The new Element E21 is a fresh expression of the Bayliner mission: Create boats that are affordable to buy and easy to own and operate, and more people will go boating. Priced as low as $25,500, the 20-foot-8-inch E21 offers a practical design that will be an alternative to the pre-owned boat many consumers might consider with this budget in hand, and unlike a Craigslist special, a new Element comes with a warranty.
The E21 is a wide-open, dual-console deck boat that, in its base configuration, has no windshield (a glass windshield is a $1,271 option). The hull, stringers and deck are all fiberglass, and the deck incorporates all the seat bases and the consoles, eliminating many smaller molded parts and thus cutting costs, a repetitive theme in this boat. The base-price boat is rigged with the Mercury 115 FourStroke outboard, but we tested with the upgraded Mercury 150 FourStroke, which adds $4,142 to the bottom line.
The E21 features a deep transom platform forward of the outboard plus a pair of wing platforms port and starboard. The motorwell is covered to make it easy to walk across the platform. The cockpit is self-bailing, and there is fiberglass-lined stowage under each of the three U-lounge seat cushions. The battery and battery switch are below the starboard seat and will be easy to reach for service. The cushions are secured by turn-button fasteners through vinyl tabs on the front. No hinges or gas struts on this boat. The backrests curve with the contours of the inwale and are attractive, and the dual-color upholstery spruces up this basic no-frills interior.
The console seats are simple cushions mounted on bases molded as part of the deck. Stowage in the port console will hold some gear. The helm has a plastic wheel and analog gauges. The Jensen audio system on our test boat is an option ($507).
The shape of the bow area is identical to the same space on the Element E16/18 — all three boats use the same seat cushions to keep costs down. There’s a hinged storage compartment below the center cushion but no dedicated anchor locker.
The E21 rides on a modified version of the patented Bayliner M-Hull that was introduced for previous Element E16/18 models. Outstanding small-boat stability and maneuverability are the design goals of the M-Hull, which features a V-center section flanked by deep chines and outboard sponsons. The sponsons, which run all the way forward like the chines on a deck boat, are slightly deeper than the keel and promote stability at rest. The M-Hull under the E21 is a little different. The keel is deeper than the sponsons by about 8 inches at the bow and 4 inches at the transom. The thinking is this 21-footer will likely see rougher water than the little 16 or 18 and, of course, will be faster. The deep center section softens the ride and also helps keep the prop hooked up in turns.
Economy will certainly be another byproduct of this hull design. Powered by the Merc 150, the E21 popped on plane with no bow rise, would hold plane at just 2,500 rpm, and will achieve 5 mpg if you are willing to run at about 20 mph. Unlike the smaller Element models, the E21 will take some motor trim, but the boat seems designed to run very level and turns better when trimmed down. The boat slapped a little through wakes, but that’s going to be the trade-off for the stability of the M-Hull. We did not get to run this boat in any choppy water.
A comparable boat for price-conscious buyers is the Stingray 182SC at a base price of about $28,000 with a 115 hp outboard. The 19-foot-1-inch deck boat offers a wide-open layout but no port console.
The base price of the E21 includes a trailer, but many common features are options, including a Bimini top ($679), ski pylon ($286), cockpit carpet ($379), cockpit table ($271), bow and aft filler cushions ($357 each), and automatic bilge pump ($43), in addition to the audio system and windshield already mentioned. This builds the price out a little, but on other hand, you won’t pay for things you don’t really want. And if all you really want is to get out on the water, this Element will be all the boat you need.
* Low, low price point, with a warranty.
* Full transom platform plus boarding wings.
* M-Hull delivers stability and fast-planing economy.
* Made in Mexico, if that matters to you.
* Desirable features — like a windshield, audio system and auto bilge pump — are options.
* Turn buttons on the aft seat cushions are potential leg-snaggers.
Price: $29,711 (base with test power)
Available Power: Outboard
How We Tested
Engine: Single 150 hp Mercury 150 FourStroke outboard
Drive/Prop: Mercury Black Max 14.5″ x 19″ 3-blade aluminum
Gear Ratio: 1.92:1
Fuel Load: 25 gal.
Crew Weight: 400 lb.
Knoxville, Tennessee; 360-435-8957; bayliner.com