BOAT TEST LARSON LX185S BOWRIDER

By: JOHN FORD, Photography by: JOHN FORD


LARSON LX185S BOWRIDER-10.jpg LARSON LX185S BOWRIDER-10.jpg
LARSON LX185S BOWRIDER-01.jpg LARSON LX185S BOWRIDER-01.jpg
LARSON LX185S BOWRIDER-02.jpg LARSON LX185S BOWRIDER-02.jpg
LARSON LX185S BOWRIDER-03.jpg LARSON LX185S BOWRIDER-03.jpg
LARSON LX185S BOWRIDER-04.jpg LARSON LX185S BOWRIDER-04.jpg
LARSON LX185S BOWRIDER-05.jpg LARSON LX185S BOWRIDER-05.jpg
LARSON LX185S BOWRIDER-06.jpg LARSON LX185S BOWRIDER-06.jpg
LARSON LX185S BOWRIDER-07.jpg LARSON LX185S BOWRIDER-07.jpg
LARSON LX185S BOWRIDER-08.jpg LARSON LX185S BOWRIDER-08.jpg
LARSON LX185S BOWRIDER-09.jpg LARSON LX185S BOWRIDER-09.jpg

John Ford was recently impressed by Larson's 205 bowrider, so we sent him back out on NSW’s Georges River to see if its little sibling, the LX185S, was also on the money.

BOAT TEST LARSON LX185S BOWRIDER
LARSON LX185S BOWRIDER

After heaping praise upon Larson's LX205S in TrailerBoat #290 (January 2013), it was with some trepidation that I stepped aboard its little sister, the relatively diminutive LX185S.

Given this boat is a couple of feet shorter and $20,000 cheaper than the 205, I wasn't expecting the same "wow" factor, but I was prepared to keep an open mind as we headed back up the Georges River in Sydney's south.

There is no doubt entry-level boaters in Australia love their bowriders and it's no wonder; they offer more comfort and zing than your average tinnie for families that want to get into the fun of the summer boating scene, and they are less intimidating than bigger vessels when it comes to learning how to handle a boat.

In addition, even smaller bowriders can carry up to seven passengers in style, so they are an obvious choice for family cruising and towing water toys. And you can still go fishing in them - as long as you don't mind cleaning the carpet afterwards.

Derek Rodway from Good Times Marine in Sydney's south said that smaller bowriders are among the most popular models in his range mainly because they are seen as good value. As an importer for the Larson brand, he says he has cut out the middle man to present his boats at a very competitive price. He's positioned the LX185S at a starting price of less than $30,000, which is pretty attractive in a market not exactly spoilt for choice when it comes to American bowriders.

For those not in the know, Larson is a well-established American boat builder. The company employs the latest computer-controlled technology to build efficient hulls that are both light and strong with VEC materials that mechanise hull construction in a computerised press (see TrailerBoat #290, January 2013, for the full story).



COMPACT DESIGN

Although it is designated as a 185, which in American parlance means it is 18ft 6in (or 5.6m), the boat is actually closer to 17ft 2in (5.2m), plus the boarding platform, so it packs a lot into what is essentially a pretty small boat. It's a traditional American bowrider layout, comprising a walkthrough from the cockpit to a bow section to make usable space of the whole boat. A sterndrive is hidden under a full-width sun lounge towards the back and the wide swim platform is a little further back - great for relaxing or launching water toys.

So while the boat follows a familiar formula, it's the little things - the quality-look interior, the cooler built into the storage space under the port bow seat, lots of storage under the rear lounge and in the well-finished engine bay - that set this Larson apart. The $2000 option package makes it even more attractive because it includes a locally made bimini, tilt steering and flip-up bolster seats, along with stainless steel cup holders and grab handles.

The boat has a sporty look and is neatly finished inside with modern sculpted upholstery featuring charcoal and tan highlights over the white interior. And while the cockpit carpet is glued in rather than being of the clip-out variety, it is well fitted and extends high up along the sides. This attention to detail even extends into the engine bay, where the smooth finish of the VEC-moulded hull is on show in a display of shiny fibreglass where you would normally expect a daggy, rough finish.

Passengers are well catered for with a comfortable three-seat rear lounge and a decent rotating bucket seat for the observer. There is a small lockable glovebox and a Jensen sound system with MP3 player and two speakers.

The bow has room for a couple of passengers to spread themselves out on the comfortable cushions and well-padded backrests. A long ski locker is built into the floor between the front seats.

Inside the engine bay sits a 3L MerCruiser that is somewhat mundane by today's standards, but it's a simple and reliable four-cylinder carby-fuelled motor that goes some way to keeping costs down. Having said that, the boat does not lack performance and when the throttle is planted there is a healthy growl from the exhaust right through the rev range.

While people will likely be impressed by the look of the Larson, it's the ride that counts. It's a sports boat, after all, and what would it be without good handling and speed? However, given these boats will often be driven to the max on the first outing in the hands of novice drivers, they need to be safe. This is where the experience and testing that a large company can put into development comes into play, and I would rate the LX185S up there with the best-handling boats in its class.

The ride and handling benefit from the deep 21° deadrise and big reverse chines that extend all the way along the hull to provide lift and good stability at rest.



THE DRIVE

Seated behind the five-piece tempered glass 'screen, there was good visibility all round and the 250mm of seat travel allowed me plenty of room behind the three-spoke wheel. The side-mount engine control is well placed and the steering wheel tilts 15°, making it easy to find a comfortable position. Instruments are well positioned and comprehensive, with a central temperature gauge, oil pressure, trim and the tachometer housed to the left, and fuel and voltage with the speedo on the right.

With 135hp on tap I didn't expect a lot of action, but this Larson got going with a surprising willingness - and without alarmingly launching the bow - and propelled us to a reasonable 30kts (55.5kmh) at 4100rpm. I was able to wring another 4kts (7.4kmh) out of the fresh motor but it took a while and at this speed the boat sat up relatively high and started to feel a little light in the steering. It kept well on track and there was no chine walking, but the boat sent a subtle message that it was at its peak.

Handling was precise and smooth with the side rails grabbing on like the boat was, well … handling on rails. It turned safely lock to lock and showed no sign of cavitation or wanting to let the tail slide out, even with some out-trim.

We cruised for miles up the Georges River until the speed limit brought our fun to a halt, then we turned around and did it all again, enjoying the ride and revelling in the handling. Back on the wider reaches of the river there was a 0.5m chop from a southerly breeze, which the boat handled without banging or making things uncomfortable.



THE WRAP

While we packed the little Larson LX185S away I had time to reflect on the boat and I realised it had left me with nothing but positive impressions. I liked its sporty feel, safe handling and sensible turn of speed.

While it might not have the excitement of the 205 there is still plenty on offer here to satisfy entry-level boaters. With a tow weight of 1300kg on its single-axle trailer, this Larson will also be easy to move around with most family cars
and easy to handle at the ramp.





ON THE PLANE...

· Great handling from a well-sorted hull

· Quality fittings

· Good layout and use of storage

· Good value



DRAGGING THE CHAIN...

· Glovebox is a bit small





PERFORMANCE

7kts (13kmh) @ 2000rpm

16kts (29kmh) @ 2500rpm - on the plane

19kts (35kmh) @ 3000rpm

23kts (42kmh) @ 3500rpm

29kts (54kmh) @ 4000rpm

33kts (61kmh) @ 4500rpm

34.5kts (64kmh) @ 4600rpm - wide open throttle





Specifications: LARSON LX185S



HOW MUCH?

Price as tested: $31,990

Options fitted: Bimini and sock, tilt steering, stainless steel package, bolster seats.

Priced from: $29,990



GENERAL

Type: Monohull bowrider

Material: Fibreglass

Length: 5.6m

Beam: 2.25m

Weight: 1300kg

Deadrise: 21°



CAPACITIES

People: 7

Rec. HP: 135

Max. HP: 135

Fuel: 72L

Water: N/A



ENGINE

Make/model: MerCruiser
3L TKS

Type: Four-cylinder inline petrol, 2V carb, Alpha 1 sterndrive

Power: 135hp

Weight: 455kg

Displacement: 3000cc

Gear ratio: 1.81:1

Propeller: 21in



MANUFACTURED BY

Larson Boats

Little Falls, Minnesota, USA

SUPPLIED BY

Good Times Marine

2 Toorak Avenue,

Taren Point, NSW 2299

Tel: (02) 9524 6999

Web: www.goodtimesmarine.com.au

 

Originally published in TrailerBoat #292, March 2013.

Find Larson boats for sale.

 


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