Boat Tests

September 30, 2010

Sea Ray 185 Sport: accessible boating

Photo: Sylvain Raymond

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Many people believe that boating is a recreational activity they cannot afford, reserved only for the rich. This preconceived idea is reinforced even more so when it comes to a new model. Well, you should know that our test model, the Sea Ray 185 Sport, is proof that you can enjoy the pleasures of boating with a quality boat that will not break your budget. With this boat, you will spend a full day of fun on the water, while practicing water sports.

Offered at a base price of $24,158, the Sea Ray 185 Sport is an entry-level model from the manufacturer, along with her little sister ship, the Sea Ray 175. With an overall length of 19.8 feet (6.03 m), including the swim platform, and width of 7.3 feet (2.22 m), this boat is an Open Deck type model with an unsheathed deck. Of course, it is not the most imposing boat and you will have to make compromises, but her reduced size still provides several benefits. Firstly, the Sea Ray 185 Sport is practical if you do not live in close proximity to a watercourse, as her dry weight of 2,600 lb (1,179 kg) makes it easy to tow. This also makes the purchase of a full-length pickup or a vehicle with a high haulage capacity unnecessary. It will also be easier to furl due to her more compact dimensions, and since several costs are related to boat length, you will be able to save in this area. In short, in addition to the price, a more compact model offers several other benefits.

Sporty design
On the outside, we like the design of the Sea Ray 185 Sport. She has sleek and modern lines, like those of bigger models. Her affiliation with the Sundancer line soon becomes apparent. The colors are well matched while the two-tone paint scheme, an option featured on our test model, adds to the boat’s styling. Water sports enthusiasts will be able to outfit her with the Wakeboard package, including a brushed aluminum tower, which comes with a bimini top and a high quality sound system. On board, numerous small details improve the looks of the boat, including two-tone leatherettes, a sport instrumentation and a good quality cockpit carpet. The finish of the helm and various grab handles, which look low-priced, could be improved though.

At the back, a large-sized sunpad opens up in two, giving access to the engine. The available space is welcomed as the various components are easily accessible. This will facilitate engine maintenance if you are willing to perform some mechanical works. Two useful storage compartments are located on both side of the engine, but their finish could be improved. The bench seat is large and roomy and provides good visibility at the front. It also has two practical storage areas that can be used as a cooler, and this time, their finish is impeccable. Up front, there is enough room to accommodate two or thee additional passengers, while well-positioned grab handles will help you stay firmly put.

Good ergonomics
The operator and passengers enjoy comfortable and spacious seats. In addition, they swivel back, which makes the cockpit more user-friendly when the boat is docked. The operator’s seat can be adjusted forward or backward to find a good position to navigate. We also appreciate the windshield that not only matches well with the boat styling, but also provides good protection against the wind in cooler weathers. Unfortunately, our main criticism also goes to the windshield as its top bar is located at eye level, which reduces visibility.

The Sea Ray 185 Sport has three engine options, all coming with an Alpha 1 sterndrive. The base model is equipped with a 3.0 L V6 Mercruiser engine developing 135 horsepower. However, you can choose the 4.3 L V6 with 142 horsepower, while at the top of the line, the manufacturer proposes another 4.3 L fuel-injected engine, increasing its power to 220 hp. Despite this $5,000 option, it is difficult not to recommend the 4.3 L MPI V6 engine. Firstly, carbureted engines will soon disappear, it’s written in the stars. In the car industry, this type of powerplant has long been abandoned and it’s about time that boat manufacturers modernize their engines too. The 4.3 L MPI engine delivers, all displacements being equal, more power without resulting in higher fuel consumption. In fact, as far as engines go, you should never hesitate to choose more power as they generally deliver better performances.

With its 220 horsepower, our test model displayed impressive values. The boat planes in about 3.5 seconds to reach a top speed of near 55 mph (89 km/h) at 4,800 rpm. We found that the ideal cruising speed is about 28 mph (45 km/h) at 2,750 rpm. The boat also handles very well at 3,000 rpm, while speed reaches 33 mph (53 km/h). This motorization is more than adequate for this type of boat, especially if you are a water sports enthusiast, which require slightly more power.

Of course, with its reduced dimensions, the boat is more sensitive to waves. You will have to get used to shifting and to stop and go often, especially on a busy water course. However, the engine’s power makes these maneuvers less tedious and the boat feels very solid. Further, it stays firmly planted on the water and the hull bites well when turning.

To concludes, let’s say that the Sea Ray 185 Sport is proof that it is possible to get a quality sport boat at a reasonable price.

Review boat provided by: Marina Fortin


Test model : 2011 Sea Ray 185 Sport
Test engine : MerCruiser 4.3 MPI - Alpha one
Base price : $27,468
Price as tested : $37,173
Manufacturer's warranty : 2 years
Planing time : 3.8 seconds
Planing speed : 14 mph (22 km/h)
Competitive models : Bayliner Bowriders 184, Bayliner Bowriders 185, Chaparral SSi WT Sport 186 SSi, Cownline Bowriders 180 BR, Cownline Bowriders 185 SS, Four Winns H Series H183, Four Winns SS Series H180 SS, Glastron Bowriders GT 185, Maxum Sport Boats 1800 MX, Maxum Sport Boats 1800 SR3, Monterey Sport Boat Collection 184 FS, Regal Bowriders 1900, Regal Bowriders 1900 RS, Rinker Captiva Bowriders 186 Bowrider
Strong points : Powerful engine
Finishing quality
Weak points : Bilge finishing
Very small

Editor's rating

Fuel consumption :          
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Styling :          
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Performance data

750 3.30 - - 5.31 - - N/A
1000 5.40 1.40 3.86 8.69 5.30 1.64 99 miles / 160 km
1500 7.30 - - 11.75 - - N/A
2000 12.70 3.90 3.26 20.44 14.76 1.38 84 miles / 135 km
2500 25.10 - - 40.39 - - N/A
3000 34.00 6.70 5.07 54.72 25.36 2.16 131 miles / 211 km
3500 40.90 9.00 4.54 65.82 34.07 1.93 117 miles / 189 km
4000 46.70 11.50 4.06 75.16 43.53 1.73 105 miles / 169 km
4500 53.80 - - 86.58 - - N/A
4700 54.90 15.90 1.80 88.35 60.19 0.77 46 miles / 75 km

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