The only outboard in the group, the 90-hp Mercury-equipped Nitro 175 Sport, finished in the 45-mph range and planed in just under three-and-a-half seconds. Nitro replaced the 23"-pitch aluminum prop with a 22"-pitch stainless-steel model, about a $300 upgrade.
The Glastron SX 175 had the lone Volvo Penta, the 3.0L GS with a 19" aluminum prop. Top speed reached 41.2 mph, but the boat posted the fastest time to plane, just over three seconds. This may be attributed to its 1,980 pounds, the lightest of the group.
The Rinker 180's top speed was 40.6 mph, and it took nearly five seconds to get on plane. It also pushed outside MerCruiser's suggested operating range, peaking just shy of 5000 rpm with a 19"-pitch prop.
Turn 'n Burn
The Bayliner 175 Capri had the best overall handling, exhibiting excellent top-end stability, holding its line through the corners, and suffering little when forced to contend with chop. That's a good combo for first-time boaters. A minor problem was found in hard starboard turns at high speeds - the engine occasionally felt starved for fuel, something we also noticed on the MerCruiser-equipped Stingray 180LS and Rinker 180. Mer-Cruiser says the reason is pure physics: The 3.0L has a sideways-mounted carb, and hard right turns cause the fuel to uncover the jets. Of course, most owners will never drive these boats as aggressively as we do during our tests.
The Stingray 180LS and Glastron SX 175 featured similar cornering abilities to those of the Bayliner 175 Capri. Stingray's hull eschews conventional protruding strakes in favor of horizontal Z-planes - flat channels cut into the hull. Our experience? Stingrays tend to be fast, although when pushed hard, both the Stingray and the Glastron occasionally felt light and not in touch with the water. The likely cause is that these hulls have a lot of lift. The truth is, some people find this fun; others don't. The Glastron boasts an impressive agility through hard corners. It also smoothed out the wind-blown chop on our test site with relative ease.
Being longer and wider and having a deeper cockpit, the Rinker looks bigger than the rest, so we thought it would have the smoothest ride. It cornered admirably but showed the most bowrise during acceleration, and its ride wasn't as soft as we had hoped. On the plus side, it was the lone model to come with power-assist steering, so you won't have to muscle it around. Glastron's and Stingray's power-assist is optional.
Finally, the Nitro 175 Sport handled like a bassboat. Turns were smooth, and it manuevered our wind-blown lake with a relatively calm ride.
Bang for the Buck
Don't base your decision only on lowest price; value is a better standard. So what makes a good value? The Bayliner 175 Capri offers solid performance, a lifetime hull warranty, and a roomy interior. A 12-volt accessory outlet is a nice extra, as is the JVC stereo. A negative, however, is its omission of a trim gauge. Experienced skippers may adjust trim by engine rpm or feel, but entry-level buyers aren't nearly as well versed. We also consider a trim indicator a must for launching and loading at the ramp. The Bayliner's helm seat is also the only model with just two positions. Still, the boat does most things quite well, and the entire package - boat, motor, and trailer - comes in at $13,795.