Stingray 230SX
Hot Boat Magazine
- March 1996

NOTE: the 230SX was formerly the 698zp

230SX link It was only a matter of time before the famed Stingray family line shed its 'sleeper' status and made its way into the performance boating mainframe. Since company owner Al Fink put the finishing touches on his computer-generated, patented ZP (Z-plane) bottom technology, Stingray Powerboats has made believers of throngs of skeptics, many of whom were deceived by the ordinary, outward appearance of this traditionally styled family line.

When the hammer's down, the Stingray is anything but an ordinary family creation. Forget the basic, traditional walk-through styling, the conservatively applied gelcoat, and the distinct emphasis on family recreation. Beneath the water line, there's no denying that something special is at work. Stingray's single, definitive quality is its bottom, which utilizes a unique directive flow design that more efficiently directs the flow of the running surface, thereby enhancing lift and perpetuating speeds that defy conventional wisdom.

Stingray, in fact, has consistently used smaller, more economical engine and drive packages to outperform its peers, a legacy that this year was incorporated into the 698zp. The 698, which at 22 feet, eight inches is the largest entity in Stingray's performance line, was the last remaining model in the stable to inherit the Z-plane technology. While under the knife, the 698zp also drew some deft styling enhancements, resulting in a truly impressive makeover.

THE PACKAGE
230SX ('96 model) All Stock Stingrays are generously appointed with everything required for complete family outings, and practicality is the benchmark of the line. With its expansive cockpit, ample freeboard, open, airy feel, and fully equipped cabin, the 698zp is perhaps the most functional of the company's performance offerings. At first glance, this full-sized cuddy may not appear to qualify for the designation as a performance boat. However, the numbers proved otherwise: 70.5 mph, and 0 to 50 in a downright blazing 12.45 seconds. Amazing statistics for a boat of this type. There's a substantial amount of interior room designed into the 698, and it's put to excellent use. The interior is traditional in style and execution, with two front buckets mounted on circular, swivel-style bases that were soundly through-bolted to backing plates beneath the fiberglass floor. The bases held firmly even in high impact cornering.

The seats swung completely around upon command, and were very comfortable. The rear bench was also quite roomy, and the double-stitched upholstery throughout the interior was neat, tight, strong, and supportive. Fit and finish were impeccable throughout. Given the size of this boat, and the accompanying implication of rough-water capability, along with considerable power at hand, we'd have opted for a more dense interior foam, a view that was reportedly embraced by the Stingray factory on future copies of the 698. The fiberglass floor was completely carpeted, with the installers doing a great job of matching seams and finishing it off.

The modular, padded dash design was not riddled with the gimmickry that has plagued many of the new-year models, and its straightforward, easily legible approach drew raves from our evaluators. The technoids may scoff at the basic design of Stingray's ergonomics, but experienced boaters will marvel at the 698's sensible, utilitarian approach.

Standard, basic Quicksilver controls prompted shifts and throttle, with the one-piece mechanism conveniently placed and mounted, promoting comfortable long-term use. The trim control was housed in the throttle handle. Visibility magazine quote through the stout, aluminum-framed, five-piece, tempered windshield was generally excellent, though one driver complained that the top of the frame impeded his line of sight. Mounting of the frame, as well as of all the hardware, was strong and thorough. Standard interior amenities included three drink holders, a floor-mounted ice chest, tilt steering, and a 60-watt, pullout stereo cassette system. Storage space was neatly integrated into the gunnels,and designed to secure necessities without allowing them to disappear into the 'black hole.' More stowage was designed into the segmented engine compartment.

Stingray manages to pack an amazing degree of value into this tightly rigged boat, and much of it is found below in one of the roomiest, best-designed cabins in the 698's class. The vee-berth is formed with a fiberglass liner. Following the theme of the boat, Stingray stuck to the basics below, and tended properly to business. The sleeping quarters were roomy, comfortable, and neatly designed. Carpeting below was used somewhat sparingly, but was neatly installed. Standards included a sink, alcohol stove, freshwater tank, enclosed head, and storage cabinet. The cabin door is rattle-free while under way, both in the open and closed positions.

The rigging of the train was sanitary and sensible, with the 502 Magnum MPI buried neatly in the well, and linked to a Bravo One drive with 1.5:1 gearing, and a 27-pitch Mirage three-blade. MerCruiser through-hull exhaust was the only performance-related option on the boat.

The Stingray's two-color gelcoat work was clean but as basic as basic gets, with three sets of graphics competently taped and sprayed. This basic array was an option, and it dressed some excellent fiberglass workmanship. The mold work on this computer-generated design was similarly flawless.

PERFORMANCE
Stingray's 698 brings the performance-oriented family boater the best of both worlds: a highly practical family play machine, with the extra dimension of unusually stout performance. Let there be no doubt: there's something to this Z-plane business, and if you're skeptical, all you have to do is check the numbers. This is no lightweight; the 698 weighs in at no less than 3,460 pounds. While far from boxy, the design's expansive cabin dictates a certain degree of air resistance. Still, the Stingray managed to lay down consistent, controlled, 70-plus-mph passes, all the while displaying utterly civilized manners and completely predictable handling.

While not breathtaking, the 698's acceleration out of the hole was certainly snappy enough to pull a heavyweight slalom skier, and this boat really came to life through the midrange. It did show slight bowrise off the line, but then took an immediate, positive set, and proceeded to respond pretty well to trim. Though Stingray likes a relatively high X-dimension, the 698 showed no cavitation or blowout whatsoever.

Low-speed tracking and dockside maneuverability were both excellent, as was this boat's smooth, easy backing characteristics. It's an especially easy boat to control, making it a great choice for multi-driver families. It displayed much the same attitude through the midrange, where it was void of any wandering or chine-walking. Its ride was consistently flat, with no roll, and remained consistent under heavy loads and in deteriorating water conditions.

Fed throttle, the Stingray's ride continued to impress. We guided it magazine quote through two-foot chop, with 20-mph winds whipping the surface into a confused froth, and never found a point at which we had to back off the throttle. It was particularly responsive to trim under these conditions, and offered up a smooth, soft ride even then. There was no trace of bow flex even at 70 mph, in the roughest water we could find. We were impressed with this boat's solid feel and tight construction, as well as its outstanding performance. Indeed, our staff rated it at or near the top in every significant performance and construction category.

THE BOTTOM LINE
Granted, Stingray's approach is significantly more conservative than some of the West Coast fare that's available to family performance enthusiasts, specifically in the areas of gelcoat and hardware. In balance, however, you won't find a better-built, family production boat. Solid construction and stout rigging, superior design work in the cockpit and cabin, and one of boating's most accomplished bottoms blend to form one of the most satisfying family boating experiences on the water. This boat is one of the year's most impressive packages. Given its 70-mph capability, and the fact that this boat seems to have no apparent weaknesses, it's still a great value.

Hot Boat Magazine
March 1996




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