words - David Lockwood
Bayliner's 2002 range of Capri bowriders are typical of the US manufacturer's emphasis on fun family boating. David Lockwood headed to Berowra Waters and checked out three of its latest

Many manufacturers mistakenly leave too much to choice. I say mistakenly because there are a so many darn choices in the consumer world that even the most simple thing, like buying a trailerboat, can be an ordeal.

Choice, or perhaps lack thereof, is the very reason Bayliner's just-add-water kind of dayboats are so popular. An American boatbuilding giant, Bayliner ships more of its compact Capri bowriders than any other boat manufacturer. Why?

The Capris sell so well because Bayliner has left little to chance. What you see is what you get - that is, almost everything for a comfortable stay and play aboard. Add fuel, water and away you go. Easy as that.

Thus, the decisions remaining are things like what watertoys to bring, how many cans of Coke to pack, who to invite along for the ride and, on this bright summer's day, where best to go?

Before me were two roads: one leading to a choppy bay, the other to a big river, with lots of sweeping bends, flanked by steep shores that protected it from the wind. Of course, there is no choice between comfort and suffering. So I trained the bow on Berowra Waters.

What a good decision that was, because what unfolded was a near-perfect morning playing with three of Bayliner's Capri bowriders. The trio of 2002 models included the 175, 185 and 215, all with sterndrive power.

The Capri range of bowriders, which spans five models (with a few optional seating arrangements), are family boats with seating up front as well as amidships and back aft. Being American, they come with a good spread of amenities.

While some local boatbuilders may make stiffer boats, Bayliner's Capris are backed by decades of boatbuilding experience. The hulls are beamy up front, the mouldings are superbly fair, but what is just as clever is the so-called "unitised construction".

Underfloor hides a foam-filled fibreglass box stringer system for longitudinal stiffness. Bulkheads provide transverse strength, while foam filling of the underfloor void gives flotation and sound deadening. The handlaid hulls are backed by a transferable limited lifetime structural warranty.

On the surface, the Bayliner Capris flaunt a flash finish derived from a combination of UV-resistant gelcoat, go-fast graphics, moulded dash consoles, marine carpet and thick vinyl upholstery. The 2002 Capris have a new dash design, change of interior colour scheme (camels rather than blues), different graphics and, most impressively, a smaller engine box that is now less obtrusive.

Having driven bowriders with outboards and inboards, it is my view that the latter provides a superior package, with better integration, lower noise levels and less smoke. The 175 was fitted with a 3.0lt 135hp MerCruiser, the 185 had a 4.3lt 190hp MerCruiser and the 215 boasted a 5.7lt 250hp petrol MerCruiser.

The 2002 Capris also feature Bayliner's latest APSIII hull with a cut-out amidships to reduce drag. The 185 and 215 had what appeared to be a very generous beam with lots of flare in the topsides, above the waterline.

In tight turns, something the Capris lend themselves to, all three models show no inclination to bury their bow and ship water. Even at low speeds, they had plenty of freeboard up front for traversing boat wake without taking a wave aboard.

Dads can therefore rest easy knowing the deep cockpits of these boats will keep the kids safely contained. Underway, they seemed to be nice and dry. But the Capris aren't just family wagons, they are really quite sporty.

While the handling is predictable, the hull and motor combinations are agile. Take it from me, before long you will find yourself pulling into tight turns. Top speeds on all three models were also fast by trailerboat standards.

Aside from top speed and volume, both of which increase as you move up the Capri range, the 175, 185 and 215 differ little in the layout department. But these are bowrider layouts that work well straight off the factory floor.

The Capri 185 perhaps best illustrates what Bayliner provides for your buck. At the blunt end, it has a boarding platform that's an integral part of the deck moulding, not a bolt-on, and it also has a recessed swim ladder, grabrail, ski ring, fuel filter and venting for the engine.

Access to the engine on all three boats involves removing two upholstered quarter panels and unclipping the engine box. Aside from the motors, this also grants access to the batteries and bilge pump.

By lifting out the quarter seats and relocating them higher up you can convert the padded engine box, which has two drinkholders built in, into a sun lounge. All three models have room for an adult to lie across the transom and soak-up the rays.

In running mode, the quarter seats offer good support and security. There are cut-outs in the mouldings for extra shoulder room and to provide armrests. There are cleats for mooring aft, amidships and at the bow, and narrow but long sidepockets.

Set in the camel-coloured polypropylene carpet is an underfloor wet box for storing togs, wetsuits, ski ropes and suchlike. The flooring in the bow area is non-skid fibreglass. Access through the opening windscreen caters for the girth challenged.

The Capris have back-to-back seats that convert into sun lounges. The 185 and 175 were a little short of legroom on the copilot's side. In fact, you had to splay your legs to sit before the dash.

The copilot gets a grabrail, drinkholder, marine stereo with removable facia, and a small well set in the dash that could be used as an icebox. However, the quasi icebox drains straight to the floor or your legs. A 12V outlet lets you run the mobile or video recorder.

Leg room is ideal on the driver's side and vision is clear through the windscreen, which does its implied job. The throttle falls to hand, the power-assisted steering is light enough, and the wheel is a sporty number.

US Marine analogue gauges relay boat speed, engine revs, oil pressure, temp, trim, fuel and volt levels. A car-like switch panel activates the horn, lights, blower, bilge and ignition. The nav-light is a simple split model on the bow, where there is cleat and non-skid gunwale to aid stepping aboard.

The bowrider section of the 175 and 185 has seating for two. On the 215 you can also fit a child up front. There are cushioned backrests, storage under the bowseats, but none of the holds are lined and there is no insert for an icebox. The centre storage section is big enough to hold a small anchor and short rope.

The Capri 175 is narrowest up front, with an elementary dash, and felt less refined than its bigger siblings. An entry-level boat, it could be construed as being s-down compared with, say, the Capri 215. However, even the little 175 had a marine stereo and some sporty spice.

Packaged with a trailer, the Capri 175 is certainly the easiest boat to tow and most convenient model to pop in the garage. Top speed was around 74-77kmh. Its running costs will be very manageable.

The Capri 185 is probably the consummate American bowrider, not too big to manhandle or launch alone, but not too small to cross a big bay in a blow. It had a 87kmh top speed, perky performance and hole shot, and it turned on a dime. Driver ergonomics and noise levels were better than the 175.

But when it comes to handling, waterline length rules the waves. With the biggest hull, the Capri flagship, the 215, had the greatest amount of stability and best ride. It also had the classiest dash, with LCD clock, trip log, distance and hour meter. Like the 185, but unlike the 175, it had power-assisted steering.

Underway, even in the relative calm of Berowra Waters, the Capri 215 felt sure-footed, dry and quiet. It had a feeling of unity not apparent on the little boat.

The speedo wasn't working, but it's top speed was probably around 93kmh.

Having enjoyed driving all three boats, I retired to a little sandy beach under the casuarinas and gums. It was one of those lovely riverside settings much sought after by water skiers and family boaties for staging a midday barbie. Some shade to boot.

While there are plenty American-made bowriders to choose from, this trio of Bayliners has everything you need. There is an optional sports pack with a full-width lounge and pedestal helmseats, but as you see them here, with back-to-backs seats, they are perfect for day boating.

The beauty about the comfortable Capris is that they are simply boats to go. Hitch one up, haul it to the water, and the only decision you'll face is where to go. May I suggest a quiet river for a foreshore barbie. Sure beats bashing about some windswept bay.

Price as tested: $33,590, $39,990, $54,990 inc. trailer, regos and safety gear.
Options Fitted:
Material: GRP
Length (overall): 5.36m, 5.49m, 6.35m
Beam: 2.11m, 2.29m, 2.49m
Rec hp: 135hp, 190hp, 240hp
Weight (BMT): 1220kg, 1355kg, 1825kg
Fuel: 87lt, 87lt, 151lt
Make/model: MerCruiser
Type: Petrol inboards w/sterndrive
Rated HP: 135hp, 190hp, 250hp
Displacement: 3.0lt, 4.3lt, 5.7lt
Weight: 288kg, 380kg, 426kg
Drive (make/ratio): Alpha One 2.0, 1.81, 1.47
Props: MerCruiser standard
SUPPLIED BY Bayliner Australia, Berowra Waters (NSW), tel (02) 9456 3200
For further information on the Bayliner range go to our New Boats Section.

Published : Friday, 1 March 2002

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.

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