Bayliner 185 Flight

You’re looking at one of the most-popular boats under 20 feet in the world. In fact, combine the Bayliner 185 and its smaller brother, the 175, and you’d have nearly one-third of the under-20 sport-boat market.

You're looking at one of the most-popular boats under 20 feet in the world. In fact, combine the Bayliner 185 and its smaller brother, the 175, and you'd have nearly one-third of the under-20 sport-boat market. While the 175 champions affordability, the 185 that we tested showcases how a buyer can get creative, keep the boat for the long run and still be tame on the budget.

Our test boat came with the optional Flight package, which adds a wakeboard tower, speakers and spreader lights, Bimini top plus an extended swim platform and extreme graphics. It also had the layout with a single bucket seat on the driver's side, leaving the cockpit space behind it unusually open for an 18-foot boat. Top speed hit nearly 50 mph with a MerCruiser 4.3-liter motor, and the three seconds it took to plane is plenty quick for towing watersports.

Prior experience with the base 185 has proven it to occupy a family of five all day. The kids hustle to sit in the bow where the movement across the water is unlike any other sensation. Tubing is a must-do, and the huge sun pad over the engine bay complements the molded-in swim platform when getting ready to ride. Add to all this the ease of transporting a boat weighing roughly 3,000 pounds and coming in at less than $16,000 (for the base model), and it's easy to understand why the 185 is on the short list of so many buyers.

Bayliner 185 Flight
Bayliner 185 Flight Certified Test ResultsBoating Magazine

Key Note: The standard 3.0-liter engine is economical and has enough power for most activities, but buyers should consider a little more for long-term satisfaction.

Standout Features
• Corner starboard jump seats on the stern can be flipped upside down to be used as steps to the transom, or for fishing platforms.
• We cannot overstate the security of deep cockpit seats for smaller passengers, and for a warmer ride in the cold.
• A 120-watt waterproof stereo with two Jensen midrange speakers is enough sound for this cockpit; there's also an MP3 jack.

Vital Stats
* Length Overall: 18'
* Beam: 7'7"
* Dry Weight: 2,285 lb.
* Fuel Capacity: 28 gal.
* Maximum HP (5.0L MPI): 220
* MSRP (test boat w/ Flight Package and MerCruiser 4.3): $22,377
* NMMA Certified: Yes

Test Drive
* Test Engine: MerCruiser 4.3
* Test Load: People (380 lb.); Fuel (28 gal.)
* Minimum Planing Speed: 16 mph @ 2,200 rpm
* Top Speed: 49.7 @ 4,900 RPM
* Time to Plane: 3.1 sec.
* Time to 30 MPH: 8.0 sec.