By: Dan Trotter

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The Bayliner 215 is a classic bowrider design and shape with the power to match its size.




Offering the most boat for buck in this shootout is the Bayliner 215 - a classic bowrider design and shape with the power to match its size. A fantastic larger version of the more compact and sportier models, it was clearly the biggest boat in our shootout.

Built in the US since 1957, Bayliner (part of the gigantic Brunswick stable) is the longest operating boatbuilder out of the four test boats. The company has often led the way in the design stakes and in this case the 215's most impressive feature is the size and layout of the cockpit and seating arrangement. I should also mention that the curved, moulded floor lining is a nice improvement from models of years gone by.

Unique among the pack, the 215's spacious forward design gives it a prouder bow that sports long stainless grabrails. This design delivers greater bow stability at rest while allowing the boat to accommodate nine people, making it perfect for large families or those wanting extra space for more comfortable lounging, socialising and dining.

I also really liked the fact that the back-to-back "sleeper seat" folds out to convert into a sunlounge. When the bimini is up, those on the lounge are protected from the sun - you can see yourself comfortably settled in, reading a book or flicking through a glossy mag after lunch.




Although the skipper's bucket-style seat was great to sit in, and the design created more floor space, a second sleeper seat is worth considering. With a Jensen four-speaker setup, the AM/FM CD stereo (without the expected iPod port), delivered some serious thump for anyone inclined to pump up the volume.

Looking through the various storage compartments I noticed that the cockpit didn't have a fully moulded liner. Instead, flo-coat covers the interior of the fibreglass hull, as well as the long sidepockets and forward under-seat compartments. This might not be to everyone's liking but it does mean more space, since covering storage areas with moulded fibreglass tends to decrease storage volume.

The dash bulkhead compartments are certainly large enough and they're accessed by removing hinged cushions at the rear of the bow lounge.

There's also space to stash more items in the glovebox which Bayliner says can double up an Esky-cum-icebox fitted with a drain. There is more space still under the rear seats either side of the inboard hatch.

It's also worth mentioning that the cushioned seats can be removed and inserted higher up to create the sunlounge across the transom. Clip-in carpet as fitted is on the money if you like your creature comforts.




With a 260hp MerCruiser Alpha 1, 5.0lt MPi V8 sitting under the easily-accessed hatch, you can expect a fast approach to the plane and a reasonable top speed of around 43kts (80kmh). With all that extra length and a wide beam this bowrider behaves more like a big boat. In spite of this it still pulls into corners well and powers out of turns with confidence, one of the great assets of sterndrive, transom-weighted bowriders.

Some cavitation did occur when hooking really hard and travelling back through our own wake, and the bow did rise on initial power application. However, it pulled down as expected once on the plane and at speed. Unfortunately the trim range appears minimal before cavitation kicks in, reducing speed and generating shudder and noise. However, this is easy to avoid once you're aware of it and you can get the hull midway out, lessening water drag. "Porpoising" was evident when cruising at the boat's medium pace, something that was encouraged by rolling wakes.

Bayliner's classic hull design, incorporating strakes and a substantial reverse chine, delivers a dry ride with the sheets of water deflected downwards. Another noticeable feature that I liked was a full-height windscreen offering great vision regardless of whether I was bolstered up or fully seated. Its plastic and alloy support struts were ample support for the large three-piece windscreen too.

Standing out on the boarding platform and looking forward I noticed that the size of the boat is not only internalized - there's plenty of space to relax and dangle your feet over the edge at rest. There's even a drinkholder mounted on both sides to keep your cool beverage from spilling, a practical design consideration indeed and one that's typical of the attention to detail that goes into these boats.

As it's a larger boat it comes with a higher platform that could make it potentially a little harder for less athletic crew members to get out of the water. For this reason Bayliner has provided a neat telescopic boarding ladder that is safely stowed under a hatch.

Quality of finish is evident in the durable gelcoat, smooth shiny surfaces and sturdy stainless steel fittings. However, the moulded dash looked a bit too no-frills for my taste although it was certainly practical.

The gauges are excellent though, thanks in no small part to their low-glare backing, but again the moulded housing, switch panel and stereo face looked and felt a bit plasticy. There was also a bit of flex in the interior sidewalls which, while not a major issue, does imply a lighter build.

Overall, the Bayliner 215 is a big and friendly all-rounder with plenty of space for a big crew. It has enough power and speed to get up and go or tow, its large fuel tank allows for long-distance excursions, and it has a practical social layout. With all that space it's a shame there isn't a dedicated Esky built into the plan but I guess you can't have everything.

Delivered on a US-built tandem-axle braked Karavan trailer, with a few changes to meet Australian Standards, the Bayliner 215 comes in at $54,990. It's a lot of boat for the price!





Specifications: BAYLINER 215








Type: Monohull bowrider/family boat

Material: Fibreglass

Length: 6.32m

Beam: 2.46m

Deadrise: 18°

Weight (BMT): Approx. 1672kg

Length: Approx. 8.63m or 7.7m with trailer draw-bar folded

Max draft: 0.89m




Fuel: 140lt

People: 9

Min HP: 220

Max HP: 260




Make: MerCruiser

Type: MPi V8 inboard sterndrive

Drive: Alpha 1

Rated: 260hp

Displacement: 5.0lt




Bayliner Boats




Originally published in TrailerBoat #268.


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