The 175 sterndrive bowrider is the third Seaswirl model the team have had the pleasure of testing and I can confirm that the standard of fixtures, fittings and ride of this vessel will leave many other entry-level family boats wallowing in her wake. Even though I've called the 175 an entry-level boat, her build-quality makes her stand out in the crowd, while her all-inclusive base price of $35,900 certainly puts her right there in the economy stakes.
So, what do you get for your bucks? While this model is also available in a slightly more expensive outboard version, the $35K price tag gets you a 'toey' 135hp 3lt Volvo Penta sterndrive that effortlessly propels the Seaswirl 175 I/O to 42mph at 4900rpm.
The outboard version (powered by a V4, 115hp Saltwater Series Yamaha) is a bit more 'torquey' than the sterndrive and has a top speed of 43mph. This makes it an ideal choice for those more into waterskiing than wakeboarding, while the heavier inboard throws a bigger wake for boarders. Minimum horsepower for the outboard model is 90hp, while the maximum is 140hp. Standard horsepower for the inboard version is 135hp and the maximum is 190hp.
Powered by the 135hp Volvo, the 175 shot out of the hole and planed effortlessly after six seconds. The 115hp outboard powered boat was out of the hole like a scowled cat and planed in just on four seconds, again giving that little bit of extra grunt skiers look for.
Another stand out feature of both the models is the hull's stability at rest and while underway. The 175 features aggressive chines carried well forward, which trap air in the mini tunnels formed between the sharp bow, pronounced keel and the outer chines. The boat literally rides on a cushion of air.
There are two strakes on each side of the keel, which, coupled with the hull's 20-degree deadrise, keep the hull tracking straight and give it the ability to turn like a rocket sled on rails in little more than its own length.
From a standing start the 175 I/O planed at 10mph pulling 2000rpm and cruised economically and quietly at 3800rpm doing 32mph.
The sterndrive hull requires little trim angle to get it working properly, while the outboard model danced eloquently on her transom 'third' at just under one half trim out.
Like all Seaswirls, the 175 Bowrider is constructed using the Fibrecore One-Piece Stringer System, which makes for a strong, lightweight boat that remains relatively 'firm' and quiet over low chop. This quiet ride is further enhanced by the underfloor foam filling, which ensures this boat exceeds all US Coast Guard survey requirements.
The hull has a moulded liner and clip-out carpets to make cleaning easy. The aft cockpit is wide and uncluttered with extremely high gunwales. These are great because they give the wife and kids an added sense of security for those times when dad throws the boat into an 'unannounced' 180-degree turn, then says sorry. They're also high enough to brace comfortably against when playing a big fish.
Still in the aft cockpit, the engine cover has a fire-extinguisher port, so any engine fire can be doused without opening the engine cover, which can cause a further flare-up. This engine hatch has two sections. The first smaller hatch opens for regular maintenance and daily servicing, while the second larger hatch opens completely if work needs to be carried out on the motor.
There are two rear-quarter seats that can be lifted and slotted into place at the same height as the top of the padded engine cover to form a large sun pad. The teenagers will love that. There's a large ski locker between the driver's swivelling bucket seat and the observer's seat, which also folds down into a sun lounge.
At 5ft 9in, I found the driver's positions excellent. The gear and throttle lever was in the right position, I could see clearly through the windscreen and the Faria gauges were right in my line of sight. The seat has a bolster, which allows the driver to see over the screen. There was no 'bejesus bar' across the top of the windscreen, but it's strong enough to brace against if needed.
Walk through the split windscreen into the bowrider cockpit and the fact that this is only a 17ft 4in boat, comes to the fore. You can't have all that cockpit space and a big bowrider as well. There's only room in here for one passenger, but there are drink holders for two. And the drink holders are big enough to hold a stubby in a cooler.
There's no bowsprit or anchor locker as such, but ground tackle can be stored under the port and starboard bunk cushions.Other features include AM/FM satellite-ready stereo with CD player, lay-in Berber carpet, chrome-plated brass deck fitting, a stainless steel rubrail overlay and a bimini top with boot.
If the 175 has one downside it's the single-axle skid trailer. I hate skid trailers, because they aren't much good on shallow ramps and they can be a pain to drive onto. If I were buying one of these top boats, I'd be paying the extra grand for an upgrade to a fully rollered drive-on trailer.
But having said that, the 175's stylish lines, black hull, white deck and striking graphics turn heads on the water and new owners will be wrapped with her economy and overall handling.
That's not a bad double for an affordable, entry-level family boat.
WORDS : IAN MACRAE