stern drive up)
Deadrise: 19°
Weight : 1247kg dry with engine

Rec/max HP: 190
Fuel: 98.4lt
Water: optional tank
Passengers: Eight

Make/model: Mercruiser Alpha 1 MCM
Type: Carburetted four-stroke V6 DOHC sterndrive
Rated hp: 190
Displacement: 4.3lt
Weight : 857kg

Lifestyle Marine (formerly Hirecraft Marine),
Victory Pde, Toronto, NSW
Phone: (02) 4959 1444
Web: www.lifestylemarine.com.au

Originally published in TrailerBoat #200


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