As a division of Brunswick and one of the most prolific powerboat marques in the world, Sea Ray’s fleet is extraordinarily comprehensive. In addition to five luxury yachts at the top end of the line, there are six smaller sport yachts, ten relatively compact sports cruisers (see the full-length review of the Sea Ray 265 Sundancer), and no fewer than 24 open sports boats, ranging from this, the entry-level 19-footer, to the huge recreational platform that is the 350SLX. That’s around 45 boats in all – but even at the bottom end, Sea Ray’s understanding of the need for continual development is perfectly evident. After all, its existing Sport line bow riders are perfectly serviceable – and yet at the Cannes Boat Show we saw a pretty sure sign that they are about to be trumped by a fresh interpretation of the type. Cue the all-new 19 SPX (and see the First Look Video on boats.com).
The SPX difference
The 19 SPX is being introduced to us as an altogether “edgier” form of craft – but in the world of small open runabouts, that tends to signify little more than an overhaul of the cosmetics. You expect some tinting of the windows, carbon effect panels on the dash, a stereo with extra connectivity, some extra pungency in the paintwork and some sparkly bits of steel where plastic would have done just fine. The hull, deck and topsides tend to alter very little – and yet here, the developments go much deeper than simple appearance...
For a start, you get 33cm more in the beam than the old 190 Sport. That might not sound like much, but it’s a huge expansion on a boat of this scale and it yields a couple of immediate benefits. Firstly, it enables an upgrade in fuel tank capacity from 98 to 113 litres; and secondly, it means you get seating for 11 people rather than just nine. Of course, it would be easy to imagine that this is as much about the use of outboard propulsion as increased beam, but with the aft mouldings tailored to sterndrive as well as outboard options, that doesn’t hold any water at all. Instead, this extra useability is all about a much harder working internal arrangement...
On the old 190, a very formulaic bow rider layout (a pair of helm seats ahead of a full-beam aft bench) means you have to clamber over the engine bay to reach the swim platform. But here, the cockpit walkway funnels you toward the port side of the aft bench, where the extra width is used to generate a stepped, walk-through transom.
Better still, this gap also creates extra room along the port side of the cockpit for the inclusion of a convertible two-man seating unit instead of the more rigid and one-dimensional co-pilot seat. This clever section can be rigged as a pair of inward-facing seats, as a single forward-facing seat or as a long, aft-facing lounger, ideal for keeping an eye on a wakeboarder. There is way too much flex in the removable infil, but in principle (if not in outright execution), it’s a very useful feature indeed.
Move forward and the steeper, more angular screen helps further maximise space, in much the same way as straight lines and upright bulkheads do on a cruiser. And ahead of the screen, the relatively blunt bow shape also earns its keep. By simply carrying the beam further forward, it offers extra breadth of seating, allied to better splash deflection and a more practical set-up for tying off or anchoring duties.
So far so good, but there are of course some questions conjured up by the configuration of the new craft that can’t really be answered on an exhibition stand. For instance, the use of an outboard engine means that a significant portion of the boat’s weight is pushed up and aft. In tandem with that, the 15% expansion of the beam and the broadening of the bow shape are also likely to have a dynamic impact. And then there’s the inherent buoyancy of a beamier hull, which in this case increases the carrying capacity by 200 kg – and that’s despite a 50 kg reduction in the boat’s weight.
Now while the SPX is of course designed for family fun on relatively gentle summer days, a direct comparison with the 190 Sport, suggests that (on paper at least) the ride on the new boat might prove a touch hard. However, while the improved weight distribution of the sterndrive option would be an inevitable plus, economies of space on a boat of this limited length suggest that with its extra storage capacity, the outboard-equipped 19 SPX is probably the better compromise. And in any case, if on-water tests show that the SPX can handle the impacts with even a modicum of the 190’s softness, then the design developments outlined above would have to be considered wholly positive.
In real terms, the 19 SPX is not ‘edgy’ at all. In fact if you compare it to some of the world’s more spiteful, narrow-beamed speed machines, the SPX possesses all the hardline potency of a moccasin – and yet there’s no doubt that this new bow rider makes Sea Ray’s 190 Sport look and feel rather dated. Not only is it more modern in style, but it’s also more spacious, longer range and far better organised for a family in search of mixed aquatic pursuits. As things stand, the only other SPX model you can buy is the 21, but if precedent is anything to go by, then this very effective bow rider formula will result in the quick-fire flexing of Brunswick muscle and a fresh spate of production at Sea Ray HQ. Stay tuned for further developments...
Sea Ray 19 SPX: Specifications
Beam: 2.54 m
Weight: 1,131 kg
Deadrise: 19 degrees
Max power: 150 hp
Engine: Mercury 150
Fuel capacity: 113 litres
People capacity: 11