Stingray 230SX
Speed Limits

Powerboat Magazine - January 1996

NOTE: the 230SX was previously the 698zp

AND WHO could blame them? The Hartsville, S.C., boatbuilder not only equips its boats with MerCruiser motors and drives, it does it in a way that consistently makes the engine manufacturer look darn good. With its patented Z plane hull, Stingray manages to massage event last mile per hour out of stock Merc power. The 22'8 698zp with the 8' beam we tested in Orlando, Fla., proved this point. For 1996, Stingray added the Z-plane hull configuration to the 698 (hence its new zp designation), and the modification worked speedy wonders. With a MerCruiser 502 Magnum EFI/MP providing the zip, the boat posted an eyewatering 71.8 mph at 4800 rpm, caught on Stalker radar.

For maximum top end, the 415-hp fuel-injected big-block, the heftiest engine the 698zp can handle, was a natural move. A Bravo One drive with a 1.5:1 reduction channeled the energy to a Mirage 14 3/8 x 27 three-blade stainless prop. That power package pushed the boat to six mph at 1000 rpm, 23 at 2000, 42 at 3000, 52 at 3500, 60 at 4000 and 67 at 4500 before clearing the 70-mph hurdle at 4800 rpm. Set up as it was for speed, we didn't anticipate the boat to short-circuit our' stopwatch when it came to acceleration, and it didn't. The 698zp reached 17 mph in three seconds, 28 in five, 48 in 10 and then took a delightful leap to 60 in 15. Our test driver didn't mind the somewhat lackluster time to plane of 4.9 seconds, but he did grouse a bit about the lack of visibility, due to the high deck. Still, he praised the throttle response and overall power. The multi-port injected V-8 also paid dividends in fuel efficiency, as the 3,460-pound boat got an at 25 and 35 mph, 230SX/220SX race impressive 3.6 mpg and three at 45 mph. Stingray president A1 Fink continually tinkers with the Z plane design. It's a labor of love. The 698zp we tested came with a 20-degree deep-V hull, with two strakes and a notched transom. In the Z-plane concept, strakes are created by eliminating hull surface, rather than adding to it. The goal was to eliminate vertical edges, which trap air pockets that hamper hull performance. For our money, the jury remains out on just how well the concept works when the throttle isn't pegged. In low- and cruise speed slalom and left and right turns, the boat scored merely average marks-it felt a tad spongy. But crank up the power and 698zp dances. Snap it left, snap it right, and hang on because it's going to hold even if you can't. Tracking at all speeds earned better than average marks. We found no torque in the wheel and when we cut back on the power, the boat responded. In a hurry.

We have bachelors on our staff with fewer amenities in their apartments than we found in the 698zp's cabin, which we entered through a small locking plastic door. The cabin held two amply padded facing lounges and a V-berth. Fold forward the cushions and you discover things: a sink to port, a Porta Potti head in the middle and alcohol stove to starboard. It's tight, but it is everything you'd need for weekending. Under the V-berth, we found shallow stowage. We liked that Stingray took the time and trouble to install a headliner, but we were a tad disappointed in the rough-around-the-edges carpet installation. On a brighter note, the deck hatch let in light and air. Moving into the cockpit, where we spend most of our time anyway, we found plenty of space. To port was the co-pilot's bucket and dash that included a Maxxima Marine CD stereo and locking glove box. Considering the 698zp's high-speed, the co-pilot's grab handle was a good idea. Between the buckets, we found an in-sole cooler with a loose-fitting plastic lid. Kudos to Stingray for a simple-yet smart dash layout with black-faced Teleflex gauges with red and white lettering. Front and center, right where they should be, were the 230SX interior tachometer with a built-in hour meter, speedometer and trim gauge. Fuel and voltage instruments were set to the left, while oil pressure and water temperature were to the right. Rotary accessory switches had indicator lights to let the driver know if they're on and the throttle on the starboard gunwale was in reach. One particularly clever addition to the driver's side was a swing-out stainless-steel step. When we swung it into position, it made foredeck access a snap. That both port and starboard gunwales had long carpeted stowage trays scored points. If the boatbuilder bulkheaded them off to keep things placed there from sliding back to the engine compartment, they'd be perfect. Flip-out cupholders in the gunwales were another nice touch. Like the rotocast-based pedestal mounted swiveling buckets for the driver and co-pilot, the comfortable marine plywood-based rear bench sported French-stitched, marine-grade vinyl upholstery and adequate padding. In the base of the bench we spied two speakers. To access the unprotected backs of the speakers or to find more stowage space, enough for a ski perhaps, lift the bottom cushion. The sunlounge felt like a good place to kick back for a spell and, beyond that, the nonskid swim offered ample space and traction.

During its 17 years in business, Stingray has learned about building brawny boats, like incorporating hand-laid 32-ounce fiberglass and Klegecell foam core into their construction, and securing hardware to aluminum backing plates. We couldn't find any glitches in the boat's red and white gelcoat, paint, tape-applied lines or mold work. The manufacturer went with an extruded aluminum rubrail, with a plastic insert, that was installed with care. Better still was the strong installation of the wraparound windshield. A selection of production pieces filled the hardware list. On the nose, we spotted a lifting-eye/cleat and a nav light in a molded recess. On either side of the windshield was a large, four-bolt cleat with another pair on the transom. A fuel fill and vent and a tow-eye flanked by handrails completed the picture. Our inspector raved about the sturdy plywood-based engine hatch. When we unlocked the trunk-type latch mechanism under the bench seat cushion, it raised on two gas shocks to offer good engine access. Inside the compartment, the engine secured with lag bolts driven into stringer blocks. That was fine, but we can't understand running carpet over the mounts. On the other hand, we liked the hinged dividers creating partitioned stowage space. To the right of the engine on the floor, screwed in place, was a plastic box holding a battery. Also mounted on the sole was the drive-trim pump, while the bilge blower was situated on the left rear transom. Our only real gripes concerned the 698zp's wiring and bilge finish. We've seen, and have come to expect, better from Stingray. Wiring was sloppy, poorly routed and loosely supported in bunches with tie wraps. As for the bilge, its finish might be rough enough to draw blood if you reached in there to clean it.

For a stern-drive speedster, the 698zp was one heckuva tow boat. Our test driver found it handled ski towing duties better than many runabouts we tested. Take-off power scored big points, as did tracking. Equally appreciative of the boat's juice out of the hole and steady tracking was our test skier. While it wouldn't be his first choice for a slalom run, it might well be for freestyle and wakeboarding. He didn't have any problems with ski stowage under the rear bench or in the cabin, although he did recommend that Stingray go with a three-step boarding ladder, rather than the two-stepper the manufacturer used on our test boat.

Stingray scored a bull's-eye on the top-end and high-speed handling target with the 698zp. That it missed the mark in a few duly noted areas may not matter to buyers with redline fever. It is not, by any means, a mid-size cuddy-cabin runabout with nothing other than top end to offer. But with a little more attention paid to the details, the 698zp could amaze, as well as blaze.

Powerboat Magazine
January 1996


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