Boat Review – Bayliner 185 Bowrider

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With the Bayliner 185 Bowrider, Bayliner is focusing on the first time boater, or one moving up from a smaller aluminum boat or fiberglass boat who wants more room and function.

BAYLINER have been building Bowriders for more years than most and the new 185 encompasses a lot of those years of experience. Bayliner have made sure also that not only is the boat feature packed and functional it’s also easy to launch, recover and overall provide family fun on the water. Most important, the Bayliner 185 Bowrider provides all of the standard features in an affordable package.

The Bayliner 185 Bowrider we tested was equipped with the Flight Series Package and is loaded with watersport amenities. However, also available is a Fishing Package and a Preferred Equipment Package.

The first and foremost question that we wanted answered had to do with the carbureted 190-hp MerCruiser 4.3 L TKS engine. Did it have enough raw power to get a wake boarder up? Further, if it could do that, what were the performance capabilities and handling characteristics?

It was apparent right from the start that the 190-hp 4.3L, MerCruiser TKS with the Alpha One sterndrive was up to the challenge. With less than half a tank of fuel, two people on board and test gear, we had a test weight of just under 1,270 kgs. We reached a top speed at 4400 rpm of 40.5 knots (46.5 mph).

Unfortunately, our fuel flow meter chose this time to go on the fritz so we can not present best cruise and other fuel flow. We can report that at 3500 rpm, where most boats of this type typically see their most efficient running, we had a speed of 30 knots (34.6 mph). She got on plane between 2000 and 2500 rpm.

Bayliner 185 on the water

The time to plane of 3.8 seconds and her ability to trim out quickly with minimal bow rise was impressive to us. Because of the 19deg deadrise angle that Bayliner has incorporated into the hull, the ride quality was apparent at speed. Frankly, this was a degree or two more than we expected, but her time to plane and the comfort of the ride, proved that Bayliner had made a good decision.

When we added a tube with a rider and a spotter to the boat, she handled the load with minimal effort and we were off and tubing.

So, when making a buying decision and faced with a choice between the carbureted 4.3L TKS and the 3.0L MPI engines, both will pulled wakeboarders and while the 3.0L engine needs to rev over 2500 rpm to get on plane, the 4.3L MPI engine can do easily at 2500 rpm.

We have found that most boats in class run pretty well at 3500 rpm and these two are no exceptions – there is just about 6 knots (7.1 mph) difference in their speeds.

Bayliner 185 Handling

Applying full throttle, the boat responded quickly, the bow rise was approximately 12-degrees, starting to come down when she hit plane in 3.8 seconds and was firmly at her stable running angle of 5-degrees in 8.6 seconds.

Bayliner 185 inside

The Bayliner 185 Bowrider is an easy boat to trim, just get her up on plane and set the trim to approximately one quarter on the console trim gauge. If you should set the trim too high, the bow will start to bob up and down (porpoise) and the boat will begin to lose speed. Just lower the trim until the bow stabilises.

The boat handles excellently when pushed in hard-over turns at higher speeds. She is stable and predictable in her reactions to the hard turns in choppy water. I did not encounter any chine walking or oscillation from side to side. The boat will naturally shave off hull speed during these types of manoeuvers, keeping everyone safe and on board the boat. It would be hard to get in trouble with this boat — we tried!

From the sharp “V” bow entry to the lifting strakes running the length of the hull that lead out to a reverse chine. At the transom, the deadrise angle is 19-degrees. When the boat was fully up on plane, it cut through the waves. The chines were effective on knocking down the spray and keeping the boat dry.

Because this hull is so forgiving, it’s easy to see why the 185 Bowrider is such a good fit for those new to boating. This boat has the ability to provide a confidence-building learning experience, safely, for young and old alike.

Standard equipment

The Bayliner 185 Bowrider comes standard with a lot more tha most local boats, but not untypical for a US built boat. Firstly there’s the Bluetooth stereo system that is located on the port side at the console. The system is a waterproof 120-watt AM/FM stereo with audio input for iPod and MP3.

Then there’s the tilt wheel at the helm provided a good range of motion and settings to accommodate the operator, whether seated down in the bucket seat or propped up on the bolster. The helm bucket seat had a thigh rise bolster that when raised up, elevated the operator above the windshield. The helm seat and all the seats in the boat are well padded and made of a stain-resistant vinyl that is said to be easy to keep clean.

The moulded fiberglass engine cover is well disguised under the stern sun pad and is assisted with a hinged gas strut when opened. The compartment is ventilated by a 12V blower and access to the bilge pump is through this compartment.

The seating design, comfort and stainresistant weatherproof fabric throughout the boat had dual stitching and lots of padding in all the right places. The stern seating section could easily accommodate 4 adults, and the seat back is high, thanks to the deep cockpit, which averaged approximately 85.09 cm.

Bayliner 185 drivers seat

The standard seating layout is with two aft jump seats that convert to a sunlounger. Our test boat featured the sport seating package, which provides dual swivel bucket seats in the cockpit and a bench stern seating area that will easily accommodate 4 people. The bucket seats will come around 180-degrees to provide a clear view of all the activities off the stern.

The seats have a padded bolster that can be raised to increase height. The padding on the seats is comfortable and the double stitching all around the seat gives it a classy look. When seated in the bow, we liked the placement of the grab handles. It will give the parents some comfort to see the kids sitting up front while underway with a sturdy place to hang on.

Abundant Storage

There is a lockable glove box, on the port side console area. On the port and starboard side of the cockpit gunwales, there is not one, but two shelves built in. With a raised edge, we could put our gear or water bottle without any of it coming out while putting the boat through her paces. Great use of this space and the finish detail adds to the quality feel of the cockpit.

Bayliner 185 Nose

At the bow, under each of the seat cushions, are large storage boxes for the gear. The forward bow compartment in the center serves as additional storage and the anchor locker. While we would like to see a dedicated anchor locker with all the features to properly secure and stow the line and anchor, there was plenty of room in this compartment to get all the ground tackle in and out of when needed.

Just when we thought we had discovered all of the storage areas in this space, we discovered the port and starboard console storage located behind the bow seating rear supports.

Bayliner 185 Storage

Across the entire stern seating area, under the cushions, there are a lot more storage areas. And with the cushions removed, the non-skid deck provides a safe step up to the stern. There is a large in-deck storage locker with stainless steel latching hardware for stowing the ski gear and water toys. The hatch cover is held open by not one, but two gas struts. No worries about this lid dropping down on our fingers.

Great Helm

The custom moulded dash panels have a non-glare brow which made it easy to see the instrumentation without having to squint. The instrumentation is well laid out and easy to see. The steering wheel is padded and comfortable to the touch and the boat is equipped with rack and pinion power steering, which is nice to have when manoeuvering around the dock at slow speed and also when turning the wheel back and forth at speed with a skier in tow. And the
standard tilt steering was nice to have to find that sweet spot when running the boat for an extended period of time.

The helm bucket seat is on a pedestal and is fully adjustable. The seat can be rotated a full 180-degrees to face the aft. It has adjustments to raise and lower the height, which we found easy to operate and find just the right setting. The seat is well padded and comfortable to sit in. When the centre section of the windshield is in the open position and the boat is underway, we noted that the windshield would bounce up and down a bit when getting into some choppy water. A strap or latch to fasten the windshield walkthrough when it is in the open position would be useful. On the other hand, when running, people should not be walking around the boat and the windshield could be closed.

The Bayliner 185 Spacious Design

Bayliner’s beam forward design has given this boat a roomy cockpit and bow area for a boat this size. With an estimated average width of 125cm at the bow seating area, there is plenty of room for several passengers to sit.

The companion seat on our test boat was the optional bucket seat mounted on a pedestal – with the ability to adjust the height and spin it completely around to face aft. This is perfect for the spotter when towing a skier, tuber or wakeboarder. The other added benefit to this seating set-up is the ability to slide a cooler, or any other gear and provisions, under the seat when taking the boat out for a long day on the water.

The stern of the 185 Bowrider had moulded stern seating, sundeck and swim platform. This made for a solid feel to this area that will get a lot of foot traffic during boarding and playing in the water. The stern seating is cushioned with storage area below. The sun pad measured 1.9m wide x 80cm deep. On the starboard side, the cushion flips up to reveal a large storage area. Under the port side cushion is access to the batteries.

The center hatch of the sun pad opens wide to provide access to the engine compartment. It is easy to perform engine checks and routine maintenance from here. The hatch cover is held open by a gas assist strut.

Optional Packages

Our test boat had the Flight Series Packages, which is designed for watersports, and is one of three packages available. There is also a graphics package that includes the hull side flight graphics that gave the boat a sporty look.

The swim platform extension had the new SeaDeck design that has the Flight Series logo and provides a comfortable padded non-skid surface. The platform provided plenty of room for setting up the watersports activities and is low to the water. It measured 1.98 m x .63 m deep. Keep in mind that this is an extension off of the existing moulded hull swim platform.

Bayliner 185 back

This made for an abundance of room and areas to sit while gearing up. This also made it easy for our wakeboarder to suit up and drop into the water. When the skiing was completed, the wakeboarder could easily put his gear back up on the swim platform and climb back aboard. The platform is equipped with a swim ladder off the starboard side, if needed.

The wakeboard tower is made by Monster and has a sleek look to it. There are removable wakeboard racks on the port and starboard side. The racks have a quick disconnect latch and can be easily stowed when not in use.

When the boards are in the racks, a bungee cord keeps them safely in place. There is also an integrated Bimini top that goes with the tower and we installed it while at the dock. It was a bit difficult to install on test day, but well worth it on a 90-degree day.

And once installed, it provides good cover and an unimpeded view both fore and aft from the helm and companion seating area.

There is also a Preferred Equipment Package, which includes a Bimini canvas top with boot, colour choice (blue, black, or red) and the deck gel stripe. The test boat was also fitted with this upgraded stainless steel trim upgrade package, which makes the boat look a little more up-market.

For the fisherman, Bayliner has put together a package which includes a 24 volt trolling motor, bow/aft casting platform and seat, livewell, Garmin fishfinder, rod storage and tackle bag.

Bayliner has always made it its goal to get people on the water. And with this 185 Bowrider, it should appeal to the first time boater as well as to veteran boaters who know what they want and how much they want to spend. With its boat and trailer combination and a base price of around $NZ48,000, it is a competitive package.

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