The World’s Most Popular Boat?
There have been more Bayliner boats imported into NZ than any other imported brand. The first, at just over 6m, was imported by Sea Nymph circa 1973, but imports soon stopped, and it wasn’t until 1987 that serious efforts were made to establish the brand in NZ. There is now a strong network of reputable dealers, with the long standing Bayliner dealer Lakeland Marine in Taupo, Fish City in Auckland, and Mr Boats covering the South Island from premises in Christchurch and Timaru.
While shopping for fishing provisions at Fish City just prior to Christmas, I stumbled across the Bayliner 175 Bowrider, flaunting a price tag of just over $30,000 – for the boat, engine and trailer.
The rig seemed to be excellent value for money, and after speaking with Ross Christensen, managing director of Fish City, I speculated that this was the reason behind the Bayliner 175 being one of the top selling power boats in the world?
With Bayliner reportedly being the largest boat builder in the world (building all styles of boats from 5m to 17.4m) and the 175 model being Bayliner’s most popular model, this must surely come close to qualifying the Bayliner 175 as the world’s most popular boat. It measured up price-wise but the true test would be out on the water, so we decided to take the Bayliner 175 Flight Series out for a spin before the new owner arrived to collect it for Christmas.
Over the last seven years Bayliner has fine-tuned the 175, improving performance, functionality and aesthetics. The 175 is offered in two versions – the entry level 175 or the upspec’d personalised Flight Series F17, which was the model we were to test.
From the boarding platform to the bow, for a five-metre boat the 175 is both roomy and user-friendly, offering seating for up to seven. The bow area offers seating (with storage below) for either three children or two adults, surrounded with recessed stainless cup holders, grab rails and comfortable back rests. There is a bollard either side for tying off. For New Zealand conditions and use, the 175 lacks a bowsprit to make the task of anchoring easier. Ross informed us that there are several after market bowsprits available and in fact the new owner will be adding one to this boat in the early New Year.
Moving from the bow to the cockpit, the walk-through windscreen felt strong and effectively deflects the wind over the crew, although I felt that the flat glass appearance did not blend with the overall smooth lines of the boat, dating it just a little. From looking at the Bayliner website, it appears a change is due for the next 175 models due into NZ, with the flat glass being replaced by a more rounded, sportier looking windshield, in keeping with cool graphics and nice lines of the 175. There is a bow cover available as an optional extra, which will further shelter the occupants from the bow draft in cooler weather.
The helm position is comfortable and sport-like, vision all round is reasonably unobstructed and there is a clear view of the stylish Faria analog gauges, evenly arranged on a smart looking acrylic panel. The seating throughout the boat is comfortable, the helm seat being a single Springfield pedestal seat that slides and swivels and can be swung around 180 degrees to create a relaxed lounge area.
Across from the helm, the Bayliner 175 Flight Series (F17) has a back-to-back seat or sleeper seat, which conveniently converts flat to a sunlounger; this arrangement is also offered as an option for the helm seat as an alternative to the single swivel helm seat. Forward of the front passenger is a port console containing a waterproof MP3 stereo and small glove compartment suitable for keys, wallets and cell phones, etc.
Overhead on the F17 model is a bimini, offering shade for those onboard, shadowed by a strong looking wakeboard tower. Underfoot, the cockpit sole is constructed of marine grade plywood (with foam flotation) as opposed to many models now using internal fibreglass mouldings; this allows Bayliner to keep manufacturing costs down and offer the F17 at a very competitive price. Marine ply has been used effectively for many years, and when looked after will last for many years to come, for peace of mind the owner also has the assurance of Bayliner’s transferable limited lifetime structural hull warranty. The cockpit sole is covered in a marine grade carpet; between the seats there is a good-sized ski locker easily capable of storing wakeboards and skis. Other storage is available under the already mentioned bowrider seating, the starboard aft jump seat, and under the gunwales, which are open with no trays below, allowing larger items to be slid up behind.
Aft, there are two jump seats, one either side of the engine cover, which is equipped with integrated drink holders and a grab handle. The engine cover can be completely removed, offering excellent access to the engine bay, which accommodates the 135hp 3.0-litre, four-cylinder MerCruiser engine The MerCruiser Alpha One drive is tucked neatly away under the boarding platform.
It is an easy step over from the cockpit to the full width-boarding platform, which has a tidy integrated step platform with a two-step ladder for easy boarding when climbing back onbard from the water. There is also a tow hook and fuel filler mounted in the transom. The 79-litre fuel tank is mounted under the port section of the transom.
On the water
It’s not just the great value for your dollar boat-wise, the F17 also offers brilliant performance for a boat with a $35,000 price tag – taking just over 7 seconds from 0 to 30 mph seemed effortless, offering great hole shot for skiers and wakeboarders, who I believe will be one of the principal markets for the F17.
The F17 is fun and easy to drive, apart from the steering being very heavy due to the boat not being fitted with power steering. The only other noticeable negative was the engine noise through some of the rev range. However, we spoke to the new owner and consulted the noise experts at Forman Insulation and for a minimal cost, adding an easily applied Forman Insulation product, a noticeable difference was made – see our Practical Column in this issue. Speaking with Bayliner representatives, the next 175 models to be released here in NZ have a new sealed engine cover and recessed engine vents to further reduce noise levels. These little issues are not biggies and can be easily resolved. Keeping in mind the price of the rig, you are still getting a whole lot of boat for your buck.
In the early days of American imports there was much talk of imported bowriders being built only for small lakes. However, on our day out, the harbour chop was only slight, and when tracking down wake from ferries and other large boats I found the 19 degree deadrise hull easily handled the slop and wake that was thrown at it. Keep in mind that the F17 is not a boat designed to take out blue water fishing – for the purpose it was designed for, it will serve its inner harbour, watersport, picnicking family owner well.
The F17 is a great little boat, offering exceptional value for money. It will allow many Kiwi families to enjoy our beautiful waterways together as a family.
For just over $30,000 for a boat, trailer and motor, with a WOF and registration, the F17 represents great value and performance for the money – obviously the reason why the Bayliner 175 is one of the world’s top selling boats.
- Make: Bayliner
- Model: 175 Flight Series
- Price as Tested: $34,995
- Priced from: $29,995
- Designer: Bayliner, USA
- Material: GRP
- Type: Bowrider
- Length LOA: 5.33m
- Beam: 2.11m
- Deadrise: 19 degree
- Hull Configuration: medium V
- Trailerable Weight: 1400kg
- Height on trailer: 1.75m
- Engine Capacity: 3.0 litre, 135hp
- Power Options: Sterndrive only
- Recommended max hp: 320
- Fuel Capacity: 79.5L
Performance – MERCRUISER 3.0 @ 135HP
Speeds were recorded on a Lowrance GPS