The term SUV is used to describe a land vehicle that's ready to go anywhere on land. Stingray's new 200MS is the
maritime equivalent. The "MS" means multi-sport and this boat can be fitted for whatever of activity you're into,
from fishing and water skiing to diving and wake boarding. You can even throw in day cruising. But what makes the
200MS most unusual is the way it's powered. More on that later.
The 200MS measures 20-feet three-inches in overall length and its 8-foot, 1-inch beam provides plenty of space
inside the hull. This center console provides room to move around as well as store your stuff. There's cushioned
seating for four—two at the helm in rotocast buckets, one forward of the console and one facing aft on the
engine box. There's an anchor locker at the bow, followed by two large lockers that drain over board in the sole.
They're a step above the main deck and the space makes an excellent casting platform.
Lift the forward seat cushion and you'll find a large locker with cutouts to accommodate a cooler, including its
handles. Three removable tackle boxes are secured inside a door on the starboard side of the console. To port is an
access panel for the electronics with additional storage beneath. Across the transom, a pair of fishboxes flank
the 14-gallon aerated livewell. Each side of the hull is fitted with rod holders.
The console features a large-diameter stainless steel wheel. There's a full complement of engine instrumentation,
plus space for accessories and electronics. A removable tinted windshield is standard. There are stainless grabrails
in all the right places to hold on to while under way. The console molded in one piece, and it's mounted flush to
the deck. There's no flange or protruding screws on which to stub your toes. It also has a two level footrest that's
covered with non-skid material. Other convenient features on the console include a molded inset for the fire
extinguisher, air ducts to promote ventilation inside it and a recessed electric horn.
The 200MS can be fitted with an optional welded aluminum T-top or a removable Bimini. Both use Sunbrella fabric.
For skiing, a welded aluminum ski arch is available. Other options include an automatic fire extinguishing system
for the engine compartment and a battery on/off switch with a safety key.
As mentioned before, the most unusual thing about the Stingray 200MS is its propulsion configuration. Typically,
a boat this size will have an outboard. The 200MS is fitted with a MerCruiser Alpha One drive, but instead of having
the conventional attached engine, it's driven through a jackshaft. The 28-inch shaft, an integral part of the
Mercury-built powertrain, allows the engine to be placed amidships. This relocates the center of gravity and improves
handling as well as lowering the on plane speed. It also gives you more room at the transom because there's no engine
compartment bulge. That's now under the seating area aft of the console. In essence, you have the best of both worlds
on the 200MS—the smooth ride of an inboard coupled with the speed and efficiency of a stern drive.
The standard engine on the 200MS is a 210 horsepower Merc 4.3L EFI V-6. Our test boat, however, was equipped with
Mercury's new turbocharged, 1.7L DTI Diesel, a marinized version of an Isuzu four-cylinder light truck engine block.
It also puts out 120 horsepower at the crankshaft. Weightwise, the diesel adds about 200 pounds to the package. I'll
admit that I was a bit skeptical about the performance aspects of powering a small boat with a Diesel engine. Once we
took the 200MS out on the water, however, I was convinced this was a good match.
First thing I did was a few hole shots. With three people onboard and the fuel tank three-quarters full, I hit the
throttle. This little baby did an impressive seven seconds. Unlike the almost immediate response of a gas engine,
there's about a second long lag with the Diesel, then it accelerates right up there. Midrange acceleration - between
3,000 and 4,000 rpm - was strong and smooth.
The 200MS with its Diesel power handles just like a little boat should: quickly and smartly. Stingray's Z-plane
Generation II hull, with its 19-degree deadrise, is very well mannered in chop, and tracks great, both at high and
low speeds. It held tightly in turns with excellent stability. The Z-planes do a good job of knocking down spray and
keeping the boat dry. By adjusting the trim, you can modify the wake to satisfy either wakeboarders or skiers.
Cruising speed is about 29 mph and the hull drops off plane at 11. Mercury claims fuel burn is six gallons per hour
at wide-open throttle, which will get you going to 42 mph. Stingray tested the fuel flow at 30 mph with two people
and a half-tank of fuel on board. They got an impressive 7.55 miles per gallon, translating to an economy cruising
range of more than 400 miles.
Another remarkable feature on the 200MS is the lack of engine noise. The Merc Diesel is fairly quiet, but Stingray
has taken the extra step of adding a good deal of insulation to the engine box. I measured the sound level at idle
to be 74 db A. At cruising speed, it only went up to 82, a good deal of which was due to wind in the open boat.
Impressive numbers when you consider I was taking the readings while sitting on the engine box.
Stingray's 200MS has a five-year hull protection plan and a three-year hull blister protection plan. Considering
its price and versatility, the 200MS is a good value for the dollar spent. With the diesel power option, you add
economy and lower fuel consumption without significantly sacrificing performance. For whatever you'd like to do on
the water, consider the sporty utility of this vessel.