Stingray 180RS
Trailer Boats - March 1997


The Stingray 180 RS looked like the most expensive boat in the fleet, but through the first of March, it won't be - sticker on the rig, including the 3.0 LX MerCruiser was just $9,995 (less trailer). The expected price increase slated for March '97 is significant, up to $13,165.

The Stingray was the longest boat in the fleet at 18 feet, and it was the only I/O. So it came as no surprise that it had the advantages of top fuel economy and lowest noise levels. Four-cycles routinely best two-cycles in these areas. The economy range was broad as well - 6.2 mpg just after break-over at 2500rpm, but still an impressive 6.0 at 3500 rpm and 30.2 mph. And decibel levels at the helm were a whisper-quiet 60 dB at idle, rising to just 95dB at full bore.

The Z-Plane hull also proved to be the fastest of the fleet despite weighing some 500 pounds more than the Bayliner and 170 pounds more than the Sunbird. In terms of pounds per horsepower, the Stingray was pushing 15.4 pounds per horsepower, the Capri 13.1, so efficiency was clearly higher with the Stingray. (The Sunbird Spirit, perhaps a bit underpowered with the 90, was pushing 21.2 pounds per horsepower, the obvious reason for its slower speeds.)

Handling was good, with an excellent grip in locked-over turns. With its 19-degree deadrise, the hull cuts through chop, even when trimmed fairly high. Power steering is standard with the I/O, so there's no wheel torque, and keeping the boat on course is no more difficult than driving your car down an interstate.

The hull has no defined strakes. Looking from astern, you see a bottom more like a lazy M than a Z, but the idea is that there are no protrusions to break the flow of the water, create bubbles and cause the prop to lose magazine quote its grip. The lower sections near the keel perform much like the pad on a performance bassboat at higher speeds, raising the boat, reducing wetted surface and increasing efficiency.

There's also a notched transom or step, which allows the drive to be mounted higher. That trick alone is usually worth several mph because it dramatically reduces lower-unit drag.

Stingray is justifiably proud of its CAD design facility, which molds the passenger compartments around human models rather than making them fit into the space left over by demands of manufacturing. That translates into plenty of leg room at the console, room to stretch out on the forward lounges (leg room there is 4 feet, 2 inches) and a deeply-molded driver's seat that grips you like a racing bolster to inspire confidence when you want to try some 180s. (The seat bases are molded poly rather than wood, which is good for the life of the boat.)

Stingray's RS design has a pair of jump seats aft next to the motorbox, plus a small transom hatch where the standard convertible top tucks away. The same hull is available in an RX across the transom with comfortable couch seating in front of it. This cuts foot room in the cockpit, but gives more space for sitting or loafing. Access to the engine is good with either rig, but easier in the RS version because you can pull the motorbox out off the boat completely if you need to do surgery.

The dash has a burled-wood look and a padded sports-style wheel with a easy-grip padded surface. A Maxima Marine stereo sits in the pot console, and it can be pulled out for safe overnight storage. The windshield is 12 inches tall and provides excellent wind protection. There's a carpeted ski locker in the floor with a poly lid that's vented to prevent mildew. The lid is a stout inch thick with reinforcements, so it won't develop a bow when it's been stepped on a few hundred times.

A notable point in construction of the Stingray is the solid fiberglass transom section for the drain plug. This is a prime area for water to get into plywood transoms, but Stingray avoids the problem by making the entire section out of a fat layup of woven roving and mat. Brass drain plugs are used rather than rubber.

Stringers are a fiberglass matrix filled with foam - they're rotproof, and also provide broader bearing surfaces than wood wrapped in fiberglass. Steel insets are used for motor mounts. The floors are marine plywood in fiberglass. All fittings are through-bolted into aluminum backing plates, a plus you don't often see on economy rigs.

As in all boats, there are a few things that could have been done differently. The wood-look plastic door to the glovebox wouldn't survive two trips with a typical six-year old on board. On the test rig, the MerCruiser throttle lever rubbed on the side wall at WOT - a rigging error, perhaps? I liked the swim platform on the Stingray, just above the water with its sturdy boarding ladder, but the nonskid is actually pretty slick. The RS model has only one sunlounge (on the passenger side), and that might cause squabbles. On the other hand, the driver will probably prefer sitting in the molded swivel seat better than the lounge seating as found on the other boats in this comparison.

Trailer Boats
March 1997


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