Stingray Powerboats - 220SX/230SX
Hot Boats and Hot Days

Family and Performance Boating

Written by Randy Scott

Stingray's Zippy SX Line of Sportboats is Popular With
Families With a Bent for Speed and Journalists on Hot Days

We're with a small group of fellow journalists at Stingray Powerboat's private lake house on Lake Robinson just outside Hartsville, South Carolina. Along with a large contingent of Stingray's international dealer network, we've been invited to preview and test-drive the company's 15-boat fleet for the 2001 model year. Yeah, yeah, "tough job."

Turns out Stingray has a couple of new models for 2001—a unique 20-foot center-console fish-and-ski and a totally revamped 19-foot bowrider—which naturally attract considerable attention among those present. What's surprising, however, is how popular Stingray's two SX sportboats prove to be. Both boats have been in the lineup for several years, and while they have gone through refinements and upgrades in keeping with advancing technology and materials (which takes place at an accelerated rate at Stingray compared with the rest of the industry), they are far from new. Still, it seems as soon as they return to the dock from a test drive, they are immediately on their way back out with someone else at the helm. So we wait. Unfortunately, it's a sweltering afternoon and the air is so thick with humidity you could stick a straw in it and take a drink. But that's part of the job

2001 Stingray 220SX
Stingray's patented Z-plane hull provides both a smooth ride and solid performance numbers.

Unique Boats
Stingray has two models in its sportboat line, the 230SX at 22 feet, 8 inches in length with an even 8-foot beam, and the 220SX at 21 feet, 6 inches by 8 feet, 1 inch. Both boats feature a sporty, low-profile design with sleek lines that create a racy look. Not only do they look fast, they go fast. For that matter, all Stingray boats are designed and built with a certain performance edge to them. For instance, every model, including the deck boat and cruiser, feature notched transoms, a characteristic long used on race boats.

Notching, or stepping, the transom permits water coming off the boat's running surface to begin its upward ascent more quickly than on conventional hull bottoms. This in turn allows the outdrive and propeller to be mounted higher on the boat's transom and still get a solid bite. And with less of the outdrive in the water, the amount of drag is reduced, resulting in better speeds and fuel economy.

Though rarely found on production boats of this type, notched transoms are not unique to Stingray. The Z-plane hull is, however, as evidenced by the patent Stingray has held on it since 1991.

Stingray's patented Z-plane (ZP) hull is the product of a great design team made possible by computer technology. The most noteworthy part of the design lies with the strakes. As with conventional strakes, Stingray's ZP strakes feature a horizontal surface that provides lift to the hull. There is nothing new there; it has long been understood that a flat, horizontal surface displaces less water and generates more vertical lift when water runs over it, than an angled or V-bottomed surface. What is different, however, is that Stingray's strakes don't have a vertical return at the end, which resembles a sideways L. Rather, where the horizontal portion of the strake ends, the hull side resumes. The result looks somewhat like a Z, which is where the design gets its name. According to Stingray, the strakes provide the needed lift when submerged, but near the water's surface they serve as a spray release so that no bubbles or vortices are formed by the hull's unique shape, which allows the propeller a more solid bite.

Also part of the Z-plane's unique recipe for performance is the computer's ability to design the hull completely symmetrical with the use of what Stingray designers call "planar lines", so that no matter what angle you look at it, it is blemish free without unwanted wrinkles, dips or bulges. This flawless computer design is carried directly over into manufacturing with the use of computerized multi-axis routers that cut a precision of within 1/1000-inch in 3-D format. As a result, Stingray is able to go from computer monitor to precise tooling in one simple step. The result, says Stingray, is a hull that delivers an unusually smooth flow of water to the propeller both in straight runs as well as turning maneuvers.

Stingray backs its claims by collecting third-party performance data (published by a variety of magazines and engine builders) of its boats and competitors' boats and makes it available on its web site. In essence, it publishes other sources' findings and lets the numbers speak for themselves. And the facts are indeed impressive.

2001 Stingray 230SX
The 230 is the flagship of the Stingray sportboat line.
The red color gives it an extra "racy" look.

Cool Runnings
Regardless of what others say, we wanted some real-world time behind the wheel. Our goal is to take both SX sportboats out for some cushion time and then go through the individual features so we can draw some side-by-side comparisons. Problem is, we're seeking shade on a hill overlooking the docks when the sportboats come back in and someone jumps out of another boat and grabs it before we get halfway down the hill.

So we wait. But this time we stay on the dock in the direct sun. The air is heavy and so totally devoid of movement that you can feel the breeze from passing flies. Even the mosquitoes have taken a reprieve somewhere. What's worse is the water has been heated to 90-something degrees, partly from the scorching sun, but mostly from the nuclear power plant that uses Lake Robinson to cool its reactors.

Just when we're about ready to leave for the air-conditioned lake house to cool our own reactors, we spot a hot-red (naturally) 230SX being tied to an end dock by Stingray personnel who've just refueled it. We make our move with the speed of an Olympian track star and jump aboard, somewhat literally. We quickly fire up the MerCruiser 454 Magnum that sits in the business end of this 23-foot speedster and the engine kicks over immediately (thank goodness for multi-port fuel injection). The crackle of the boat's through-hull exhaust brings a pleasant smile. We quickly cast off the lines and, grateful for the absence of "no-wake" buoys, we just as quickly shove the throttle fully forward. The big block's 385 horses rapidly bring the 230SX on plane, and it continues accelerating smoothly as we turn the wheel to port and carve a nice arc in the direction of the lake's far end.

The ride of the 230SX is refreshing in more ways than one. Admittedly, however, the first thing you appreciate is not the 230SX's crisp acceleration or the handling characteristics of the Z-plane hull. Rather, we're relishing the adjustable windshield vents and the quick effects of evaporative cooling.

With our comfort level now at a tolerable state, we focus on the ride. Trimmed out at full throttle, the boat rides on only the last couple of feet of the hull, and the feeling is like floating softly on a cushion of air. When it comes to turning, the 230SX responds ably in either direction. The boat handles slalom maneuvers with agility, but it is the hard turns that are most impressive. Even with the drive trimmed partway up, the prop keeps its bite without the slightest hint of ventilation, which is testimony to the Z-plane's effectiveness.

Stingray offers several engine and drive packages for the 230SX, beginning with a 280hp Volvo Penta 5.7Gi EFI SX that tops out at about 58 mph, and ending with the 425hp 8.1L MPI Bravo 1 that will take you to an exhilarating 72 mph on the top end.

Drawing Comparisons
Driving the 220SX (the 230's little sister) revealed little difference in performance. Typically, the 220SX (which is 1 foot, 2 inches shorter, yet 1 inch wider) runs 1-2 mph faster with equal power. But that is to be expected, since it is 164 pounds lighter. However, the 220SX does not come with the potent 8.1-liter engines, so the stop speed you'll see will be in the neighborhood of 65 mph with a 320hp 6.2-liter Bravo 1. On the other end of the spectrum, the 220SX's base engine is a more moderate 260hp 5.7L EFI Alpha 1, which is not available for the larger 230SX. With that package, the 220SX has a top speed of about 60 mph and a base price of $29,920, compared with the 230SX's starting price of $31,569.

SX gauges   SX Interior
A sporty dash surrounds the gauge panel. The 220 and 230 cockpits provide plenty of room for passengers.

The interior layouts of both boats are similar, but with different dimensions. A tribute to Stingray's precision CAD/CAM manufacturing is how well the sportboats accommodate a host of interior amenities. On first look when stepping down into the cabin through the bi-fold door, it appears the SX's interior is pretty much like any other, with a V-berth forward and facing bench seats aft. Overhead is a darkly tinted circular hatch that enhances, rather than detracts from, the boat's sporty appeal. On closer scrutiny of the interior, however, you find that even here Stingray stands out. The berth cushions are made so that the aft section is divided into three pieces that can be flipped up individually to reveal all of the necessities for an overnight outing. On the starboard side is a single-burner alcohol stove with a cutting-board top, while the port side has a freshwater sink and the center section conceals a portable head — everything you need to qualify for second-home tax benefits.
To maintain its svelte, low-profile figure and still provide adequate headroom, Stingray cleverly canted the seats in lieu of raising the deck. The seats can also be raised and converted to V-berth extensions. Storage space is plentiful, with compartments beneath the berth, behind the seats and in a netting that runs along the hull/deck seam. Two lights, one mounted above each seat on the bulkhead, provide adequate nighttime illumination.

A look at the accompanying size-comparison chart reveals that the 230SX has a 10-inch longer bow, while the 220SX has a 4-inch longer cockpit. Vertical dimensions are relatively the same. Each boat has a large sun pad over the engine compartment with molded-in headrests for the bench seat. The headrests really aren't functional, but they do add to the boat's aesthetic appeal.

The cockpit of both models features sculpted coaming pads of various colors and depth, which add a measure of elegance to the interior. The pilot and copilot sit in twin bucket seats that not only swivel and slide, but also have a nifty fold-up forward lip on the seat cushion. When up, it provides a higher level of visibility, eliminating the customary method of sitting on your leg every time you want to see over the windshield. The black helm features the normal array of backlit gauges offset by an attractive and modern-looking graphite-pattern instrument panel. The accessory switches all have indicator lights and everything is ergonomically laid out thanks to computer software that employs the use of a proportionately sized virtual human in the designing process. The helm also boasts a compass, 12-volt plug, engine hour meter and a switch to activate the through-hull exhaust. The passenger's console houses the stereo (wired to four speakers) and a locking glovebox. To access the forward deck, Stingray has a stainless steel step that swivels out from beneath the dash, where it stows out of the way when not needed.

After spending as much time as we conscientiously could on both of Stingray's sportboats, it was clear why these models have maintained their popularity over the years. The sporty look with the performance to back it up with a patented hull design that truly works, accompanied by a well-appointed interior are just some of the things the 230SX and 220SX have going for them. And then there's our favorite feature, the vented windshield.

Family and Performance Magazine

  220SX 230SX
Length: 21'6" 22'8"
Beam: 8'1" 8'
Bow Length: 85" 95"
Bow Depth: 46" 45"
V-berth Headroom: 23" 21"
Cockpit Length: 97" 93"
Cockpit Width: 77" 78"
Cockpit Depth: 34" 32"
Bench Seats: 22" 22"

Volvo 5.7Gi EFI 280 hp SX 60 N/A
Volvo 5.7Gi EFI 280 hp DuoProp 60 N/A
Volvo 5.7GXi EFI 315 hp DuoProp 64 N/A
Merc 350 MPI 300 hp Bravo 1 63 61
Merc 350 MPI 300 hp Bravo 3 63 62
Merc 6.2L MPI 320 hp Bravo 1 65 64
Merc 8.1L MPI 375 hp Bravo 1 N/A 69
Merc 8.1L MPI 425 hp Bravo 1 N/A 72

Length: 22'8"
Beam: 8'
Weight (w/ base engine): 3,449 lb
Fuel Capacity: 57 gal
Water Capacity: 3 gal
Freeboard: 24"
Maximum draft: 36"
Deadrise: 20 degrees
Passenger capacity: 8 people/1,850 lb
Sleeping capacity: 2
Base engine: Volvo Penta 280hp 5.7SX EFI
or MerCruiser 300hp 350 MPI Bravo 1

Length: 21' 6"
Beam: 8' 1"
Weight (w/ base engine): 3,285 lb
Fuel Capacity: 39 gal
Water Capacity: 3 gal
Freeboard: 27"
Maximum draft: 33"
Deadrise: 19 degrees
Passenger capacity: 8 people/1,850 lb
Sleeping Capacity: 2
Base engine: MerCruiser 260hp 5.7L EFI Alpha 1
or Volvo Penta 280hp 5.7SX EFI


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