NOTE: the 230SX was formerly the 698zp
It was only a matter of time before the famed Stingray family line shed
its 'sleeper' status and made its way into the performance boating mainframe.
Since company owner Al Fink put the finishing touches on his
computer-generated, patented ZP (Z-plane) bottom technology, Stingray
Powerboats has made believers of throngs of skeptics, many of whom were
deceived by the ordinary, outward appearance of this traditionally styled
When the hammer's down, the Stingray is anything but an ordinary family
creation. Forget the basic, traditional walk-through styling, the
conservatively applied gelcoat, and the distinct emphasis on family
recreation. Beneath the water line, there's no denying that something special
is at work. Stingray's single, definitive quality is its bottom, which
utilizes a unique directive flow design that more efficiently directs the flow
of the running surface, thereby enhancing lift and perpetuating speeds that
defy conventional wisdom.
Stingray, in fact, has consistently used smaller, more economical engine
and drive packages to outperform its peers, a legacy that this year was
incorporated into the 698zp. The 698, which at 22 feet, eight inches is the
largest entity in Stingray's performance line, was the last remaining model
in the stable to inherit the Z-plane technology. While under the knife, the
698zp also drew some deft styling enhancements, resulting in a truly
All Stock Stingrays are generously appointed with everything required for
complete family outings, and practicality is the benchmark of the line. With
its expansive cockpit, ample freeboard, open, airy feel, and fully equipped
cabin, the 698zp is perhaps the most functional of the company's performance
offerings. At first glance, this full-sized cuddy may not appear to qualify
for the designation as a performance boat. However, the numbers proved
otherwise: 70.5 mph, and 0 to 50 in a downright blazing 12.45 seconds. Amazing
statistics for a boat of this type. There's a substantial amount of interior
room designed into the 698, and it's put to excellent use. The interior is
traditional in style and execution, with two front buckets mounted on circular,
swivel-style bases that were soundly through-bolted to backing plates beneath
the fiberglass floor. The bases held firmly even in high impact cornering.
The seats swung completely around upon command, and were very comfortable.
The rear bench was also quite roomy, and the double-stitched upholstery
throughout the interior was neat, tight, strong, and supportive. Fit and finish
were impeccable throughout. Given the size of this boat, and the accompanying
implication of rough-water capability, along with considerable power at hand,
we'd have opted for a more dense interior foam, a view that was reportedly
embraced by the Stingray factory on future copies of the 698. The fiberglass
floor was completely carpeted, with the installers doing a great job of
matching seams and finishing it off.
The modular, padded dash design was not riddled with the gimmickry that has
plagued many of the new-year models, and its straightforward, easily legible
approach drew raves from our evaluators. The technoids may scoff at the basic
design of Stingray's ergonomics, but experienced boaters will marvel at the
698's sensible, utilitarian approach.
Standard, basic Quicksilver controls prompted shifts and throttle, with the
one-piece mechanism conveniently placed and mounted, promoting comfortable
long-term use. The trim control was housed in the throttle handle. Visibility
through the stout, aluminum-framed, five-piece, tempered windshield was
generally excellent, though one driver complained that the top of the frame
impeded his line of sight. Mounting of the frame, as well as of all the
hardware, was strong and thorough. Standard interior amenities included three
drink holders, a floor-mounted ice chest, tilt steering, and a 60-watt,
pullout stereo cassette system. Storage space was neatly integrated into the
gunnels,and designed to secure necessities without allowing them to disappear
into the 'black hole.' More stowage was designed into the segmented engine
Stingray manages to pack an amazing degree of value into this tightly
rigged boat, and much of it is found below in one of the roomiest,
best-designed cabins in the 698's class. The vee-berth is formed with a
fiberglass liner. Following the theme of the boat, Stingray stuck to the
basics below, and tended properly to business. The sleeping quarters were
roomy, comfortable, and neatly designed. Carpeting below was used somewhat
sparingly, but was neatly installed. Standards included a sink, alcohol stove,
freshwater tank, enclosed head, and storage cabinet. The cabin door is
rattle-free while under way, both in the open and closed positions.
The rigging of the train was sanitary and sensible, with the 502 Magnum MPI
buried neatly in the well, and linked to a Bravo One drive with 1.5:1 gearing,
and a 27-pitch Mirage three-blade. MerCruiser through-hull exhaust was the
only performance-related option on the boat.
The Stingray's two-color gelcoat work was clean but as basic as basic gets,
with three sets of graphics competently taped and sprayed. This basic array was
an option, and it dressed some excellent fiberglass workmanship. The mold work
on this computer-generated design was similarly flawless.
Stingray's 698 brings the performance-oriented family boater the best of both
worlds: a highly practical family play machine, with the extra dimension of
unusually stout performance. Let there be no doubt: there's something to this
Z-plane business, and if you're skeptical, all you have to do is check the
numbers. This is no lightweight; the 698 weighs in at no less than 3,460
pounds. While far from boxy, the design's expansive cabin dictates a certain
degree of air resistance. Still, the Stingray managed to lay down consistent,
controlled, 70-plus-mph passes, all the while displaying utterly civilized
manners and completely predictable handling.
While not breathtaking, the 698's acceleration out of the hole was certainly
snappy enough to pull a heavyweight slalom skier, and this boat really came to
life through the midrange. It did show slight bowrise off the line, but then
took an immediate, positive set, and proceeded to respond pretty well to trim.
Though Stingray likes a relatively high X-dimension, the 698 showed no
cavitation or blowout whatsoever.
Low-speed tracking and dockside maneuverability were both excellent, as was
this boat's smooth, easy backing characteristics. It's an especially easy boat
to control, making it a great choice for multi-driver families. It displayed
much the same attitude through the midrange, where it was void of any wandering
or chine-walking. Its ride was consistently flat, with no roll, and remained
consistent under heavy loads and in deteriorating water conditions.
Fed throttle, the Stingray's ride continued to impress. We guided it
through two-foot chop, with 20-mph winds whipping the surface into a confused
froth, and never found a point at which we had to back off the throttle. It
was particularly responsive to trim under these conditions, and offered up a
smooth, soft ride even then. There was no trace of bow flex even at 70 mph, in
the roughest water we could find. We were impressed with this boat's solid feel
and tight construction, as well as its outstanding performance. Indeed, our
staff rated it at or near the top in every significant performance and
THE BOTTOM LINE
Granted, Stingray's approach is significantly more conservative than some of the
West Coast fare that's available to family performance enthusiasts, specifically
in the areas of gelcoat and hardware. In balance, however, you won't find a
better-built, family production boat. Solid construction and stout rigging,
superior design work in the cockpit and cabin, and one of boating's most
accomplished bottoms blend to form one of the most satisfying family boating
experiences on the water. This boat is one of the year's most impressive
packages. Given its 70-mph capability, and the fact that this boat seems to have
no apparent weaknesses, it's still a great value.
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