Bayliner 320 Review

When I first met Avante Marine’s Peter Klumper he was working as a senior mechanic. Although Peter is now Avante’s senior multi-tasker, he still has the mechanic in him. So when the mechanical systems and performance of a new vessel have him genuinely excited, it’s a good sign that we’re onto something special. Incidentally, when he is off the water he races a custom-built Lotus Seven open wheeler.

Axius Drives
This 320 Bayliner was fitted with MerCruiser’s new joystick-controlled Axius drive system. Axius essentially allows the uncorrelated movement of the twin legs in order to send the vessels in all directions at low speed. The system’s joystick can take two inputs at one time, so you can move backwards and sideways at once. It only takes a matter of minutes to get familiar with the system and suddenly a 5000kg boat becomes as manageable as a runabout. Axius has to be coupled with the latest SeaCore MerCruisers, which feature extended corrosion warranties, plus a closed-cooling system, well suited to Australian conditions.

We spent quite a bit of time experimenting with the Axius drives and the corresponding Digital Throttle System (DTS), before we idled through the long 4-knot zone from Berowra Waters towards the open stretches of the river.

The $269,000 Bayliner 320 features plenty of creature comforts including a 16BTU air-conditioning unit and a 4kVA Genset. The boat’s 132 litres of freshwater may be the only thing that you run out of after a couple of nights onboard. There are two double berths ? one in the bow and the other amidships. The amidships berth is large and private and has standing room, several lockers and the electronics control panel.

The bathroom features an electric flush toilet and shower. I noticed that the vanity had rubber seals, so water from the shower can’t seep into the cupboards. The head’s central starboard side location makes access easy from the cockpit during the day. Below decks has good natural light and plenty of storage in the saloon. The settee was easy to get into and had a sizeable timber table. The galley features a fridge, electric cooker and under bench stowage.

Like most sports cruisers, the main focus is on daytime entertainment. The cockpit features a large wet bar with its own fridge. The cockpit was fully covered by a canvas bimini that didn’t flap about when we were running at high speed. The cockpit has seating for eight, plenty of drink holders, arch-mounted stereo speakers, grab handles and windscreen ‘step-through’ access to the bow where there’s an attractive sun pad. The big bow locker is fitted with a windlass and the bow-mounted spotlight is useful.

The swim platform has a hand shower, a ladder and stowage for fenders and/or a blow up tender. The swim platform had an alternate step-up to the thin sidewalk to the bow.

Let The Fun Begin
On open water I felt that 4000rpm delivered the ultimate cruising speed, but when we put the throttle down there was enough grunt to wind her out to almost 40 knots. And even that last little squirt of power had enough grunt to push us back in our seats, leaving no doubt that this 320’s prop/engine combo will be a perfect match for any power hungry petrol cruiser aficionado.

It didn’t take long to establish that this Bayliner was more than just a moving entertainment platform the 320 was a genuine performance craft in its own right. We powered out of the hole and up to 30 knots in less than 10 seconds and then she was eager to deliver a high-speed cruise at 32 knots. In most circumstances the vessel required no attention to the leg trim, or trim tabs, to keep her powering along and the boat was also unstoppable in aggressive corners.

There are only a few five-tonne powerboats that offer this kind of ‘carve it up’ cornering, but this one did!

Perhaps the only thing that made me a little uncomfortable was the fuel bill a new owner would get after the first weekend on this boat. There’s little doubt that once the 320 revealed her spirited performance the temptation to keep the big V8 going all day long would be irresistible. That’s power boating nowadays. If you do become fuel conscious then 20 odd knots at around 3500rpm is very economical running.

The comprehensive instrumentation at the helm provided a good hint about the vessel’s potential performance. One standout feature was the Smartcraft system that delivered data on everything from cruise speed, range, fuel consumption (I dared not look) and auto heading. I don’t recall whether the helm seat was in a good position (which suggests that it was), but I do remember the seat sliding back and locking into place as we applied the power with a bit too much enthusiasm.

The wrap
If you are in the market for a petrol-powered performance sports cruiser, the Bayliner 320 is well worth a look. She’s a craft that delivers a little bit extra across the whole spectrum, from the exceptional Axius drive system, to comfortable accommodation and the solid performance of the latest twin V8 powerplants. Base price without Axius, SeaCore and DTS is $235,000, but as tested the Bayliner 320 was $269,000.