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
Stingray's patented Z-plane hull provides both a smooth ride and solid performance
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
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.
The 230 is the flagship of the Stingray sportboat line.
The red color gives it an extra
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
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
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.
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.
A sporty dash surrounds the gauge panel. The 220 and 230 cockpits provide plenty of room for
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.