Stingray Powerboats
1999 Performance Evaluations

Hot Boat Magazine - April 1999
Stingray 230LX

Long before "step-bottom" became a performance-industry buzzword, Stingray Boats was already riding to prominence on the company's patented "Z-plane" hull, a configuration that reduced drag by introducing friction to the relationship between the hull bottom and water surface. The design has made the Stingray hull one of powerboating's most efficient platforms, and its unusually high efficiency rating has enabled a generation of family boaters to derive maximum impact from their allotted horsepower ratings. In fact, Stingray owners under small-block power routinely report performance levels equivalent to those owning similarly styled craft under big-block muscle.

Case in point: Stingray's newly released 230LX, a moderately cut, 20-degree lake machine that adds an entirely new dimension to the stable's popular 23-foot closed-deck hull. When it comes to full-blown family boating, the LX takes up where the SX leaves off, opening the bow area up with a very nicely done walk-through conversion. The result is a legitimate sport boat platform with convenient topside — a combination that, when found, is never a bad thing.

The newest Stingray follows the lead of its predecessors in combining a series of solid, ingenious engineering touches with one of the fastest bottoms in family boating today. It is unheard of, even among the West Coast's vaunted custom-performance ranks, for a small-block-powered V-bottom to crash 60 mph. Wielding the most impressive small-block package released to date, MerCruiser's fuel-injected 350 Magnum/Bravo One setup, our 'Ray clipped the Stalker beam at 62.8 mph.

Stingray's execution remains, by our standards, one of production boat-building's most polished, and the new LX shows off some of the mere interesting design work you'll find in family boating today. Examples of MerCruiser fuel-injected 350/Magnum/Bravo One Stingray's innovative styling are everywhere, and it's evident that it goes to considerable lengths to not only distinguish its boat from the production pack, but to make it better and more memorable. Details like the unique, side-wing windshield ventilation and the contemporary look and feel of the car-like dash aren't in themselves earth-shattering; taken as a whole with Stingray's continuous series of deft production moves, they form a picture of a company that is quite comfortable while balanced on the cutting edge.

The Stingray is a good boat at any price, but we found it nothing short of incredible that you can ride away with a 300-horse Magnum version of this impressive 23-footer for $30,000 and change. The 230LX is without question one of the best values in recreational powerboating today.

Onboard
Solid engineering is the bedrock of this design, and it is all-encompassing. Stingray has extracted considerable convenience and comfort from its bow section, which forms through the textured, nonskid liner. It's best for front passengers (two of them) to recline lengthwise, facing forward; the liner shape is angled to contour comfortably to the human back. Down the sides, finished, practical storage extends the length of the bow, and stainless railing lines the entire perimeter on both sides. The side caverns are lit and are also home to the front speakers and integrated drink holders. There's a small, molded step to ease boarding and beaching: pop the lid, and its an anchor locker. Just ahead, a compact ice chest with a very efficient draining system is cut into the bow. A retractable front cleat (the other four are fixed) lessens the chances of hanging up on your way out. Its all very stylish and convenient.

The 230's cockpit is deep, comfortable and roomy, and it's a sizeable and very evident step up from that of the 21-footer. The shape is long on freeboard, and the emphasis onboard is on comfortable cruising. Our boat featured an all-glass floor with no carpeting (snap-in sections are optional). The option of a floor-mounted ski locker is unavailable. Another fiberglass step was built into the gunnel, eliminating awkwardness while boarding off the dock.

Front full-swivel buckets were mounted on single-tube- type mounts, and they hosted our front passengers in satisfactory comfort—until the water turned really nasty. We drew additional support from angled foot-support panels in the liner.

We really had no business piling a family bowrider through harsh, two- to three-foot seas, but it was under these conditions that we found ourselves. The 'Ray stiffened up nicely under the challenge, giving us the opportunity to find out just how solidly it was built.

Stingray has upgraded the cosmetics and the feel of its interior, and it has softened the shape and lines of its interior tooling. While it's 230LX bow section no custom boat, the 230 showed off a comfortable, stylish cockpit that looks and feels a cut above most of Stingray's production-oriented contemporaries. In seas better suited to deep-V offshore sport boats and in bad chop, our drivers pined for a bit more padding between the fat and the glass, as well as some additional side support.

The rear-bench-style seat showed off more of Stingray's considerable talent for merging distinctive design work with maximum practicality. The upholstery was gorgeous, comfortable and supportive, and the layout provided plenty of leg- and stretch room between the bench and the front seats. The seat was wide, deep, nicely padded and comfortable. The seatback was stylishly cut, and a large pleat-type section provided great lower-back support. The bench lifted to access the cockpit's primary stowage area, a large, nicely finished box.

Additional storage was found in sectioned compartments beneath the manually operated engine hatch and in the bow-seating liner. The hatch was padded on top, making it ideal for sunning. It was completely carpeted, dressing the installation and contributing to the boat's cockpit quietness while underway. One note here: Battery acid and carpeting don't mix, and the addition of a basic battery box here would have provided inexpensive insurance against spillage.

The promise of an extraordinary driving experience begins with the first perusal of the Stingray's control center, which is beautifully executed in every regard. A faux burlwood panel is inlaid smoothly on the sculpted dash, and a crescent-shaped array of Teleflex dials are prominently displayed inside chrome bezels. Matching oval-shaped switch panels with integrated lighting housed function rockers. The stylish, padded, tan wheel with its gleaming burlwood insert earned more style points. A wood-grained glove box was laid into the passenger side of the dash: it looked great, but its cover was a bit flimsy. The dash and combing areas on our test boat were done in tan, and the seat inserts in dark blue: the effect was rich and elegant. The entire boat was pleasing to the eye.

A basic, black MerCruiser control lever was well-positioned at the driver's right hand to promote easy, accessible, fatigue-free operation. A digital Humminbird depth-finder ($289) was the only interior option; standard equipment included a basic, AM-FM stereo cassette player and interior lighting.

The sturdy aluminum wind-shield framework didn't block the line of sight, and the view was free of distortion. The contoured glass provided good visibility and excellent protection from the elements. Stingray's natural air-conditioning vents flowed into the cockpit from adjustable side wings, a deft engineering touch that is destined to be widely copied.

As per company tradition, Stingray again earned excellent marks for its glasswork on the newly released LX. It was singled out as "exceptional," both in its tooling and execution. Our tester's base white was dressed with a blue gelcoat hull stripe ($308), and was trimmed with vinyl accent tape. Aluminum trim with a black rubber insert dressed the seam, and its installation was clear and precise. The installation was obscured from the inside of the hull with wooden finishing trim.

We found more of Stingray's savvy engineering within the large, rear swim platform, which was textured with non-skid and recessed nicely into the transom. A fold-down rear boarding ladder recesses into the glass, and wraps around a small, raised step area. A grab handle simplifies the move to the padded sundeck, which is tastefully accented with matching side-by-side swoosh graphics. "The look, feel and overall design of this boat from bow-cooler to rear boarding platform is exceptional," wrote one of our team, and his sentiments were unanimously shared by his mates.

Turn the Key
The small-block Chevy Bravo setup is ideally suited to the versatile demands levied on the family boater, and it was a perfect mate for the Stingray's 20-degree V design. Our past experience with the Z-plane platform prepared us for the LX's obedient manners around the docks: manners that are called for while performing the myriad tasks of a family summer machine. It backed, idled and accelerated crisply, sending a gratifying feeling of total control filtering through its luxurious wheel. This boat is well-suited to the complete family boating experience, whether engaged in a steady 24-mile-an-hour wakeboard tow or gliding gracefully atop the chop at 60-plus miles an hour.

Acceleration came on quickly with little hesitation and zero bowrise. Heap on the throttle and trim, point the bow and the Stingray comes quickly to life. The 230 recorded respectable numbers in our timed drills, hitting 40 mph in a very respectable 10.64 seconds. That puts the Stingray in the same general range as the typical family custom boat with big-block power. It's no drag racer, but nor is it likely to be left behind very often.

Putting the LX through a day's worth of paces reminded us once again that Stingray has made a science out of boating ergonomics. This boat is set up beautifully, and it's fun to drive, for both the beginning boater and the experienced performance hand alike.

Hammer it off the line, and the Stingray rolls almost instantly onto plane without showing a trace of bowrise. Trim feeds it instant lift, and you can feel the bottom working with the combination of more throttle and less drive. It maintains great control all the way through to peak rpm. At 4,000 rpm, the 350 cruised at 46.7 mph. At 5,000, we set down a series of consistent passes over 62 mph, and our peak was 62.8.

When run under wide-open throttle, the LX showed the same predictable handling and wired-in stance that we found through the midrange. Its smooth, responsive nature makes it an ideal boat for the multi-driver family that wants to pepper its ski-and-cruise time with a bit of performance boating. "I wonder if people will realize what a bargain this boat is," wrote a test driver, commenting on the LX's stout makeup and surprising performance.

Find your way into rough water, and the LX offers a very effective defense. We were surprised at the hull's ability to carve through downright nasty water without jarring loose our fillings. Not only was the ride relatively soft, but the LX also proved resilient to crosswinds and confused seas. Facing seas that would have sent lesser designs to the trailer, we merely tucked the drive a bit, pointed the bow and trusted the LX's bottom dynamics. We were rewarded in kind with a safe, relatively dry ride.

The Bottom Line
Stingray has nudged its way into the performance-boating ranks with a proven bottom design that maximizes the potential of its power allotment. Topside, the LX is awash in stylish, functional technology. The resulting experience, a pleasurable mix of fun and function, is vintage Stingray.

Kevin Spaise
Hot Boat Magazine
April 1999




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