words & photos - David Lockwood
Premium bowrider with remodelled transom and a taste for tow sports
- New sportier styling
- Remodelled transom with greater utility
- Upgraded fit and finish commensurate with the price
- Hot performance and faultless handling
- Sea Ray badge cred’, local backing and overall package

- No deck shower option
- Big ticket bowrider
- 2.59m beam necessitates towing permit

- New release raises the bar
Sea Ray is the premium pleasure-boat badge in American parent company Brunswick Corporation’s 30-boat brand lineup. But the distinction has been made greater by the release of the 230 SLX Select at this year’s Miami Boat Show. 

No longer resting on its laurels, Sea Ray is going the extra distance to claim more of the premium-boat market with upmarket products that fit. This test of the first Sea Ray 230 SLX, a 2013 model, was evidence of that. This is a smarter, more upmarket and functional 23-footer than the predecessor.

The significant styling change takes this new-generation Sea Ray bowrider out of the generic family mould into one that’s somewhat sportier. The transom has been remodelled and the boat has a more spacious feel throughout. Yet there isn’t the bubble look of some high-volume bowriders. What you get are go-fast raked deck lines.

With the optional forward-facing black powder-coated aluminium tower, as fitted and seen here, and the upgraded 300hp MerCruiser 350 MAG, meant the new 230 SLX had sufficiently sporty looks and performance in keeping with its lines. Look closer and you’ll notice greater attention to detail: a new leather top dash, for example.

But the biggest improvement is the transom. The old 230 SLX was all rear sun pad and comparatively small cockpit. This new model has a smaller sun lounge and an aft-facing lounge with flip-up backrest, plus what seems like an enlarged swim platform. 

The transom is now a more functional seating zone and with optional SeaDek swim-platform pad you can enjoy even terrific comfort underfoot. On the trailer, you might also notice the hull change to accommodate the new transom seating layout. Deeper and bigger extended pods are moulded either side of the Bravo 3 sterndrive to add buoyancy at rest and perhaps during initial hole shot. Side on, they extended the boat’s profile and make this new iteration a prettier boat.

- Some sporty upgrades and cool summer kit
Queensland Marine Centre always does a great job of packaging and presenting its Sea Ray rigs. This 230 SLX looked the part from the moment it arrived at the ramp on its factory-rigged galvanised dual-axle trailer with brakes and bearing protection. 

The big option was the folding water sports tower with swivel wakeboard racks. We think the 230 SLX would look a little underdone without it. Other welcome factory fitted options include docking lights, ski mirror, stereo remote at transom, dual batteries with isolator, cockpit and tonneau covers, fire suppression system, adjustable-height helm seat, transom trailer trim switch.

?Registered and on-road, the package with upgraded MerCruiser 350 MAG in place of the standard American rig with 260hp MerCruiser 5.0L MPI and options cost $110,480. There are cheaper alternatives, however, the quality is commensurate with the price and the drive seconds the feeling of luxury.

One last thing: Sea Ray's patented Active Trim Control is available on the 230 SLX. The inbuilt trim tabs automatically adjust to maximise performance and optimise the wake.

- A smarter dayboat than before
We began our tour from the bow back, noting that the 230 SLX comes with an anchor locker -- its moulded lid is held open by a gas strut as are many hatches -- and that will please Australian boaters. 

There’s a good deal of stainless steel by way of grab rails, mooring cleats and drink holders, recessed down near your feet but out of the way, plus LED courtesy lights, and two speakers up front. 

The seats are big enough for an adult to sit legs outstretched, leaning back on the high backrests, with moulded lined side lockers nearby. The upholstery level is excellent with vanilla and chocolate vinyls applied with a mix of stitching patterns. 

Storage exists under the kingboard seat bases for lifejackets and so on, while the high freeboard and wide bow provides a sense of safety on the water. We didn’t ship a drop on what was a blustery Gold Coast day with plenty of snappy turns this way and that.

The 230 SLX comes with a windbreaker door or dam under the centre section of the opening Taylor Marine windscreen, which has a black frame and support struts to match the powder-coated black tow tower. The windbreaker will enhance your comfort back in the cockpit when cold-weather boating. 

Sea Ray’s ergonomically designed co-pilot and helm stations always rate highly, but the new 230 SLX is even better. The co-pilot is in charge of the Sony stereo facia with iPod connector in the lockable glovebox, which is plumbed with a lid that lifts on a gas strut so as to double as an icebox. There is additional storage for personal effects also in side pockets. 

Underfloor, between the co-pilot and helm seats, is a huge lockable ski locker with vinyl liner. There’s additional dry storage under the helm and co-pilot consoles, accessed behind the padded seat backrests in the bow.

The seats on the 230 SLX are comfortable, hip-hugging helm bucket types that proved very supportive during high-speed turns. Meanwhile, we remained shaded from the midday sun by the bimini on the tow tower.

The driver faces a soft-touch automotive-type dash with stereo remote, sports wheel and three multifunction MerCruiser engine gauges including Smartcraft digital readout. There’s a handy bank of rocker switches, an adjustable sports wheel and keyless ignition. An optional compass was fitted.

The clip-in rubber-backed carpet enhances the crew experience at the remodelled aft end of the new 230 SLX, where there’s now a L-shaped lounge, more grab rails and drink holders. The lounge is long enough to nap on. With the helm seats swivelled around, you create a social lunch setting for a family or two couples.

A couple of nice touches include the fold-down armrest incorporating two drink holders, the walk-through non-skid thoroughfare to the swim platform, and the flip-up backrest that creates an aft-facing lounge at the transom. It’s the perfect place to peel prawns, watch the nippers while they swim astern, and contemplate life as it drifts past. Way more useful than an overgrown sunpad as per the previous model. The boat has a built-in cooler under the aft seat, too.

 - Built to international standards and refined over time
Besides very fair mouldings, what’s left to say about the construction of a mainstream high-volume boat like the Sea Ray 230 SLX? For starters, there’s a Limited Lifetime Warranty on the hull and deck. Construction involves high-performance vinylester resin and preformed composite stronger system called Prisma from Compsys. There’s no timber in the boat.

All the skin fittings are stainless steel, there’s an engine vent system with stainless-steel grills, audible engine oil and water/heating alarms, and our boat had an upgraded automatic fire-suppression system. Engine access is industry standard, with a gas-strut assisted lid lifter revealing the gelcoat lined and insulated space.

The batteries were sectioned off to the sides and also have separate hatch access. The wiring is colour coded with chafe protection, while one could reach down to the polypropylene fuel tank’s sender if that needed replacing. All told, it’s a very neat and tidy installation. 

The 189 litres of fuel is a good load for a boat like this. At economical cruise around 3000rpm you’re using some 16 litres per nautical mile. The only thing missing was water. A freshwater deck shower isn’t an option. 

- Sporty performer with deep-vee hull
The tried-and-tested and unchanged running surface on the 230 SLX boasts 21 degrees of deadrise. So it’s a good deep-vee boat for charging around our busy inshore waterways. There was a bit of wind and wake about during our test, but the boat just sliced straight through it. No thuds at all.

The 350 MAG with decent 24in duoprop has a lot of torque. This will be appreciated by watersports lovers holding on out the back. It sure leaves the base 5.0-litre MPI behind in this department. And the 5.7-litre V8 isn’t that much thirstier. You also get better low-speed handling with the Bravo 3 drive and prop.
A couple of purely subjective observations were made: 30 knots (35mph read from the speedo) was a wonderful, quiet and agreeable cruise; 35 knots (40mph) was a handy fast cruise but with some noticeable induction noise as the V8 sucked air; while top speed of 45 knots (52mph) was really flying. But beautifully in control.

The power-assisted steering, sight lines, helm chair, and throttle location with trim button make driving the 230 SLX intuitive. The hull instils confidence, while the fitout adds to the comfort. First-class performance and ride.

- Greatly improved layout in a big and beautiful bowrider
The 230 SLX really is a decent-sized bowrider, with greater family cruising comfort than your popular 18-19 footers, and a 2.59m beam requiring a basic towing permit for the dual-axle braked trailer. But for that trifling matter you get a premium experience on the water all the way beyond the benchmark 50mph. 

The new lifts in fit and finish, particularly upholstery, the new black windscreen and the tower all add to the sporty look. Then there’s the upgraded 350 MAG V8 renowned for its pulling grunt. But it’s the transom remodelling that is the big step forward. 

Arguably, Australians aren’t really into sunbaking aboard in the blazing summer sun. So the old full-width sun pad that took up so much room is of questionable value, especially when you know have more interior space, a smarter L-shaped lounge, and an aft-facing lounge in the transom. 
?Add the nice big swim platform and the 230 SLX is a better boat from bow to stern. 

Overall rating: 4.82/5.0
Mechanical/equipment: 4.7/5.0
Packaging and practicality: 4.95/5.0
On the water Performance: 4.9/5.0
Value for money: 4.7/5.0
X-factor: 4.85/5.0

Price as tested: $110,480 including dual-axle trailer, engine upgrade, folding water sports tower, swivel wakeboard racks, docking lights, ski mirror, stereo remote at transom, dual batteries with isolator, cockpit and tonneau covers, fire suppression system, adjustable height helm seat, transom trailer trim switch, dealer supplied safety gear, boat and trailer packages and more.

Priced from: $88,240 with 5.0L MPI

LOA: 7.0m inc. extended swim platform
Beam: 2.59m
Weight: 1859kg dry weight
Deadrise: 21 degrees
Engine: 300hp MerCruiser 350 MAG with Bravo 3 sterndrive and s/s 24p prop
Fuel:  189 litres
People Day: 11 max/703kg max. load inc. gear
Supplied by:
Queensland Marine Centre
Head Office, Showroom and Service Workshop
Cnr Nerang/Southport Road and Bailey Cres
Southport, Qld, 4215.
Phone: (07) 5591 7032

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Published : Monday, 17 December 2012

Prices and specifications supplied are for the market in Australia only and were correct at time of first publication. makes no warranty as to the accuracy of specifications or prices. Please check with manufacturer or local dealer for current pricing and specifications.