We've raved about the Stingray line's efficient use of horsepower and formidable overall
performance on more than a few occasions - common denominators in each of our many encounters
with this South Carolina based company's lineup of 18-foot to 23'6" powerboats. We've run
Stingrays with everything from six-cylinder economy Chevys to fuel-injected 502s, and our
testers have invariably come away impressed with the dynamics of the company's patented
The Z-plane, originally pioneered by company founder Al Fink in an effort to enhance his
hull design's turning capabilities, has added a distinct performance dimension to a lineup
that is consistently faster and quicker than most every other production offering in its
respective class. The bottom works by streamlining the water flow over the running surface
and by reducing wetted surface while maintaining stability because of a patented strake pattern.
The computer-generated vee underside, which does not utilize a step, carves a muscleboating
edge into a building philosophy that embraces every imaginable family comfort and convenience
in its scope. Stingray's distinctive cockpit design and tidy attention to detail in its
passenger area belies the company's large production numbers, which exceed the combined output
of the top five California based builders of performance hulls.
For all of the exhilaration that envelops a stable 72.6 mph ride across less than hospitable
swells, it remained apparent in our performance testing that Stingray has not compromised a
long-held sheet of priorities for the sake of some bonus throttle-induced thrills. Even in the
case of our muscular, 415- horse 230SX, the Stingray maintained a firm grip on the basics that
bind its growing, enthusiastic constituency: a smooth ride and a stable, driver-friendly nature,
even when the water goes cow - specifically, the most practical possible environment for
The 230SX represents an evolution of Stingray's vaunted 698 hull, with some minor bottom
refinements designed to give it a bit more lift and a restyled deck design. The cabin on the SX
has also been upgraded with an emphasis on ergonomics and a bit more creature comfort.
Juicing this well-dressed family cruiser with MerCruiser's formidable 502 multiport injection
Magnum was the pivotal step in the creation of an uncommonly fast 23-foot lake machine
(technically, she's 22'6") - a worthy overnighter with a propensity for sprinting and the
numbers to prove it.
The 415 horsepower, produced by its potent MerCruiser 502 Magnum MPI (multiport)/Bravo power
train, did nothing to test the limits of our SX's Z-plane underside, and propped with a 25-inch
Mirage three blade, our test boat was as well mannered in the handling department as any 72 mile
an hour boat we've ever driven. MerCruiser thru-transom exhaust - a worthwhile $617 upgrade - was
added into the mix, which was otherwise stock. Bennett tabs are optional, but unnecessary.
In this case, "Stock" is not to be confused with "typical," at least not for builders of this
volume. Stingray's rigging drew appreciative nods from our inspection team, which noted its
straightforward wire routing, sanitary engine compartment layout and hardware mounting and
superior interior finish work.
Stingray's solid layup and liberal use of materials were evident in the creation of the new
230, which carried a 96-inch beam. The preparation of the new tooling was evident in the
consistent quality of the fiberglass on our test boat - one of the first SX's to be pried from
Stingray's gelcoat work remains, as always basic, but a bold graphic design carried the two
colors on our test boat (one is a standard, the second commanded a $352 premium) to their
maximum potential impact. The color swash across the rear deck lib was an effective accent,
and the taped graphic accents were well-done.
A full array of stainless steel hardware dresses the 230. Though it's offered at no charge
on the base boat, our 230SX was apparently ordered without bow railing. The mooring cleats -
two aft and one on the bow - were also standard, and a sturdy six-piece glass windshield
provided excellent respite from head winds and complete visibility - though the Stingray decal
was somewhat distracting and should have another home.
Boarding from deep water was made easy with Stingray's integrated platform, which housed a
fold-down ladder, boarding handle and a roomy nonskid surface.
Stingray's interior layout is a study in functional excellence. A side-mounted MerCruiser
throttle/shifter was easily accessible and packed trim in the handle. A switch panel placed
just to the driver's left housed the bilge pump, engine compartment blower, horn and other
accessory functions. Teleflex gauges blend flush into a molded dash with an insert panel -
very clean and easy to read. Tilt steering was standard.
A combination of fiberglass and wood is used in building the passenger areas, and a molded
cockpit inner- liner forms its basis. Cushion bases were resin-coated plywood, and the
upholstery drew strong marks for its supportive padding, detail and comfort - each as strong
as anything built on the left coast. The front seats were comfortable and supportive, though
their screw-mounted, circular pedestal mounts did show some slight play under power in rough
water beneath one of our more substantial (285 pounds) drivers.
The rear bench seat was integrated into the mold and featured a raised upper back support.
It was exceptionally comfortable in rough water, though in a 70-plus-mph application, we'd
like to see rear grab handles. Two additional side seats completed the roomy passenger area.
Convenient and secured storage was integrated throughout the cockpit and cabin areas, along
with such standards as a seat mounted ice chest, pullout 60 watt stereo system and drink
holders. Gear was conveniently tucked into compartments beneath the rear seat, in the engine
compartment and beneath the bow bed. A locking compartment helped secure valuables in the cabin.
Stingray has focused considerable attention on its cabin, and they've built a rugged,
well-equipped outing boat in the process. Our evaluators found it to be roomy, comfortable and
spatially efficient. It's also loaded with conveniences, including a fiberglass freshwater
sink/bar, lockable storage, self-contained portable head, alcohol stove, pullout table, interior
lighting and deck hatch. A 12-volt accessory plug is also standard.
The 230SX was as exhilarating on our trial course as it was efficient while tucked into a cove
in overnight mode. For such a well-stocked, well-equipped, solid boat, it screamed.
The 502 was put to great use not just on the top end, where its 72.6 mph Stalker-clocking made
it one of the fastest unblown 23's we've tested all year. Along the way, it provided all the
thrill with none of the chills. In short, it was a safe sound rush.
Our driving team found the Stingray to be equally impressive on its way up the ladder and
possessed of a highly reactive nature to throttle. Our well-dialed 23-footer hit 40 miles an
hour in 9.47 seconds - quicker than three-quarters of all boats we've tested in its size class
this year. It continued to pull hard through the midrange and upper end and found 60 miles an
hour in a highly respectable 16.64 seconds. The boat's most telling number of all was its 56.9
mph speed at 4,000 rpm - faster than all but two of approximately two dozen naturally aspirated
I/Os we tested.
Throttled down, this sure-handling vee glided to 70-plus very quickly and showed no evidence
of any chine-walking or rocking, even when we trimmed it to the upper edge of its sweet spot.