Giant US boat manufacturer, Bayliner was hit as hard as anyone else during the GFC, but has responded in a number of ways, including re-assessing what first-time new boat buyers were really looking for. The very appealing new 4.9 Element is one of the results of that process.
Essentially, it’s back to basics, with a simple layout and no extraneous equipment in an easyto-use bowrider that offers safety, stability and a quite unexpectedly high fun-factor for both skipper and crew. Additionally, the pricing is extremely competitive, with a driveaway figure of just $27,990 sure to get potential buyers’ attention.
But whilst the target market might be first-time buyers, I predict that the Element is going to appeal to many more experienced boaties who understand that you can have as much fun on the water with a smaller craft with basic gear as you can on larger boats ‘with the lot’. For a start, there is a lower initial outlay and less to maintain, while smaller craft are easier to trailer, launch, retrieve and store. It’s also likely that the Element will hold its value better when it comes time to upgrade.
The Element’s layout blends ideas previously seen on bowriders and jet boats. The skipper has a neat helm console amidships to starboard, with a pair of seats opposite, more seating up forward and a small sunpad aft. It has a capacity for six people and accommodates them very well for its length of just over 4m.
The seating is all integrally moulded and forms part of the inner liner of the hull. While the lack of adjustability can be a bit limiting for the skipper, including the fixed steering wheel, the other seats work better than might be expected as most are designed so passengers can sit facing one of two ways. The layout is rather clever and allows multiple seating options, with plenty of open space to move about.
The simplistic helm position is a price-driven compromise that shouldn’t provide too much difficulty for most skippers, depending on height and build. An extra cushion might be needed in some cases, but there’s a good angled foot rest under the wheel, and the throttle shift is well positioned.
At the back are two non-skid boarding platforms on either side of the standard 60hp Mercury four-stroke outboard. They lead to raised steps that double as rear-facing seats when at rest.
All the seat cushions lift off to provide stowage beneath, with the skipper’s seat revealing a very spacious locker that also houses the battery. Under the port side of the sunpad is a removable 45lt fuel tank.
The cockpit sole is moulded in a non-skid pattern and the seats are well finished in a dimpled white vinyl with grey accent panels. Again, it’s simple, but it still looks good.
The standard package includes a single-axle trailer, bimini cover and a removable 75lt Igloo cooler. The Element comes with a good supply of drink holders and grab handles plus quality deck hardware, including a combined navigation light at the bow. Options include a stereo system, digital depth gauge, bow filler cushion, mooring cover and a ‘Sports Package’, which includes a choice of red for the main hull colour – the standard colour is black with accents in grey and silver – plus a watersports arch across the back of the boat, with a board rack.
In profile, the Element has the lines of a low-slung sports car. It’s deceptive though, as the cockpit is deep enough to be safe for youngsters and the topsides are high enough to keep out spray in all but very windy and rough conditions.
The dash panel is ultra-simple, with a single, large dial for a speedo and an inset voltage gauge, with enough extra space for a tacho or fishfinder, if so desired.
The hull configuration is Bayliner’s new, patent pending ‘M-Hull’ design, which has a moderate vee centre section flanked by catamaran-like mini sponsons. It performs very well, providing increased lateral stability, excellent buoyancy up front, quite a soft ride and less-than-usual banking in tighter turns. Especially for new boaties, it instantly builds confidence.
The 60hp Mercury four-stroke starts instantly, runs quietly and smoothly, and has plenty of power for cruising around, with enough in reserve for casual watersports. It might struggle to haul out larger skiers or riders, but for youngsters it would be perfect.
Somewhat incongruously, the Element does not provide a lot of protection from the elements, with no windscreen to hide behind. We had our test run on a very cool and mostly overcast midwinter day, which proved a bit bracing at speed. On warmer days, though, the rush of air would be refreshing, and there is a bimini for sun protection.
The Element boasts a beautifully responsive hull, with pleasantly weighted, light steering.
We had calm waters and resorted to riding over our own wake to assess the ride, which proved to be family-friendly, with no harsh bumps, and the forward hull sections worked effectively to push the wash and spray away.
When accelerating in really tight turns the prop ventilated a bit, especially if the Merc was trimmed up at all, but that would not be an issue in normal running.
Cruising along, the running angle is quite level, with excellent visibility, and the M-Hull and four-stroke Mercury combine for very low levels of noise and vibration. The Element was happily planing and low-speed cruising at 35km/h, with mid-range cruising around 41km/h and a top speed of 49km/h.
However, with its open-to-the-elements design, it really felt a lot faster and was genuinely exhilarating. This is a great boat to take out, even for a short run to blow away the cobwebs of the everyday world. The self-guiding trailer makes single-handed launch and retrieval easy.
All in all, this is a bonzer boat. It’s what real family and fun boating is all about. It’s fine for cruising and relaxed watersports and would be just as great for fishing. It has stacks of stowage space and versatile seating, is very easy to handle and tow, needs little space to store, and it’s less expensive than most alternatives. That’s a lot of boxes ticked. ¿
SPECIFICATIONS: BAYLINER ELEMENT
Towing weight: 1528kg
Capacity: 6 persons
Fuel capacity: 45lt
Power: Mercury four-stroke outboard (45kw, 60hp)
Pricing: From $27,990
More information: global.bayliner.com/ provided by: Avante Marine Silverwater. Tel: (02) 9737 0727 or go to: avantemarine.com.au or global.bayliner.com