Sea Ray's 310 Sundancer is so spanking new that we pulled major strings, and some major wool over competing magazine's eyes, to get you the scoop. This is the third iteration of the 310 Sundancer I've evaluated since 1997-and it's hot. Inventive seating gives the 310 Sundancer flexible amenities, allowing you to entertain or cruise with convenience. Stoutly constructed and rigged for easy service and good reliability, it should prove to be a hassle-free boat to run and own. I found lots of other plusses aboard the 310 Sundancer. It boasts grabhandles everywhere, there's a galvanic isolator to inhibit corrosion of the throughhull fittings, and the remarkably vapor-tight design of the bulkhead that separates the engines from the cabin has even impressed ABYC officials. Sea Ray also hardwired the carbon monoxide detector to the generator so that if the CO detector fails, or is shut off inadvertently, the genset won't start. Plus, the generator is a costlier low-CO model.
Sure, the drainage in the stowage lockers in the transom platform needs to be improved-about a quarter inch of water stands in them after a run. Even so, you'll be hardpressed to find a better midsized express cruiser.
It's easy to get a six-ton boat with a deep-V hull to jump up and run-use mega horsepower. It's more impressive to get brisk acceleration and a speedy top end with only a pair of small-block V-8s. The 310 Sundancer's twin 260-hp MerCruiser 5.0L MAG DTS Seacore Bravo Three stern drives had me hurtling along in excess of 45 mph with surprising ease.
Certainly, 600 ponies is no small herd, but there's more a-hoof here. The 310 Sundancer is a product of Sea Ray's massive engineering and product development, the industry's most extensive. Five-axis routers are used to carve the plugs from which the hull molds are made. Proprietary CAD/CAM software, in conjunction with a slew of protractor-slinging engineering geeks, ensures that everything from weight distribution to the impossible-tosee subtleties of hull shape are tweaked to glean the most get-up-and-go from each iota of power.
Grab the levers. Don't be tentative. Push those electronic controls down like you mean it and get the engines turning 3000 rpm as fast as you can. I noticed no excessive slip, cavitation, or ventilation. The result was a smooth, quick transition from idle to going good. From there press down some more-you'll find acceleration on tap. The 310 Sundancer didn't require much drive trim: just a hair will lift the bow enough to get the ride feeling sporty and controlled. Because of that, I didn't gripe too loud about the hydraulic trim tabs; however, electric ones would respond quicker.
Although the Axius joystick system is available aboard the 310 Sundancer (price not set at press time), my tester wasn't so equipped. I can say that it spun nicely in place as I opposed the levers and lightly feathered the throttle of the engine that was in reverse. With this boat, you can sidle up to a crowded dock in confidence.
Visibility from the helm was good in all directions at all speeds. While standing, I did feel some noticeable wind blast with the canvas down. After we put the canvas up, there wasn't a breath of it to be found inside the enclosure. In addition to being snapped to the windshield and the standard radar arch ("sport spoiler," in Sea Ray's parlance), a closer look revealed a tubular gasket affixed to the canvas above the snaps. Not only does this gasket fill the inevitable gaps in even the best new canvas, but as the fabric and frame age, it'll continue to help thwart rain and spray.
Can You Hear What I'm Seeing?
The 310 Sundancer's helm bench contributes largely to the good visibility and ergonomics I experienced while running and docking, thanks to the generous amount of travel incorporated into its foreand- aft adjustability. But this doublewide bench is part of a larger theme, one I've seen implemented and improved upon during the last two years aboard several Sea Ray models. Let's call it using the same space for two purposes. Aboard the 310 Sundancer, there are five key spots in which this occurs and the helm bench is one of them.
First, there's a driver's seat with room for your mate. But dockside, release a catch and it swivels around to face the cockpit and those seated at the L-shaped aft lounge. But look quick. That lounge changes shape and purpose as easily as the helm bench. A good tug releases the backrest, allowing it to lie flat and form a sunlounge. (That it does so while retaining a lazarette for stowage is cool.) Other boats have aft lounges with fold-out backrests. Monterey's 300 SCR ($180,949 powered like my test boat) has a neat morphing aft lounge. But I haven't seen one yet that uses the other leg of the "L" the way Sea Ray does aboard the 310 Sundancer. Pull open the stowage drawer under the seat's base. It rests securely on the cockpit sole. Now insert the cushion from the lounge and you have a cockpit dinette, allowing guests to sit around the table facing each other. And you don't lose the stowage space in the drawer when it's used as a seat base. There's plenty of room, despite the proximity of the wetbar just opposite.
The fourth place multiple uses are gotten from one space is in the cabin. Here, Sea Ray installed a mini-dinette opposite the galley. This converts to a single sleeper, but I'd leave it erected, as it's a great place to sit, enjoy a cool one, read Boating, check your Blackberry, or just watch the light change while swinging at anchor. This dinette is in addition to the traditional table for the convertible V-berth, also standard. As a bed, you can't beat this berth for size: I taped it at 6'5"-by-6'5". Huge.
The cabin's standard maple sole complements its hardwood cabinetry. A foredeck skylight, plus hatches and ports, allow gobs of light. The head is equipped with a vacuum-flush commode, not a cheaper, water-wasting "electric head" that other builders often foist on us. The galley sink is large, and just as important, it's vertical sided. Ever wondered what happens to one of those chi-chi bowl sinks when it's half full and a wake rocks your slip or anchorage?
Yep, from performance and efficiency to amenities and equipment, Sea Ray's 310 Sundancer embodies the best of everything-including the kitchen sink.
MSRP: Test Power - $172,900
Contact: 800-772-6287 www.searay.com