NOTE: the 220SX was previously the 658zp
AS MORE AMERICANS CONTINUE TO FIND A LITTLE extra cash in their pockets,
courtesy of a stronger economy, they are again turning to the water for
recreation. And not everyone is looking for a $50,000 boat with a 25-color
gelcoat that runs 100 mph on aviation fuel. Some people have simpler needs.
They want a boat they can hop in, turn the key and go.
For less than $30,000, you can go all the way up to 60 mph on efficient
small-block power with the Stingray 658ZP. We tested a version of this
21'6" cuddy with an 8'1" beam powered by MerCruiser's first
multi-port fuel injected small block, a 350 Magnum EFI/MP, and a Bravo Three
twin-propeller drive. Stingray outfits the boat well with a Sunbrella bimini
top, a tilt sport wheel, an insulated ice chest, a 60-watt four-speaker
stereo and a fully equipped cabin with a portable head, stove and sink,
which qualifies the boat for that all-important second home tax deduction.
Additionally for '95, Stingray President Al Fink upgraded the boat with
richer padding in the seats, upholstered gunwale panels and a new dash
Four years ago when Fink was working on a new bottom design, he hit on
something. A boat with sharp running strakes can catch and hook, which
could prove disastrous. But how could he still make a boat handle? Instead
of building strakes onto a hull, he cut them into it and the Z-plane hull,
which is now patented, was born.
On our test boat, the ZP hull design had a sharp keel that tapered into
a 15-degree deadrise at the transom. Four small strakes ran full length, but
unlike conventional designs, didn't have a sharp vertical edge. Instead, they
merged into the bottom at an angle, helping the boat turn without the
possibility of hooking. Chines about 2" wide turned down a few degrees,
while a 2" notch in the transom helped deliver cleaner water to the
Originally, the idea behind the ZP design was to make a boat safer, but
Fink found an unexpected, albeit welcome advantage-it's fast. Stingray says
the ZP hull creates an undisturbed flow of water, which improves speed and
efficiency. We'll take their word for it. While most boats in this size range
can expect to run in the mid-to-high 50s on 265 horses spinning 2:1 gears and
16 x 20 and 15 1/4 x 20 counter-rotating stainless three-blade props, the ZP
hull helped our test model reach 60.1 mph on Stalker radar at 4700 rpm.
After running six mph at 1000 with the engine impatiently waiting to go
faster, our test boat sprinted to 21 at 2000, 39 at 3000, 46 at 3500, 53 at
4000 and 58 at 4500. The 658ZP hustled to plane in 43 seconds and held
level attitude at only 15.3 mph. From a dead stop, our test boat scooted to
15 mph in three seconds, 28 in five, 49 in 10 and 59 in 15. From an
efficiency standpoint, our test results had the boat stretching 4.4 miles
out of a gallon of gas at 25 mph and burning 3.8 mpg at 35, four at 45 and
2.9 at wide open.
In turns, we had to get used to the feeling that the 658ZP was going to
slide out even though it didn't. The impression left in slalom turns at 20,
30 and 40 mph was one of smooth cornering from an agile runabout. Ditto for
circle turns. At cruise and high speeds, the boat stayed on track.
From the driver's seat, we did notice some extra engine noise, suggesting
that Stingray might want to use a little more insulation under the hatch. Our
test pilot, who goes about 5'10", felt as if the bucket seat positioned
him lower than he usually likes, which hampered visibility coming on plane,
but the dash layout was well received as was the controls placement.
A striking white-and-blue gelcoat caught our eye as it gleamed in the early
Florida sun. Vinyl tape details exhibited a straight, precise application and
complimented the clean mold work.
Our test boat's light weight was the result of laminates normally reserved
for high end sportboats. Stingray laid up the 658ZP with a three ounce skin
backed up by overlapping layers of 32- and 24 ounce woven roving around a
Klegecell core. A layer of Coremat kept the laminate from soaking into the
Stingray mounted the five-piece Taylor Clear Curve windshield on the deck
in a straightforward manner and the extruded aluminum rubrail with the black
rubber insert capped the shoebox-style hull-and-deck joint cleanly. Glassed-in
backing aluminum plates supported all the hardware, which consisted of typical
fare including a single lifting eye/cleat forward, a pair of Perko 6"
cleats amidships and two more at the transom, a ski tow, plus all the grab
rails. The fuel fill was on the starboard transom and the boat had the required
running lights. Beneath the swim platform, Stingray used Corsa stainless
exhaust tips with integrated mufflers.
Built on two plywood pieces joined by three L-angle strips, the engine hatch
consisted of the back rest for the bench seat and the sunlounge. It opened on a
pair of gas shocks, revealing MerCruiser's newest fuel-injected small block
installed in typical production manner with lag bolts driven into stringer
blocks. Run in standard fashion, wiring had adequate support.
Aside from the rotocast plastic frames for the bucket seats, cockpit
construction consisted of marine plywood frames for the bench and the gunwale
panels. In the cockpit and cabin, the carpet and headliner were installed
without noticeable gaps and the upholstery was properly tucked and trimmed for
a clean, finished appearance. Production looms comprised the wiring harness
beneath the dash and the Teleflex rotary steering system felt solid.
Few manufacturers can squeeze a cabin into a 21' boat without making it look
bulbous, but Stingray pulled it off nicely with the 658ZP. Our test boat had
clean, aggressive lines and plenty of functionality thrown in.
Set up for a traveling couple, the cabin consisted of a pair of facing
one-person lounges and a V-berth. We applauded Stingray for separating the
berth into five cushions and for using all the available space beneath them. In
the usual position beneath the center aft cushion on the berth, we found the
portable head. Pulling up a cushion to port exposed a sink with a hand pump and
to starboard beneath a cutting board was a single-burner alcohol-electric Origo
2000 stove. Open areas beneath the forward cushions were dedicated to stowage.
That all the covers unzipped made it easy to pull them off for cleaning in the
Cushions for the lounges pulled out and dropped in place to lengthen the
V-berth and extra-long, map-pocket-like compartments provided stowage along the
hullsides. A pair of spotlights on the aft bulkhead lit up the cabin to help
you find your way around, but didn't provide enough light to read by. Our only
complaint in the cabin came from the choice of anchor stowage, in the bow,
which means having to the drag equipment through the cabin and out on deck to
Stingray found an innovative solution to the problem of getting out on deck.
With the folding two-piece cabin door closed, a horseshoe-shaped
stainless-steel step with a padded center section pivoted down to provide a
direct route out onto the foredeck. When not in use, the step flipped up into
a molded recess.
To make the cabin usable, Stingray did have to cut into cockpit area. The
updated XL interior in our test boat consisted of twin swiveling bucket seats
that adjusted fore and aft on aluminum Garelick mounts and the aft bench and
sunlounge. The seats and gunwales were upholstered in white with blue and gray
stripes to match the exterior. With the driver's seat all the way aft, legroom
for a bench-seat passenger did not exist. There were angled footrests forward
of the driver and copilot and the port dash contained a locking glove box, a
grab handle and the stereo was protected behind a weather-resistant cover.
Set in a flat-black panel to reduce glare, the Teleflex gauges were
prioritized with the trim indicator, the tachometer and speedometer front and
center and instruments for oil pressure, water temperature, volts and fuel
level on either side of the tilt wheel. Accessory switches with activation
lights were an easy reach behind the wheel. Cockpit stowage was lacking with
a molded cooler in the cockpit sole and small openings in the gunwale trays.
Retainers on each side of the motor pulled off of hooks to offer easy access
With a skier in tow, the counter-rotating propellers on the Bravo Three
helped the boat maintain a straight course. Power out of the hole received
average marks from the driver and skier. The ZP hull did, however, throw some
of the better wakes we saw behind a stern-drive runabout for slalom or
freestyle and this boat would also be good for pulling water toys.
The 658ZP's swim platform earned accolades because it was big enough for
putting on a slalom ski, but the ladder could have extended deeper into the
water to help improve ease of reboarding.
Spinning easily into an aft-facing position, the port bucket offered a
comfortable spotting seat for our observer, who had a clear view of the skier.
With the ski tow on the center of the transom, rope tending received average
So it's not a tournament ski boat. Nor is it a raceboat. The Stingray 658ZP
is a well-equipped family boat that runs happily into the 60-mph range and
costs less than 30 grand. There's no hassle in that.