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2020 Sea Ray SDX 290

The SDX 290 offers a sporty and smooth ride.

March 6, 2020
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Sea Ray SDX 290 running shot
The Sea Ray SDX 290 mixes sporty looks with a smooth ride. Courtesy Sea Ray

Overview

The SDX 290 is today’s updated version of Sea Ray’s old 290 Sundeck, which was originally designed to capture all the space desired in a deck boat yet still maintain Sea Ray’s signature sporty runabout look. It’s a design that works exceptionally well.

Sea Ray SDX 290 bow seating
The bow cockpit is massive. Courtesy Sea Ray

Engine

The SDX retains all the sportiness of a runabout, with a deeper-V hull that tapers to 21 degrees of deadrise at the transom. This allows for a smoother ride in lake and bay chop, and for smooth carving in hard-over turns at speed. With the 380 hp MerCruiser 8.2L V-8 powering our test boat, we climbed on plane in under 4 seconds and enjoyed excellent midrange oomph en route to a 45.2 mph top-end. The wind-whipped lake chop we experienced on test day proved to be a minor nuisance. With Mercury’s DTS (Digital Throttle and Shift) controls, handling proved seamless. And with ActiveTrim engaged, the boat automatically adjusted to its optimum sweet spot as I throttled through the rpm range.

Sea Ray SDX 290 helm
The well-equipped helm makes operating the SDX 290 fun and easy. Courtesy Sea Ray

Interior and Accessories

On deck, the SDX 290 competes in the space race by extending the beam far forward before squaring off at the bow. The boat is Yacht Certified, meaning there is no max passenger rating, but at my count, it could comfortably seat 17 people. That’s a party. As far as entertainment goes, a Fusion stereo system comes standard, as does the wet bar to starboard behind the helm and love seat. The bow cockpit is massive, with forward-facing backrests on the consoles and a filler insert to create wraparound seating. The deep freeboard and stainless-steel grab rails keep everyone safe.

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Sea Ray SDX 290 cockpit
The cockpit is packed with space for entertaining. Courtesy Sea Ray

The head in the port console is large for a boat this size, which should reduce claustrophobia when answering the call or changing for a dip. I love that the captain’s seat and portside companion seat are both double-wide, with backrests that can be adjusted to face aft when the boat is at rest. My favorite seats on the boat, though, are the aft-facing his-and-hers lounges on the engine compartment. Each has adjustable backrests, and is a great place to prep for watersports or, especially, to chill while at anchor. If that’s not your thing, there are plenty of other seats to choose from.

Sea Ray SDX 290 wet bar
The wet bar offers a great space to prepare refreshments. Courtesy Sea Ray

How We Tested

  • Engine: 380 hp MerCruiser 8.2 Bravo III
  • Drive/Props: Sterndrive/14″ x 24″ 3-blade dual propset
  • Gear Ratio: 2.00:1 Fuel Load: 42 gal. Water on Board: 0 gal. Crew Weight: 480 lb.

High Points

  • Foldaway step on the port side helps with boarding and unloading at the dock.
  • All seat cushions are hinged for easy access to the stowage underneath.
  • Helm and co-captain seats at the consoles have backrests that adjust to face aft, to create a conversation pit while at anchor.

Low Points

  • With the big 8.2L engine, bilge-pump access is a little tight in the engine compartment.
  • Stowage-compartment side walls are carpeted, which can lead to mildew.

Toughest Competitor

The Monterey 298SS ($127,398 with a MerCruiser 8.2L Bravo III) is a comparable runabout with a more traditional tapered shape to its bow and a sharper forefoot.

Pricing and Specs

Price: $130,576 (with test power)
LOA: 29’2″
Beam: 9’0″
Draft (max): 3’3″
Displacement (approx.): 6,595 lb.
Transom Deadrise: 21 degrees
Bridge Clearance: 9’0″
Fuel Capacity: 85 gal.
Water Capacity: 20 gal.
Max Horsepower: 700
Available Power: MerCruiser 6.2L or 8.2L sterndrives or outboards to 380 hp

Speed, Efficiency, Operation

Sea Ray SDX 290 performance data chart
Sea Ray SDX 290 Certified Test Results Boating Magazine

Sea Ray Boats – Knoxville, Tennesee; 865-522-4181; searay.com

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