Bayliner 185SE and 205SE Review

Issue: August 2006


Bayliner’s latest Special Editions are real head turners…


Take two sleek new Special Edition Bayliners and two friends and business partners, with more than 40 years of boating industry experience behind them, and you’ve got a recipe for success. Toronto Marine Centre’s Glen Coulam and Darren Binkin have joined forces with the Australia-wide Avante Marine Group to offer their customers the complete range of Bayliner, Maxum, Trophy and Meridian boats. With Glen running the sales side of the business and Darren looking after the service department, the future of the Toronto Marine Centre, on the banks of Lake Macquarie, north of Sydney, looks very bright indeed.

The two boats I referred to earlier are the Bayliner 185 Special Edition (SE) and 205SE. Bayliner released the two models for limited sale by selected dealers worldwide. One look at the pair confirmed the Modern Boating team’s opinion that these black beauties are going to be top sellers. So good, in fact, that the first two potential buyers to see the new vessels snatched them up on the spot. So this test was the shakedown cruise for both boats ? and they passed with flying colours.

The first thing to grabs one’s attention with the 185SE is her striking black hull with contrasting white underside. She’s a roomy bowrider with a classy new interior trim (featuring silky grey inlays and a stylish, new, metallic-finish dash) that in the looks department anyway, elevates the boat to the Brunswick Corporation’s more upmarket Maxum range standard.

A smooth and economical 4.3lt MPI V6 220hp MerCruiser provides the power and propels this top little bowrider to 56mph at 5100rpm. Aggressive chines and strakes, plus a deep-vee hull with a sharp bow-entry, give this boat almost ‘purpose-built ski boat’ handling characteristics. She doesn’t need much trim out to perform to the max. In fact, this hull, like any other, can get flighty if trimmed out too far. But new drivers and families don’t have to worry, because the prop will lose traction before you could possibly get into trouble. She slices across other boat’s wake with ease and treats the average chop with distain. The harder you drive her in choppy conditions (within reason), the better the ride.

This boat comes with an optional wake tower and while the boat isn’t a world-beater when it comes to walling-up huge wakes, having her engine mounted aft allows her wake at slow speeds to be big enough for an average rider.

But put the hammer down and the wakes flatten out well for skiers.

The 185SE comes on a standard Bayliner ‘skid’ trailer, but for ease of boat handling around the ramp, I’d suggest any potential buyers spend the extra $1000 and upgrade to a fully-rollered, locally-build trailer.

The layout of the 185SE is fairly standard for a bowrider, allowing two people to stretch out comfortably in the forward cockpit. She features a curved and raked-glass split screen, which offers good protection for those riding in the main cockpit. A bimini above the helm provides overhead protection from the elements. The AM/FM/CD hides in the glove box, the helm and observer’s seat fold down into sun lounges and there’s a huge ski locker beneath the floor. The aft sun lounge. Clip-in carpets add to the sense of luxury in the cockpit, a good freeboard and plenty of grab handles keep all inside secure and like all American boats, there’s plenty of drink holders. But the good new for buyers is her price. At only $39,000 for this fully tricked-up boat, she represents excellent value for money.

A 4.3lt V6 220hp MPI MerCruiser powered the Bayliner 185SE.

With two adults onboard in calm conditions the 185SE produced the following performance figures.

15 – 2100
35 – 3000
40 – 3500
48 – 4200
56 – 5100

LENGTH: 5.54m
DEADRISE: 19 degrees
DRAFT: 0.51m
MAX DRAFT: 0.91m
FUEL: 106lt
PRICE: $39,000

Like her sister ship the 185SE, the 205SE also sports the striking black hull with contrasting decals, but boasts more usable interior space and amenities for accommodating families during long trips. This boat also has an anchor locker, which is unusual for many American boats. The hull gets the V8 treatment in the form of a 5lt 260hp MPI MerCruiser. At the same revs (5100rpm) as the 4.3lt engine in the 185, the bigger engine achieves an extra 3mph at wideopen throttle. But remember this is a much bigger boat, with the extra power compensating for the extra weight, while still remaining economic to run.

This hull delivers a soft and dry ride with the extra 2ft of hull length (over the 185) only improving the smaller boat’s already top ride. She also treats chop with disdain and turns like a ‘rocket sled on rails’, even with the leg trimmed slightly out. The hull doesn’t dance from chine to chine and tracks dead straight in all conditions.

This boat has the more stylish ‘sweptback’ wake tower and also produces a good wake for towed water toys and average wakeboarders.

The new metal-finish dash will keep the driver happy with its easy-to-see-and-read gauges. Features include comprehensive engine instruments, a 12V-accessory outlet, a padded Dino steering wheel, power-assisted rack and pinion steering, side-mounted engine controls (with trim and tilt switch in the handle and tilt steering). She’s got it all! There’s even storage lockers in the helm and glove box bulkheads.

Like the Bayliner 185 Special Edition, the Bayliner 205 Special Edition also has a fully-moulded cockpit-liner, clip-in carpets, in-floor ski locker, sun lounger seats and extra cushions to set-up the transom sun pad.

The boat has a seating capacity of nine, although with that number onboard, it might be a tad tight.

All the seating has storage underneath and the side pockets are big enough to be useful.

Both Special Edition Bayliners have a lot to offer potential buyers, especially when you consider they cost just $1,000 more than a standard 205 Bayliner Runabout and feature fancy trim, carpets and all the other little extras. This makes them worth a look.

A 5lt V8 260hp MPI MerCruiser powered the Bayliner 205SE.

With two adults onboard in calm conditions the 205SE produced the following performance figures.

22 – 2100
25 – 2500
35 – 3000
42 – 3500
50 – 4000
59 – 5100

LENGTH: 6.2m
DEADRISE: 20 degrees
DRAFT: 0.5m
MAX DRAFT: 0.93m
FUEL: 140lt
PRICE: 50,290

+ Black hull; Silver upholstery inlays
– Skid trailer

Bayliner’s recent release of a series of Special Edition bowriders to a limited numbers of dealers world-wide (including the Avante Group here in Australia), clearly indicates just how much faith the Brunswick Corporation has in the blossoming Aussie market. The two boats on test here feature stunning black hulls, new decals and stylish fabric inserts in the upholstery, which push these boats up a level in the luxury stakes. But the good news for buyers is it hasn’t really pushed the overall price of the boats up much at all. The only upgrade the Modern Boating team would suggest is going for a locally-built, fully rollered trailer.