The Stingray 180 RS looked like the most expensive boat in the fleet,
but through the first of March, it won't be - sticker on the rig, including
the 3.0 LX MerCruiser was just $9,995 (less trailer). The expected price
increase slated for March '97 is significant, up to $13,165.
The Stingray was the longest boat in the fleet at 18 feet, and it was
the only I/O. So it came as no surprise that it had the advantages of top
fuel economy and lowest noise levels. Four-cycles routinely best
two-cycles in these areas. The economy range was broad as well - 6.2 mpg
just after break-over at 2500rpm, but still an impressive 6.0 at 3500 rpm
and 30.2 mph. And decibel levels at the helm were a whisper-quiet 60 dB at
idle, rising to just 95dB at full bore.
The Z-Plane hull also proved to be the fastest of the fleet despite
weighing some 500 pounds more than the Bayliner and 170 pounds more than
the Sunbird. In terms of pounds per horsepower, the Stingray was pushing
15.4 pounds per horsepower, the Capri 13.1, so efficiency was clearly
higher with the Stingray. (The Sunbird Spirit, perhaps a bit underpowered
with the 90, was pushing 21.2 pounds per horsepower, the obvious reason
for its slower speeds.)
Handling was good, with an excellent grip in locked-over turns. With
its 19-degree deadrise, the hull cuts through chop, even when trimmed
fairly high. Power steering is standard with the I/O, so there's no wheel
torque, and keeping the boat on course is no more difficult than driving
your car down an interstate.
The hull has no defined strakes. Looking from astern, you see a bottom
more like a lazy M than a Z, but the idea is that there are no protrusions
to break the flow of the water, create bubbles and cause the prop to lose
its grip. The lower sections near the keel perform much like the pad on a
performance bassboat at higher speeds, raising the boat, reducing wetted
surface and increasing efficiency.
There's also a notched transom or step, which allows the drive to be
mounted higher. That trick alone is usually worth several mph because it
dramatically reduces lower-unit drag.
Stingray is justifiably proud of its CAD design facility, which molds
the passenger compartments around human models rather than making them
fit into the space left over by demands of manufacturing. That translates
into plenty of leg room at the console, room to stretch out on the
forward lounges (leg room there is 4 feet, 2 inches) and a deeply-molded
driver's seat that grips you like a racing bolster to inspire confidence
when you want to try some 180s. (The seat bases are molded poly rather
than wood, which is good for the life of the boat.)
Stingray's RS design has a pair of jump seats aft next to the
motorbox, plus a small transom hatch where the standard convertible top
tucks away. The same hull is available in an RX across the transom with
comfortable couch seating in front of it. This cuts foot room in the
cockpit, but gives more space for sitting or loafing. Access to the
engine is good with either rig, but easier in the RS version because you
can pull the motorbox out off the boat completely if you need to do
The dash has a burled-wood look and a padded sports-style wheel with
a easy-grip padded surface. A Maxima Marine stereo sits in the pot
console, and it can be pulled out for safe overnight storage. The
windshield is 12 inches tall and provides excellent wind protection.
There's a carpeted ski locker in the floor with a poly lid that's vented
to prevent mildew. The lid is a stout ¾ inch thick with reinforcements,
so it won't develop a bow when it's been stepped on a few hundred times.
A notable point in construction of the Stingray is the solid
fiberglass transom section for the drain plug. This is a prime area for
water to get into plywood transoms, but Stingray avoids the problem by
making the entire section out of a fat layup of woven roving and mat.
Brass drain plugs are used rather than rubber.
Stringers are a fiberglass matrix filled with foam - they're
rotproof, and also provide broader bearing surfaces than wood wrapped in
fiberglass. Steel insets are used for motor mounts. The floors are marine
plywood in fiberglass. All fittings are through-bolted into aluminum
backing plates, a plus you don't often see on economy rigs.
As in all boats, there are a few things that could have been done
differently. The wood-look plastic door to the glovebox wouldn't survive
two trips with a typical six-year old on board. On the test rig, the
MerCruiser throttle lever rubbed on the side wall at WOT - a rigging
error, perhaps? I liked the swim platform on the Stingray, just above the
water with its sturdy boarding ladder, but the nonskid is actually pretty
slick. The RS model has only one sunlounge (on the passenger side), and
that might cause squabbles. On the other hand, the driver will probably
prefer sitting in the molded swivel seat better than the lounge seating
as found on the other boats in this comparison.