Sea Ray SLX 400 Review

Sea Ray’s 2017 SLX 400 is a paradigm bursting with innovation and new ideas.

This article originally appeared on Reprinted by permission.

When the new Sea Ray SLX 400 debuted at the 2017 Miami International Boat Show, I was onboard with Outboard Expert Charles Plueddeman. His thoughts? “This boat is about the floating as much as it is about the boating.” And I agreed—let’s see if you will, too.

In the SLX 400, Sea Ray has done a masterful job of building a day boat that serves as much as a vehicle that can take you places as a platform for entertaining guests on the water. Like any boat, it must serve a number of purposes to be well received in the market, and the SLX 400 delivers on all fronts. It’s part deckboat, part cruiser, part midcabin runabout and certainly, part yacht.

The deckboat function makes the SLX 400 a party platform, but it’s so much larger than any deckboat that it’s almost an unfair analogy. The spacious deck is the place to be, and Sea Ray even considered that when locating the galley. Two grills are up on deck—rather than in the midcabin—so the cook can socialize with his guests. The galley includes a sink,a refrigerator for food, and another for wine. Its location makes for easy cleanup, and it means you won’t have to sleep in a cabin that smells like the last thing you cooked.

There’s an abundance of deck space and more seating than I can remember seeing on anything in this size range. What’s more, the entire cockpit, is covered by a hardtop, and the retractable fabric sunshade that extends to the aft bench. The hardtop has a sliding sunroof, too. As contradictory as it sounds, the sweet setup allows for an open sunroof and an extended sunshade—even your tall guests can enjoy it thanks to ample headroom.

With an array of seating options available in the bow and in the cockpit, the SLX 400 also includes a hardtop, retractable sunshade and sunroof.
With an array of seating options available in the bow and in the cockpit, the SLX 400 also includes a hardtop, retractable sunshade and sunroof.

When it comes to seating, Sea Ray has hit its mark. First, the double-wide passenger seat adjacent to the helm rotates on a pedestal so it becomes part of the “conversation pit” when the boat is anchored. Similarly, half of the aft bench backrest pivots to face the starboard side, and has enough stowage underneath to hold two stand-up paddleboards. The aft lounge opens to what is probably the most striking feature of the SLX 400: the fold-down swim terrace. The aft end of the starboard gunwale powers down electrically to create another swim platform and greater access to the water.

Sea Ray SLX 400 Specifications:

  • Length:  39’6″
  • Beam: 12’1″
  • Deadrise: 21 deg.
  • Displacement: 18,000 lbs.
  • Fuel capacity: 250 gal.
  • Water capacity: 50 gal.

The cruiser and yacht aspects of the SLX 400 include the overnighting capability, luxurious materials and fastidious attention detail. For example, the helm is all glass with twin 12-inch Raymarine glass displays. The boat also comes with Axius joystick controls to make docking easier, and it does it without a bow thruster.

In the bow, the SLX 400 makes room for at least five people thanks to a triple wide forward-facing seat and two forward benches.
In the bow, the SLX 400 makes room for at least five people thanks to a triple wide forward-facing seat and two forward benches.

In the bow, the SLX 400 shows its midcabin runabout side, with a triple wide forward-facing seat with fold-down armrests, additional forward benches and a removable dinette table that also converts to a sunpad. Belowdecks, the cabin features a V-berth and an aft cabin large enough for four people to spend the night aboard, another table for dining and a full head compartment.

You have to step on board the SLX 400 to appreciate the amount of thought and effort Sea Ray designers and engineers have put into this boat. It presents some of the most innovative ideas we’ve seen in a long time, and it really is a new paradigm of what a boat can be.

Other Choices: It’s easy to see that the SLX 400 is one unique boat. To match it’s distinctive style and massive size, you may want to check out the Four Winns Horizon H440 that offers more cabin space, or the sportier Formula 430 SSC.

For more information, visit Sea Ray.


Cobalt 25SC Review

Cobalt roils the water with a luxury runabout that runs on outboard power.

This article originally appeared on Reprinted by permission.

There was once a time when outboard power was reserved for the likes of fishing boats and center-consoles, but as noted in Outboard Engines on Runabouts; a Match Made in Heaven, that’s been changing. Way back when the noise, smoke, and exposed rigging weren’t dignified, and they might spoil the fun and sophistication of taking guests to dinner on your boat. Thankfully, those days are over, and Cobalt has taken full advantage of outboard power with its new 25SC.

Modern outboards are quiet, clean, and work out quite nicely on a top-shelf runabout like the Cobalt 25SC.
Modern outboards are quiet, clean, and work out quite nicely on a top-shelf runabout like the Cobalt 25SC.

A quiet and comfortable luxury runabout, the 25SC isn’t afraid to get a little salty, and that’s something outboards do better than stern drives. The ability to lift the engine out of water—and flush it while the boat is still afloat—is a big advantage for those weekend trips to the Intracoastal. Yet at the same time, the 25SC does everything you expect from a luxury runabout.

Quiet cruises to your favorite waterfront grill? Check. Thanks to four-stroke outboards from Mercury and Yamaha, the 25SC delivers the Cobalt experience even with outboard power.

Watersports? You bet. Of course, it will help if you equip the boat with the optional arch, which is available as a manually folding piece or electrically-actuated. Either arch includes a Bimini top.

Room for everyone? Yep, it’s got that, too, and the outboard powertrain certainly frees up a lot of room at the stern and gives designers a little more freedom. Because there’s no stern-drive engine, the rear stowage compartment is cavernous—and your life vests won’t smell like gas and oil when you pull them out.

At the stern, the 25SC comes fitted with a wide rear bench that converts to an aft-facing sun pad and lounge.
At the stern, the 25SC comes fitted with a wide rear bench that converts to an aft-facing sun pad and lounge.

The swim platform is right at water level and it’s where the outboard is mounted. Just three lines for the engine controls and steering connect it to the boat. The rigging is clean, so it doesn’t detract from the luxury experience.

Inside, the cockpit is straightforward, and it has lots of room for passengers to move around thanks to ample deck space and Cobalt’s “blade style” windshield, which frees up more room compared with a conventional wraparound. There’s a jump seat behind the driver and one to port with a backrest that converts to forward- or aft-facing. There’s also a head compartment, which comes with a portable MSD but also can be fitted with an optional fixed head with pump-out and macerator.

Because of the 25SC’s bow design, the forward-most portion of the boat is spacious and comfortable. The bow has an anchor locker that also conceals a boarding ladder. The forward lounges offer room to stretch out, but they’re arranged in such a way that they can accommodate four adults up front. The bow seats also feature fold-down armrests, which, because this is a Cobalt, are through-bolted and strong enough to stand on.

Of course, with a base MSRP (with a 250 HP Mercury Verado outboard with power-assisted steering) of $101,602, the boat isn’t an entry level model. For that kind of money, a Bimini top should be standard. It isn’t. Canvas should standard. It’s an option. The rest of the available equipment is genuinely optional stuff, things like underwater lighting, the arch, and an air compressor. There are plenty more options, so you can outfit the boat any way you like.

Outboards have evolved to the point where you won’t miss the inboard. What’s more, the ease of use of an outboard will become apparent your first trip out.

Other Choices: The Chaparral SunCoast 250 is another outboard-powered runabout cruising similar waters. Same goes for the Sea Ray Sundeck 240, which is available in both outboard and stern-drive models.

For more information, visit Cobalt.


Four Winns HD220: Outboard or Stern Drive?

The Four Winns HD220 and HD220 OB offer you multiple power choices, plus smart design.

This article originally appeared on Republished by permission.

We ran the Four Winns HD220 (a stern drive model) and its sister-ship, the HD220 OB (with outboard power) in Sarasota, FL, as part of a larger Beneteau Power event this fall. In case you didn’t know it, Beneteau recently bought Four Winns’ parent group Recreational Boat Holdings, a buyout that also included the Wellcraft, Scarab, and Glastron brands. Beneteau seems committed to making the Four Winns brand thrive, so despite the blazing Florida sun, we were excited to hop on board, get out on the water, and see what the HD220 models could do.

 Our test craft was fitted with a single Mercury Verado 250 HP four-stroke outboard engine, the maximum rated outboard for this boat. Owners can also select from outboard offerings made by Evinrude and Yamaha. And, as if those power plant options weren’t enough, the stern drive HD220 is available in power ranging from 240 to 350 HP made by Volvo Penta or MerCruiser. The nice thing is that you get virtually the same great deck layout whether you choose outboard or stern drive power.

One of the best things about the Verado option is how quietly it purrs away at idle—we could barely hear the engine on our test craft over our conversational cockpit banter. But that silence was soon broken as we powered out into Sarasota Bay and poured on the juice to stretch the HD220 OB’s legs a bit. We accelerated up to 25 MPH in only eight seconds and kept going all the way up to a top speed of 51.4 MPH at 6,400 RPM. Fuel burn is predictably thirsty at the top end, where the big Verado chugs 26.9 GPH. That being said, the HD220 OB has an efficient cruise at around 30 MPH, where only 9.8 gallons per hour of fuel is burned to net 3.0 GPH. That gets you a very respectable theoretical cruising range of around 133 miles with the 44-gallon fuel tank.

We were very impressed with how well the HD220 handled a choppy Sarasota Bay and how nimble the boat was when we pressed it hard into turns. After all, with its wide, relatively square bow this boat could generally be described as a deck boat, and we know from experience how rough some low-deadrise deck boats boats can ride. But the HD220 surprised us, slicing through the waves and carving out figure-eight turns with ease. Four Winns tells us to thank its Stable-Vee hull design for that ride, which combines flatter forward sections with a transition to a deep, 20-degree transom deadrise.

Inside the HD220 is a clever deck plan filled with all sorts of high-end materials and lots of thoughtful touches. At the transom just ahead of the swim platform is an aft-facing lounge. To starboard of the lounge is a walk-through that provides access to the cockpit, only a small step up and then down—we’re not sure what that hump is about—from the swim platform. The cockpit is fairly typical of boats of this design, with an L-shaped lounge aft, a starboard bench, and twin swiveling captain’s chairs just behind the dual consoles. There’s stowage underneath the lounges and bench, which was easy to access thanks to gas-assist struts on the hatches—not something you commonly see on your average bowrider.

Whether you choose a stern drive or an outboard, the boat’s essential layout remains the same.
Whether you choose a stern drive or an outboard, the boat’s essential layout remains the same.

Under the port console is a relatively roomy, lighted compartment that houses a portable MSD. While it was easier to get in and out of than we expected on a boat this size, we’d like to see a hullside opening port or some sort of venting scheme here, to keep odors in check. The helm is situated to starboard and features rich leather trim, analog gauges (a digital touch screen LCD control/gauge panel is available) and a graceful wraparound windshield.

Walking forward to the bow we found a large centerline stowage locker that’s big enough for wakeboards, surfboards, skis, and other wet gear. We were thrilled to see the hatch for this locker was fitted with a beefy gas-assist strut; it makes stowing and removing gear much easier. The bow area has U-shaped seating that can be converted for snacks or dining with a drop-in table. Backrests forward of the dual consoles mean two sides of that “U” can be used as forward-facing chaise lounges. Under these lounges is more stowage and, like the rest of the boat, the seats that cover the stowage compartments lift up with gas-assist struts. Up on the bow is a neatly concealed, fold-away telescoping ladder to facilitate beach landings.

The midday Sarasota sun was melting holes into our brains by the time we started cruising back to the dock, and that made us wonder about arch and/or canvas options for the HD220. A wakeboard tower with color-matched Bimini top is available as an option, as is a conventional fold-down Bimini canvas top. You’ll definitely want one or the other if you live in an area that sees lots of summer heat and sun.

Whether you prefer a stern drive…
Whether you prefer a stern drive…
…or an outboard, the Four Winns HD220 will fit the bill.
…or an outboard, the Four Winns HD220 will fit the bill.

Other Choices: The Sea Ray 220 Sundeck (now tagged the SDX) is also available in both outboard and stern drive options, and will be a natural competitor to the HD220. A less expensive and slightly smaller option would be a boat like the Stingray 215LR.

For more information, visit Four Winns.


Cruisers Sport Series 208 Bowrider: Little Big Boat

The Cruisers Sport Series 208 bow-rider is both fast and fuel-efficient.
The Cruisers Sport Series 208 bow-rider is both fast and fuel-efficient.

Cruisers Yachts, known for…well, yachts, are now getting a lot of attention for their Sport Series smaller boats. The series includes eight models from 20 to 32 feet long, six of them bow-riders. We’ve already looked at the 238 and the 258, so let’s turn our attention to the smallest in the series – the smallest boat in the whole Cruisers fleet — the very sporty 208.

At 20’10” LOA, with a beam of 7’6” and a weight of 3,100 pounds, the 208 is powered by a 260-hp, 5-liter Mercury stern drive – not a monster engine by any means, but enough to push the boat to a top speed over 50 mph, and to give excellent mileage at fast cruise rates between 26.5 mph (4.1 mpg) and 39 mph (3.5 mpg), according to on-water tests by

The 208 is a multipurpose family boat with plenty of comfortable seating, under-seat and under cockpit stowage, and thoughtful telescoping ladder setups — off the corner of the swim platform to keep swimmers’ legs clear of prop and drive, and off the bow, for shallow water and beach access. Build quality is high, and includes some features brought down from Cruisers’ yacht line, including an automatic Halon fire-extinguishing system in the engine compartment.

The 208 embodies a lot of what people are looking for in a versatile, easily trailered family boat – it’s a capable, fun platform for cruising, picnics, beach days, tow sports, even casual fishing.

For a full review of the 208 at, read 2014 Cruisers Sport Series 208: Video Boat Review, which also carries a link to the video below. For more information, visit Cruisers Yachts.


Video: Bayliner Discovery 195 Bowrider Boat Review

Lenny Rudow reviewed this bowrider from Bayliner and “discovered” a simple, easy to maintain boat designed to be used for a range of on the water activities.

Read Lenny’s Bayliner Discovery 195 Boat Test Notes

Video Boat Review Transcript

Guess what I just discovered? Bayliner’s 195 Discovery. Now this is a very simple straightforward bowrider. It has a single stern drive, and it’s outfitted so that you can use it for just about any kind of water play you like. Fishing, waterskiing, whatever. I tested it to find out if it was the right boat for you.

Design and Construction

We have Matt Guilford here from Bayliner Boats to help us understand what this boat’s all about. How you doing, Matt?

Matt: Good! Good to see you Lenny.

So tell me, this is the 195 Discovery. What makes it a Discovery and what’s the Discovery series all about?

Matt: Bayliner’s Discovery series is made up of easy to maintain, functional boats that give customers the opportunity to get out there and explore.

Now one of the things that really jumped out at me about this boat is the nonskid. It’s textured, it’s grippy, it’s rubbery.

Matt: It’s perfect for the Discovery. With the wide open floor plan you can bring scuba gear, camping gear, the dog. You can just hose it down when you’re done.

Read the entire transcript of the Bayliner Discovery 195: Video Boat Review