Stingray boats tend to bring out the best in small-block engine power—at least that's been our experience. A couple of years back, we tested the Stingray 220 SX with a 360-hp Mercury Racing Scorpion 377 motor under the hatch, and the boat delivered explosive performance.
For 2001, we tested the company's 230 LX powered by a 320-hp MerCruiser MX 6.2 MPI engine. And though the performance of the 22'8"-long, 8'-wide bow rider wasn't quite as potent as that of its smaller, more powerful closed-deck sibling, it was plenty snappy and loads of fun.
How much fun? Fun enough to be worth the $35,592 as-tested price, to which the MX 6.2 MPI contributed a little more than $4,000. Go with the base boat equipped with a 260-hp MerCruiser 5.7-liter EFI engine and you're looking at $29,724.
Without question, the MX 6.2 MPI motor is this year's darling from MerCruiser. We saw it in several boats during our 2001 Performance Trials. Nowhere was the engine—outfitted with a Bravo One drive spinning a Mercury Mirage Plus 13 3/4" x 23" three-blade stainless-steel propeller through a 1.65:1 reduction—better suited than in the 230 LX.
With the fuel-injected small-block providing the juice, the 230 LX broke the 60-mph barrier with a top speed of 60.7 mph at 4,900 rpm. But that was just one part of the bow rider's performance story. It hopped on plane in 4 seconds and shot to 54 mph in 15 seconds. Consistently potent in midrange acceleration tests, the boat zipped from 20 to 40 mph in 5.2 seconds and from 30 to 50 mph in 6.9 seconds.
Like all Stingray runabouts, the 230 LX ran on the company's vaunted "Z-Plane" hull. That meant the 20-degree bottom had four full-length ZP strakes, a radiused keel and slightly negative 2- to 3-inch-wide chines.
That bottom design contributed as much to the deft handling of the 230 LX as it did to its top speed and acceleration numbers. Although slalom turns at 20 mph earned simply solid marks, those same maneuvers at 30 and 40 mph were first-rate. The boat carved through those maneuvers with a comfortable inward lean and nary a twitch or slide, just as it carved its way through ever-tightening circles at cruising and full speeds.
In his quest for maximum speed, our lead test driver trimmed out the 230 LX "to the moon." Even with the drive trimmed out to its limit, the boat tracked perfectly, as it did at all speeds and trim settings. Wind gusts and passenger weight shift also did nothing to affect the boat's ability to run in a straight line. There was a tiny pull to the right during sudden deceleration tests, but it was mild and not in any way unsettling.
Understated, the 230 LX boasted a two-tone beige-and-cream gelcoat accented with vinyl graphics. Mold work was several cuts above production-boat standards, as was the installation of the boat's aluminum rubrail with rubber insert, and the Water Bonnet walk-through windshield.
The manufacturer didn't supply detailed lamination schedule information. However, a representative from the company did say the 230 LX was handlaid with multiple layers of woven roving and had a fiberglass stringer system.
The engine hatch raised manually on two gas struts. That gave us access to the top of the motor. Two fold-down panels gave us access to its sides. With those panels folded down, we could see that the engine was secured with lag bolts driven into the stringers and the standard transom assembly. The boat's liner gave the engine compartment a neat appearance, as did the black gelcoat over the bilge and the competently routed and supported wiring.
Rather than an anchor locker, the compartment in the sole of the 230 LX turned out to be a cooler lined with plastic. The backrests for the lounges were comfortably angled, and under the bottom cushions we found generous stowage space. Inset in the gunwales rather than bolted on top of them, which would have marred the boat's profile, grab handles were fitted within reach of both bow lounges.
Definitely outfitted for entertaining, the 230 LX had another cooler in the cockpit sole. In the port-side dash forward of the co-pilot's bucket was a carpeted glove box, a Clarion CD stereo and a grab handle. That handle, plus the angled molded footrest, should help the co-pilot stay in his seat when the ride gets rough.
The driver's bucket, like the co-pilot's seat, had a flip-up bottom for added "altitude." That can be much-appreciated during the planing and docking processes. All gauges at the helm were set in a woodgrain panel above the tilt steering wheel. Rocker switches for accessories were in two panels, one on each side of the wheel, and the Mercury throttle/shifter was mounted on the gunwale.
The rear bench could handle three or four passengers. Under the bench bottom cushion, which flipped forward on a dual-position hinge, there was ample ski stowage, though not enough space for a wakeboard. Boards would likely go in the engine compartment on each side of the motor, where there was more stowage.
That stowage could come in handy, because the 230 LX turned out to be a nifty wakeboarding boat. The pull out of deep-water starts was gentle, yet firm. The wakes sloped gradually, but with enough angle for launching beginner and intermediate riders plenty high.
Our test skier wasn't particularly jazzed with the boat's punch in deep-water starts, but then, coming out of the hole is more demanding on a slalom ski than it is on a board. On the plus side, he found the wakes at various slalom speeds to be small and soft. That enabled him to rip hard cuts on each side of the boat, and our ski-test driver definitely felt him behind the boat.
The people at Stingray are adept at matching power to their boats. They've done it again in the 230 LX, a snappy performer that should provide seasons of entertainment.
Hull and Propulsion Information
|Deadrise at transom||20 degrees|
|Hull weight||3,389 pounds|
|Engine||MerCruiser MX 6.2 MPI|
|Lower-unit gear ratio||1.65:1|
|Propeller||Mercury Mirage Plus 14 5/8" x 23"|
|Price as tested||$35,738|
Z-Plane hull, insulated ice chest, stainless deck hardware, stainless boarding ladder, Bimini top, 12-volt accessory plug, cockpit lighting, backlighted instrumentation, custom tilt steering wheel, hour meter, adjustable helm seats, woodgrain trim package, fiberglass cockpit liner, compass, remote oil-change system, power steering.
Options on Test Boat
Upgrade to MerCruiser MX 6.2 MPI ($4,163), cockpit cover ($468), two-tone hull ($385), digital depthfinder ($304), flip-up bolsters ($292), bow cover ($210), remote trim and tilt switch ($103), battery on/off switch ($89).
|3 seconds||18 mph|
|5 seconds||28 mph|
|10 seconds||45 mph|
|15 seconds||54 mph|
|20-40 mph||5.2 seconds|
|30-50 mph||6.9 seconds|
Rpm vs. Mph
|Speedometer||68 mph at 4900 rpm|
|Radar||60.7 mph at 4900 rpm|
|Nordskog Performance Products GPS||60.6 mph at 4900 rpm|
|Time to plane||4 seconds|
|Minimum planing speed||21.6 mph|
|At 25 mph||3.9 mpg|
|At 35 mph||4.3 mpg|
|At 45 mph||3.6 mpg|
|At 55 mph||2.6 mpg|
|At WOT||2.6 mpg|
|Fuel capacity||57 gallons|
625 Railroad Ave.
Hartsville, SC 29550