The Sea Ray name needs no introduction. For more than three decades, this iconic American brand has introduced many Australian families to an affordable, comfortable and more luxurious level of trailer boating.
In this review, we look at the extremes in family day boats – the extremes in budget and facilities in the humble, and not so humble, bowrider. One is a boat more for the masses – the growing family looking for their first day and ski boat or upgrading from a smaller tinnie – while the other shows the luxurious extremes to which the day boat has evolved.
Firstly, let’s look at the 175 Sport. This is the biggest selling boat for Sea Ray in Australia, and it’s also the smallest boat in the Sea Ray range. Retailing for around $34,500 (including a trailer), it’s not hard to understand why this drive-away package is such a popular option.
It’s a very smart and well finished boat that incorporates the essential day boat comforts, without any unnecessary frills. The hull and interior are nicely finished, with plenty of attention to detail in areas that aren’t always noticed. It provides a good ride, backed up by efficient, economical performance. It’s easy to handle and can be towed behind most mid-sized and larger family cars.
It’s sold as a ready-to-go package. The customer can literally walk into the showroom and drive away with a new boat that’s ready to run.
Sea Ray rates the boat for seven people (maximum load of 445kg), but that’s a crowd – around five would be more comfortable.
There are three seating options available, all based around the same bow seating. Understandably, on a 5.3m boat, the bow area isn’t huge, but it is comfortable. With profiled, padded backrests on the face of the helm and passenger consoles, and a conveniently positioned inside grab handle, two people can ride up front, lounging back into the aft corner of each seat.
The most popular cockpit configuration comprises aft quarter seats each side of the engine box: a slide adjustable swivel bucket seat for the driver and a back-to-back seat for passengers opposite the driver. This seat also folds flat to form a sun lounge.
Other options replace the back-to-back passenger seat with a swivel bucket the same as the driver’s, allowing space for the rear quarter seats to be replaced with a full width lounge forward of the engine compartment, and a large sun pad to be fitted between the rear lounge and the transom.
The rear boarding platform is smartly integrated into the sweep of the main deck line, and since it’s set high to keep the platform on a single level and clear the top of the sterndrive, this is a nice place to sit out and dangle your feet in the water. A sturdy folding stainless steel ladder is there to help when hopping back into the boat after a swim.
The moulded internal liner provides a clinical and easily maintained finish through the interior, with the appearance and comfort under foot then enhanced with clip-down carpet.
All the usual storage is to be found, including moulded bins under the bow seats; racks along each side of the cockpit and under-floor, purpose-built lockers for skies, wake boards, ropes, and jackets. A lockable glove compartment also houses the stereo, with optional MP3 docking station.
With foam buoyancy filling the space between the internal liner and external hull, the ride is very quiet and comfortable. There’s an added perception of comfort due to the absence of most drumming hull noises, which are muffled by the foam filling and the additional rigidity it affords to the moulded hull.
A 135hp, four-cylinder, three-litre MerCruiser is the only engine available with this boat, and it’s a good match. There’s enough power to pull a single skier or wake boarder, or tow the kids in the myriad water toys now available. Top speed is around 65km/h at 4800rpm. The boat is balanced quite well and glides easily onto the plane without pointing the bow skywards. It probably cruises best at around 55km/h. The power-assisted steering is firm, but not heavy, and there is no slop or tendency for the hull to wander.
On-board engine noise is exceptionally low due to the attention that Sea Ray pays to isolating the engine bay – it’s installed plenty of sound-absorbing material around the engine hatch and against the transom and as already mentioned, the underfloor area is filled with foam. This high standard of engine noise suppression can be found right through the Sea Ray range, including the second boat under review here, the 270 Select EX.
THE 270 SELECT EX
This boat takes the bowrider concept and open day boating to extremes, though it still isn’t the largest bow rider built by Sea Ray. There are comforts squeezed into this day boat that are normally only seen in sports cruisers and the package price of $153,000 hints this is a very luxurious way to go day boating.
This boat is a lifestyle; a boat for people who appreciate the finer things in life. This boat is designed to cruise to a favourite anchorage so you can just sit back and relax with your partner, or entertain family and friends; a boat to arrive in at a special waterfront restaurant.
With a beam of 2.7m, this is not a trailer boat, so it needs to be dry-stacked, kept on a waterfront slip, moored to a jetty, dry-docked or stored on a drive-on floating dock.
A QUESTION OF POWER
Our test boat had the top-of-the-range (optional) 425hp 496 Magnum HO, with a Bravo III DTS fitted. This produced a top speed of just over 90km/h, and maintained a comfortable cruise in the range of 35 to 55km/h. This engine brings the boat onto the plane very smoothly and effortlessly, and there is plenty of power to tow skiers, boarders or water toys.
Sea Ray says it has sold more 270s with the slightly less powerful 375hp 496 Magnum and Bravo III DTS, and on the basis of company-supplied performance data, it’s understandable why buyers go for this slightly cheaper package. There is a marginal top speed drop to just under 85km/h with an economical cruise range of 35 to 50km/h at 2500-3000rpm respectively.
Unless you are an absolute revhead with money to burn, you don’t need that 85 or 90km/h top speed. It’s down around the fuel efficient 2500-3000rpm range that performance is all important, and both packages work well in this area. This is a big and heavy boat when all the standard equipment and the range of options are included, and returning these cruise speeds within the most economical rev range is excellent. It doesn’t take all that much more throttle to achieve a 55km/h-plus speed for towing a skier, while holding plane at speeds as low as 20km/h is excellent for towing water toys, and only a little bit more is needed for basic boarders.
With SmartCraft Smart Tow digital speed control, it’s possible to maintain a constant speed when towing, as well as accelerate at a predetermined rate to a set speed. Smart Tow is basically cruise control for ski boats, with the significant difference being that the throttle lever will not override the cruise control when moved above the set speed, but moving the throttle lever back will override the system and reduce speed. If the ‘cruise control’ is not deactivated, and, if the throttle is opened again, it can then be taken back to the previous predetermined speed.
As the name implies, this is a fabulous feature for towing and is also very useful when cruising for any length of time at a set speed – ie: through no-wash zones or set speed limits.
All of this is on top of the normal SmartCraft instrumentation and engine diagnostic system, and includes a dash-mounted 125mm colour GPS/plotter, as well as the very smooth digital throttle and gear shift.
Certification is for up to 10 people or a total people-plus-personal-gear load of 950kg, and there is space to accommodate everyone and everything. The deep bow cockpit provides comfortable, lounge-style seating for two, or can provide a casual dining area for about four or so sitting around the lift-out table.
The main cockpit has a pair of fully-adjustable swivel bucket-style seats with flip-up bolsters up front of a three-quarter wraparound lounge, and this probably represents the centre of the at-rest lifestyle aboard this boat. There is a lift-out table, great walk-through access to the rear boarding platform, and side-moulded steps that give boarding/disembarking access on the star board side, just aft of the built-in wet bar and fridge module.
The walk-through transom sun lounge is good – no need to walk across the top of the nice white upholstery, and the retractable filler cushion converts the two sun pads into one huge pad. These sun pads lift up to give access to large storage bays above each side of the engine, while the entire moulded module, including the walk-through access, is raised on two electric struts to give access to the engine.
The helm console simply matches the status of the boat, and everything is well positioned for easy use and monitoring, while the moulded console forward of the passenger seat encloses a storage well and toilet compartment. This compartment is surprisingly roomy and you don’t need to be a contortionist to use the facility.
It wasn’t all that long ago that the biggest failing with imported day boats was the lack of forward anchor facilities. The 270 shows this has changed. With the anchor sitting snugly into the bow roller and stainless steel bow shroud below the foredeck, this is one of the smartest installations going. Tucked under the flush deck hatch sits the winch, chain lock, winch release handle, anchor and chain wash, with the chain all being guided down into the locker that sits under the forward cushion of the bow seat.
The upgraded sound system is superb. With six Polk MOMO speakers spread around the boat, there isn’t a spot where you can’t have music, and via the remote controls on the dash and aft boarding platform, sound levels and music selection can be adjusted accordingly.
This is a very comfortable and enjoyable boat to drive. It’s a limousine of the water, designed for comfort and appearances and not solely built for speed. It’s a boat for a very select market, but it’s ideally equipped to suit.
SPECIFICATIONS: SEA RAY 175 SPORT AND 270 SELECT EX
174 Sport 270 Select EX
Length: 5.33m 8.69m
Beam: 2.13m 2.74m
Draft: 0.89m 0.92m
Deadrise: 19 degrees 21 degrees
Dry Weight: 953kg 2520kg
Fuel: 79.5lt 344lt
Water: n/a 79.5lt
Holding Tank: n/a 37.8lt
Max Load: 7people/445kg 10people/950kg
Engine: 3.0lt Alpha 1 MCM 496 Magnum HO Bravo 111DTS
Price (as tested): $34,500 $153,000
Test Boats: Bay Marine, Chelsea Heights Vic (03) 9772 1800. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. www.searay.com.