One with the lot

Graham Lloyd | VOLUME 25, ISSUE 3
Anyone can spin and back the 320 with finger-tip ease.
Bayliner’s 320 Cruiser is a boat for all occasions.

Size can matter and this Bayliner 320 Cruiser exemplifies this in three ways. The boat itself packs enormous volume and facilities into its length, its builder, Bayliner is amongst the world’s largest manufacturers of powerboats, and the Aussie distributor, Avante Marine is celebrating with the strength of 20 successful years selling and supporting the brand. When times are tough, having proven resources and financial stability behind your boat gives you the best chance of ongoing service and strong resale values.

Bayliner makes a wide range of boats, from runabouts to luxury cruisers. Those investing in a 320 are often families upgrading from smaller Bayliners, which says a lot about faith in the brand, although the 320’s attributes would suit a wide range of singles and couples as well as family groups.

The one-level cockpit is spacious and well-equipped for entertaining and enjoying the open air, while the cabin, with its tall headroom, light and carefree ambience, contemporary décor and abundant facilities, is beaut for intimate dining, family fun or overnighting.

Making possible the abundance of interior space is a hull with very high topsides that are quite noticeable from some angles. Bayliner does a good job of disguising the height with clever use of mould lines and colour panels (black on this boat). The extra depth gives a high driving position, with superb all-round visibility, and it does not affect handling.

In fact, the 320 is very rewarding to drive, with more responsiveness than you’d expect from a boat of its size. The steering is light and quite direct, with less than two turns lock-to-lock. It’s never over-sensitive, but it does bring instant response and, fortunately, the hull design is up to the challenge. The 320 sweeps around turns as tight as you like, with a sure grip in the water and banking moderately as it goes. It then accelerates cleanly onto its next compass heading.

Trimming the drives and tabs give equally good results, so an experienced skipper will soon have the Bayliner performing to its full potential. On the other hand, anyone who takes a more laid-back approach to driving will have no trouble, as the 320 can loaf along at a more sedate pace.


Especially in crowded marinas or on windy days, docking a fairly high-sided cruiser like the 320 can be a daunting experience, even for those with many years of time on boats. But the daunting has now become dashing as anyone can spin and back the 320 with finger-tip ease due to MerCruiser’s computerised, joystick-controlled Axius system, which makes the whole process intuitive.

Press a single button on the base of the throttles and the joystick takes over from the wheel. Simply move or twist the joystick in the direction you want the boat to go, and that’s where the boat goes. Forward, backward, in either direction, even sideways, turning in the boat’s length – whatever you want. Any movement of the joystick is translated by a computer to individually turn the drives, engage forward or reverse gear for either or both props and apply the right amount of throttle to achieve the desired result.

Want to go a bit faster? Just press the joystick in the required direction a bit more firmly and revs increase as needed – although, for safety, speed is limited to 1500rpm so you’re not going to be on plane as you approach the dock!

The MerCruiser power system has other advanced technology, with its Digital Throttle and Shift (DTS) for smooth, instant response and no worries about maintaining cable connections back to the engines.

MerCruiser’s SeaCore keeps corrosion at bay, with a combination of stainless steel components, a special low-copper XK-360 alloy for the Bravo drive running gear, a closed cooling system, plus hardcoat anodising. All of this results in less frequent maintenance, with 100/300 hour intervals for minimal time out-of-action and lower annual running costs.

The cockpit area is generously proportioned, with a long, gracefully-curved lounge down the port side. The forward sections of the lounge are mounted above the passageway into the aft cabin, while the back sections have space for a cooler and rise on gas struts for access below. Across the top of the transom is another lounge which lifts, along with a section of the floor, on hydraulic struts to reveal the engine bay. To starboard, the cockpit features a wet bar, with sink, stowage and a fridge, and there are also steps up to the side decks.


Features commonly expected these days for craft like the 320, such as drink and bottle holders, grab handles/rails, storage areas, lights and similar are all included, with common sense evident in their design and positioning. A targa arch runs atop the cockpit, while a bimini and full covers are included so that the aft lounge, which converts into a sunpad, can be used to sleep another one or two guests. A large boarding platform runs across the back of the 320, with a big locker for fenders and lines.

The cabin entrance has a sliding door, with inbuilt moulded steps for easy access through a centre-opening screen panel to the sloping foredeck. The deck has a good non-slip surface everywhere and clips for dual sunpads. Guardrails line the gunwales and at the bow there is a remote-controlled spotlight and electric anchor winch (the latter operable both with nearby foot operated controls and from the helm).

Opening the sliding cabin door, it’s a couple of steps down into the surprisingly roomy saloon, with a dinette to starboard (convertible to a double berth), a well-equipped galley to port and a diagonal double berth forward (with privacy curtain). Aft of the dinette is a separate toilet compartment, again full height, which has a pull-up shower from the sink. Heading back on the port side is a short passage to an aft cabin with another double berth. This aft cabin is positioned under the cockpit so is limited to sitting headroom, but the entry passage is full height to make costume changes more convenient.

The headroom in the salon is generous and there is plenty of natural light from elongated side windows and overhead hatches. Our test craft had an optional flat screen TV and DVD mounted near the galley’s microwave and there’s a cook-top and a fridge/freezer. Another nice touch is that all the entry steps lift up for useful extra stowage spots – there’s a rubbish bin under the top step.

The fabrics, carpets and timber cabinetry are tastefully blended, with good standards of craftsmanship and it’s all set up for practical and comfortable use. For entertaining, dining or overnighting, the 320’s interior is ideal for any occasion.


Overall Length: 9.91m

Beam: 3.35m

Draft: 0.97m

Weight: 5450kg

Sleeping capacity: 6 persons

Fuel capacity: 605l

Power: Twin MerCruiser 350 Mag V8s (224kW/300hp each)

Drives: MerCruiser Bravo 3 DTS Seacore

Price: From $265,000

Price as tested: Around $289,000

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Back in the cockpit, the helm is a welcoming place for skippers and boasts plenty of the latest technology. A double seat swivels for driving or socialising and is adjustable fore and aft to enable stand-up driving, if required. Beautiful burr walnut-style panels house gauges and switches, with a wealth of information available on what the engines and boat are doing. It’s all laid out for quick recognition and it looks fantastic, complete with a sporty wheel featuring stainless spokes, padded grip areas and a walnut section around the top of the rim. The tilt-adjustable wheel is a work of art in its own right.

There are two rows of gauges, with the top line comprising smaller dials for fuel level, voltages, engine water temps, oil pressures and a digital depth sounder. The next row has larger dials for tachos, speedo and (smaller) drive trims. Below these is a MerCruiser SmartCraft display, with multiple screens that can be called up to show various information on engine and boat performance. To the right of all these gauges is the Axius joystick control, forward of the throttle and shift levers. The dash mouldings are in a non-glare grey, which is a real bonus on bright, sunny days.

At first sight, there’s an almost overwhelming conglomeration of dials, displays, switches and controls. But it’s all logically set out and it doesn’t take long to understand what’s where and how to use it. Once familiarised, it makes for a great skipper’s office.

At cruise revs of 3500rpm, the 320 was quiet and comfortable at 22 knots (40km/h) on the GPS. Up to 4000rpm brought 24 knots (44.5km/h), 4500rpm upped velocity to 27.5 knots (51km/h), and wide open throttle produced a distance-devouring 35.6 knots (66km/h) with 5200rpm on the tachos. The two MerCruiser V8s gave strong acceleration from rest, with some initial bow rise, but the hull soon settled to a level running angle.

It’s a super and exhilarating boat to drive, especially for those who enjoy carving turns through open waters. Our test boat was fitted with a number of options, including the Axius docking system, 240-volt air-conditioning, a 4.0kW generator, the black hull topsides, an interior decor pack, the foredeck cushions and rails, a vacuum toilet plus macerator, an electric engine hatch lift and the cockpit refrigerator.

The Bayliner 320 offers sporty performance and spacious relaxation in a package that’s both practical and attractive.