By: Dan Trotter

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Sea Ray hails from the Brunswick group. It was one of the earliest arrivals on the Australian bowrider scene and it’s a popular brand with families and watersports enthusiasts alike.


Sea Ray hails from the Brunswick group - it was one of the earliest arrivals on the Australian bowrider scene and it's a popular brand with families and watersports enthusiasts alike. The 185 Sport was the smallest boat in our TrailerBoat shootout and at $45,990 it was also the most affordable. Don't let that sway you though; this is a pocket rocket oozing with X-Factor.

At first glance the 185 Sport looks hot, racy and ready to blow your cares away. It's a quality bit of gear, too - from the low-rise bow to the aft swim platform, everything has that professional finish. The gelcoat gleams, the sharp graphics and colours enhance the bling, and the fully-moulded floor and sides complete the clean and stylish interior.






Firing up the 135hp MerCruiser 3.0lt four-cylinder inboard reveals remarkably quiet operation, thanks to the boat's engineered sound proofing. As the smallest boat in this shootout it was no surprise to find the 185 Sport's cockpit had less legroom for those on the rear bench seat and a smaller, less luxuriously padded forward lounge, but the raised aft sunlounge did provide adequate space for bronzed bodies to soak up the rays.

The boat is rated for a maximum of eight people, but I felt the four-cylinder MerCruiser would struggle with such a load. Rather, this particular hull was designed for fun-loving watersports addicts, not those who prefer to lie around drinking daiquiris while discussing the latest celebrity gossip.

With an AM/FM/CD Sony stereo package, complete with inbuilt iPod port in the glovebox and four powerful speakers, there's no doubt you'll have all the music you could want for any given occasion. This boombox seriously rocks!

The comfortable driver's bucket seat places everything at your fingertips, including the blowers, the manual bilge, plus the remote control for the stereo (an optional extra). The flip-up bolster on both seats makes it easy for those on the job to see clearly over the windscreen and keep an eye on everyone in the water.

With its lighter hull weight, the smaller block MerCruiser punched this sportsboat out of the hole almost instantaneously, before effortlessly accelerating to a pleasing top speed. There's very little lift in the bow on take-off, and as she settles onto the plane, trimming up the sterndrive creates a "weightless experience". The ride was dry on the test day, although the hull did throw sheets of water out to the side which, with a bit of a crosswind, could lead to a different story.

This sporty hull was born for turning hard and fast, and it does this well. Throwing the boat from starboard then hard to port confirmed the hull's terrific grip and control. Trimming the engine up too high did generate some cavitation, but there was plenty of range to play with to get the hull skipping along nicely. Jumping across the camera boat's wake did cause some hull slap and a little traction on landing, yet this didn't impede its ability to get right back on its game. At rest it passed the all-important stability test with flying colours, while the deeper cockpit and higher sides meant a very safe platform for all the family.






Onboard storage can be found in small compartments under the forward seats, in stash spots in the dash bulkhead, and in an underfloor locker. Access to the latter is via a generously-sized hatch, and the actual locker is of course big enough to accommodate skis, boards, ropes and related watersports accessories. Under the rear seat, two separate and easily accessed coolers are provided for food and drinks.

As a social boat this package is perhaps a little tight for serious entertaining, but there's space for some quality wining and dining if you limit the number of passengers. Four plastic cupholders are well located and - for when you're rockin' and rollin' - there are five plastic grabhandles within easy reach.

Over the high-rise transom lounge the extended swim platform (now standard) offers enough space to prep for wakeboarding or skiing, or a place to towel off before climbing back onboard. A collapsible, stainless steel boarding ladder folds snugly away when not in use.

The Sea Ray's build quality is exactly what you'd expect from a US import - tidy, perfectly moulded and solid throughout, especially the hull. I did note, however, a little flex in the internal cockpit around the sidepockets.

The padded upholstery is cushioned yet tight, without any areas for salt, sand or food crumbs to accumulate, so keeping your pride and joy neat and clean should be a snap. The optional clip-in carpet is a nice touch, too; it can be tucked away if necessary under a finished moulded floor. And if you're wondering where the anchor goes, look under the bow cushion!

As we parted company with this Sea Ray I couldn't help but think of the fun to be had, cranking tunes on a sunny, postcard-perfect Australian summer's day. Not only does the 185 Sport deliver an exhilaratingly fast ride, it looks flash and will turn heads among your peers. Delivered on a Brooker 1617 HDT tandem-axle braked trailer, the 185 Sport is manageable both in and out of the water, and is easier to store than the larger boats on test here.

Priced at an attractive $45,990, I imagine we'll be seeing plenty of sporty Sea Ray packages gracing our harbours, bays and lakes in the years to come.






Specifications: Sea Ray 185 Sport












Type: Monohull bowrider

Material: Monocoque fibreglass stringer system

Length: 5.99m (incl. swim platform)

Beam: 2.21m

Deadrise: 19°

Weight: 1179kg (boat and engine, excl. trailer)

Max draft: 0.863m

Min draft: 0.431m (sterndrive trimmed up)






Fuel: 98.4lt

People: 8

Min HP: 135

Max HP: 220






Make: MerCruiser

Type: Fuel-injected four-cylinder inboard sterndrive

Drive: Alpha 1

Rated: 135hp

Displacement: 3.0lt




Originally published in TrailerBoat #268.





Sea Ray



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