Stingray 195RX

The 195RX's Z-plane hull produces faster speeds and smoother handling.

Emissions standards have come down hard on the entry-level bowrider market, resulting in small boats with big price tags. Stingray bucks the trend, discounting the 19-foot-6-inch 195RX ($21,995 with a catalyzed 135 hp MerCruiser 3.0) to a nationally advertised $15,496. Add a few minor options, trailer, dealer prep and freight, and it goes out the door for $19,995. That’s a price that invites plenty of first-timers to enter the boating market, while giving them a larger boat to boot.

I feared a 3.0-liter would be too wimpy to effectively power a 19-foot boat, but again Stingray defied conventional wisdom. Give credit to the brand’s trademark Z-plane hull. The design replaces conventional strakes with shingle-like panels that act as horizontal planing surfaces when powering out of the hole, and spray releases at speed. Stingray claims the smoother flow of water they produce gives the prop better bite, resulting in faster speeds and smoother handling. I just know it works. My test boat jumped onto plane in 3.5 seconds and peaked at 42.5 mph, all while displaying Stingray’s trademark aggressive-yet-predictable handling.

The RX’s bow sports a rather elongated V, leaving passengers more than four feet of length to stretch. The lack of a center seat at the bow’s point is a purposeful omission; safety concerns prompted designers to leave a nonslip step, rather than a cushioned perch, atop the insulated ice chest below. The bow cockpit is part of the deck mold; the main cockpit floor is marine plywood covered in carpet. Aft, a 5-foot-8-inch-wide bench is positioned in front of a 6-foot by 2-foot-8-inch sun pad. I’d just like to see dividers between the engine and stowage below. Without them, items can easily slide into the engine or bilge.

Ready to play? That same sun pad offers a nice place to sit while gearing up on the swim platform. Wakes are relatively minimal at skiing speeds. Raising the trim, I was able to shape a nice ramp for wakeboarding.

Comparable model: Bayliner 195 Discovery