Bayliner boats are built by the world’s largest marine manufacturer, the American-based Brunswick Corporation. The giant company also turns out Boston Whaler, Trophy, Hatteras, Sea Ray, Crestliner and Meridian to name just a few (oh yeah, and let’s not forget Mercury and MerCruiser). Of all the Brunswick marques, Bayliner is the biggest, and the biggest selling Bayliner is the 175. In fact, the 175 is said to be the best selling powerboat in the world.
Similar models like the 160 and 180 were also popular, however, they haven’t been available with outboards (as standard) for eight or so years. That changed last year at around the time that TrailerBoat tested a new Bayliner 160 fitted with a 90hp Mercury OptiMax. It’s been a while so we thought we’d have a look at its big brother, the Bayliner 180, also in an outboard configuration.
FUN ALL ROUND
With all the talk about Aussie dealers coming and going you’d be forgiven for overlooking the fact that Bayliner boats have been imported into this country since 1989. They’ve been steadily flowing in through the Avante Marine network, the largest of its kind in Australia, which operates through more than a dozen authorised dealerships. Avante ensures the boats meet Australian standards, and offers a full factory-backed warranty, something that is not always the case with boats imported through other means.
The introduction of this new outboard bowrider brings even simpler boating to families keen to get on the water for a bit of fun. These boats are mainly about cruising and towing water toys around, but there’re no reason why they can’t be used for occasional fishing with the kids. And why not, apart from the fact that you (or more specifically, your wife) won't like fishy bits all over the upholstery? With the clip-out carpet removed before the trip and a quick hose down after, there should be no evidence of your angling adventure.
Bringing an outboard package to the range will appeal to those who aren’t sterndrive fans. While most Americans are happy to embrace the onboard motor, many Australians, brought up on a diet of simple tinnies and outboards, like the idea of sticking the donk out the back where they can keep an eye on it.
In the 180 we find the boiled down essence of family boating but with enough fun factor in the ingredients to make it a sweet all-rounder. It packs seating for seven people, and with a total weight of just over a ton it can be towed behind the family car and will fit into most garages. It's also lightweight, making it easy to launch and retrieve, even for beginners.
The bow area has two separate spaces for the family to chill out, and parents will like being able to keep an eye on the young ones in the deep bow section when underway. The 125hp Mercury OptiMax will cruise all day at 43kmh (23kts) where it is spinning at an economical 3500rpm. This engine has power enough to pull a skier or all the kids in the street on a tube.
This ubiquitous American bowrider certainly makes the most of the 5.49m available, and there’s room up front for three adults or a gazillion screaming kids. At the bow is a narrow boarding deck with a non-skid stipple finish as well as mooring cleats and navigation lights. The seats have a backrest for sitting lengthways and grabrails each side will help keep the crew onboard in spirited turning. The anchorwell is below the seats in an unlined storage area but it wouldn’t be too hard to rescue some carpet off-cuts to protect the fibreglass.
At the central walkway a five-section Taylor Made screen lifts open for access to the cockpit, where the floor is covered in removable marine carpet. The driver dash has Faria instruments for revs, speed, battery voltage and fuel, switches for the horn and nav lights but no trim gauge. The steering wheel is adjustable and the driver seat has a bolster and 200mm of forward-aft movement.
To port, the dash has a glovebox with a Jensen MP3 CD player feeding music to a pair of waterproof Jensen speakers in the rear. A back-to-back passenger seat gives the observer a comfortable place to keep an eye on the tow action. It also flattens out and converts into a sunlounge.
Towards the rear, a full-width lounge can seat three comfortably. It also lifts out to provide access to a storage space and battery. A removable skipole sits centrally on the transom while out back there is a boarding platform each side of the enginewell with a folding boarding ladder to starboard. A ski locker in the floor provides usable space for the water toys.
HANDLING AND RIDE
The standard boat comes with a 90hp motor but all Australian models will be fitted with the optional 125hp version. While it might not sound like a lot of power for a sportsboat, a Mercury 125 OptiMax is a very willing performer. The motor is more than capable of producing good acceleration and plenty of speed, in an easily driven and light hull such as that of the Bayliner 180.
Driving it is a pleasure even on the wet, miserable day that greeted us during the test. Acceleration out of the hole was brisk, lifting the bow somewhat before settling down to action and a maximum speed of 40kts (74kmh) at 5500rpm.
Handling is a product of good hull design — Bayliner calls it the Advanced Planing System (APS) — with planing strakes and subtle chines to keep things on track. The boat turns smoothly in flat water and stays true across chop with no creaks or rattles from the hull. Steering can be a little heavy if trim is not dialled in correctly, and it needs a fair bit of out trim to get to maximum speed. Right across the speed range, however, the boat feels stable and predictable.
With this new model, Bayliner has broadened its entry-level range. Modern outboards have a lot to offer in both performance and economy and the 180 will appeal to families looking for a no-fuss option that will take the whole crew onboard in comfort.
Price as tested: $36,790
Options fitted: Nil
Priced from: $36,790
Type: Monohull sportsboat
Weight (BMT): 1050kg
Rec. HP: 90
Max. HP: 125
Make/model: Mercury 125hp OptiMax
Type: Three-cylinder, in-line, direct-injection two-stroke
Gear ratio: 2.07:1
Propeller: 19in alloy
210 Silverwater Rd
Silverwater, NSW, 2128
Tel: (02) 8756 3400
Story and photos: John Ford
First published in TrailerBoat #281
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