Boat test: Bayliner 185 and 175

By: John Ford , Photography by: John Ford


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Jon us for a "playdate" on Sydney Harbour with two of Bayliner's latest: the 175 and Bayliner 185.

Boat test: Bayliner 185 and 175
The Bayliner 185 and 175. Best of both worlds.

The arrival of the latest "new" model from America often means the boat in question has an extra drinkholder or a different colour scheme, but in terms of Bayliner's 2012 range there are a number of significant differences and - in the case of the 175 - an entirely new hull.

We could not have picked a more glorious day for our test of the 175 and its bigger sibling, the 185. It was a clear and sunny winter's day on Sydney Harbour, and the temperature pushed into the high 20s. With perfect weather and one of Australia's most spectacular waterways at our fingertips, conditions were ripe to show off these two bowriders in their element - cruising, hooning around and generally enjoying life out on the water.

Actually, we experienced a good range of conditions even without a breath of wind, because we found plenty of man-made rough water, particularly around Sydney's famous bridge. When people ask me what sort of boat they should buy to tour Sydney Harbour, I tell them to get a damn good one. For first-timers, negotiating the waters around Circular Quay can be quite daunting, as you have to avoid being mowed down by kamikaze River Cats while tackling the monster backwash trailing behind the bigger ferries.

I was about to find out for myself how a 175 and a 185 would fare in the marine equivalent of city peak-hour traffic…

 

Bayliner 175

Although it's the baby of the Bayliner fleet, the 175 just might be the liveliest budget-oriented fun package around. The new hull is now even sleeker and more efficient. Even with the relatively agricultural four-cylinder MerCruiser it's still a rocket ship on the water, blasting its way to a top speed of 41kts (75.9kmh) - which feels extremely fast when sitting close to the water. It's a virtual go-kart in the steering department, and allows itself to be thrown around from side to side with glee.

Bayliner has taken a page out of Henry Ford's business manual, which means you can have the 2012-spec 175 in any colour you like, as long as it's black. Fortunately for the fashion conscious, black seems to be the "now" colour in boats; it's the new black, if you will. White topsides offset the stark dark panel along the side and the contrast accentuates the flowing lines of the hull, which dips down at the bow to create a sporty low profile, in turn enhanced by the new lower-profile windscreen. A big Bayliner logo announces the brand, but the model size is kept to an understated badge amidships.

Layout is typical of an American bowrider and for a small boat it makes good use of the length - it's roomy enough for seven passengers. There are spots in the bow for three - although it's a more comfortable place for one each side sitting lengthways - plus a driver's seat, back-to-back passenger seats and rear jump seats for another two. This year's model brings more freeboard to the cockpit, and the deeper sides will be a welcome addition for those with children.

The helm has a simple bucket seat on a slider and it is set low in the hull, giving good vision through the screen. However, driving from a standing position isn't particularly comfortable - it would only be a temporary option when docking. Because the seat is set low the 175 gives you the impression of being in a sports car, accentuated by the fact you're sitting so close to the water. There is good forward / aft adjustment of the seat and although it does not have a wraparound profile, it's still reasonably comfortable and easy to access.

 

What's new?

An all-new dash has a simplified instrument panel with two large dials instead of the wide array from the previous model. You get a speedo that incorporates a fuel gauge and voltage meter plus a separate tacho. The new layout makes room for two drinkholders on the driver's dash, which inevitably make a good place for mobile phones and keys, too. The steering wheel is a sporty number with good grip and it now also features tilt adjustment. A row of switch panels operates the horn, lights and bilge blower, while the ignition key is on the left of the wheel, which I found a bit awkward at first as I'm right-handed.

On the passenger side, the back-to-back seat can convert to a full-length sunlounge with storage below. Navigators get a drinkholder, a grabrail and a new lockable glovebox instead of the open bin on the old model.

Between the front seats is an in-floor locker extending to the bow to take skis up to 8ft long. I know it's a cost-cutting thing but it's unlined and the lid is removable rather than being hinged, which can also be a bit awkward. Waterproof carpet on the floor is permanently fixed and does not extend into the bow.

In the stern, two seats either side of the enginebox are removable and reveal non-skid mouldings for boarding. Moulded storage trays are now built into the engine cover to make a useful table for rear passengers and a much more practical use of this space. Gas struts aid lifting the cover and keep it upright for easy inspection and maintenance. Out back is a narrow swim platform with a folding stainless steel ladder moulded into the starboard side.

Because the narrow gunwales allow more cockpit space there is a shortage of stowage along the sidewalls. A simple bungee net has also been included to hold smaller items.

 

Handing and ride

Yes, I described the 3lt motor as "agricultural" and at first I felt the carby-fed, in-line four-cylinder MerCruiser seemed a little mundane. However, after a full day on the water I'm prepared to eat my words. That's because the 175 simply doesn't need more power. Out of the hole it lifted high at the bow but quickly got on the plane. With only a slight touch on the trim lever it settled into a nice, flat stance and was soon flying along at over 40kts (74kmh). At low speeds the motor seemed a bit lumpy (the dealer explained that it was a new engine and still needed fine-tuning) but as the revs increased it sounded sweeter. At full noise it turned into a banshee wail that told you it was doing its best to propel you as fast as it could. On the harbour the chop kept us down to 21.1kts (39kmh) at 3000rpm, which is still a reasonable cruising speed, and the 175 remained dry even over the wake from bigger boats.

 

The Trade-a-Boat verdict

At $29,990 drive away the Bayliner 175 is very much in boat bargain territory. Sure, it's an entry-level package without all the trimmings, but it'll get you on the water in a proven and capable package that will thrill your socks off or cruise at a leisurely pace while you take in the sights and enjoy the sunshine.

 

On the plane...

  • Speed to thrill
  • Good handling
  • Good layout
  • Good value
  • Easy to drive for new boaters


Dragging the chain...

  • Driver's seat may not be ideal while standing
  • No carpet lining in storage areas
  • Don't expect the kitchen sink

 

Bayliner 175 specs

Bayliner 175 price: $29,990

 

Price as tested

GENERAL

Type: Sportsboat monohull

Material: Fibreglass

Length: 5.35m

Beam: 2.11m

Weight (BMT): 1031kg

Deadrise: 19°

 

CAPACITIES

People: 7

Rec. HP: 130

Max. HP: 130

Fuel: 80lt

 

ENGINE

Make/model: MerCruiser 3.0L TKS

Type: In-line, four-cylinder sterndrive

Weight: 288kg

Displacement: 3000cc

Gear ratio: 2.4:1

Drive: Alpha 1

 

DISTRIBUTED BY

Berowra Waters Wholesale

PO Box 373

Narellan, NSW, 2567

 

SUPPLIED BY

Avante Marine

210-212 Silverwater Road

Silverwater, NSW, 2128

 

Bayliner 185

The changes to the 185 for 2012 are less significant than to its smaller 175 counterpart, but it has enough bling and buzz to retain its status as the most popular Bayliner in this country. New "Flight" graphics, a rounded-profile windscreen and a revised forward-leaning wake tower enhance its sporty lines. Power for the test boat was from the sweet-sounding V6 MerCruiser pumping out a healthy 220hp. While engine options down to 135hp are available in America, the V6 is the only unit available to Australian customers.

 

Layout and design

Four people could cram into the bow section if required but like all forward seats it can get a bit rough up there when underway. Realistically it's more a place for two people stretched out lengthways, leaning back on the comfortably padded bulkheads. Upholstery throughout the boat is a chic white and grey, with black beading enhanced by the sculptured flow of the padding around the insides of the hull. Lift-out seats reveal space for an anchor and a neat place for lifejackets, but it would be nice to see hinged seats and carpet lining, as was the case with the additional storage behind the starboard backrest. Front seat passengers get plastic drinkholders and a grabhandle each side while the bow has mooring cleats and a non-skid entrance step.

In the walkway to the cockpit a lift-out lid in the floor reveals an unlined ski locker that extends all the way to the bow for longer skis. Grey marine carpet covers the cockpit floor and extends up along the sides of the hull, which have narrow tops not really suited for sitting but allow for more space in the cockpit.

A new style of glovebox for the passenger is now a more practical deep bin for better storage, while the inclusion of a drain means it can double as an icebox. Back-to-back seating converts to a sunlounge with the option of raised sections each end, allowing your crew to stretch out in either direction.

 

Options

I liked the sporty presentation of the Faria instruments. Its big gauges clearly display speed and revs while smaller dials either side have readouts for volts, water temperature, trim, oil pressure and fuel. They are clearly visible, set against a non-glare grey vinyl trim with a brow to shade them. A Jensen Marine CD player sends music to a pair of speakers through an equaliser and it has a separate iPod jack. Switches on the dash operate navigation lights, a bilge blower, horn and bilgepump. Good padding means a comfortable driver's seat and 200mm of movement allows generous leg room. A flip-up bolster is a good addition to allow the option of driving with the wind in your hair and looking over the windscreen, or seated lower where vision through the screen is also unobstructed - and your hair stays in place.


Jump seats at the back can be flipped over to protect the upholstery when boarding and they can also be raised to a higher position to convert the stern into a full-width sunlounge. There is good access to the engine via openings from the side and under the engine cover, the latter easily lifted with the help of gas struts. An extended platform transforms the aft into about a metre of open deck, making it ideal for swimming or sunbaking and a great launching place for boarding.

 

Handling and ride

Nothing has changed to the hull shape (first introduced in 2010), but it's an efficient and easily-driven design that requires little improvement. As with the 175, I like the way this boat felt on the water and its fun factor goes a long way towards explaining the popularity of these boats. Sure, they are well priced and they have a good resale value if kept in good shape, but they are such a predictable boat to drive - you'd really have to do something pretty silly to get into trouble, making them a good choice for first-timers.

From take-off the 220hp motor on the 185 was a willing performer and we got onto the plane quickly before scooting to a top speed of 45.4kts (84kmh), where it felt a bit flighty. Power steering made turning light and only a small amount of trim was required for optimum drive. I trimmed down a bit for sharp turns and as the boat washed off speed I dialled in some power to maintain momentum. After sudden and sharp turns it continued to track as asked. Everything felt happiest in the 3000-4000rpm range and in flat water it could maintain that sort of cruise all day long. In the choppy waters of the harbour 3000rpm gave a decent and safe cruise - as long as an eye was kept on those wakes from bigger boats.

 

The Trade-a-Boat verdict

The 2012 Bayliner 185 has lost none of its appeal and the Flight package makes it even more attractive, capable of being towed by mid-sized cars and big enough to get the whole family onboard. Great for cruising and with power to tow a skier or boarder, the 185 deserves its popular reputation.

 

On the plane...

  • Looks sporty and should be fashionable for years to come
  • Foam-filled hull gives a solid, quiet ride
  • Plenty of power on tap
  • Easily towed and launched


Dragging the chain...

  • Could use some carpet lining in storage areas
  • No dedicated anchor locker

 

Bayliner 185 specs

Bayliner 185 price: $43,390

Price as tested

 

GENERAL

Type: Monohull sportsboat

Material: Fibreglass

Length 5.49m

Beam: 2.31m

Weight: 1074kg

Deadrise: 19°

 

CAPACITIES

People: 8

Rec. HP: 220

Max. HP: 220

Fuel: 106lt


ENGINE

Make/model: MerCruiser 220MPI

Type: Fuel-injected V6 sterndrive

Weight: 393kg

Displacement: 4300cc

Drive: Alpha 1

Propeller: 21in alloy

 

DISTRIBUTED BY

Berowra Waters Wholesale

PO Box 373

Narellan, NSW, 2567

 

SUPPLIED BY

Avante Marine

210-212 Silverwater Road

Silverwater, NSW, 2128

 

What is the differnece between the Bayliner 175 and 185?

Despite the 185 being only 200mm longer and 210mm wider than its smaller counterpart, stepping aboard made me suddenly feel like I was a passenger on the Queen Mary. It's that different, and you wonder where all the extra room had come from. Passenger capacity is bumped up to eight and there's more in the way of appointments. The 185 on test had the optional Flight package fitted, which includes a newly-designed wake tower, while that overhead enclosure goes a long way to giving the boat a more substantial presence.

Running to the harbour down Parramatta River from Silverwater (where Avante Marine is based) allowed for full-speed thrashing, while the turbulent washing machine around Circular Quay gave us a fair range of conditions.

Each boat performed well in these environments, with the bigger boat more comfortable in the rougher stuff, as you'd expect - nothing beats length when it comes to punching through a sea.

While the 175 might be considered more of an entry-level offering based on size and price, it's no slouch and it only loses out by 4.3kts (8kmh) in performance. Handling is similar but the lighter weight of the 175 shows through - especially in chop, where it tends to bounce around more.

The price may be the telling factor in choosing between the two because at $43,390, the 185 will send you $13,400 deeper into the red. Buyers will have to weigh up the cost against the extra performance, better harbour cruising ability and the extra features the 185 has to offer.


Source: TrailerBoat #284, July 2012

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