I had been aboard Stingray’s new 198 LX, powered by a MerCruiser 4.3 MPI sterndrive, for mere minutes when the rains came. Combined with the wind and already frigid temps in the 40s, it turned what should have been a pleasant day of boat testing into hours —and hours—of battling the elements. All day long Mother Nature made her assault. On the water, between the fog and the wind-driven water droplets, I could barely see.

stingray 198 boat test

Oh, what I wouldn't have given for blue skies when I  had my turn testing the new Stingray 198. It wasn't to be - but this boat still put a smile on my face and adrenaline in my bloodstream.

Through it all, however, one thing stood out as clear as a bluebird sky — Stingray builds some fast boats. And no, I’m not talking go-fasts. I’m talking everyday runabouts that somehow manage to make the most out of pretty average power. Over the years, it’s become a company trademark.

Example? The aforementioned 198 is a 19’ 8”, open-bow runabout. As far as boats like this go, the 4.3 MPI base engine is par for the course in today’s market. Not many nearly-20-foot runabouts powered by that engine, however, push beyond 58 mph in less-than-ideal conditions. In fact, I’d argue that nearly 10 mph slower is closer to the norm.

So where does all that speed come from? Certainly weight factors into the equation. With the 4.3, the RX weighs about 2,795 pounds. That’s at the lower end of the scale for this size range. A notched transom also provides hull surface beneath the swim platform and allows the drive to be mounted higher, reducing drag and, as a result, boosting top end speed. And then there’s Stingray’s trademark Z-Planes. I’ve explained it various ways over the years, but I think the best way to visualize the design is to picture a set of closed Venetian blinds. Rather than strakes protruding from the hull, you get a series of stacked, horizontal surfaces. Give ‘er the gas and the planes act as horizontal planing faces while submerged. Get up on top of the water and their outside edge acts as a spray release; water flows smoothly across the bottom, and the prop gets cleaner water to bite into.

Stingray owner Al Fink talks a lot about little tweaks done here and there to get each hull just right. But as a testament to just how dialed in the company has gotten things, he admits the 198 LX is the first boat that went from computer to mold and needed no such tweaking. In short, it performed pretty much just as expected. It handled aggressively, rode confidently in rougher conditions, and when called upon, tore across the water at speeds not normally seen from a boat with similar horsepower.

It’s the Stingray way. Now if they could just do something about that weather…