NOTE: the 200LS/LX were formerly the 606zp
A keen competitive edge, a genuine desire to learn, evolve and change, the
ability to control materials, construction and costs effectively; all these
elements are essential to successful boatbuilding in the '90s. Stingray Boats,
with a 200,000 square-foot factory in Hartsville, South Carolina and the
innovative and inquisitive Al Fink at the helm, seems to have a firm grip on
that formula. Stingray has something else, though, a bit of magic. And the
source of that sorcery is the company's patented Z-plane hull.
Even Stingray isn't entirely sure how the hull works, but believes that
the flatter "Z" shaped strakes replacing the conventional right-angle
style of strakes, reduce ventilation of the hull (and hence the prop) by bubbles
coming from vortices created in the deeper recesses of regular strakes. The
hull's overall V-shape gives you all the comfort and sea-handling of a
traditional deep-V, but the Z-plane lines, combined with a notched transom,
contribute to quicker planing, better control on straightaways, safer cornering
and greater efficiency.
You'll be hearing more about the Z-plane hull here (Power Illustrated plans
to take a closer look at various hull designs in a future issue), but suffice
to say that it works, and very well. As a result, Stingray has moved quickly to
get the ZP hull under all its boats. The 696svx and the 698svx are the only
traditional deep-V hulls left in the Stingray stable (you can tell they're not
Z-plane hulls by the "s" in the model number), while all of the eight
new models introduced this year have Z-plane hulls.
And among those new models is the 606 zpx, the "xl" (sunpad and
bucket seats) version of the 606 bowrider. Power Illustrated has tested Z-plane
boats before, so we had some clues about what was in store. But we jumped at a
chance to try out the new, refined 1993 Z-plane boats, at Stingray's test
facilities at Lake Robinson, S.C.
Before getting too involved with the 606, it's worth noting that the same
20'3" hull is also used for a compact and practical cuddy-cabin
mini-cruiser, the 609zp, as well as a closed-deck sportboat, the 608zp. The
performance results we got with the 606 equipped with the MerCruiser 4.3 LX
engine were impressive, but the heavier cuddy cabin and sportboat versions get
very similar results.
Wound out to 4,750 rpm, the 606 tops out at a very impressive 54 mph on
radar runs, with the speedo pretty much in agreement. Even at 4600 rpm, we got
52 mph. The 39-mph reading at the 3,500rpm cruising speed is equally impressive
as is 32 mph at 3,000 rpm. At the bottom end, the boat popped onto plane and up
to 20 mph in 4.1 seconds and hit 30 mph in just over seven seconds.
Still with me? That's fast for a 20 footer, even when equipped with the 4.3
LX Alpha One MerCruiser, the four barrel, 175-hp prop shaft version of Merc's
262-cid V-6 engine. The boat hasn't been overpowered to get that speed, so it's
solid in the straightaways, always in control. And it also hasn't given up
anything in the handling department either. It sticks like Crazy Glue in the
corners and you can't break it loose at any speed, even with neutral trim.
Believe me, I tried.
But there's more to a boat than through-water performance. First, it has to
look great, and Stingray's sleek lines and attractive color schemes (the test
boat had a white hull and white and turquoise upholstery) fit the bill. Then it
has to feel right. As I mentioned, the test boat was fitted out with the
"xl" package, which replaces the standard swiveling helm and
back-to-back-sleeper seat to port with a pair of swiveling bucket seats and
replaces the standard motor box and jump seat combination aft with a sun-pad
engine hatch and full-width bench seat.
The test boat seats were comfortable and the vinyl work top-flight. It's
interesting to note that there's no wood at all in the seats, even the
sleepers, which are framed in polypropylene. I'd probably stick with the xl
combination with the bowrider (there's more seating forward, remember) but
prefer the standard setup for the cuddy cabin version (the 609).
The 606's bowrider compartment, built of molded fiberglass, with edgebound
carpet on the floor, is comfortable, with thick padding and secure but
unobtrusive handrail. There's something different about it, though. The seats
curve downward aft, so that one person can lounge very comfortably, facing
forward on each side. Stingray's done that intentionally, to make the area
more comfortable, of course, but also to let people know that only two people
should be riding there while the boat is under way, for safety and visibility
reasons. Under the bow seats, there's a storage area to starboard.
The helm is comfortable, controls readily at hand and instruments (no-glare,
in red and white on black) easy to read. Because there are no side decks, there
are no cockpit coaming storage areas. That also makes for a much wider, more
comfortable cockpit. There are still plenty of drink-holders and storage room
in the glovebox.
There's plenty of storage available elsewhere, in the bilge locker between
the forward seats (with a teak-grate lid), under the aft bench seat and in the
compartment beside the engine (with easily removable partitions to allow full
Stingray doesn't just finish the lockers, but lays full-width marine carpet
across the entire floor area, encouraging water to drain rather than find its
way into cracks and seams. All possible below-floor space is foamed for
flotation and sound-deadening, with wiring and drainage through tubing. The
aft drain plug is installed through fiberglass, in the notch in the bottom of
the transom, eliminating any chance of water wicking into the transom's plywood
Finish is excellent and construction sturdy Bi-Tex, a 34-ounce knitted biaxial
material that comes with a core material already in place, is used in place of
woven roving and results in a stiffer, stronger boat, with less print through
and reduced weight. Decks are mostly built of chopped glass, stiffened by
Klegecell coring where needed. Deck and hull are joined with a silicone sealant
and screwed every foot; then the rub-rail is screwed through the same joint; all
the screws are backed by plywood.
Construction quality is high and Stingray's Hartsville, S.C., plant is highly
advanced, with computer-controlled processes and streamlined production. And
Stingray obviously has some concerned and talented people at every step of the
process, helping build a better boat.
Power Illustrated (Canada)
Mike Milne, Editor