How fast do you wanna go? How much do you wanna spend? We were eager to see what kind of performance is
available from a single V8 sterndrive pushing the smallest hull capable of running offshore. There are no
ill-handling bass boats here.
We ended up testing four representative 5-passenger runabouts, all between 20 and 25 ft. long, all
weighing between 3000 and 3500 pounds, all powered by a production MerCruiser V8 and Bravo 1 sterndrive.
Size wise, consider them to be the entry tickets into the muscle boat club.
Baja 20 Outlaw
At just under $25,000, Baja's smallest Outlaw is well-made, nicely finished and while not lavishly
equipped, has everything you need for a play boat that can tow a couple of skiers or carry five adults to
62 mph. The large area under the forward deck is finished off as a convenient storage area. MerCruiser's
fuel-injected 5.0 MPI is built around a General Motors 305-cu.-in. small-block V8, so it should be
economical to run—and bulletproof.
The lightweight Outlaw had a very wet and bumpy ride. At 40 mph in a short chop, everyone on board
found their sunglasses obscured by salt spray within a few minutes. And despite having a hull configuration
visually similar to the other boats in this group, the 20 Outlaw was like riding a bucking bronco whether
there were five passengers or just the captain aboard. A windshield and accessory trim tabs might make all
The Stingray's hull, a patented design called Z-plane developed by legendary boatbuilder Bob Walwork, is
incredibly smooth and stable. Whether running straight and true or carving a tight turn, from idle to 65
mph, it's totally predictable. This is one of the best small-boat monohull designs in production.
Slightly longer and wider than the Baja, 300 pounds heavier and powered by a 377-cu.-in. version of
the same fuel-injected GM small-block V8, the Stingray feels like a much larger and more substantial
craft. It's beautifully equipped throughout and includes a V-berth under the forward deck. At just
$36,000, the 220SX is a bargain.
With its foot throttle, rumbling high-mount exhaust pipes and American flag paint treatment, this
Velocity 220 has the ambience of a high-profile race boat. It's powered by a MerCruiser/GM 496-cu.-in.
big block V8. In our test, the Velocity reached 75 mph, but was noticeably sluggish in acceleration.
The 496 MAG MPI adds not only 55 hp, but $14,400 to the price of the same Velocity hull with a
MerCruiser/GM MX 6.2 MPI small-block V8. By comparison, when we ordered a new Chevy Silverado HD2500
pickup truck, the price difference between a small-block V8 and this same 496 big-block V8 was $850.
Talon Marine's innovative catamaran hull is amazing. At 102 mph, we kept banging into the rev limiter
because we thought we were literally going 50 mph slower and something was wrong with the engine. The
Talon also cornered like a Corvette, perfectly flat and pulling g-loads no other type of hull can
The Talon's supercharged engine costs $55,000, twice as much as the whole Baja 20 Outlaw and the
trailer it rode on. Obviously, a $120,000 handmade production racer is not something everyone can
afford, but if you ever get the chance to drive—or ride in—a Talon catamaran, grab it.
You'll never be satisfied with a conventional powerboat again.
The Baja was the least expensive and slowest of the lot. It also suffered from the worst
ride. The Stingray was the bargain of the pack with the best-riding monohull. The real fun began with
the big-block V8s. The Velocity upped the top speed ante to 75 mph. Our hands-down favorite, however,
was teh Talon with its 550-horse supercharged engine and amazing cat hull.