Sea Ray’s SLX 260 debuts with a considerable buzz. The first sportboat to reflect the new design language Sea Ray introduced on the Sundancer 370 Outboard, it shares the latter’s S-shaped sheerline, prominent center crease (with pill-shaped logo) and aggressive forward jaw line. It’s the first Sea Ray model ever to be created by an all-female-led design team. It’s also the first SLX model to be offered in outboard power at this size range. (Sea Ray also offers an SLX 260 with sterndrive power.) Clearly, Sea Ray deems the SLX 260 ready to deliver on the hype.
An outboard’s advantages on a sportboat are many. Increased cockpit space and storage immediately come to mind, as do corrosion resistance, power-to-weight ratio and ease of maintenance. Outboards also have the advantage of being able to fully trim out of the water. That both the outboard and sterndrive versions debuted in just one single horsepower configuration—a Mercury Verado 300 V-8 for the outboard and MerCruiser 350 6.2-liter V-8 for the sterndrive—reflects not only what Sea Ray believes will be the sweet spot for this model, but also the reality of supply-chain constraints and the boat’s relatively late-season launch. I’d certainly expect -additional horsepower options heading into 2023.
Interior and Accessories
The 260 replaces the SLX 250 in Sea Ray’s plushest sportboat category. Though the interior may seem familiar at first glance, closer inspection reveals numerous upgrades. A 5-foot-2-inch-by-3-foot-4-inch aft sun pad remains the focus on a cove or sandbar; simply put, there’s more room for stuff. A USB charger, phone nook and audio controls are now more readily at hand, a transom trunk adds an insulated cooler and line storage within quick reach of the platform, and the port side of the pad lifts to reveal a massive lengthwise locker continuing below the cockpit seating, perfect for large items like lily-pad floats, modern inflatables, or multiple skis and boards. Raise the sun-pad module to expose what would be the sterndrive’s engine compartment and find a sizable, drop-in caddy, perfect for bulky items like covers. That this storage is conveniently at floor level rather than sunken below the cockpit floor isn’t lost on this aging boat tester. Remove the caddy to reveal a meticulously arrayed bilge, with easy access to pumps, the water tank, steering pump, batteries and a pre-assembled digital switching module.
Cockpit accommodations include an L-shaped bench, companion and helm seats forward, and a bench abaft the helm seat. Seating wraps the bow cockpit, and storage is found below nearly all of it, part of the boat’s 24-cubic-foot gain in capacity over its predecessor. Highlights include another sizable compartment that extends under the helm, with dedicated storage for pedestal tables and bow filler cushions.
As the saying goes, the genius is in the details. Rather than seat cushions and backrests butting tight, as is often the norm, gaps allow airflow to reach this common moisture point and make cleaning easy. Rather than bang against the helm console and inevitably mar the finish, a magnet holds the port head console door open. Nooks in the inwales by the captain and passenger are backed so the smaller items typically stashed there don’t slide rearward into the abyss. In addition to handy inductive charging at the dash, a practically invisible set of slots allows phones and even tablets to be propped horizontally or vertically.
And then there are the little touches that tick a boat tester’s checklist. Hatches and seats effortlessly elevate on gas shocks, undersides and interiors are finished, perimeter lips prevent water from intruding into compartments, and gaskets both seal and dampen vibration. Stainless-steel grab handles and cup holders are also seemingly ever-present.
Comparison shopping? Cobalt will always be a standard bearer in the upscale bowrider market. The 25-foot-5-inch R6 Outboard (starting at $144,677 with an identical Mercury 300 Verado in Cold Fusion White) weighs about 300 pounds less than the SLX and includes an 80-gallon fuel tank. It is also available with Yamaha outboards, which are not offered on the Sea Ray SLX 260.
Speaking of power delivery, I was impressed with how level the SLX came onto plane, avoiding the bow rise typical of a sportboat in this size range while en route to a top speed just shy of 50 mph. My lasting impression, however, might be the smoothness of the boat’s handling. Cranking the wheel hard over in a stretch of Florida’s Indian River, the hull banked without a hint of losing its bite or bogging down. When hitting wakes from passing cruisers, it produced nary a shudder nor rattle—impressive details from a well-thought-out, well-built boat.
How We Tested
- Engine: Mercury 300 Verado V-8
- Drive/Prop: Outboard/Mercury Rev 4 14.6″ x 19″ 4-blade stainless steel
- Gear Ratio: 1.85:1 Fuel Load: 57 gal. Crew Weight: 385 lb.
- Digital dash includes dual 9-inch Simrad touchscreens, Mercury VesselView, CZone digital switching and Active Trim.
- Elecronics include SmartCraft Digital Throttle & Shift, speed-based Active Trim, Fusion Bluetooth audio with DSP, Wi-Fi audio streaming with Apple AirPlay, and four 6.5-inch XS Series speakers.
- Power Tower incorporates a manual, extending sunshade that, unlike competitive models, can stay deployed at speed.
- No ventilation in the portside head compartment; a screened port would be a welcome addition.
- No options, at least for now, for higher horsepower.
Pricing and Specs
|$169,900 (with 300 hp Mercury Verado V-8)
|5’3″ (8’5″ with tower)
|Max Cabin Headroom:
|Mercury 300 Verado V-8
Speed, Efficiency, Operation
Sea Ray Boats – Knoxville, Tennessee; searay.com