Stingray Powerboats
Stingray 180RX - Neat Trick

Boating Magazine - February 2004

Is this the best deal on the water?


Stingray 180RX Open Bow Boat

Is this too good to be true? The new Stingray 180RX is an 18' stern drive-powered runabout priced at a tantalizing $9,995. Buy one for the kids. Buy one for the lake house. Put it on your credit card. At this price, how can you go wrong?

Well, the boat could suck. And it might not really cost $9,995. You know about the old bait-and-switcheroo. So we checked it out. Good news. The boat is great, and Stingray is adamant that its dealers will offer the boat at the advertised price. If you want a trailer, you can put the new 180RX on dealer-supplied wheels for just $1,000 more.

The 180RX is designed to go head-to-head with the Bayliner 175, a 17'6" bowrider introduced last season, offered at $9,995, and powered by a 135-hp four-cylinder MerCruiser 3.0L. Similarly, the 180RX is powered by a 135-hp four-cylinder Volvo Penta 3.0 GL stern drive. Neither company offers engine upgrades. In fact, Stingray doesn't offer any options at all on the 180RX, except for the $425 Sunbrella Bimini top.

If you want to spend more, look at the 17'4" Four Winns 170 Horizon, which starts at $15,637 with a Volvo Penta 3.0GL, a trailer with brakes, a Clarion CD player with Sirius satellite entertainment, and a fiberglass cockpit liner. The Glastron SX 175 is $14,833, also with a Volvo Penta 3.0GL, fiberglass sole, stereo with cassette player, but no trailer.

PRICE POINT. What you get in the 180RX is an entry-level runabout that's pretty typical in design and features. Stingray hasn't cut any significant corners to meet a low price point. An integrated swim platform is 1'4" deep and has a two-step stainless-steel boarding ladder, a ski-tow eye, and the fuel filler cap on center. A sunpad covers the engine bay, which is secured by a latch and supported by gas struts when it's raised to reveal not just the bright red Volvo Penta 3.0GL, the battery, trim pump, and fuel tank fittings but also carpeted areas outboard of the engine where you could stow a cooler or a mooring cover. I say hurrah for stowage but lose the carpeting. There are no bulkheads alongside the engine, however, so you'll have to devise a way to keep gear stowed here from sliding into the engine.

The flat aft bench seat covers another stowage compartment that's reached by raising the cushion on a neat bifold hinge, but the opening to the stowage area is just 8" wide. All of the seat-base structure is carpet-covered, treated plywood. There is no inwale stowage.

Both bucket seats are mounted on stout pedestals, and each rotates 180 degrees. A ski locker between the seats has a heavy liftoff plastic hatch that won't bounce around in rough seas. The ski locker is only 7" deep, and it's carpet lined and thus likely to stay damp.

Both consoles have attractive vinyl-clad caps. There's a locking glovebox in the starboard console, and the structure behind the cap is cut out for a stereo, although no stereo is offered with the boat (but this should be an easy do-it-yourself job). The wood-grain instrument panel holds a set of white-faced Facia gauges, and there's a 12-volt power outlet, plus the usual electrical switches. Stingray should hit the bottom edge of each console with a grinder—I found rough fiberglass shards just waiting to nick the fingers of anyone who grabs here to pull the seat forward.

PROPERLY EQUIPPED. The bow area measures 4'-by-4'4", so there's room for two adults. The seats are about 1'3" deep and offer some security for kids. There's a fiberglass step at the bow peak, a 6" cleat on the bow, but no dedicated anchor stowage. That cleat is one of five, a real surprise on a lower-priced boat, as is the curved-glass windshield and three-color vinyl upholstery. The boat looks basic but not cheap.


Stingray 180RX Stingray 180RX HERE'S PROOF THAT INEXPENSIVE AND CHEAP
ARE NOT SYNONYMOUS. TOP END: 47.2 MPH.



  Boating Stingray 180RX Open Bow Boat
  Certified Test Results
  Stingray 220DR

SPEED
EFFICIENCY
OPERATION
rpm
knots
mph
gph
naut.
mpg
stat.
mpg
n. mi.
range
s. mi.
range
run
angle
sound
level
1000
3.8
4.4
1.4
2.7
3.1
52
59
0
68
1500
5.4
6.2
2.1
2.6
3.0
48
56
3
77
2000
6.6
7.6
3.1
2.1
2.5
40
46
5
81
2500
15.9
18.3
3.7
4.3
4.9
81
93
3
82
3000
22.1
25.4
4.5
4.9
5.6
93
107
1
86
3500
26.8
30.8
5.7
4.7
5.4
89
102
1
87
4000
31.9
36.7
7.7
4.1
4.8
78
90
1
86
4500
35.9
41.3
9.4
3.8
4.4
72
83
1
89
5100
41.0
47.2
12.9
3.2
3.7
60
69
1
93
Advertised fuel capacity 21 gallons. Range based on 90 percent of that figure. Performance measured with two persons aboard, full fuel. Sound levels taken at helm, in dB-A.



Standard power: Single 135-hp Volvo Penta 3.0GL stern drive.

Optional power: None.

Test boat power: Single 135-hp Volvo Penta 3.0GL in-line-4 gasoline stern drive with 181 cid, 4.00" bore x 3.60" stroke, swinging a 14.75" x 21" three-bladed aluminum prop through an SX outdrive with a 1:97:1 reduction.

Standard Equipment: (major items) Dino sport steering wheel; cockpit courtesy lights; 12v accessory outlet; 5 ss cleats; 2-step ss boarding ladder; aluminum rubrail; automatic bilge pump; locking glovebox.
LOA 18'0"

Beam 7'1"

Draft (max) 2'5"

Displacement
(lbs, approx)
2,100

Transom deadrise 19 deg

Bridge Clearance 3'6"

Minimum cockpit depth 2'8"

Fuel capacity (gal) 21

Price (w/std power) $9,995

Price (w/test power) $9,995


The Highs Can't beat the price. Some nice standard features, like the courtesy lights and the spring cleats, you don't find on most entry-level boats. Good stowage for a boat of this size and price.

The Lows Rough fiberglass under the consoles. Obnoxious engine noise in the cockpit. No engine options offered. No trailer. Want a stereo? Hope you're handy.


The 180RX rides on Stingray's patented Z-plane hull, the surfaces of which act as strakes that have been molded into the running surface rather than added onto the bottom. According to Stingray, this design relieves air pressure outward when the boat is at speed and the Z-planes are near the surface, so less air is funneled back to the propeller area. The transom is also notched, so the drive can be mounted a little higher to reduce drag.

Our 180RX rode its Z-plane hull to a top speed of 47.2 mph with the 3.0-liter engine wound out to 5100 rpm. That's with the standard aluminum prop. Just for fun, I threw on a Mercury Laser II stainless-steel prop with the same 14 3/4"-by-21" dimensions and saw 49.5 on the GPS, so there's a little more speed available if you want to pop for the steel wheel. Acceleration was good with a full load of fuel and two people aboard, with minimal bow lift. The ride is smooth for a boat of this size, and the 180RX displayed no handling vices. You may miss the luxury of power steering, especially at full throttle/full trim, though at cruising speeds there's a nice sweet spot in the trim where the steering is light.

In last year's test, the Bayliner peaked at 44.2 mph, about 3 mph slower than the Stingray. At their most efficient cruises, 3,000 rpm, the Bayliner got 6.2 mpg and the Stingray 5.6. Considering that the boats were tested on different days, in different water, performance and fuel economy are a push. According to the prices we got from Midwest dealers, the Bayliner might be $300 cheaper out the door than the Stingray. But the Stingray has more stowage, a few more items on the equipment list, goes just a little faster, and depending on your taste, looks a little nicer.

CLASSIC WOOD. The 180RX is one of the last boats in the Stingray line with plywood stringers and deck, both treated to resist rot. The wood does a nice job damping hull drumming and engine vibration. Too bad it doesn't muffle the terrible intake noise that seems to afflict every boat powered by this 3.0-liter engine. Volvo and MerCruiser need to start toning down the intake honk.

I noticed the same engine-noise issue on the Bayliner 175 last year, and there are many other similarities between the Bayliner and the Stingray. The Bayliner also has treated plywood stringers on a plywood deck. Neither boat has power steering. The Stingray has an automatic bilge pump, the Bayliner only a manual pump. The Stingray has cockpit courtesy lights, a 12-volt outlet, and a Dino steering wheel, none of which comes on the Bayliner.

The Bayliner doesn't have a glovebox. The base price of the Bayliner includes a trailer, but one without brakes. The Stingray is certainly more stylish, with its wraparound windshield and sport seating arrangement. The Bayliner has a flat-glass windshield, fore-aft lounge seats, and a liftoff fiberglass motorbox. It's worth noting that many boaters prefer those fore-aft cockpit seats.

Based purely on price and features, the Stingray 180RX might be the best small-boat deal on the water this season.

Charles Plueddeman
Boating Magazine




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