Author: Alan Jones
The first time I heard about Sea Ray’s new Quiet Ride technology was as a judge on the 2012 NMMA Innovation Awards committee. Our dilemma was that the builder didn’t have a boat in the water at the Miami Boat Show to demonstrate this technology. The Sea Ray folks were making some pretty bold claims about its effectiveness, touting up to a 14-decibel reduction, and since 10 decibels less represents a reading that’s half the noise, we were pretty skeptical. But we discovered that one of our trusted Boating Writers International colleagues had tested it, and he gave us his performance data. Based on that info, the Sea Ray 250 SLX won the 2012 Innovation Award.
A boat with the decibel readings we received is almost unbelievable, so I was excited to test it myself at the Tellico Lake facility where Sea Ray builds the 250 SLX. To me, the most critical reduction would be at cruise speed, because that’s where most people spend the greatest amount of time when running. As I put the boat on plane, the lack of noise and vibration was readily noticeable, and as we settled into a cruise speed of 28 mph, I was shocked by what I saw on my decibel meter. I’ve taken readings on nearly 1,000 boats in my career, and bowriders inthis class should measure between 83 and 85 dBA at this speed, but I saw the needle settled in at 76 dBA. It was even more pronounced at top speed, with a reading of 84 decibels. Most boats I’ve tested average 93 dBA at this throttle setting. Amazingly, at WOT my passenger and I could converse in the same tone we would use in a library.
So how the heck did Sea Ray engineers perform this magic? First, they attacked noise through conventional means, by adding thick insulation material around the engine hatch and putting gaskets on any moving item, such as hatches and the transom door, which got a new industrial-strength latch, since vibration equals noise. The walk-through windshield is tightly gasketed and requires some muscle to pop it open, but it will never rattle. Cupholders, with that little hole at the bottom to direct condensation into the bilge, turned out to be a significant contributor to noise, so they were insulated. Bulkheads were also strategically added to wall off sound.
But the real cleverness begins with the patented Tuned Transom by Omni Products (exclusively licensed to Brunswick), featuring a material that looks like Starboard, but when you drop a golf ball on it, the ball’s rebound is shortened dramatically. But the coolest component is the thin material used in the fiberglass laminate that converts sound waves into heat (nothing actually gets appreciably hotter). The underside of the hull gets the most of this material to attenuate the sound of the water hitting the hull, but small amounts of it (looking like a sheet of printer paper) are placed in strategic locations throughout the rest of the hull. The stuff works but needs a clever marketing name.
Our test boat is equipped with the standard MerCruiser 350 MAG ECT engine, which produces 300 hp and features a catalytic converter for reduced emissions. The 250 SLX is a fairly sizeable boat, stretching 26 feet, 6 inches with a trailering-friendly 8-foot, 6-inch beam. Unladen, it weighs 5,581 pounds, so 300 hp is pushing a lot of boat. On plane in 4.1 seconds, it has little bowrise, so our forward visibility remained excellent. Time to 30 mph was 7.8 seconds, and our terminal velocity peaked at a respectable 47.1 mph. The only other engine blocks available for this model is the 8.2L that comes in a 380 hp version or the HO fire breather that cranks out 430 big ones, which puts you near go-fast territory.
This big bowrider’s hull features 21 degrees of deadrise, which gives it good slicing ability in the chop. Conditions on test day were like glass, but we tested its very similar predecessor, the 250 Select EX, in horrible conditions in the Florida panhandle, and it took steep 4-footers in style. We used the standard hydraulic trim tabs to keep the bow down and the boat on plane at 14 mph and cleaved our way through the head seas cleanly with no pounding. This amount of deadrise could make some boats more tender, but the 250’s pleasing heft makes it very stable at rest. The power steering has a good feel — it’s not too light — so holding it on a chosen line is easy when on plane. Predictably, there’s a bit of wander at idle, until the driver gets dialed into the proper amount of correction to administer without overdoing it. Owing to its fairly deep-V hull, the boat heels over pretty far in turns and carves a tight, accurate corner without blowing out.
One of the greatest benefits of the Quiet Ride technology is that you can actually enjoy the stereo when running. Usually, you have to crank it to the point of distortion to hear it, which just adds to the acoustical fatigue that occurs when you cruise for long periods. Without the stereo on, the loudest sound you hear is the gentle lap of the hull working the water, which is unique and mesmerizing. This is one boat you will enjoy just cruising on, even if there’s no destination.
When equipped with one of the two watersports tower options, along with the addition of Smart Tow cruise control, the 250 SLX makes a fine wakeboard boat. At 20 mph, we trimmed the bow up a little and carved a nice clean wake for launching. The L-lounge configuration allows you to put some extra passenger weight at the stern to help beef up the wake. Good luck, however, getting anyone to move out of the bowrider seats, which are among the most comfortable in the industry. The rear sunpad has gullwing sections that allow you to create a centerline walk-through for access to the generous swim platform, or you can leave it in full sunning mode.
Once you’ve made your engine choice (Clark Kent or the other guy), you have a huge list of options to make the 250 SLX your own boat. Most will rig it with the optional VacuFlush head in the roomy port console, and the sporty and ergonomically correct helm station will benefit from the addition of a Garmin 640 GPSMap for navigation. Your other main option for taking the 250 on the road is a dual-axle trailer. Sea Ray gives you four hull color options in different configurations, such as the rich burgundy of our test boat. Priced at $94,608, with freight, the 250 SLX isn’t for the faint of wallet, but cutting-edge luxury seldom comes cheap.