I have been a fairly outspoken critic of Bayliner’s early Element craft (see Bayliner Element: Bold and Simple and Bayliner Element: design tweaks on show at Cannes). They were certainly very affordable, exactly as Bayliner’s new entry-level line needed to be, but I was disappointed by the extent of the compromises these accessible packages seemed to make.
Given their sales success in America, it seems they served well enough for people who wanted to sit at low speeds on gentle lakes for a lazy afternoon’s fishing. However, for those who had any experience of properly sorted powerboats (or indeed any intention of enjoying the occasional coastal passage), their flaws pretty much ruled them out. If these boats were to realise the very obvious potential of the Element concept, what they needed was a reworking of the ergonomics and an upgrading of the dynamic performance - and in the form of the Centre Console (CC) variant, that’s exactly what they got. See our First Look video of the boat here.
The merits of the CC layout
The idea behind the Element’s ‘M-Hull’ was to create an ownership experience that was as confidence-inspiring as it was approachable. These boats would corner fairly flat and offer plenty of stability at rest so people could move around on board without concern. They would nip onto the plane with ease and handle with all the efficient, novice-friendly predictability an entry-level runabout needed. Most of the original models’ failings in this regard were created by issues with layout and weight distribution – and the simplicity of the CC approach immediately tackles that on several fronts…
The position of the helm console in the middle of the deck helps improve the weight distribution (particularly for those who enjoy single-handed helming) and it puts the keen driver in precisely the position he would want. It also enables the use of a proper helm station with a more upright and supportive seat, plus grown-up grab rails and a screen with sufficient elevation to deflect the elements. On top of all that, the replacement of moulded jet boat-style seating units with convertible benches means much better comfort from forward-facing (rather than inward-facing) seats, alongside greater versatility of application and much more deck space for on board movement.
Now I drove the first CC model, the CC5, at Brunswick’s annual press event and there’s no doubt that, despite its diminutive size, it managed to translate the theoretical benefits outlined above into far and away the best Element experience I had witnessed. I then tested the larger CC6 and by exploiting the same principles alongside greater waterline length and power, that took things to a fresh level again. So I am confident that the CC7 will ramp things up even further – and not just because of its very sensible adherence to the same winning formula but because it adds a couple of very worthwhile features…
In addition to power options from 115 to 150hp, the new CC7 offers a pair of convertible sunbathing stations, one fore and one aft, alongside seating capacity for up to ten people – four more than the very serviceable CC6. That layout follows a similar direction to the CC6 aft of the console, with a two-man leaning post at the helm and a three-man bench aft, with folding and removable backrests to generate a large casting platform, as well as a sunpad and a versatile seating area. However, the new CC7 also adds a much more expansive C-shaped seating section in the bow, opposite a forward-facing seat on the console-front. Not only does that mean you get an authentic communal area in the bow, but it also buys you plenty of well-sized storage spaces, plus the capacity to create a full-beam sunpad from the forepeak right back to the console front.
Elsewhere, you get the option of a very substantial T-top for shade from the sun, plus a large coolbox beneath the leaning post and the usual scattering of rod holders on the various rails, seatbacks and stanchions with which this particular Element model is uncommonly well equipped. But the most welcome development might well prove to be the updated trihedral-style hull, which features a notable deepening of the central section…
Look at these boats on dry land and, while the unbroken shallowness of the original models would see them sit pretty much flat, the more acutely angled underbelly of the C7 would see it rock to one side and rest on the shallow outer sponson. Now I can’t claim to have tried this specific boat on the water yet, but if the new hull adds what it ought to (a little more wave-slicing softness in the ride and a little more heel and traction in the turn), it will certainly help expand the appeal of this boat to a far wider UK audience.
Bayliner Element CC7 summary
For my money, the early Element models were not good enough to warrant serious consideration, but in the light of these later variants, those in search of an entry-level Centre Console runabout would do very well to include an Element CC on the shortlist. You still get the accessible price and the novice-friendly approach, but it now comes with the dynamic and ergonomic maturity to withstand close scrutiny at the hands of real boaters in a mixture of conditions. In fact, it is starting to look like the kind of boat that could provide the boating novice not just with a starting point, but with a platform that could grow with his ambitions beyond the first season or two. On the CC models in general and the CC7 in particular, the Element is starting to look like much more than just a good idea.
Bayliner Element CC7 specifications
Engine: Mercury F150
Fuel capacity: 189 litres
People capacity: 10