Boat Test: 2023 Sea Ray SLX 280 Outboard

Outboard performance on a luxury family runabout.
Sea Ray SLX 280 Outboard cruising
The SLX 280 Outboard mixes great handling with impressive midrange acceleration. Tom King


I’ve been in many different versions of Sea Ray’s SLX over the years, but I can’t say that any of them were more fun to drive than the new SLX 280 Outboard. With the standard twin 250 hp Mercury ­Verado outboards on the transom, the boat jumped onto plane in 3.9 seconds and hit 30 mph in 7.6 seconds en route to a 55.6 mph top-end speed. Those are impressive numbers for a 28-foot family runabout. In turns at speed, the boat handled like a sports car with great midrange acceleration. With the Active Trim engaged, the boat automatically adjusted to our speed and the conditions. I also took the boat outside the inlet and put it through its paces in some well-spaced 3-foot swells. The boat performed well in following, quartering and head seas, and no one hanging out in the main cockpit got wet or felt uncomfortable. We also experienced no shuttering, rattling or slamming hatches because the boat felt solid and secure during our runs.


Handling in close quarters was absolutely no problem thanks to the standard joystick control. Easing in and out of our slip took no effort. When we had to wait a few times to transit under a bridge, I pressed the Skyhook Digital Anchor button to lock our positioning in place. If you like to dock old-school by working the throttles, the DTS steering is super-seemless and responsive, so there’s not as much lag time when switching between forward, neutral and reverse. Overall, the outboard package makes the SLX 280 a truly dynamic boat. There’s just something about twins on the transom that makes for a magical ride.

Sea Ray SLX 280 Outboard bow seating
Forward-facing backrests maximize comfort in the bow. Courtesy Sea Ray Boats

Interior and Accessories

When you combine the boat’s smooth performance with all of the family-friendly seating and storage, you get a solid win. Sea Ray’s design team expanded the social space in the main cockpit with plush seating along both gunwales. The doublewide captain’s seat can rotate to face fully aft for joining the fun while the boat is at rest, as can the high-backed chair in front of the port head console. Doing this creates an amazing conversation pit for a raft-up or while chilling on anchor. The full windshield and wind stop helped to keep wind noises to a minimum so we could easily chat while underway. The quiet Verados also help keep the conversation flowing and allow you to hear your tunes without cranking the volume to 11. Those who want to get a tan can stretch out on the huge transom sun pad. Oh yeah, bring all the toys and gear you want for a day on the water—odds are good that every item can fit in the massive stowage space under the sun pad, a spot normally reserved for a sterndrive engine on similar boats. With outboards, you gain in interior stowage but lose the giant extended swim platform off the transom found on most high-end sterndrive boats. Sea Ray did a good job in creating space to walk around the outboards and access the water via the swim steps to each side of the engines. The starboard-side swim ladder is also angled to keep swimmers away from the propeller while reboarding. The flip-up boarding step on the starboard side is an added bonus because it makes it easy to board or disembark when docked side-to. It’s a feature that makes the boat even more family-friendly.

Sea Ray SLX 280 Outboard helm
Easily keep an eye on things with the large twin screens. Courtesy Sea Ray Boats

The entertainment center behind the helm adds to the sociability, as does the optional pullout refrigerator drawer built into the fiberglass helm bench-seat base. It should be noted that a drawer is favorable to a traditional fridge with a vertical door because stuff won’t fall onto the deck when you open it. The Fusion stereo system pumps your favorite tunes through the boat with quality sound.

Sea Ray SLX 280 Outboard cockpit seating
There’s plush seating along both gunwales. Courtesy Sea Ray Boats

The head in the port console makes a great changing room. Add the pump-out head system to make the SLX 280 Outboard even more family-friendly. The whole cockpit is covered by the electrically actuated Power Tower, which lowers at the push of a button for bridges and trailering. An extended sunshade rolls out to cover the sun pad area too.

No bowrider would be complete without space to sit in the bow, and Sea Ray achieves this nicely with forward-facing backrests and flip-up armrests on the consoles, and strategically placed grab rails for safety. The starboard-side underseat hatch opens up to reveal a cool dedicated stowage spot for the bow and main cockpit tables. Each table is shaped to fit perfectly in place in the bow or main cockpit. Our test boat had the optional windlass system that made dropping the hook a ­no-brainer. The optional freshwater washdown option on the bow helps clean any muck or gunk that comes up on the anchor and rode after some time on the hook. A sturdy chain stop keeps the anchor securely in place when not in use.

Sea Ray SLX 280 Outboard aft sunpad
The huge transom sun pad is a great place to hang out. Courtesy Sea Ray Boats

Other builders make large outboard-­powered dayboats, but most are smaller and offer only single-engine power choices. ­Chaparral’s 280 OSX is a comparable-size runabout that starts at $272,786 with twin 250 Yamaha outboards and digital steering. Chris-Craft builds an outboard version of its 28 Launch GT that starts at $281,570 with a single 350 Mercury Verado, but it does not have an option for twin engines.

It’s hard to argue with a runabout’s versatility no matter the power choice. With all of the standards and luxury options, the Sea Ray SLX 280 Outboard adds up to a winning combination of performance, luxury and family fun.

Sea Ray SLX 280 Outboard extended top
On test day, a cool trick we learned during unexpected weather is to lower the Power Tower to create an almost-enclosed cockpit to help keep the rain out. Courtesy Sea Ray Boats

How We Tested

  • Engines: Twin 250 hp Mercury Verados
  • Drive/Props: Outboard/15 1/4” x 19″ Enertia 3-blade stainless steel
  • Gear Ratio: 1.85:1 Fuel Load: 108 gal. Water on Board: 200 gal. Crew Weight: 400 lb.

High Points 

  • Moving the power source to the transom allows for a massive amount of storage space, particularly under the sun pad covering what would be the sterndrive engine box.
  • Flip-up boarding step in the cockpit to starboard makes for easy side-to boarding and unloading at the dock.
  • Doublewide helm seat and opposing co-captain’s seat at the port console both rotate aft to create an awesome conversation pit.

Low Points

  • Outboard power always restricts water access from the swim platform area, though Sea Ray does a good job with the space.
  • The 9-foot beam makes the boat subject to trailering restrictions in many states.

Pricing and Specs

Price:$264,504 (base with test power)
Draft (max):3’0″
Displacement (approx.):8,053 lb.
Transom Deadrise:21 degrees
Bridge Clearance:9’10”
Max Cabin Headroom:4’6″
Fuel Capacity:135 gal.
Max Horsepower:500
Available Power:Twin Mercury Verado outboard motors to 500 hp total

Speed, Efficiency, Operation

Sea Ray SLX 280 Outboard performance chart
Sea Ray SLX 280 Outboard Certified Test Results Boating Magazine

Sea Ray Boats – Knoxville, Tennessee;