When the original Bayliner Element made its debut a few years back, we found a lot of things to like about it, most notably how its production signified Bayliner’s commitment to keeping boating easy and affordable. One thing we didn’t love about it was its size; with its 16 feet and 60 hp outboard we could see boaters easily outgrowing it. While that original Element is still a great-selling boat with a fantastic price, we’re bigger fans of the Element XL simply because it’s bigger.
The XL version has an overall length of 18 feet 2 inches and a 90 hp Mercury as its base power. That doesn’t seem like much, but on the water you definitely feel the difference. The boat feels roomier, more capable in a chop and, especially with our optional 115 hp test power, faster. Everyone in the family’s getting up on skis behind this boat, and with the optional fuel system that holds six extra gallons, they’re staying out a lot longer too.
The XL is still based on the M-hull, a hull design that functions like a trimaran, with the V running down the centerline and two V-shaped sponsons outboard with hard chines. This surface, which extends out to the full beam, creates an extremely stable and predictable hull. Unlike a traditional V-hull, the boat doesn’t dramatically tip from side to side with the shifting weight of a moving crew. During testing, the boat climbed onto plane in 3.7 seconds with minimal bow rise and hit 30 mph in 7.7 seconds. Also, whereas we could barely break 30 mph in the smaller Element, we were able to push this boat to 43 mph when we dropped the Bimini top. The M-hull doesn’t exhibit the same bite in turns as a traditional V-hull, though, which we noticed executing hard-over turns at 30 mph. Even so, the signature trait of this hull, other than the stability, is predictability. First-time boaters, and veteran boaters for that matter, will find no unpleasant handling surprises.
The layout is minimalist, with fixed seating at the helm and the side console, but spacious. The extended swim steps provide water access. The bow cockpit is a true social gathering point, especially compared with a similarly sized bowrider where two adults in the bow would likely knock knees. Plus, this boat is so easy to maintain and so spacious (it can easily hold its nine-person max capacity) that we’d call it not just a first boat, but a keeper.
Comparable Model: Stingray 192SC