Small bowriders such as Bayliner's new 175 are meant to be entry-level workhorses that offer massive stowage, room for a reunion of relatives, pulling power for boarders, tubers, or skiers, and predictable performance. Plus, they need to accomplish all that at a Wal-Mart-like price. So how does the 175 stack up? Let's see.
This boat is a staple of the entry-level class that has been Bayliner's bread and butter for a few years. The 2009 175 comes with a redesign and face-lift. The windshield has a sportier rake but is still large enough to do its job properly, and it's secured to the console with two beefy supports that eliminate flex. Forward, the bow is sleekly tapered, which squeezes the bow cockpit a bit but not enough that it's unusable for an average-size adult. At the helm, there's an updated, easy-to-see gauge cluster. I wondered if glare might be an issue, but the gauges are angled to prevent it. Under-gunwale stowage is wide open, without any netting or shelving, which works well for fitting larger toys such as a wakeboard. It doesn't work, however, if you want to contain smaller objects, which can easily slide underfoot. The insole locker lid lifts out entirely, allowing access to a spacious compartment. Another update for this year is that the engine box -- flanked by two jump seats -- lifts on dual struts and has a thick rubber seal that should help dampen powertrain noise, an important consideration when your butt is parked in a jump seat and your armrest is on the engine box. The 175 is constructed with conventional glass-encapsulated plywood stringers that absorb hull and engine vibration well enough. As usual, I was impressed with the cockpit space Bayliner manages to wring out of its small boats.
The 175 planed smartly on its well-tested hull with 135 hp under the hatch. It also handled well overall and showed excellent stability at its top end. It held its line through corners and, despite my best efforts to get into trouble, kept its mild manners. On a 100-mph go-fast this would be construed as a putdown, but on a boat built for the first-time buyer, that's exactly the kind of handling you want. As for the price, well, at $12,499 -- less than the cost of some waterbikes -- the phrase "small miracle" comes to mind.
MSRP: Standard power - $12,499 Test power - $12,499
Contact: 800.233.3327 www.bayliner.com