Upscale used to describe a level of trim in the bowrider market. Today, it’s almost become the norm in the 25-foot range. Hulls boast contour lines that look sculpted rather than popped out of something as mundane as a mold. Interiors showcase rich, supple materials in designer color palettes. How does a boat like Sea Ray’s SLX 250 stand out in a similarly posh crowd? Why, it’s all in the details. Stainless-steel grab handles are wrapped in a material you’d swear was leather. The three-spoke steering wheel, with its brushed-metal hub, is downright elegant. The bottom of the curved glass windshield just, well, just ends rather than be confined to a metal frame. So cool. And then there’s the luxury provided by things you can’t readily see. Sea Ray’s Quiet Ride technology combines a tuned transom with sound-dampening materials — including one that converts sound energy to heat — to make sure the passenger experience is a pleasure for all the senses. You can hear Boating’s video test of Quiet Ride for yourself over at boatingmag.com/boats/sea-rays-quiet-ride.
A high-end model like the SLX 250 is just as apt to be taking the family out for fun as it is entertaining guests or clients. Either way, the layout accommodates. The bow cockpit invites a pair to stretch out on the 4-foot-long seats. Sit upright and the seating capacity rises considerably, especially given the extra 3 feet of space created by squaring the cockpit’s forward perimeter. Captain and co-pilot enjoy individual seats with convenient flip-up bolsters in the main cockpit behind that sexy windshield. Aft, an L-shaped lounge extends from the port corner, with a separate 3-foot-4-inch starboard bench to accommodate the overflow. Between, Sea Ray angles a transom walk-through, a decision that doesn’t sacrifice seating space as severely as a straight-through passage. A 5-foot-2-inch by 2-foot-8-inch sun pad facing the deep swim platform awaits sun worshippers when the boat is not underway. Lift the aft cushion and create a rear-facing backrest with five positions of recline. Wet stowage in the walk-through floor doubles as a cooler to keep cold drinks at hand, and rear-facing speakers provide the tunes. All seating is covered in multitone vinyl with both woven and diamond-pattern accent panels, bead welding, and durable, double-stitched seams. Stowage is found below nearly all. The main cockpit seats lift out, but the primary bow seats lift on articulating hinges that stay in the open position to ease access. The sun pad lifts to access a shallow storage nook as well as to open access to the deep portside stowage beside the engine.
At the helm, the darkest upholstery accent and contrast stitching is carried over onto the bow, eliminating glare off the windshield. Our test boat’s build swapped the standard chrome-bezel gauges and controls for Sea Ray’s sleek Dynamic Display ($5,770), a 12-inch color touchscreen. Common controls, including those for the bilge pump, blower and horn, are clustered into an array of lit, brushed-finish, push-button switches. Extra kudos for the recessed inwale as well as a lipped nook to keep items readily at hand; it also features a shelf to support the forearm of your throttle hand. Opposite, the port console opens to reveal a 3-foot-8-inch by 2-foot-4-inch by 4-foot-2-inch head compartment. Its fiberglass interior and oversize floor drain make for easy maintenance. The lockable door features a hinge stop to prevent the door from marring the helm console when swung open carelessly. A shallow glove box to the left of the door is perfectly sized for cellphones and includes a handy 12-volt outlet, rubber matting and drain.
Our test boat’s 350 hp MerCruiser 6.2L Bravo Three sterndrive responded effortlessly to input via the digital throttle-and-shift controls. At speed, the SLX 250’s hull — with its 21-degree deadrise, full-length strakes, and unique concave sections between inner and outer strakes toward the stern — revealed agile handling, powering through even hard-over turns at speed with nary a buck or drop in speed. Time to plane was a quick 4.6 seconds. We reached 30 mph in less than 3 seconds more before topping out at 49.2 mph. Interestingly, our test boat was equipped with traditional Lenco trim tabs. Previously, the SLX offered only Sea Ray’s Dynamic Running Surface option. Large aluminum plates integrated directly into the running surface, DRS uses gyroscopes, accelerometers, GPS data and software to automatically find the best running angle, improve acceleration, reduce bow rise and even shape wakes for board sports. At $3,923, however, it proved pricier than some customers cared for, prompting the builder to add traditional tabs for 2017.
Looking for a worthy competitor in the name of comparison shopping? Chaparral’s 257 SSX ($104,580 with the same power) is identical in size and similar in approach. Chaparral opts for back-to-back love seats aft that flatten into reclining sun lounges, a center walk-through, and parallel benches port and starboard. The port bench can slide backward to link up with the aft seat or pivot 45 degrees to form a dinette with a side-mount pedestal table.