AT SPEEDS OVER 50 MPH, DRIVING MANY V-BOTTOM boats becomes a
seat-of-the-pants affair. Because lift increases with speed, the driver may feel
as though he or she has lost contact with the water. It takes experience to avoid
excessive trim and handle catching a chine with grace. Especially while turning.
That's why many boaters settle for bowriders with performance characteristics that
are best described as "spirited" rather than impressive. Roomy comfort and high
performance are separate entities and never the twain shall meet.
But if you've tired of boats that can't blow the foam off of a latte and need a
bowrider's ample seating and open layout, Stingray's new 230LX may hit your mark.
Its Z-Plane hull design lets you swing high-speed lock-to-lock turns with the
confidence of an APBA pro. Fast and efficient, the 230LX also boasts good looks,
excellent construction, and—hello—a low price, making it one of
today's better bowrider buys.
UNDER THE SEA. The Z-Plane hull is a contrarian design. Why? Because
it's opposite in theory and execution to prevailing wisdom. That wisdom says
getting some air bubbles flowing under the hull will increase speed by adding lift
and reducing the wetted surface. That's what strakes do. (That's why most
V-bottoms have them.) Ask any raceboat driver and he or she will confirm that air
under the hull nets higher speeds. That's why a bit of wind chop is a welcome
sight when heading out in a performance boat. Forcing more air to flow under the
hull—something you don't experience in calm conditions—can result in
But the Z-Plane hull of the 230LX doesn't sport protruding strakes. Instead,
the Stingray's strakes are molded into the hull, appearing as overlapping shingles.
Sighting down the boat's length, these look like an elongated "Z". Unlike
conventional V-hulls, there are no vertical surfaces below the waterline on a
Z-Plane hull. The reason? The original design parameters called for a shape that
could be driven fast through turns without catching. Having tested the
230LX—and driven most of Stingray's line—I'm here to tell you that it
CALM, COOL, AND COLLECTED. With our test boat's 300-hp MerCruiser 350
MAG MPI Bravo One stern drive ($3,866) turning 4500 rpm through calm water, we
U-turned, S-turned, and did doughnuts at 55.5 mph and never once backed off the
throttle. Then we did it at 4800 rpm and 60.6 mph. Trim the drive down a
tad—just a tad, now—going in, then trim back up again at the apex and
you're through the U without a skip, chatter, or the bow digging in. It's a
controlled slide that feels like you're running in a medium more viscous than
water. Even handling the controls to a novice just getting his high-speed chops
didn't make the crew uneasy. You'll be confident letting Junior take the helm of
a 230LX. The standard power steering is just icing on the cake.
The 230LX's integrated strakes produce a clear, dark wake. The only white was
the wash produced by the stainless steel Lazer propeller ($370). Typically, most
boats' chines and strakes mark their passage with a signature of white foam. When
you cut a turn, the water flow to the propeller becomes aerated by these chine and
strake wakes, necessitating lots of down trim to avoid ventilation. Thanks to the
Z-Plane, the prop of the 230LX retained a solid bite with minimal trim even during
our turnobatic session.
While six-foot breakers at the inlet kept us inside on test day, we found some
rough water in a shipping channel. With 20 degrees of transom deadrise and 3,407
pounds of displacement, the 230LX handled the wakes and slop with aplomb. There
was little pounding below 30 mph. But having tested Wellcraft's 23 Excalibur in
similar conditions, I believe it's the better rough-water performer. No real
surprise, though. The Wellcraft is 500 pounds heavier and has 21 degrees of
deadrise. At $32,625 with the same power, it's also more expensive than the 230LX.
If most of my boating was local, I'd choose the Stingray; the sheer joy wrought
by its turning ability would inhibit boredom in even the smallest arena. Plus,
it's a performance boat whose handling won't intimidate rookies. But if running
of open water is your cup of tea, I'd lean toward the Wellcraft.
Our test boat was equipped with through-hull exhaust ($638), resulting in the
high dB-A levels recorded on our chart. With Captain's Call ($1,608) exhaust, you
can choose between limited back pressure and a quieter ride.
HEART AND SOLE. You can see the Stingray's quality while you're standing
on the dock. Its cockpit is lined in fiberglass (drop-in carpet, $308). This will
wear better than a carpeted sole and is easier to maintain. Springline cleats, an
option on many bowriders, complement the bow and stern cleats. While all of these
are through-bolted and backed with steel plates sandwiched in the laminate, I
spotted a potential problem on the pop-up bow cleats. Since there are no checks to
guide the anchor rode, the bowlight may be swept by the rode and damaged. I'd
suggest replacing the fixed bowlight with a pop-up variety. That way the rode can
slide past unimpeded.
The 230LX's aggressively sexy lines are complemented by plush interior
upholstery that's tufted and rolled into navy and tan fiesta that subtly hints at
the fast fun to come. Stepping into the boat is easy, thanks to pair of
stainless-steel, rubber-insert step pads atop the gunwales.
From the water, you board using the recessed two-step ladder mounted on the
full-width swim platform. Grippy nonslip makes the platform secure, but the ladder
needs a third step to ease boarding, despite the standard ski-two-eye/grabrail.
Seating is the heart of any bowrider. The 230LX's is typical and well executed.
V-lounges forward, a four-adult-wide aft bench, and helm and companion buckets
combine to seat eight. The buckets have polypropylene bases for rot-free service.
A nonslip footrest is molded into each console, adding comfort for the helmsman
No windshield wiper is offered, so you might want to add an aftermarket unit.
Otherwise, the helm is nicely arranged and includes tilt steering, a compass, and
Chilly mornings are made more comfortable by the standard Bimini top and
windshield connector. Adding the side curtains ($131) and walkthrough flap ($80) to
block off the space between the consoles makes them even more so. These easily slip
into in the capacious stowage that runs from below the consoles. There's an anchor
locker forward, and skis and wakeboards stow below the sole in a dedicated locker
that drains to the bilge.
Check out the Stingray 230LX. It looks great, is finished nicely, and easily
swallows a crew and all its gear. Besides, why tool around when you can zoom
Buyers Guide 2000