Bayliner 185 Bowrider

By: Rick Huckstepp, Photography by: Rick Huckstepp

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Yes, you can buy a boat on a budget and still get a top quality product

Bayliner 185 Bowrider
Bayliner 185 Bowrider
  • Good finish
  • Practical layout
  • Light to tow
  • Manoeuvers well at speed
  • Easily accessible engine

The American-built Bayliner 185 is a tidy, well-specified bowrider with a list of standard features you’d expect to pay extra for on many other vessels.

She comes in a compact size with a towing weight of 1336kg, which means the 185BR can be towed by big six-cylinder family cars.

The mouldings have an excellent finish thanks to Bayliner’s vacuum-moulding process, which creates strong, ultra-smooth gelcoat finishes for all moulded surfaces.


The bowrider cockpit has a deep leg well and the heavily-upholstered seating features removable cushions that hide the cavernous storage beneath.

There are strategically-placed grab handles around this cockpit, and also enough freeboard so that passengers feel secure when underway – important for family boating.

The cockpit cushions stop short of meeting at the bow creating a firm under foot area, so alighting over the bow onto the beach is a lot easier.

The wrap-around windscreen sweeps well back and the opening in the centre is wide enough for a large person to fit through easily. The centre piece swings well out of the way and has a rubber grommet supporting it if it’s left open while underway.

Aft of the bowrider cockpit there’s a hatch in the deck of the companionway between the helm and passenger’s seats. This lifts to reveal a semi-dry compartment where your safety gear can be stowed.

This locker can also be used as a wet storage area because it is "bunged" and drains into the bilge, where an automatic bilge pump, mounted in front of the engine, pumps any water overboard.

Driver comfort

Bayliner has made the instrument dash "non glare" with multiple brows shading all of the instruments. The dash also features an adjustable steering wheel.

Both the skipper and passenger’s seat are a back-to-back arrangement, so each feature rear-facing observer seats. The seat bases are mounted on a long track and can be adjusted both forward and aft, but they also fully extended into sun lounges.

The aft end

The engine box protrudes slightly into the main cockpit and while it does encroach on available cockpit space, it also creates a usable sunlounge when the transom quarter-seat cushion are slotted into their high position. The padded backrests of these aft-quarter seats lift out to give access to the battery and power-steering pump.

The wide swim platform stretches the boat’s entire beam and has a hinged, flush-mounted hatch on the starboard side that conceals a drop-down telescopic stainless steel ladder. Four engine-box blower vents are rebated into the transom bulkhead and there’s a single ski-rope attachment mounted centrally.

Performance & Handling

The standard engine on this model is a 135hp MerCruiser petrol engine driving through an Alpha 1 leg. Access to the top, front and sides of the engine, so the dipstick, pulleys and belts are fully exposed for easy maintenance, is as easy as opening the engine-box cover on its gas-assisted rams.

A nylon 106lt fuel tank is installed under the floor and its aft end (and the attached plumbing) is accessible at the front of the engine compartment.

Under power the four-cylinder had ample punch and shot out of the hole easily. I found cruising at 27 knots the most comfortable and at "WOT" she managed about 40 knots according to the speedo.

This bowrider manoeuvred well at speed and lay over hard in tight turns.

Read in-depth boat reviews in the latest issue of Trade-A-Boat magazine, on sale now.

See a range of Bayliner boats for sale here.

Read more Bayliner boat reviews here.

Specifications (Price as tested: $45,000)

LOA 6.38m
Beam 2.31m
Draft 0.94m
Weight on trailer 1336kg
Fuel 106lt
Engine 135hp, 3.0-litre MerCruiser

For more information, contact Denis at Taupo’s Lakeland Marine (07 378 7031).

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