TEST REVIEW: Sea Ray 185 Sport


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It’s got style, space, and goes like a scalded cat. Sea Ray's excellent new 185 Sport makes family boating a pleasure rather than a pain in the neck.

TEST REVIEW: Sea Ray 185 Sport
TEST REVIEW: Sea Ray 185 Sport

Eighteen feet seems to be one of the most popular lengths for bowrider sports boats, and with good reason — 18-footers have the internal volume to carry up to seven adults; the beam and depth to offer a decent deadrise for a smoother ride; and at 18ft, the boat is easily stored and easily handled on and off the trailer.

So it’s no real surprise that Sea Ray’s new 185 sterndrive-powered bowrider has attracted plenty of attention from buyers in the short time since its release.

LARGE-VOLUME BUILDER

Sea Ray — a company owned by US giant Mercury Marine — builds a lot of boats. Economies of scale allow the boatbuilder to purchase high-tech equipment that allows it to manufacturer lots of boats very quickly — and to very accurate tolerances.

A five-axis CAD/CAM milling machine creates foam moulds that are faithful to the computer design to within 1/2000 of an inch, which means everything lines up perfectly when the hull and deck skins are joined. Foam moulds allow the company to build these two sections in one piece, which means greater strength, better finish, more "stiffness" and a lower production cost.

The company is also the second to introduce "closed moulding" technology, which allows it to inject resin into a closed mould laid up with fibreglass matt wovings. Less than half an hour later you’ve got a perfectly formed hull without the ripples, warps or defects that sometimes occur with traditional processes.

The company claims it uses more ‘glass in the lay-up than its competitors, too, and a quick comparison of hull weights does suggest that the boat is solidly made.

Robotic forming and finishing equipment (reminiscent of a car production line) are used to drill holes and attach much of the flesh to the hull’s bones, so to speak — things like windscreens, engine mounts, sterndrive leg holes and so on.

The refinements are evident on the 185 Sport. The moulds are clean and fair and the boat feels strong. The amount of R&D that’s gone into designing the interior is evident: the seating position and seats are pretty much spot on; there’s plenty of space between the helm and passenger consoles; and the bowpit is roomy, with good legroom all round.

Storage is also great, with dry, lined compartments under the bow lounges, in generous sidepockets and topped off with a wet ski locker in the floor.

LAYOUT OPTIONS

There are several seating options available on the 185 sterndrive model including two with relocating rear-quarter seats (one with two back-to-back seats, one with passenger back-to-back chairs and drivers’ bucket seat), and one with two bucket seats and a full-length lounge in the rear (the twin back-to-back is the most expensive of the three; the rear lounge model is the least expensive).

All have a sunpad over the stern bulkhead, with the quarter seats lifting up to form a larger bed in front of the full-width boarding platform and folding ladder, while the back-to-back seats fold down to form daybeds too — both of which are comfortable.

Seating, space and security are highlights on this boat, with soft vinyls and incredibly thick cushioning making lounging around and taking in the scenery even more comfortable.

One of the best things about these boats is how well appointed they are as standard. Sure, you might pay a bit of a premium over some comparable-sized bowriders — but few come with such comprehensive standard features.

Standard items include a 12V accessory outlet, anchor well with hatch, ski tow eyes, two-speaker CD system, insulated and gelcoated engine bay with vents, bilge pump, blower, tilt-adjustable hydraulic steering, backlit instruments with hour and water-temp meters, lockable glovebox, safety-glass windscreen, seven drinkholders and more.

Often it’s these little details that make a good boat a great one. The fittings (besides the plastic grabrails) are good-quality stainless steel, and the engineering, from what we could see, was excellent: think colour-coded loomed wiring, anti-syphoning fuel tank with breather and sending unit and CE/NMMA certification on mechanical components.

HULL LINES

The 185 Sport has 19° of deadrise — a compromise between stability and wave-taming ability — a healthy 2.29m beam,
nice fine entry at the bow and stepped chines to vent spray and increase stability at high speeds.

The hull is a good performer, gripping hard in tight high-speed turns and dancing on its hindquarters with the leg trimming up and throttle pushed down. The hull proved responsive to trim and the bow could be buttoned down to better cope with chop.

This boat comes standard with a 135hp 3.0lt four-cylinder MerCruiser petrol motor with an Alpha 1 leg and alloy prop, but local dealer Hirecraft Marine instead orders the boat with a six-cylinder 4.3lt motor, which sent the boat flying out to 82kmh at full throttle.

The extra 55hp will give another 20kmh top-end and would probably save you in fuel over the four-cylinder, as you won’t be pushing the engine as hard at cruising speeds. Serious speed freaks can order their boat with a 220hp fuel-injected six for speeds around the 90kmh mark — seriously fast in anyone’s language.

Noise levels were good thanks to the insulated engine bay, while servicing access was acceptable — and you’d have to drive a long way to empty the 98lt of fuel onboard.

RAY-DIANT
In all, this sporty 18-footer succeeds as a family fun boat: it’s got seating capacity for eight, comfort, performance, good build; it’s well appointed and represents very competitive buying at $45,390 with the engine upgrade, two-tone paint,
clip-in carpets, bimini top, heavy-duty Felk trailer and more.

Resale values are also good: a quick peek through the second-hand Sea Ray ads in this magazine will confirm this.

In terms of options to personalise the rig, you can spend extra on snazzy hull graphics, kit the boat out with a wardrobe of canvas, tick the depthsounder box, add a beefier stereo and bimini top or, as mentioned, opt for carpets inside.

Those buyers who just want to enjoy the boat in a less ostentatious, high-performance way can get into a bareboat with four-cylinder 135 for about $39,990.

Sea Ray is reportedly the biggest-selling boat brand in the world — and with new models like this beauty, this progressive US boatbuilder is really throwing down the gauntlet.


SEA RAY 185 BR SPORT
Price as tested:
$45,390

Options fitted:
Engine upgrade, heavy-duty trailer with walkway and spare wheel, clip-in carpets, bimini top, eight-person safety gear pack, registrations, two-tone paint, back-to-back passenger seat

Priced from:
$39,990 w/ 135hp four-cylinder MerCruiser, sans some options

GENERAL
Hull type:
Monohull bowrider
Material:
GRP w/ full fibreglass stringer system
Length overall:
5.64m
Beam:
2.29m
Deadrise:
19°
Hull weight (dry):
1202kg

CAPACITIES
Rec/max hp:
190/220
Fuel:
98lt
Water:
n/a
Passengers:
Eight adults
Berths:
Daybeds

ENGINE
Make/model:
MerCruiser 4.3lt
Type:
V6 carburetted petrol
Max hp:
190 @ 4800rpm
Displacement:
4.3lt
Weight:
385kg
Drive/ratio:
Alpha 1/1.81:1
Propeller:
Standard aluminium

SUPPLIED BY
Hirecraft Marine, Toronto, NSW, tel (02) 4959 1444 or visit www.hirecraftmarine.com.au

First published in TrailerBoat #184

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