You're looking at one of the most-popular boats under 20 feet in the world. In fact, combine the Bayliner 185 and its smaller brother, the 175, and you'd have nearly one-third of the under-20 sport-boat market. While the 175 champions affordability, the 185 that we tested showcases how a buyer can get creative, keep the boat for the long run and still be tame on the budget.
Our test boat came with the optional Flight package, which adds a wakeboard tower, speakers and spreader lights, Bimini top plus an extended swim platform and extreme graphics. It also had the layout with a single bucket seat on the driver's side, leaving the cockpit space behind it unusually open for an 18-foot boat. Top speed hit nearly 50 mph with a MerCruiser 4.3-liter motor, and the three seconds it took to plane is plenty quick for towing watersports.
Prior experience with the base 185 has proven it to occupy a family of five all day. The kids hustle to sit in the bow where the movement across the water is unlike any other sensation. Tubing is a must-do, and the huge sun pad over the engine bay complements the molded-in swim platform when getting ready to ride. Add to all this the ease of transporting a boat weighing roughly 3,000 pounds and coming in at less than $16,000 (for the base model), and it's easy to understand why the 185 is on the short list of so many buyers.
Key Note: The standard 3.0-liter engine is economical and has enough power for most activities, but buyers should consider a little more for long-term satisfaction.
• Corner starboard jump seats on the stern can be flipped upside down to be used as steps to the transom, or for fishing platforms.
• We cannot overstate the security of deep cockpit seats for smaller passengers, and for a warmer ride in the cold.
• A 120-watt waterproof stereo with two Jensen midrange speakers is enough sound for this cockpit; there's also an MP3 jack.
- Vital Stats
- Length Overall: 18'
- Beam: 7'7"
- Dry Weight: 2,285 lb.
- Fuel Capacity: 28 gal.
- Maximum HP (5.0L MPI): 220
- MSRP (test boat w/ Flight Package and MerCruiser 4.3): $22,377
- NMMA Certified: Yes
- Test Drive
- Test Engine: MerCruiser 4.3
- Test Load: People (380 lb.); Fuel (28 gal.)
- Minimum Planing Speed: 16 mph @ 2,200 rpm
- Top Speed: 49.7 @ 4,900 RPM
- Time to Plane: 3.1 sec.
- Time to 30 MPH: 8.0 sec.