Fast, sleek, sexy, the new Stingray 198 LX would be the perfect runabout to call a classic bowrider. This South Carolina-based manufacturer, however, calls it a Sport Deck. Chalk it up to a little extra width. Stingray has squeezed a couple more inches in beam into both the main and bow cockpits. The LX also trades carpet over marine ply for a full fiberglass floor liner with optional snap-in carpeting.

stingray 198 lx bowrider

The new Stingray 198 LX has a classic bowrider look and feel, but a few extra inches of interior beam provide more elbow room than you might expect.

The tried-and-true Stingray formula, however, hasn't been messed with. Like all their models, the 198 LX carries on the tradition of getting above-average performance out of below-average horsepower, and keeping pricing affordably low.

The result? Some good old-fashioned bang for the buck.

Sheep’s Clothing
Stingray may be flirting with outboard power lately, but it hasn't forgotten the sterndrive, an engine choice that has driven so much of the brand’s success over the last few decades. One big selling point of a sterndrive is the clean, open look it gives to the transom. Board at the stern and you’ll find an extended swim platform with a recessed, covered nook for the three-step swim ladder. There’s a low platform that can be used as a seat when gearing up for skiing and boarding. Lift up its hinged base and discover a wet compartment, perfect for towlines and other soggy gear. Cupholders and a transom stereo remote are at the ready for the “coving” crowd.

Entry to the cockpit is through a 15”-wide starboard walk-thru. Or, step directly on the gunwale. Stainless plates with raised, rubbery bumps are well-placed to provide traction. There’s a cooler tucked below the step into the cockpit. Snap out the stern bench cushions to reveal more stowage below.

stingray 198 lx bowrider

The twin bucket seats are plenty comfortable; opt for the flip-up bolsters, to make them even more so.

Optional twin wraparound bucket seats were anchored to the full cockpit liner forward, each of which is available with an optional flip-up bolster. Like the sunpad, those seats are primarily white, with both grey and upscale quilted accent panels. (My test boat added a fourth, maroon panel to the sunpad.) I noted a minimal armrest for the captain’s throttle-arm elbow, and good view of the white-faced, backlit Faria gauges spanning the dash. A small eyebrow, featuring a textured grey vinyl, limits reflection off the windshield. Rocker switches with circuit breaker resets, are located to the right of the optional tilt wheel. To the left, find a stereo head for the Bluetooth-equipped Jensen sound system. The actual unit is located within the glovebox, along with an MP3 jack to plug in your phone or iPod. Overhead, a standard Bimini top offers stand-up clearance.

Stowage is located within both the helm and port consoles, accessed through doors in the bow walk-thru. To port, find a glovebox and cooler topside. Between the chairs sits a ski locker. It features removable (yeah!) carpet for padding, as well as a pneumatic strut on the lid to hold it in the open position. Trust me, it’s appreciated. I often resort to using a boat hook to prop open the compartment on my boat.

I initially subtracted points for the lack of an attachment point for the walk-thru windshield when in the open position, but Stingray reps indicate it will be included in production. That’s a good thing, as an unsecured window can hit a passenger in the head in rough seas or a hard corner.

bow of a stingray bowrider

The bow of this bowrider offers easy access to the beach, as well as a dedicated ladder/anchor locker.

Continue into the bow cockpit and you’ll note the typical parallel lounges, with carpeted stowage below and padded coaming bolsters. Two steps enable access on and off the bow. The lower features a hinged, nonslip lid covering an insulated cooler that drains to the bilge. The upper features a similar cover for the combination anchor/ladder locker at the bow. Clips accommodate a Danforth-style anchor to keep it from banging around within. The ladder is purposely left as only a two-step to prevent a careless captain or crew from snapping it off while nosing into the beach.

The Wolf Within
As I alluded to in a behind-the-scenes Stingray Testing Blog post, conditions on our test day were far from what you would call ideal boating weather. In fact, it was just plain lousy. Morning temperatures were in the 40's, the wind was howling, and the rain was pouring. Still, the 198 LX managed to impress. With a 220-hp MerCruiser 4.3 MPI, the boat posted a speedy 3.0-second time to plane, 7.4-second time to 30 mph, and a 58.2 mph top speed. In a recent Boathouse Bulletin engine test Mercury technicians recorded similar acceleration numbers, and a 59 mph top speed in better conditions.

Max. Draft3'2"
Deadrise19 degrees
Weight2,662 lbs
Fuel capacity34 gal.

Let those numbers sink in for a moment. That’s impressive acceleration and a nearly 60 mph top speed… from a 4.3-liter engine. More numbers of interest? At a comfortable 25-30 mph cruising speed, you’ll be burning no more than six or seven gallons an hour. At full throttle, less than 17 gallons per hour. Getting plenty of speed from a smaller, more economical engine has become the Stingray way.

A good part of the reason is likely Stingray’s trademark Z-Plane hull. Rather than conventional strakes, it features overlapping planes. They lay much like the shingles on a roof, or the panels in a set of closed Venetian blinds. Punch the throttle and those horizontal surfaces act as planing areas; reach speed and they become spray releases. According to Stingray, the Z-plane design delivers a smoother flow of water to the prop. A notched transom also lessens drag by allowing the drive to be mounted higher.

It’s an exhilarating feeling at speed, although to be honest in lousy conditions like I encountered, it can also occasionally prove a bit stressful. With the drive trimmed high the boat felt quite light and loose, almost flighty at times. I’ve found the trick is to go with the flow. Keep a light hand on the wheel and you’ll achieve the best results. Have a death grip on the wheel and you’ll likely overreact to every twitch.

Performance Data
Test conditions: Heavy wind chop, 2 POB, quarter tank fuel
PowerMercruiser 4.3 MPI 220-hp stern drive, swinging a 21-pitch Laser II prop.

Given the conditions, I was also pleasantly surprised by how the boat handled. Like its personality on the top end, the 198 also proved aggressive and thrilling in the turns. Stingray reps reveal they both deepened the entry slightly and sharpened the keel. Crank the wheel and you can snap off a sharp, crisp corner guaranteed to thrill. And though, as mentioned, the boat could feel a little looser than most, I noted a predictable feel all the while. That inspired the confidence to push the boat—rather than back off.

It’s a feeling I’m guessing Stingray owners are quite familiar with.

Other Choices: The Tahoe Q7i bowrider is a bit smaller and lighter but is extremely inexpensive. The Rinker Captiva 196 BR is another contender, and this one's available in both sterndrive and outboard power versions. The Bayliner Discovery 195 runs in these waters, as well.

For more information, visit Stingray Boats.