Stingray Boat Company President Al Fink will, in an unguarded moment,
probably admit to showing a few compulsive tendencies related to his ongoing quest to fine tune
the performance of his vaunted line of family-oriented recreational powerboats.
Fink's files rival those of any enthusiast magazine, with its archives of published speed
and acceleration figures not only on his boats, but on everyone's. In the delicate science of
extracting maximum performance from a given amount of horsepower, knowledge is everything, and
Stingray's engineering team has no lack of data upon which to draw. Their patented,
computer-generated Z-plane bottom -- which reduces drag by introducing aeration to the running
surface -- draws not only on theoretical hydrodynamics, but also on what Fink has learned from
the success and failure of others. Stingray is also well-known for their voracious testing,
another factor that has contributed to the line's consistent impressive performance.
Those considerations were fully realized in the creation of one of Stingray's latest family
flyers, the nimble 220LX. The LX designates Stingray's luxury treatment, an overall upgrade that
was exercised on a spacious, enlarged, new topside design.
Stingray has consistently and effectively tapped the merits of the small-block Chevrolet for
duty in creating stable family transportation that runs bow-to-bow with equally sized
big-block-powered lake traffic. Our test boat was a prime example, and it somehow coaxed a
60-mile-per-hour top end and an enviable acceleration test session out of the minimally powered,
260-horse (up from 240 last year) 5.7 EFI. In addition to its superb acceleration qualities,
which drew notice by each of our drivers in turn, our setup found precise direction in the
technology of the counterrotating Bravo Three drive, which capped off a $6,455
upgrade from the base boat setup. Our train not only hit hard enough to satisfy the cravings of
most family-oriented lake boaters; it also showed an endearing restraint at the gas docks.
The tone of our test was set by Stingray's clean, exceptionally well-detailed mold work and
highly polished fiberglass finishing. Recessed cleats, gas fills and rear vents are absorbed
into the 220's red-and-white gelcoat and taped graphic exterior. A fold-down ladder is designed
to lay flush into the surface of the deep, integrated, nonskid swim platform, which extends the
Stingray's estimated 20.5-foot centerline into the 22-foot overall range.
Stainless-steel screws affixed the aluminum trim molding, and stainless fasteners were used
throughout the boats construction. Most areas of the Stingray's production drew top marks, but
there were a few exceptions. Some wiring and mounting work beneath the hatch was
uncharacteristically sloppy, and the hardware used in the engine hatch hardware was not up to par
compared to most custom-oriented boats.
Stainless bow-rail lengths lined both sides of the bow seating area, and sturdy, multipanel
aluminum framework directed the shape of the sleek, tempered windshield into the lines of the
boat. Adjustable side wings on both sides created cabin airflow on command. Six cleats (four of
which are eight-inchers, with plenty of claw) are standard and were through-bolted, as were the
railing and other exterior hardware.
Main cockpit passengers had plenty of legroom, great visibility and good protection from the
elements, resulting from the deep positioning of the fiberglass liner and good, moderate
freeboard. Seating in the nicely scooped bow area was somewhat cramped for four (better suited
for two) and provided plenty of back support all the way around.
Our tests admittedly pushed the 220 slightly out of its intended element, and in rough water,
we found the considerable lean and movement of the front seats -- unavoidable in the
swivel-styled mounting favored in the line's family-oriented style-somewhat unnerving. The rear
bench-styled seat was deeply padded and comfortable, with plenty of adjacent legroom, and grab
handles were anchored within easy reach of all passengers. Stingray's design team has made a
dramatic difference in the boat's overall look with a new, more contemporary, interior look,
characterized by elegant new upholstery shaping, use of color and stitching patterns.
Glued carpet was neatly trimmed and laid nicely into the cockpit area. An oversized ski locker
and small ice chest were built into the floor of the 220LX and created convenient opportunity for
storage. We would like to have seen their lids hinged or Velcroed into place, rather than merely
gravity-held. Additional storage was found beneath the bow seating, in the gunnels and in
fiberglass sectionals beneath the hatch, and Stingray's designers drew steady praise for their
efficient use of space.
Standard interior amenities included an array of six drink holders, spread throughout the
cockpit; a locking glove box; AM/FM stereo cassette; cockpit lighting; dash-mounted compass;
and protective bimini top. The Mercury throttle/shifter unit, with handle-mounted trim, was
perfectly positioned to promote fatigue-free use and provided fluid, easy operation. Teleflex
gauges were set into a beige, fiberglass dash area, which was accented with an imitation burlwood
trim, the type of which is common to landlocked luxury sedans. Most of our team loved the look,
with a few exceptions. The dials were easily legible, and an inset switch panel offered similar,
convenient control of onboard functions.
The well-chronicled precision of MerCruiser's three-drive came to life in our test machine,
which shone under all the conditions you're likely to encounter on your local family lake.
Slow-speed maneuverability in both directions drew positive driver response, and backing and
docking drills were knocked down with minimal sweat investment. The Stingray's easy drivability,
encountered at every juncture of our power curve, qualifies it as a respectable, all around family
performer that a recreational boater is likely to bond with his first time out.
The crisp hookup and smooth, steady power output of the Bravo Three combined in an impressive
display out of the hole. Our timed, 10.47-second acceleration run from idle to 40
miles per hour was right in line with numbers we've turned aboard 21- and 22-foot bowriders with
big-block power, and we reveled in the Stingray's responsive nature and predictable feel off the
line. Visibility remained undiminished during planing, and the 220's moderately sculpted vee
underside responded perceptibly to trim commands.
We look forward to driving one of these little micromissiles with exhaust run through the
transom, rather than out the exhaust.
Moving through the midrange, the Stingray's positive, nicely guided ride was free of porpoise
or hop, and it maintained its pure drivability and obedient, responsive nature. Even in water
rougher than we had a right to be in, it was free of rattle and vibration, further evidence of
its stout workmanship and sound rigging.
Moving into cruise mode, we found a soft-and-steady 50-mile-per-hour ride at 4,000 rpm, where
the Stingray maintained its responsive, driver-friendly nature. Sweeper turns were cleanly
executed through our course buoys, and pushing the performance up a notch merely sharpened the
Stingray's instincts through the turns.
Run wide open and trimmed out, the Stingray rides comfortably free, and its maximum performance
potential is in comfortable grasp of the recreational boater. Repeated 60mph passes through our
test course drew the same, consistent ride every time, and our driving team gave it the best
possible marks for its stability under changing conditions. Run the Stingray at 30, 45 or 60 miles
per hour, and you derive the same safe, solid feel.
The 220 squashed typical rough-water lake chop and determinedly tucked in and cut through the
swells when we found ourselves in unprotected open water. While offshore conditions weren't the
Stingray's intended venue, the boat held up well to their demands, though its ride naturally
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Stingray's solid overall workmanship, strong interior engineering and responsive
acceleration -- plus, a legitimate 60-mph top end -- make it a great addition to any family boating
agenda. Particularly when viewed in the perspective of the high-priced stern-drive bowrider
market, its $32,390 price (including trailer) represents strong value for this market segment.
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