Outboard Versus Sterndrive: Sea Ray SLX 310

You can compare the same boat with two power choices.

It's always a question: Is outboard or sterndrive power superior? An especially fine point is put on the topic when you have chosen a boat that is offered with multiple power types. It can be a dilemma.

To help you sort through it, we have combined two separate boat tests of the Sea Ray SLX 310, a premium bowrider offered with your choice of sterndrive or outboard power.

Sea Ray SLX 310 with Sterndrive
A look at the Sea Ray SLX 310 ( powered by sterndrive)Courtesy Sea Ray Boats
Sea Ray SLX 310 OB
A look at the Sea Ray SLX 310 OBCourtesy Sea Ray Boats

We tested each of these boats on different days and at different places, with different loads and in different sea conditions. This combination is not presented as a definitive comparison, but rather as a tool to help you formulate whether sterndrive or outboard power is best for you. The info that can be extrapolated from such a comparison, is, we think, valuable whether you are seeking to purchase this Sea Ray, or any boat offered with both sterndrive and outboard power.

For a more in-depth feature describing the plusses and minuses of outboard and sterndrives, click here.

Sea Ray SLX 310
Sea Ray SLX 310 (twin 250-hp sterndrive) Certified Test ResultsBoating Magazine
Sea Ray SLX 310 Outboard
Sea Ray SLX 310 Outboard (twin 300-hp outboards) Certified Test ResultsBoating Magazine

Sea Ray SLX 310 Outboard

Sea Ray SLX 310 Outboard
LOA: 33'10" | Beam: 10'2" | Draft (max): 2'8" | Displacement (approx.): 10,335 lb. | Transom Deadrise: 21 degrees | Bridge Clearance: 9'0" | Fuel Capacity: 158 gal. | Water Capacity: 24 gal. | Max Horsepower: 700 | Available Power: Twin Mercury four-stroke outboards | More Information: searay.comCourtesy Sea Ray Boats

High Points

  • Helm features double-wide bench with independent bolsters and twin cup holders in the dash, to accommodate the captain and first mate.
  • Extra-wide backrests and flip-up armrests enhance comfort in the bow lounge.
  • Outboard setup increases interior storage capacity versus sterndrive power.
  • Outboards prove more corrosion-resistant for coastal boaters

Not even a decade ago, if you had uttered the words “outboard-powered bowrider,” I would have in my mind’s eye pictured an entry-level 16-footer with a single 90 hp on the transom. Today seemingly every major boatbuilder offers an outboard version of its ­mega-bowrider or dayboat models, seeking to capitalize on the booming popularity of this power choice. In this increasingly crowded field, what does the Sea Ray SLX 310 OB bring to the table? Serious style and creature comforts. Not to mention a nice performance.

In lieu of sterndrives, our test SLX came powered with twin Mercury 300 Verados. While you can upgrade to 350s, the smaller engines did the job, smoothly propelling the boat to a 52 mph top speed while ­comfortably seating a crew of five. With Sea Ray’s standard hull form, featuring a classic V that tapers to 21 degrees at the transom, the SLX handled smoothly and predictably in lock-to-lock turns at 30 mph. All the while it handled other boat wakes and a moderate bay chop without pounding or rattling. The Verados were whisper-quiet at idle speeds, and even at wide-open throttle most of the sound registered on our decibel meter came from the ambient wind noise.

But if you’re buying this boat, you’re most likely wondering how it handles a crowd. During our test runs, we had two passengers stretched out in the bow lounge, nestled against the forward-facing backrests. Neither passenger obstructed the view from the console seating in the main cockpit, especially important at the helm. For the driver, the independent flip-up bolster made it easy to decide between standing or sitting, and the dash proved easy to read from either angle. The DTS throttle made for seamless shifting, and the optional joystick system rendered close-quarters handling a nonissue.

A well-appointed head in the port console is there if needed, and the double-wide seat rotates to form a conversation pit with the helm and the L-shaped lounge in the cockpit while at anchor. The adjustable aft sun pad is a plus for those looking to tan and lounge. And don’t forget the wet bar and aft-facing love seat behind the helm.

Low Points

  • Outboards eat up much of the swim platform space, a trade-off for this power choice versus sterndrives.
  • Aft entertainment center counter could use a fiddle to keep things from sliding off it.

Toughest Competitor
The Formula 310 Bowrider ($356,630 with twin Mercury 350 Verados) is a slightly slimmer, lighter and more performance-oriented bowrider.

Price: $241,000 (with test power)

Available Power: Outboard

How We Tested
Engine: Twin 300 hp Mercury 300 Verado four-stroke outboards
Props: 151/4" x 19" 4-blade stainless steel
Gear Ratio: 1.85:1
Fuel Load: 40 gal.
Water on Board: 0 gal.
Crew Weight: 680 lb.

Sea Ray SLX 310

Sea Ray SLX 310
LOA: 31'6" | Beam: 10'2" | Draft: 3'2" | Displacement: 10,787 lb. | Transom Deadrise: 21 degrees | Bridge Clearance: 8'2" | Fuel Capacity: 130 gal. | Max Horsepower: 700 | Available Power: Twin MerCruiser gasoline sterndrives to 350 hp, diesel sterndrives to 260 hp | More Information: searay.comCourtesy Sea Ray Boats

High Points

  • User-friendly touchscreen is backed up with manual switches for critical functions, such as the blower, bilge pump and horn.
  • Five-position seat back rises from within the sun pad for those who prefer a more traditional bench or to accommodate those gearing up for a watersports session.
  • Standard tower lowers at the touch of a switch and includes an articulating Bimini for shade.

Supersize bowriders are for social butterflies, a fact Sea Ray clearly emphasizes aboard the crowd-friendly 310 SLX. Split the party between the adult-proportioned bow cockpit, doublewide helm and passenger seats, L-shaped cockpit bench and one more perch behind the helm. Nose up to the sandbar and the stern competes for attention with a 5-foot-4-inch by 3-foot-2-inch sun pad with a full backrest, inviting swim platform and optional yacht-style, submersible swim platform. Seating is decidedly upscale, covered in rich three-tone vinyl with exquisite detail stitching and flanked by leather-wrapped stainless-steel grab handles. The starboard wet bar comes standard. A generous port-console head compartment with 4 feet 6 inches of headroom, stainless-steel sink and standard VacuFlush toilet is ready for those who need to make use of the facilities before the clock strikes midnight.

Behind the big, comfy-couch trappings, Sea Ray embraces plenty of tech. Turn the key and the seemingly barren dash comes alive with Sea Ray’s Dynamic Display, a pair of 12- and 7-inch Medallion-designed color touchscreens that provide navigation and vessel data and eliminate nearly all switches from the dash. SmartCraft Digital Throttle and Shift (DTS) offers precision control of engines and shifting, and the optional Axius joystick control makes virtually anyone an old salt at docking. Even the hull can be tech-enhanced. The optional Dynamic Running Surface features two large, triangular trim plates flush-mounted into the aft corners of the hull. Using a combination of GPS data, gyroscopes, accelerometers and software, the tabs adjust to reduce bow rise, improve acceleration, find the most efficient running angle, or even shape and size wakes for wakeboarding and skiing. Manual override keeps things sane for captains who prefer total control.

Our test boat was powered by a pair of Mercury’s newest 250 hp MerCruiser 4.5-liter engines, matched to Bravo Three drives. The pair powered the 310 onto plane in 5.3 seconds and reached 30 mph in 11.5 seconds. Activating the ride-enhancing, wake-shaping Dynamic Running Surface, we bested our time to 30 mph by a second. Underway, Sea Ray’s Quiet Ride technology, a system of acoustic insulation, vibration-dampening materials and careful design choices, kept noise levels to 80 decibels at an economical 28 mph cruise, never drowning out the guests.

Comparable Model: Cobalt R30

Low Points

  • Port console door impacts the helm console when fully open and would benefit from a hinge stop.

  • Sterndrives less corrosion-resistant than outboard power

  • Sterndrive power takes up stowage space versus outboard version.

Price: $215,054 (with test power)

Available Power: Twin MerCruiser gasoline sterndrives to 350 hp, diesel sterndrives to 260 hp

How We Tested
Engine: Twin 250-hp MerCruiser 4.5L MPI ECT Bravo Three sterndrives with DTS
Drive/Prop: Bravo Three/22.5" pitch stainless-steel propsets
Gear Ratio: 2.2:1
Fuel Load: 24 gal.
Crew Weight: 350 lb.

More Information
Sea Ray Boats - Knoxville, Tennessee; 856-522-4181; searay.com