By: John Ford

bayl01.jpg bayl01.jpg
bayl03.jpg bayl03.jpg
bayl04.jpg bayl04.jpg
bayl05.jpg bayl05.jpg
bayl06.jpg bayl06.jpg
bayl07.jpg bayl07.jpg
bayl92.jpg bayl92.jpg

The world's biggest boatbuilder recently introduced an exclusive model to the Aussie market -- the Bayliner 185 GT. We wanted to find out what all the fuss was about so we sent John Ford out for a pleasant day on the water. Well, that's what we told him anyway...

Bayliner 185 GT

FROM THE ARCHIVES: First published in TrailerBoat #279, March 2012



All too often our boating enjoyment can be ruined by foul weather, and taking a test boat out for a review is no exception. Take our otherwise well-laid plans to test the new Bayliner 185 GT, for example.

The dealer, Neil, from Avante Marine, had arranged to meet me for a day on the water, and he was bringing his three teenage children along for the ride. Our objective was to see how well this boat filled its role as a family-friendly all-rounder, and you can only imagine the excitement of the kids when they were told they could have a day off school to go boating (and possibly launch a promising modelling career).

Everything was going swimmingly when our adventure started on Port Hacking in Sydney's south. However, our enthusiasm ebbed as the weather closed in, and the conditions soon left us drenched and freezing.

What was there to do but laugh and huddle together under the bimini as the worst of the showers passed? We'd just have to wait and head out as soon as the weather cleared for the photography. We even convinced Josh to jump in the water for some wakeboarding, while Lachie and Stephanie cheered him on.



Bayliner, part of the gigantic Brunswick Corporation, has been the world's biggest boatbuilder for many years - and a mainstay of the local scene. However, the release of the Limited Edition 185 GT represents a first for the American giant. The GT's release was announced last year as part of a new direction to provide boats better suited to our market, which also happens to be Brunswick's third-largest export destination. The new 185 is a remodelled version of the American model and it has the same hull, but the Aussie GT sports several changes that are more than just cosmetic.

It has sporty fibreglass lines and a practical bowrider layout. Bayliners are well known for their efficient, soft-riding hulls and the GT was no exception, with a top speed of 45.4kts (84kmh) or well over 50mph from its 4.3lt, fuel-injected V6, which pumps out 230hp through its Alpha One sterndrive.

At 5.5m (or 18ft), the 185 is compact for a family sports boat, but Bayliner has made the most of the available space to make it easy to get around. Its appearance is enhanced by the one-piece fibreglass liner which makes up the whole interior of the boat, creating an impression of seamless integration.

The clip-in carpet throughout is neat and practical and in the bow there is room for two to relax in comfort, sitting lengthways with their feet up on the cushions. Of course, small children will have room to spread out here, and the bowrider design means adults can keep an eye on them from the cockpit.

The central raised section is unpadded and forms a step to the bow, where a non-slip platform assists access. Three stainless steel cleats are fitted along with a roller for the ground tackle, which is stored under the port-side seat. Each seat base lifts out for easy access to the stowage below and the seat backs open on sturdy stainless steel piano hinges for more storage room in the bulkhead.

Bow passengers get two drinkholders on the front step and handy grabrails along the coamings. Like the rest of the boat, the high-grade upholstery in the bow is a striking white and almond colour with black trim, the result being an opulent look and feel to everything.




At the walkthrough to the bow the Taylor Made five-piece screen opens in the centre. The rounded alloy moulding at the top of the screen looks modern and provides a good handgrip.

Driver and passenger get bucket seats on pedestals, and like the seating in the bow, they're comfy and of a high quality. The driver's bolster can be raised for a higher seating position for those who prefer to be up in the breeze, but the normal seated position is comfortable and there is excellent vision through the screen.

Even the tallest driver will find lots of legroom and the seats swivel for relaxing or for the passenger to observe when towing. The instruments are well laid out on a sporty, non-glare dash and I found them easy to read. You get a large tacho and speedo surrounded by smaller gauges for voltage, engine temperature, oil pressure, fuel level, depth gauge and trim. Set below the instrument panel is a Fusion stereo with MP3 interface. An optional timber steering wheel adds to the sporty feel, which is backed up by lively performance. Sidepockets can store smaller items but the cavernous passenger glovebox makes a good place for lunch and drinks.

In the stern, the inboard MerCruiser takes centre stage with a jump seat each side, but the area converts to a sunpad by lifting the seats to a higher position. Out the back is a swim platform that provides a great place to relax and offers easy entry from the water.

Engine access is a breeze - simply lift the cover - so regular maintenance like checking the oil and battery should be easy. Our test model was fitted with a bow cover and a matching bimini.

Its weight on the trailer is around 1390kg, so it can be towed by a medium-sized family car and it's easy to handle at the ramp. Because the Australian model has buckets instead of the back-to-back seats of the American version there is seating for six, so if you want to fill the boat to its rating of eight you will need a couple of temporary seats. Avante suggests some padded Esky-style coolers will do the trick.



It's all well and good to have a boat that looks sporty and is badged as a GT, but does it live up to the legacy of the fire-breathing Falcons that stormed around Bathurst in the '70s? Well, yes and no. This Bayliner is probably more a GT in the European sense, in that it handles well and produces its momentum from a more sophisticated engine than the lumpy V8 of the Aussie version. Its forte is its ride, which is sporty and fun yet predictable and safe, rather than the expectation that it could turn you on your head at any given moment in the way the Falcons did at Mount Panorama back in the day.

This GT loves to be thrown into a corner at speed and you can be confident that the tail will follow you around. With power steering that is responsive and light and controls that are smooth and well situated, you quickly come to grips with driving this boat. It's deceptively fast, though, and the exhaust noise is moderate. If you plant the throttle you can easily be sitting on 40kts (74kmh) before you know it.

Out of the hole the boat has power to pull a couple of skiers. As we towed young Josh around he was grinning from ear to ear, despite the rain and cold. And that's the essence of this boat: you can have a great time on the water no matter what Mother Nature serves up.




To make the Australian model a standout in the range Bayliner has essentially made several improvements to the American model to give it a more luxurious appeal. There's the exclusive colour treatment of the hull, with the GT and Limited Edition graphics on black over white sides. The almond-coloured upholstery is of an upgraded material and design and the bucket seats are a departure from the aforementioned back-to-back arrangement found in the standard model. There's also that fibreglass liner, which incorporates the boat's entire interior in one moulding.

Snap-in carpet helps keep the hull pristine and a depth gauge is fitted as part of the instrument package. Rodholders and a bowroller make things a little more fishing friendly but due to space limitations and a need to keep the step-up bow walkway, there's no anchorwell. The sound system has been upgraded to a Fusion unit with iPod dock and the extended swim platform provides more space for lazing about when the weather comes to the party.

Bayliner has sold a gazillion 185s over the years and this new 185 GT looks set to see that tradition continue. A few extra niceties and classy limited-edition paint and upholstery make it stand out from its standard siblings, and it's still the superb, entry-level, family sportsboat it's always been, with an attractive price to boot.



On the plane...

Very good handling and ride 
Sporty and plenty of speed 
Great looks and quality finish 
Visibility through the screen


Dragging the chain...

No anchorwell








Price as tested: $42,590
Options fitted: Bow cover and bimini
Priced from: $40,590




Type: Monohull bowrider
Material: Fibreglass
Length: 5.49m
Beam: 2.31m
Weight (on trailer): 1390kg
Deadrise: 19°




People: 8
Rec. HP: 230
Max. HP: 290
Fuel: 106lt




Make/model: MerCruiser 4.3lt MPI ECT
Type: Multi-point fuel-injected inboard petrol V6
Weight: 393kg (incl. Alpha One leg)
Displacement: 4300cc
Propeller: 21in alloy




Bayliner Boats




Avante Marine
210 Silverwater Rd
Silverwater, NSW, 2128
Tel: (02) 9737 0727


Originally published in TrailerBoat #279


Find Bayliner boats for sale.


Want the latest stories delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for the free TradeBoats e-newsletter.