When you think about it, 1959 was quite a year for milestone events. Alaska and Hawaii were admitted to the union and became the 49th and 50th U.S. states. The Boeing 707 Jet Airliner came into service and little girls fell in love with Barbie Dolls created by Ruth Handler and made by Mattel. Oh yeah, in 1959 there was one other significant moment in history as Sea Ray boats by Ray Industries was founded as an independent company in Detroit, Mich., by C.N. Ray.
While the average cost of a new car is no longer $2,200 like it was in 1959 and gas is slightly higher than 25 cents per gallon these days, one thing that has remained consistent over the past 60 years is the quality of a Sea Ray-built boat.
Headquartered in Knoxville, Tenn., Sea Ray has been pushing the limits of performance and craftsmanship to elevate the boating experience since the late 50s and is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.
At a recent media event as part of the year-long celebration, the GLB staff, along with select members of the marine media, was able to get behind the wheel of some very impressive boats. Each time we stepped foot on board a different Sea Ray it instantly became our “new favorite” and by the end of the day opinions varied among writers about which model truly shined the brightest. In the end it was fair to say with over a dozen different Sea Rays on the water, this manufacturer only knows how to build quality boats.
SLX 400 OB
In a marina full of boats perfect for the Great Lakes, the Sea Ray SLX 400 OB seemed to catch a lot of positive attention and it certainly caught our eye as well. At nearly 40 feet long and over 12 feet wide, the outboard version of the SLX 400 that earned an NMMA Innovation Award in 2017 as well as countless other awards, is equally impressive.
It’s no secret the outboard segment of the boating industry is trending up these days. In fact, according to NMMA reports, outboard engine retail sales grew another 3 percent in 2018 to a 12-year high with 278,500 total units sold. Another interesting stat is the demand for 300hp size engines and larger was up 14.3 percent, and nearly a quarter of the total outboard engines sold in 2018 were at least 200hp.
Powered by triple Mercury 350hp Verados, Sea Ray is clearly locked in on what boaters are searching for these days and the SLX 400 OB is as versatile as it is impressive.
From the ingenious fold-down swim terrace and the robust cabin, to the amenity-rich cockpit, the SLX 400 OB is the consummate entertainer and a superior all-around performer. Every facet has been thoughtfully designed for maximum enjoyment, making everyone onboard feel right at home.
The swim terrace, though only for use at rest, turns the cockpit into a waterfront patio. With a simple press of a button it folds out to expand the deck, providing yacht-like room in the stern. We also love the big sun pad next to it with a backrest cushion that rotates to create several sitting and lounging positions.
The mid-cockpit has a wraparound dinette that takes advantage of the movable backrest, and an outdoor galley with a sink is to starboard. The double electric Kenyon grills plus an Isotherm fridge are great options to expand your time on the water, and another upgrade worth adding is the retractable sunshade that deploys electrically from the hardtop.
At the helm the dash is ergonomically impeccable with twin Simrad 12-inch displays for navigation and a Mercury VesselView monitor. Also included are illuminated buttons for the systems that are well labeled. Every amazing boat needs an equally amazing sound system and that’s what we love about the FUSION stereo unit. It produces a quality sound and access to the controls is easily within reach for the captain.
Beyond the folding wrap-around windshield is another great seating area in the bow that can also convert into a sun pad for those sun worshipers in your crew. We especially like the grab rails that can be found just about everywhere, and the entire boat has padded coamings for added safety.
There is nearly 7 feet of headroom in the cabin below as you step down from the helm through the sliding door. The starboard-side head includes a shower and a vacu-flush toilet and the mini galley to port features a microwave and fridge. The wraparound couch with a folding table converts into a V-berth and tucked under the cockpit is a queen-size mattress with padded backrests so you can really stretch out. It’s big enough for overnighting and comfy enough to tuck the kids in for a nap.
Continuing the outboard trend, the SLX-R 350 OB is a brand-new model that was released this year and was also available for us to test during the media event. The re-launch of this second generation SLX 350 hosts an array of features and it was recently announced that the limited-edition SLX-R package now comes standard with newly-released Mercury Racing 450R dual engines.
Yep, you heard correctly. That’s 900 horses on the back from the highest horsepower engines Mercury offers. Developed in response to demand from performance boating enthusiasts, the 450R delivers outstanding power density offering 450 horsepower from an outboard engine that weighs as little as 689 pounds (313 Kg), the best power-to-weight ratio for outboards rated 400 horsepower and above.
The upgraded, high-performance engine provides unprecedented acceleration, enhanced handling and top speed potential with rugged reliability and the latest technology from Mercury Racing. The 4.6-liter V8 FourStroke powerhead is boosted by an exclusive Mercury Racing supercharger to produce 450 peak prop shaft horsepower and 40 percent higher torque than the powerful Mercury 400R.
“As the newest, cutting-edge propulsion from Mercury Racing, the 450R was a natural fit as a new standard amenity to enhance the SLX-R 350 Outboard, offering a sport boating experience unlike any other,” said Steve Langlais, Sea Ray president. “Providing high-performance horsepower, the 450R is more than 300 pounds lighter than the nearest competitor and delivers industry-leading power-to-weight in a compact, efficient package.”
SLX-R 350 OB
In addition to the new Mercury Racing 450R engines, SLX-R technology highlights include an exclusive helm display with intuitive SelectResponse 12-inch glass displays and state-of-the-art systems from Simrad, a Mastervolt NMEA 2000 charging system, and a premier FUSION Marine audio system with a full-size screen for the ultimate in technologically advanced sound.
Enhancing the SLX 350 aesthetic, the SLX-R showcases upscale design elements and details including premium carbon fiber accents on the boat’s hardtop arch, special-edition Shadow metallic gel paint, superior quality upholstery with contrast stitching, red underwater lighting and red accent lighting throughout the vessel. Made to catch your attention day or night, Sea Ray engineers clearly worked overtime to create this work of art that truly stands out among other beautiful boats.
The interior Port Hideaway offers a relaxing area to retreat out of the elements with plush seating, a TV, air-conditioning and other welcome luxuries. A special interior package is also available.
For those expecting to find the head compartment on the portside, it has been relocated forward of the helm console. Other improvements compared to the original version of the SLX350 are the new seating configuration in the bow, plus a fiberglass hardtop with an optional extended cockpit sunshade and bow shade that provide ample coverage from the elements.
The intuitive helm comes standard with dual 9-inch Simrad touchscreen information displays including Mercury VesselView Link Data, chart plotting maps, depth and fish-finder capabilities.
Sleek design elements, unexpected accents and unique storage spaces can be found throughout the cabin and cockpit. A host of intelligent features combine in a sleek, stylish package that exceeds all expectations.
These beautiful boats were just two of the Sea Ray models that impressed us during the media event. Judging from its lineup, it’s exciting to think where this manufacturer is going to be when it celebrates its next 60 years of building quality boats. Hang on; it’s going to be an exhilarating ride.
For More Information
FUSION Marine Audio
Sea Ray Boats