The Stingray 180LS includes several nice extras - an hourmeter, 12-volt outlet, convertible top, and cockpit lighting are all standard. Power and tilt steering, two seating layouts, and a full fiberglass liner are appealing options. Then there's its speed. Stingray boasts a mark near 50 mph while using an economical 3.0-liter engine; the others may leave you performance hungry after the first season. The bow cockpit isn't very big, however, and that light feel at high speed could unnerve some novices. Stingray's pricing is both a low and a high point. At $13,550 without a trailer, it's on the upper end of the market. But the company periodically runs advertised specials on the boat/motor package (try the fall and boat show seasons) for $10,995. Add $1,300 or so for a decent trailer, and it's still a bargain.
The Glastron 175 SX's greatest value may be its lifetime hull warranty and all-fiberglass VEC construction. Saltwater boaters especially will appreciate the ability to simply hose down the cockpit at day's end. It also features the roomiest bow cockpit in the class, the option of a tilt wheel, and a choice of two colors. Although the boat displays the quickest acceleration time, its 41.2-mph top-end speed tested at the low end of this group's range. Its price, though, is impressive: $13,983 for boat, motor, and trailer. The company also advertises specials down to $10,988.
The Nitro 175 Sport offers a well-rounded package that finished right on target - $13,995, including a removable trolling motor, depthfinder, and trailer. It plays both skier and fisher, but its fishing side wins out.
Overall, the Rinker 180 is another good deal. It features fiberglass stringers, power-assisted steering, a choice of hull color, and a convertible top. A deep cockpit offers security, but it can be a challenge at the dock. The boat's performance numbers, ride, and bow space were a bit off the pace of the frontrunners. Its price is a $12,995 - add another $1,300 if you want a trailer.
LOA .....17'9" Beam .....6'11" Draft .....2'8" Displacement (lbs., approx)...2,140 Transom deadrise...17° Bridge clearance ..3'10" Minimum cockpit depth ..2'3" Fuel capacity (gal.)...23 Price (w/standard power) .........$13,795 Price (w/test power) ..........$13,795 STANDARD POWER: Single 135-hp MerCruiser 3.0L Alpha in-line-4 gasoline stern drive
OPTIONAL POWER: None.
TEST BOAT POWER: Single 135-hp MerCruiser 3.0L Alpha in-line-4 gasoline stern drive with 181 cid, 4.00" bore x 3.60" stroke, swinging a 14 1/2" x 21" three-bladed aluminum prop through a 2.0:1 reduction.
STANDARD EQUIPMENT (major items): JVC AM/FM cassette stereo w/2 speakers; 3-step ss swim ladder; 3 ss cleats; 12-volt receptacle; auto. bilge pump; painted trailer.
Obviously, no boat, particularly in this size and price range, can be perfect. Tradeoffs are a given, and manufacturers have placed their greatest value in different areas. As we discovered with our tests, each of these boats has strengths and weaknesses.That said, it's worth noting that a lot of boat, motor, and trailer can be had for a reasonable price. In other words, you won't go wrong with any of these boats. The ultimate choice boils down to which offers the best features for you, your family, and your boating environment. In the end, though, we give the nod to the Bayliner 175 Capri for its ability to combine a spacious layout, confident ride, limited lifetime hull warranty, and with solid performance numbers in a package with an extremely competitive $13,795 retail price. We just have one favor to ask: Put a trim gauge on that baby, okay?