Long before "step-bottom" became a performance-industry buzzword,
Stingray Boats was already riding to prominence on the company's
patented "Z-plane" hull, a configuration that reduced drag by
introducing friction to the relationship between the hull bottom and
water surface. The design has made the Stingray hull one of
powerboating's most efficient platforms, and its unusually high
efficiency rating has enabled a generation of family boaters to derive
maximum impact from their allotted horsepower ratings. In fact, Stingray
owners under small-block power routinely report performance levels
equivalent to those owning similarly styled craft under big-block
Case in point: Stingray's newly released 230LX, a moderately cut,
20-degree lake machine that adds an entirely new dimension to the
stable's popular 23-foot closed-deck hull. When it comes to full-blown
family boating, the LX takes up where the SX leaves off, opening the bow
area up with a very nicely done walk-through conversion. The result is a
legitimate sport boat platform with convenient topside — a combination
that, when found, is never a bad thing.
The newest Stingray follows the lead of its predecessors in combining a
series of solid, ingenious engineering touches with one of the fastest
bottoms in family boating today. It is unheard of, even among the West
Coast's vaunted custom-performance ranks, for a small-block-powered
V-bottom to crash 60 mph. Wielding the most impressive small-block
package released to date, MerCruiser's fuel-injected 350 Magnum/Bravo
One setup, our 'Ray clipped the Stalker beam at 62.8 mph.
Stingray's execution remains, by our standards, one of production
boat-building's most polished, and the new LX shows off some of the mere
interesting design work you'll find in family boating today. Examples of
Stingray's innovative styling are everywhere, and it's evident that it
goes to considerable lengths to not only distinguish its boat from the
production pack, but to make it better and more memorable. Details like
the unique, side-wing windshield ventilation and the contemporary look
and feel of the car-like dash aren't in themselves earth-shattering;
taken as a whole with Stingray's continuous series of deft production
moves, they form a picture of a company that is quite comfortable while
balanced on the cutting edge.
The Stingray is a good boat at any price, but we found it nothing short
of incredible that you can ride away with a 300-horse Magnum version of
this impressive 23-footer for $30,000 and change. The 230LX is without
question one of the best values in recreational powerboating today.
Solid engineering is the bedrock of this design, and it is
all-encompassing. Stingray has extracted considerable convenience and
comfort from its bow section, which forms through the textured, nonskid
liner. It's best for front passengers (two of them) to recline
lengthwise, facing forward; the liner shape is angled to contour
comfortably to the human back. Down the sides, finished, practical
storage extends the length of the bow, and stainless railing lines the
entire perimeter on both sides. The side caverns are lit and are also
home to the front speakers and integrated drink holders. There's a
small, molded step to ease boarding and beaching: pop the lid, and its
an anchor locker. Just ahead, a compact ice chest with a very efficient
draining system is cut into the bow. A retractable front cleat (the
other four are fixed) lessens the chances of hanging up on your way out.
Its all very stylish and convenient.
The 230's cockpit is deep, comfortable and roomy, and it's a sizeable
and very evident step up from that of the 21-footer. The shape is long
on freeboard, and the emphasis onboard is on comfortable cruising. Our
boat featured an all-glass floor with no carpeting (snap-in sections are
optional). The option of a floor-mounted ski locker is unavailable.
Another fiberglass step was built into the gunnel, eliminating
awkwardness while boarding off the dock.
Front full-swivel buckets were mounted on single-tube- type mounts, and
they hosted our front passengers in satisfactory comfort—until the water
turned really nasty. We drew additional support from angled foot-support
panels in the liner.
We really had no business piling a family bowrider through harsh, two-
to three-foot seas, but it was under these conditions that we found
ourselves. The 'Ray stiffened up nicely under the challenge, giving us
the opportunity to find out just how solidly it was built.
Stingray has upgraded the cosmetics and the feel of its interior, and
it has softened the shape and lines of its interior tooling. While it's
no custom boat, the 230 showed off a comfortable, stylish cockpit that
looks and feels a cut above most of Stingray's production-oriented
contemporaries. In seas better suited to deep-V offshore sport boats
and in bad chop, our drivers pined for a bit more padding between the
fat and the glass, as well as some additional side support.
The rear-bench-style seat showed off more of Stingray's considerable
talent for merging distinctive design work with maximum practicality.
The upholstery was gorgeous, comfortable and supportive, and the layout
provided plenty of leg- and stretch room between the bench and the front
seats. The seat was wide, deep, nicely padded and comfortable. The
seatback was stylishly cut, and a large pleat-type section provided
great lower-back support. The bench lifted to access the cockpit's
primary stowage area, a large, nicely finished box.
Additional storage was found in sectioned compartments beneath the
manually operated engine hatch and in the bow-seating liner. The hatch
was padded on top, making it ideal for sunning. It was completely
carpeted, dressing the installation and contributing to the boat's
cockpit quietness while underway. One note here: Battery acid and
carpeting don't mix, and the addition of a basic battery box here would
have provided inexpensive insurance against spillage.
The promise of an extraordinary driving experience begins with the
first perusal of the Stingray's control center, which is beautifully
executed in every regard. A faux burlwood panel is inlaid smoothly on
the sculpted dash, and a crescent-shaped array of Teleflex dials are
prominently displayed inside chrome bezels. Matching oval-shaped switch
panels with integrated lighting housed function rockers. The stylish,
padded, tan wheel with its gleaming burlwood insert earned more style
points. A wood-grained glove box was laid into the passenger side of the
dash: it looked great, but its cover was a bit flimsy. The dash and
combing areas on our test boat were done in tan, and the seat inserts in
dark blue: the effect was rich and elegant. The entire boat was pleasing
to the eye.
A basic, black MerCruiser control lever was well-positioned at the
driver's right hand to promote easy, accessible, fatigue-free
operation. A digital Humminbird depth-finder ($289) was the only interior
option; standard equipment included a basic, AM-FM stereo cassette player
and interior lighting.
The sturdy aluminum wind-shield framework didn't block the line of
sight, and the view was free of distortion. The contoured glass provided
good visibility and excellent protection from the elements. Stingray's
natural air-conditioning vents flowed into the cockpit from adjustable
side wings, a deft engineering touch that is destined to be widely
As per company tradition, Stingray again earned excellent marks for its
glasswork on the newly released LX. It was singled out as
"exceptional," both in its tooling and execution. Our tester's base
white was dressed with a blue gelcoat hull stripe ($308), and was
trimmed with vinyl accent tape. Aluminum trim with a black rubber insert
dressed the seam, and its installation was clear and precise. The
installation was obscured from the inside of the hull with wooden
We found more of Stingray's savvy engineering within the large, rear
swim platform, which was textured with non-skid and recessed nicely into
the transom. A fold-down rear boarding ladder recesses into the glass,
and wraps around a small, raised step area. A grab handle simplifies the
move to the padded sundeck, which is tastefully accented with matching
side-by-side swoosh graphics. "The look, feel and overall design of this
boat from bow-cooler to rear boarding platform is exceptional," wrote
one of our team, and his sentiments were unanimously shared by his
Turn the Key
The small-block Chevy Bravo setup is ideally suited to the versatile
demands levied on the family boater, and it was a perfect mate for the
Stingray's 20-degree V design. Our past experience with the Z-plane
platform prepared us for the LX's obedient manners around the docks:
manners that are called for while performing the myriad tasks of a
family summer machine. It backed, idled and accelerated crisply, sending
a gratifying feeling of total control filtering through its luxurious
wheel. This boat is well-suited to the complete family boating
experience, whether engaged in a steady 24-mile-an-hour wakeboard tow or
gliding gracefully atop the chop at 60-plus miles an hour.
Acceleration came on quickly with little hesitation and zero bowrise.
Heap on the throttle and trim, point the bow and the Stingray comes
quickly to life. The 230 recorded respectable numbers in our timed
drills, hitting 40 mph in a very respectable 10.64 seconds. That puts
the Stingray in the same general range as the typical family custom boat
with big-block power. It's no drag racer, but nor is it likely to be
left behind very often.
Putting the LX through a day's worth of paces reminded us once again
that Stingray has made a science out of boating ergonomics. This boat is
set up beautifully, and it's fun to drive, for both the beginning boater
and the experienced performance hand alike.
Hammer it off the line, and the Stingray rolls almost instantly onto
plane without showing a trace of bowrise. Trim feeds it instant lift,
and you can feel the bottom working with the combination of more
throttle and less drive. It maintains great control all the way through
to peak rpm. At 4,000 rpm, the 350 cruised at 46.7 mph. At 5,000, we set
down a series of consistent passes over 62 mph, and our peak was 62.8.
When run under wide-open throttle, the LX showed the same predictable
handling and wired-in stance that we found through the midrange. Its
smooth, responsive nature makes it an ideal boat for the multi-driver
family that wants to pepper its ski-and-cruise time with a bit of
performance boating. "I wonder if people will realize what a bargain
this boat is," wrote a test driver, commenting on the LX's stout makeup
and surprising performance.
Find your way into rough water, and the LX offers a very effective
defense. We were surprised at the hull's ability to carve through
downright nasty water without jarring loose our fillings. Not only was
the ride relatively soft, but the LX also proved resilient to crosswinds
and confused seas. Facing seas that would have sent lesser designs to
the trailer, we merely tucked the drive a bit, pointed the bow and
trusted the LX's bottom dynamics. We were rewarded in kind with a safe,
relatively dry ride.
The Bottom Line
Stingray has nudged its way into the performance-boating ranks with a
proven bottom design that maximizes the potential of its power
allotment. Topside, the LX is awash in stylish, functional technology.
The resulting experience, a pleasurable mix of fun and function, is
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