Another sign of the times? Builders are paying increasingly more attention to the lowest end of the price scale in boats. For most families, that means the 17' bowrider, a boat that costs little, is simple to trailer and store, and can handle taking Mom and Dad for a cruise one minute, and the kids skiing and wakeboarding the next. If he's lucky, Dad might even squeeze in a little fishing. All for a price that will allow him to afford the gas to use the boat each weekend rather than watch it collect mold in the driveway. Which of these contenders is the best steal?
Displacement(lbs., approx.): 1,847
Transom deadrise: 19°
Fuel capacity(gal.): 21
Price(w/135-hp MerCruiser 3.0 Alpha 1): $13,124
Details: The Bayliner 175 has been freshened up for 2009 with a sportier curved windshield, updated gauge cluster, and sleek new engine box. The latter's hinged lid rises on pneumatic struts and features a thick rubber seal. The bow cockpit is sized for kids, but the sheerline reverses, creating a dip to the bow that makes seating less secure. Single-color hull, with taped graphics. Two-color vinyl. Open tray, rather than glovebox. No standard radio.
Construction: Bayliner features a lifetime warranty on its traditionally laid-up hull. Stringers are fabricated from lifetime guaranteed marine plywood, then encapsulated in glass. They absorb engine and hull vibration. The cockpit floor is likewise marine ply, with a glued-down carpet. Vinyl trim eliminates any rough edges on fiberglass inwales. Cleats are secured against a backing block, which is glassed into the underside of the deck. The bow cockpit is part of the deck mold.
Performance: The Bayliner is the lightest boat here by nearly 200 pounds, a stat that gives it an impressive power-to-weight ratio given its 135-hp MerCruiser 3.0 engine. It jumps onto plane in 3.5 seconds and tops out at 44.5 mph. Although we expected its light weight to affect top-end stability, the ride was surprisingly solid. Cornering ability was also impressive, making the 175 a fun and nimble performer. The 135-hp MerCruiser is the only engine option.
Highs & Lows
Highs: Engine vents under the hatch lid reduce noise. Nonslip on transom, top of motorbox. Good windshield support. Removable engine box offers maintenance access. Standard trailer.
Lows: No standard radio. No strap to secure windshield. No stowage liner. Four cleats total, no real bow cleats. Two-step ladder. No armrest for driver's throttle arm