Graham Lloyd | VOLUME 27, ISSUE 2
Whether cruising along, cutting through a wake or turning hard, the 215 remained settled, with no bad habits to disturb skipper or crew.
Bayliner’s 215 Bowrider has everything needed for family fun and great times on the water.

This might be starting at the end, but there’s a good point to be made in doing so. We’d completed our test run in the big Bayliner 215 Bowrider and returned towards the ramp. Daniel was at the wheel as I packed up my camera gear and Todd had gone ashore earlier so he could back the trailer down ready for the 215 to be retrieved. We idled in and Daniel had the boat carrying a fair momentum as he approached the trailer, but was slightly off-centre. I had just enough time to register a tad of alarm at both our speed and alignment before the boat simply slid smoothly up into place, centred itself and stopped a few centimetres short of touching the trailer’s bow roller.

“Wow!” I thought, “that was good”. Daniel had a slight knowing smile and I could see then that the retrieval was no fluke – this was what happens when you have a perfectly matched boat and trailer package. The driver has to know what to do as well, of course, but when the manufacturer gets the trailer just right, the owner enjoys a great benefit every time they come back off the water. It wasn’t a multi-roller trailer either; it had padded bunks either side, but they sure did an excellent job of alignment and safely cradling the hull.

That level of attention to detail was indicative of the whole boat and, indeed, from my own experience, of Bayliners generally. It’s not that there was any one particular outstanding feature on the 215; it was just that the whole package was good.

The driving position, for example, had a comfortably-upholstered bucket seat that gave good lateral and spinal support and could both swivel and be adjusted fore and aft. Those are not unique benefits in quality boats these days, and nor was the tilt-adjustable wheel. However, the seat had a flip-up bolster for a higher line-of-sight seating stance, and the wheel could tilt to near-horizontal so you could also slide back the seat and stand to drive. The point is that there was a position to suit every skipper, making time on the water more enjoyable and safer, as well.

In front of the wheel was an excellent (and eye-catching) dash design from which some other boat builders could well learn a lesson. Situated above the rim of the wheel so all the gauges were clearly visible for the skipper, a trio of smaller bezels to the left contained the volts and (engine) water temperature gauges plus a spare that would be ideal for a digital depth gauge. The two larger dials were for the tacho and speedo, whilst to the right another triple-bezel cluster presented information on oil pressure, fuel level and the trim angle of the MerCruiser Alpha sterndrive. Switches for the navigation lights, bilge blower and so on were neatly positioned on the dash, too. A Jensen stereo system completed the instrumentation.

A small adjustment had the seat just right for me so my feet were comfortably placed against the foot brace panel and my right hand was neatly ready on the normal throttle-shift control mounted on the cockpit’s side panel. Visibility in all directions was clear.


With the drive trimmed right in, acceleration from rest was brisk, with little bow rise so the skipper’s view of what’s immediately ahead is not affected as the hull rises easily on plane. The 215 is not critical for trim when coming away from rest and the prop did not ventilate, even at fairly high levels of trim – bow rise did increase though, and that precious forward view suffered a bit. However, for skippers who don’t like playing with trim, it does mean an optimum trim setting for cruising can be selected, with no need to change it, depending on circumstances.

That said, it was easy to find the best trim setting and the 215 settled into a fine cruise angle that gave a soft and stable ride.

The steering was light, but still gave a reassuring level of feedback so the skipper could sense how the hull was behaving. Turns were surefooted, with the prop giving no sign of slipping at normal trim levels, and the strakes and chines below the water held everything securely through even tight curves. The hull banked moderately into turns and, when pushed harder, tilted just that bit more to give the crew a thrill or two.

Our test 215 had the optional extra power of a MerCruiser 350 Magnum V8 rated at 300hp; standard power is a 260hp 5.0lt MerCruiser. The extra 40 ponies worked with typical MerCruiser aplomb and hauled the 215 out of the hole anywhere between relaxed and remarkable. The power was effectively harnessed and was never intrusive, with easy conversation possible, even at full throttle.

At cruising speeds, the 215 was a pure delight. A small glitch with the tacho prevented our usual range of speed versus revs readings being recorded, but the Bayliner was planing comfortably at 35km/h, cruising smoothly between 43 and 49km/h, and sped to a quite impressive top of 76.8km/h, as shown on our GPS.

We had calm waters for our test run, but cutting through wakes indicated that the 215 would handle most inshore conditions with no trouble at all, and there’s enough buoyancy designed into the bow area to keep passengers up front dry.

The running surfaces of the 215 are not radical in any way, but are the result of Bayliner’s long experience with family boats, and with bowriders, in particular. The lower stem offers a sharp entry to help achieve a soft ride, whilst the upper stem flairs out to form quite a bluff bow for the extra buoyancy needed for bow-riding passengers.

The chines also start with a fine entry at the stem, but widen as they run aft to be quite wide at the transom. That helps with lateral stability and control, which is further aided by three strakes either side of the keel. A knuckle in the topsides gives a little extra beam for more space onboard, and would help to deflect spray, although the Bayliner seemed a very dry-running boat during our time on the water.


The external lines of the 215 are appealing, with flowing curves emphasised by colour trim panels and a well-raked and rounded screen. Deck hardware is of good quality and sensibly placed, with cleats fore and aft as well as amidships, plus there are recessed grab rails forward and small matching port and starboard navigation lights on the mini foredeck.

Some USA-sourced boats do not have an anchor locker, but the 215 does; it’s a bit on the small side, but would take a modest anchor and line. It’s hidden beneath the front seat cushion in the bowrider cockpit, and has a hatch with a nonskid surface that makes a convenient step when going ashore. That mini foredeck has some safety non-skid moulded in, too. The side seat cushions up front lift out to reveal storage lockers, and the backrests also lift up for more stowage back under the screen consoles.

The 215 is large enough (6.25m) that the front cockpit can be made very user-friendly, with space enough to genuinely stretch out on the side seats. Grown-ups can sit sideways with reasonable legroom, or a gaggle of kids can appreciate the wind-in-the-air exhilaration of swooshing over the water. A passageway leads back through an opening screen panel to the main cockpit, which is very spacious, indeed.

As well as the skipper’s perch, there are back-to-back seats to port, which slide down and out to form a sunlounge, while aft are two quarter seats either side of the engine hatch. The aft seats are versatile as they can be lifted out altogether or re-positioned higher up to blend with the padded top of the engine hatch to make another sunlounge area. The starboard aft seat lifts out to leave a passage through a swing-away door onto the boarding platform – very nifty. The platform has a drop-down swim ladder, as well as grab handles and a ski-tow.

Along either side of the cockpit are handy storage pockets with a large locker under the cockpit sole between the front seats; it has a hinge-up hatch that lifts on gas-support struts and is large enough to swallow bulky items such as skis and wakeboards. Overhead is a bimini canopy that effectively shades the forward seats and most of the cockpit, whilst underfoot is clip-out carpet that makes it more comfortable to move around with bare feet. All the interior trim is to a high standard and there are plenty of drink holders and grab handles.

As tested, the 215 was fitted with the optional MerCruiser 350 MAG V8 engine rated at 300hp. Also included was a canvas bow cover and bimini, a bow filler cushion, bow ladder, swim platform extension and a stainless steel package of gun’l trim, grab rails and drink holders. The 215 is priced at $56,590 with the 300hp V8, or $54,190 with the standard 5.0lt 260hp MerCruiser V8. Prices include a dual-axle galvanised trailer with disc brakes.

The 215 is a multi-purpose craft ideally suited to young families or to singles with a group of friends to be entertained afloat, or to more mature owners who are looking for a good all-round day cruiser that’s easy to handle, but still with enough responsiveness to reward experienced skippers. It’s also a good towboat for water sports. A Flight Series Package option includes a wakeboarding tower for the thrillseekers.

Overall length: 6.83m (rigged)
Draft (max): 0.79m
Beam: 2.43m
Weight: 1287kg
Weight incl trailer: 1676kg
Capacity: 9 persons
Fuel capacity: 140lt
Power (standard): MerCruiser 5.0lt V8 260hp
Power (as tested): MerCruiser 350 MAG V8 300hp
Drive: MerCruiser Alpha
Price with 260hp V8: $54,190 (incl trailer)
For more information: or tel 1800 802 444.