Stingray 230SX
Hot Boat Magazine - March 1997

230SX link

We've raved about the Stingray line's efficient use of horsepower and formidable overall performance on more than a few occasions - common denominators in each of our many encounters with this South Carolina based company's lineup of 18-foot to 23'6" powerboats. We've run Stingrays with everything from six-cylinder economy Chevys to fuel-injected 502s, and our testers have invariably come away impressed with the dynamics of the company's patented "Z-plane" design.

The Z-plane, originally pioneered by company founder Al Fink in an effort to enhance his hull design's turning capabilities, has added a distinct performance dimension to a lineup that is consistently faster and quicker than most every other production offering in its respective class. The bottom works by streamlining the water flow over the running surface and by reducing wetted surface while maintaining stability because of a patented strake pattern.

The computer-generated vee underside, which does not utilize a step, carves a muscleboating edge into a building philosophy that embraces every imaginable family comfort and convenience in its scope. Stingray's distinctive cockpit design and tidy attention to detail in its passenger area belies the company's large production numbers, which exceed the combined output of the top five California based builders of performance hulls.

For all of the exhilaration that envelops a stable 72.6 mph ride across less than hospitable magazine quote swells, it remained apparent in our performance testing that Stingray has not compromised a long-held sheet of priorities for the sake of some bonus throttle-induced thrills. Even in the case of our muscular, 415- horse 230SX, the Stingray maintained a firm grip on the basics that bind its growing, enthusiastic constituency: a smooth ride and a stable, driver-friendly nature, even when the water goes cow - specifically, the most practical possible environment for day-boaters.

The 230SX represents an evolution of Stingray's vaunted 698 hull, with some minor bottom refinements designed to give it a bit more lift and a restyled deck design. The cabin on the SX has also been upgraded with an emphasis on ergonomics and a bit more creature comfort.

Juicing this well-dressed family cruiser with MerCruiser's formidable 502 multiport injection Magnum was the pivotal step in the creation of an uncommonly fast 23-foot lake machine (technically, she's 22'6") - a worthy overnighter with a propensity for sprinting and the numbers to prove it.

THE PACKAGE

The 415 horsepower, produced by its potent MerCruiser 502 Magnum MPI (multiport)/Bravo power train, did nothing to test the limits of our SX's Z-plane underside, and propped with a 25-inch Mirage three blade, our test boat was as well mannered in the handling department as any 72 mile an hour boat we've ever driven. MerCruiser thru-transom exhaust - a worthwhile $617 upgrade - was added into the mix, which was otherwise stock. Bennett tabs are optional, but unnecessary.

In this case, "Stock" is not to be confused with "typical," at least not for builders of this volume. Stingray's rigging drew appreciative nods from our inspection team, which noted its straightforward wire routing, sanitary engine compartment layout and hardware mounting and superior interior finish work.

Stingray's solid layup and liberal use of materials were evident in the creation of the new 230, which carried a 96-inch beam. The preparation of the new tooling was evident in the consistent quality of the fiberglass on our test boat - one of the first SX's to be pried from the mold.

Stingray's gelcoat work remains, as always basic, but a bold graphic design carried the two colors on our test boat (one is a standard, the second commanded a $352 premium) to their maximum potential impact. The color swash across the rear deck lib was an effective accent, and the taped graphic accents were well-done.

A full array of stainless steel hardware dresses the 230. Though it's offered at no charge on the base boat, our 230SX was apparently ordered without bow railing. The mooring cleats - two aft and one on the bow - were also standard, and a sturdy six-piece glass windshield provided excellent respite from head winds and complete visibility - though the Stingray decal was somewhat distracting and should have another home.

Boarding from deep water was made easy with Stingray's integrated platform, which housed a fold-down ladder, boarding handle and a roomy nonskid surface.

Stingray's interior layout is a study in functional excellence. A side-mounted MerCruiser throttle/shifter was easily accessible and packed trim in the handle. A switch panel placed just to the driver's left housed the bilge pump, engine compartment blower, horn and other accessory functions. Teleflex gauges blend flush into a molded dash with an insert panel - very clean and easy to read. Tilt steering was standard.

A combination of fiberglass and wood is used in building the passenger areas, and a molded cockpit inner- liner forms its basis. Cushion bases were resin-coated plywood, and the upholstery drew strong marks for its supportive padding, detail and comfort - each as strong as anything built on the left coast. The front seats were comfortable and supportive, though their screw-mounted, circular pedestal mounts did show some slight play under power in rough water beneath one of our more substantial (285 pounds) drivers.

The rear bench seat was integrated into the mold and featured a raised upper back support. It was exceptionally comfortable in rough water, though in a 70-plus-mph application, we'd like to see rear grab handles. Two additional side seats completed the roomy passenger area.

Convenient and secured storage was integrated throughout the cockpit and cabin areas, along with such standards as a seat mounted ice chest, pullout 60 watt stereo system and drink holders. Gear was conveniently tucked into compartments beneath the rear seat, in the engine compartment and beneath the bow bed. A locking compartment helped secure valuables in the cabin. Stingray has focused considerable attention on its cabin, and they've built a rugged, well-equipped outing boat in the process. Our evaluators found it to be roomy, comfortable and spatially efficient. It's also loaded with conveniences, including a fiberglass freshwater sink/bar, lockable storage, self-contained portable head, alcohol stove, pullout table, interior lighting and deck hatch. A 12-volt accessory plug is also standard.

PERFORMANCE

The 230SX was as exhilarating on our trial course as it was efficient while tucked into a cove in overnight mode. For such a well-stocked, well-equipped, solid boat, it screamed.

The 502 was put to great use not just on the top end, where its 72.6 mph Stalker-clocking made it one of the fastest unblown 23's we've tested all year. Along the way, it provided all the thrill with none of the chills. In short, it was a safe sound rush.

Our driving team found the Stingray to be equally impressive on its way up the ladder and possessed of a highly reactive nature to throttle. Our well-dialed 23-footer hit 40 miles an hour in 9.47 seconds - quicker than three-quarters of all boats we've tested in its size class this year. It continued to pull hard through the midrange and upper end and found 60 miles an hour in a highly respectable 16.64 seconds. The boat's most telling number of all was its 56.9 mph speed at 4,000 rpm - faster than all but two of approximately two dozen naturally aspirated I/Os we tested.

Throttled down, this sure-handling vee glided to 70-plus very quickly and showed no evidence of any chine-walking or rocking, even when we trimmed it to the upper edge of its sweet spot.
P E F O R M A N C E
Top Speed, radar 72.6 mph

Builder's Estimated Top Speed
in Optimum Conditions

74 mph
Maximum RPM 4,900
0-30 MPH 7.38 seconds
0-40 MPH 9.47 seconds
0-50 MPH 12.15 seconds
0-60 MPH 16.64 seconds
Speed at 3,000 rpm 42.7 mph
Speed at 4,000 rpm 56.9 mph

We encountered a small degree of bowrise off the line but not enough to obstruct our line of sight. It found plane quickly and responded to reverse gear just as crisply. The SX's turning radius was tight for its size, and each of our test drivers noted its agility at various speeds. Some of the Stingray's shining moments took place around our buoy course, where it hooked corners hard without sliding or blowing out.

Because we tested the 230 in some of the roughest conditions we encountered all week, we were in the constant position of judging the worthiness outside the cocoon of protected water. We nosed it through swells that would send a fair portion of 23-foot vees scurrying for shore, and the 230 responded with a solid feel that brewed confidence by the minute. It rode nice and high but maintained a stable, sticky stance that left its operator in control - a priceless trait in open water with your family aboard. It found its own rhythm and pattern in water that was at first unsettling and served up a soft, solid reentry.

THE BOTTOM LINE

In the classic lines of the 230SX, Stingray has packaged the potential for the consummate, well-rounded family-boating experience. Slammed with the 502 bolted to its encased stringers, the 230 is quick, fast, solid, comfortable and jammed with conveniences. Factor in its uncanny ability to squelch rough water, and you've got quite a package. Ah, but we must pay for our fun: the 502 represented a $11,443 upgrade over the base boat's 7.4, which should run in the low to mid 60s.

Hot Boat Magazine
March 1997




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