Stingray’s newest outboard-powered model will find a place in your heart without leaving a hole in your bank account.
Author: Alan Jones
With boats, you usually have a choice of either great performance or low price, and seldom do the twain ever ’twine. That is, unless your boat is built in Hartsville, S.C., home of Stingray Boats. For 2013, the 191RX is the new value leader in the marketplace that gives you what you really want at a blow-your-mind price.
Normally, we list the MSRP of a boat at the end of a review, after extolling the vessel’s virtues, in order to give you some hope that your dreamboat could be your reality boat. No need for delay or burying the lead here, because the price of a Stingray is $17,995, and that includes a $2,000 trailer. There goes your excuse for not hooking your family up with a new boat.
One thing that makes Stingray such a success is that it stays within its niche. Instead of offering boats from 18 to 60 feet with every possible permutation in between, Stingray has focused on building trailerable 18- to 25-foot boats that provide great bang for the buck as well as some giddy-up. Since the late 1990s, Stingray Boats has specialized in sterndrive boats — until last year, when it began offering outboard-powered boats as a lower-cost alternative to catalyst-mandated sterndrives. And this year, those choices are expanded with the 191RX Outboard.
The bane of “price boats” is that they are usually underpowered, leaving owners wanting more than they got, and you might imagine that to be the case here when you see the two-digit — 90 hp — Mercury FourStroke on the transom of the 19-foot, 3-inch bowrider, seemingly making it the poster child for the “wanting more” thesis. You’d think that, if you don’t know anything about Stingray. Owner Al Fink is a speed guy, who is often seen at Darlington Dragway, schooling the younger generation in his replica 1963 Stingray (what else?) Top Eliminator dragster. So the basic rule is: If it has the Stingray badge on it, it has to perform well.
Credit the patented Z-plane hull for doing the heavy lifting to carry the Merc 90 to new speeds. Well that’s not entirely true. Doing some research, we found another boat that almost perfectly matched the numbers the 191RX achieved during our test: the aluminum Crestliner 1850 SC Spitfire. The Stingray/Crestliner times to 30 mph were 7.4 seconds and 7.2 seconds, and the top speeds were 43.5 mph and 43.3 mph. There was one major difference between the two boats: The Stingray weighs 2,219 pounds while the Crestliner tips the scales at 970 pounds, a whopping difference of 1,249 pounds. Fuel economy was surprisingly close, too, with the Stingray achieving 6.4 mpg and the Crestliner getting 7.4 mpg. Mercury’s test numbers didn’t include time to plane for the Crestliner, but it probably wasn’t much different than the 191’s time of 3.2 seconds.
We had two test sessions with the 191RX — one in placid, pre-sunset conditions and the other with the wind howling. We found the 191RX had very little bowrise coming out of the hole. One of the most useful features on our test boat is Zero Torque steering, which negates prop torque when cruising in a straight line. You can partially negate prop torque by trimming the engine up, but you will still feel its persistent tug, which will tire your arm after a long day of running. Even without hydraulic steering, the 191 is easy to turn, although left-handers will find it easier, because they’re turning with the torque. There is a bit of ventilation toward the end of really hard turns, but the hull sticks well enough to impress your riders.
When we videotaped running shots the next day, conditions on South Carolina’s Lake Robinson were snotty. A 1-foot chop doesn’t sound like much, but if the waves are really steep they’re akin to running over a 1-foot-high speed bump in your car. In my notes, I wrote “really smooth over the chop.” When I watched the video later, I was amazed at how level the boat ran, with very little up and down bow movement. A lot of sub-20-footers have fairly flat bottoms, but the 191RX sports a healthy 19 degrees of deadrise at the stern, which accounted for its smooth ride.
For a 19-footer, the 191RX has a generous eight-passenger capacity and a place to seat everyone with a full-beam stern bench, bowrider seats and twin adjustable crew seats that can swivel 180 degrees. The upholstery is the same premium 36-ounce PreFixx-coated vinyl as on Stingray’s more upscale models. Twenty-ounce carpeting also comes standard. Up front, the bow-riding recliners have a generous amount of tilt for comfort and enough legroom for a 6-footer to stretch out. There’s no dedicated anchor locker, but Stingray gives you a centerline cleat for an even pull at anchor and a cooler for passenger refreshment.
If you are into watersports, you’ll need to add the optional removable stainless steel ski pylon ($423). For reboarding there’s a two-step ladder that we wish were recessed so you could step aboard on the starboard-side platformette or sit with your feet in the water at anchor. The other low-price sacrifice is that the centerline ski locker doesn’t have a dam to keep it open. There’s more ski storage under the stern bench.
The 191RX has a price of $17,995, but to be happy you’ll need to add a grand for the Preferred Equipment Group, which bundles a host of must-have options at a vastly reduced price. Included are the MP3 sound system with remote port-side control, a Sunbrella Bimini top, Zero Torque steering and an automatic/manual bilge pump. No engine options are available with the RX Package, but if you step up to the more luxurious LX model, you can bump up to a Yamaha F115 four-stroke and have the ability to add goodies such as the Fish & Ski Package. Sterndrive fans can purchase the 195RX for the same low price, which comes with a 135 hp MerCruiser that has a catalytic converter and resides beneath a generous sunpad.