2017: Sea Ray SLX 400
I now know exactly how a 12-year-old boy feels on Christmas morning when he opens up his first Transformer. Faced with all the buttons and levers to reimagine the toy into multiple machines, he is thinking “awesome” and “way cool!” I know this because I felt the same way when I stepped aboard the Sea Ray SLX 400. It is awesome. And definitely way cool.
Sea Ray took a hard look at how boaters use boats. We entertain, we swim, we tow kids around. When it comes to choosing the most important feature, some of us would start with the power selection — and the SLX 400 will also be available with outboards by the time you read this. Others (you know who) would start with a civilized enclosed head with a shower, and the list goes on: good tunes, lots of seating, easy water access, enough speed to zoom around, a place to eat, and a place to sleep. With the SLX 400, that’s a check in every box.
Let’s start by playing with this Transformer in the cockpit. You step aboard a wide swim platform (with a center section that lowers for easy water access), and the teak-planked starboard coaming seems odd until, by pushing a button, it folds out to vastly expand the deck. Sea Ray calls it a swim terrace and, though only for use at rest, it turns the cockpit into a waterfront patio.
There’s a big sun pad next to it with a backrest cushion that transforms by spinning to create several sitting and lounging areas. There’s also a hidden compartment in the transom big enough to stow full-length stand-up paddleboards. No more strapping boards onto the hardtop.
The midcockpit has a wraparound dinette (using that movable backrest), and an outdoor galley with a sink is to starboard. Our test boat had double electric Kenyon grills plus an Isotherm fridge — both no-brainer options. An optional retractable sunshade deploys electrically from the hardtop.
Two more Transformer features: The double-wide seat opposite the helm spins around to face the cockpit seating, and the teak cockpit table unfolds to dining-size.
The skipper gets a double-wide helm seat that adjusts in a zillion ways, and the companion side backrest flips to become a seat facing aft into the entertainment area. The dash is ergonomically impeccable: twin Raymarine 12-inch gS displays for navigation and a Mercury VesselView monitor, a chrome footrest, and neatly labeled and illuminated buttons for the systems. A molded console holds the Merc throttle and shifters in just the right spot, and the Axius joystick is placed for effortless docking and maneuvering.
Forward is another entertainment area, and getting there is easy and safe with a wide portside walkway and a flush-mounted door, which combines with the folding windshield to protect the cockpit from wind and spray. Three forward-facing touring seats have folding armrests and storage bins on each side. Seating on each side of the bow converts to a sun pad, and a removable table provides another area for munchies. Grab rails are everywhere, and the entire boat has padded coamings.
Step down from the helm through the slider and into the cabin: Headroom is nearly 7 feet. The starboard-side head includes a shower and an vacu-flush toilet.
A mini galley to port features a microwave and fridge, and a wraparound couch with a folding table converts into a V-berth. Tucked under the cockpit is a vast playroom: a queen-size mattress with padded backrests outboard so you can stretch out front to back, sideways, or your own combination. It’s big enough for overnighting and comfy enough to tuck the kids in for a nap.
Power for the SLX 400 is a pair of 380 hp MerCruiser 8.2 Mag ECTs, turning twin-prop Bravo Three X sterndrives and featuring the Axius joystick control. It comes with a standard 5 kW generator.
Underway, the SLX 400 offers nothing but sheer fun. The power steering is surprisingly responsive, and I quickly discovered the reason for the side-to-side sunroof in the hardtop. The SLX 400 banks like an F-15 going after a target. With the wheel hard-over, you need that sunroof to keep an eye open for other boats. But that hard bank in a turn is rock-solid, and no one aboard felt a need to reach for a grab rail. We topped out at a shade over 46 mph, and it is surprisingly happy cruising at 3,500 rpm and 30-plus mph.
There are other mega-size bowriders in the 35-foot-length range: the Four Winns Horizon 350 is $314,146 with twin 8.2 MerCruiser B3s and joystick; Monterey’s 378 SE is $379,230 with twin 430 hp MerCruiser 8.2 Mag HO sterndrives. Formula’s 430 Super Sport Crossover ($1.35 million with quad Mercury Racing 400 Verado outboards) is larger and powered by outboards.
The Sea Ray SLX 400 isn’t so much a boat as it is an entertainment package. It’s your very own floating water park. Like I did, you’ll find this particular Transformer to be “way cool.”
* Wonderful swim terrace adds cockpit room and water access.
* Lower the section of the swim platform to create a “beach.”
* Air conditioning and generator are standard.
* Great grab rails for every seat and sun pad.
* White gelcoat helm top reflects to make the windshield almost opaque on sunny days. We’d rather this be dark-colored.
* Black canvas sunroof radiates heat from the sun into the otherwise sheltered cockpit entertainment area. We’d rather it be light-colored.
* Access to the generator will be challenging.
Price: $536,392 (base)
Available Power: Sterndrive + Outboard
How We Tested
Engines: Twin 380 hp MerCruiser 8.2 Mag ECTs
Drive/Props: Bravo Three X/B3 24″ pitch stainless-steel propsets
Gear Ratio: 2.00:1
Fuel Load: 240 gal.
Water on Board: 10 gal.
Crew Weight: 350 lb.
Sea Ray Boats – Vonore, Tennessee; 423-884-6631; searay.com