An 18-foot bowrider represents the entry point into boating for many families. The Bayliner 185 that greeted us at the dock looked like anything but a stripped-down economy model. Instead, the Flight Series Package ($3,536) added a wakeboard tower with integral Bimini top, extended swim platform, and smart graphics. Add the optional fiberglass liner, and you’ve got a boat that goes beyond bargain-priced special.
Bayliner has put a premium on space, both for passengers and the stuff they bring along for the ride. A new deck mold provides the security of deeper gunwales, and positions the windshield forward about two inches to increase cockpit space; that same change has added six inches of extra legroom below the consoles. Standard layout includes a back-to-back convertible lounge to port and jump seats flanking the engine box. Pop up those seats to form a sun pad. There’s even a handy table hidden below the engine box pad that can extend into the cockpit.
Base power in the 185 is a MerCruiser 3.0 TKS, a package we suspected would be underpowered. Instead, it surprised us by peaking at 43 mph, a respectable number given the boat’s target audience. Time to plane was a quick 3.9 seconds, and the boat hit the 30 mph mark in 9.4. Turn the wheel and you’ll find nimble, responsive handling.