By offsetting some costly luxuries to the options list and forgoing others entirely, Bayliner's stout, sleek 320 Cruiser gives you all the cruising essentials for a surprisingly low price. For example, does it have cedar-lined lockers? No, but cedar doesn't prevent mildew, it just hides the smell. And no, it doesn't have a solid-surface cockpit table, but I've never had a guest complain about sitting down to Formica, have you? Teak cabin steps? No again. The 320 Cruiser's companionway has vinyl nonslip instead. Need to pump up your biceps a bit? Good, because the engine hatch lifts manually. If you must impress your friends by pushing a button and saying "Open Sesame," then spring for the Preferred Equipment Package ($3,793), which includes a bow cushion, cockpit refrigerator, transom stereo remote, and a gel coat boot stripe.
Blustery test conditions proved the 320 Cruiser isn't a boat you leave in the slip. I headed across the chop but didn't put up the canvas, which proved irrelevant as we transitioned over the hump and onto plane with just a whiff of spray. Heading up sea into tightly spaced two-footers, I pushed the throttles, adjusted the drives, and had the 320 Cruiser dialed in to a soft 25-mph gallop. Running down sea, light-handed coaxing is all it took to stay on course. Top speed was 47.2 mph.
Equipped with twin 300-hp MerCruiser 350 MAG MPI Axius Bravo stern drives, my test boat had joystick docking ($21,964), but I put it in the slip the old-fashioned way. The 320 Cruiser is well behaved in close quarters with throttle and shift alone.
Seating aboard the 320 Cruiser is clever. Topside, instead of separate seating areas, there's one continuous serpentine lounge, which means less mold work, less assembly, and less cost. A backrest protrudes from the inwale allowing guests to recline while facing aft or forward. Or you can delete the backrest and get one big lounge. Similarly, the V-berth extends aft, forming the dinette seat.
Cabin highlights include a walk-in aft stateroom with privacy door, a patch of teak-and-holly sole at the galley, and a massive amount of natural light courtesy of hull windows, portholes, and numerous hatches and skylights overhead.
MSRP: Standard power - $139,013 Test power - $160,977 ****
Contact: 800.443.9119 www.bayliner.com