People who are new to boating and are looking for a small, affordable runabout will almost always take a strong look at a Sea Ray before making a final decision. Sea Ray has a reputation for quality and affordability that makes it somewhat of a benchmark in the industry. The simple fact is that by the time someone who is looking for a runabout or cuddy cabin has his or her list down to three of four boats to choose from, a Sea Ray is probably on that list.
One new craft from Sea Ray sure to be on many first-time buyers' lists is the 185 Sport, which is a brand-new runabout that demonstrates where Sea Ray sees the future heading. The 185 was newly designed from the ground up and is completely different from past designs.
If there are two areas where the new 185 looks to distinguish itself they are looks and practicality. By lowering the windshield a little and sloping the aft end down, designers have been able to lend the 185 a sleeker profile. The whole idea here is to create a look that separates the 185 from what Sea Ray calls the "sea of sameness" in the look of boats in the 17- to 20-foot market.
In the bow there's more freeboard, which gives more depth to the seating — and in the apex you'll find a step instead of a cushion. The apex is so rarely used as a seating area that Sea Ray took the practical approach and put a step there because that's what it's always used for anyway.
A new gull-wing engine hatch (which doubles as a full-beam sunpad) opens side to side, so there are no worries about the hatch flying open while you're going down the road. Aft of that is a standard extended swim platform with a ladder, which is always a plus for a boat that has such a deep appeal for watersports fun.
The Sea Ray rep who brought the 185 to our test location on Lake Wawasee in Indiana said the boat would "corner on rails." He was right. The 185 turned on a dime and was a consummate blast to drive — just the kind of experience to plaster big smiles on boaters' faces.
For the record we had two people aboard for our test and a half tank of fuel (13 gallons — about 81 pounds). For power we had a carbureted 4.3L MerCruiser with an Alpha I drive spinning a 23-inch pitch, three-blade aluminum prop. Acceleration was quick with 3.4 seconds to plane and 7.4 seconds from 0 to 30 mph. Our top speed of 50.8 mph hit at 4,800 rpm, which is right at the top of the 4.3L's operating range.
The boat's performance reeked of great watersports potential, and we made sure it delivered by taking more than a few pulls behind it with a couple of water toys. Those interested in wakeboarding will want to consider the wakeboard package, which includes a tower with an integrated Bimini top, an upgraded Clarion stereo system and extreme tone graphics.
Sea Ray has a lot riding on the 185. It's a boat like this that many times will be the first boat a person ever owns. If the experience is positive and the person decides to make a bigger investment in the boating lifestyle, his first inclination will probably be to look at a bigger Sea Ray. If he buys that one there's a good chance that he'll own nothing but Sea Rays for the rest of his boating life — and it all started with being happy with the 185.
So it's clear why Sea Ray did its homework for the 185. If you buy this boat, there's a good chance a larger Sea Ray is in your future — and we guarantee you'll have fun with this one in the meantime.
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Manufacturer Contact Information
Sea Ray, 2600 Sea Ray Blvd
Knoxville, TN 37914