Stingray 198 LX: Classic Bowrider

The Stingray 198 LX brings together the best attributes of a traditional bowrider while delivering more for your money.

14th April 2013.
By Jeff Hemmel

Fast, sleek, sexy, the new Stingray 198 LX would be the perfect runabout to call a classic bowrider. This South Carolina-based manufacturer, however, calls it a Sport Deck. Chalk it up to a little extra width. Stingray has squeezed a couple more inches in beam into both the main and bow cockpits. The LX also trades carpet over marine ply for a full fiberglass floor liner with optional snap-in carpeting.

stingray 198 lx bowrider

The new Stingray 198 LX has a classic bowrider look and feel, but a few extra inches of interior beam provide more elbow room than you might expect.

The tried-and-true Stingray formula, however, hasn’t been messed with. Like all their models, the 198 LX carries on the tradition of getting above-average performance out of below-average horsepower, and keeping pricing affordably low.

The result? Some good old-fashioned bang for the buck.

Sheep’s Clothing
Stingray may be flirting with outboard power lately, but it hasn’t forgotten the sterndrive, an engine choice that has driven so much of the brand’s success over the last few decades. One big selling point of a sterndrive is the clean, open look it gives to the transom. Board at the stern and you’ll find an extended swim platform with a recessed, covered nook for the three-step swim ladder. There’s a low platform that can be used as a seat when gearing up for skiing and boarding. Lift up its hinged base and discover a wet compartment, perfect for towlines and other soggy gear. Cupholders and a transom stereo remote are at the ready for the “coving” crowd.

Entry to the cockpit is through a 15”-wide starboard walk-thru. Or, step directly on the gunwale. Stainless plates with raised, rubbery bumps are well-placed to provide traction. There’s a cooler tucked below the step into the cockpit. Snap out the stern bench cushions to reveal more stowage below.

stingray 198 lx bowrider

The twin bucket seats are plenty comfortable; opt for the flip-up bolsters, to make them even more so.

Optional twin wraparound bucket seats were anchored to the full cockpit liner forward, each of which is available with an optional flip-up bolster. Like the sunpad, those seats are primarily white, with both grey and upscale quilted accent panels. (My test boat added a fourth, maroon panel to the sunpad.) I noted a minimal armrest for the captain’s throttle-arm elbow, and good view of the white-faced, backlit Faria gauges spanning the dash. A small eyebrow, featuring a textured grey vinyl, limits reflection off the windshield. Rocker switches with circuit breaker resets, are located to the right of the optional tilt wheel. To the left, find a stereo head for the Bluetooth-equipped Jensen sound system. The actual unit is located within the glovebox, along with an MP3 jack to plug in your phone or iPod. Overhead, a standard Bimini top offers stand-up clearance.

Stowage is located within both the helm and port consoles, accessed through doors in the bow walk-thru. To port, find a glovebox and cooler topside. Between the chairs sits a ski locker. It features removable (yeah!) carpet for padding, as well as a pneumatic strut on the lid to hold it in the open position. Trust me, it’s appreciated. I often resort to using a boat hook to prop open the compartment on my boat.

I initially subtracted points for the lack of an attachment point for the walk-thru windshield when in the open position, but Stingray reps indicate it will be included in production. That’s a good thing, as an unsecured window can hit a passenger in the head in rough seas or a hard corner.

bow of a stingray bowrider

The bow of this bowrider offers easy access to the beach, as well as a dedicated ladder/anchor locker.

Continue into the bow cockpit and you’ll note the typical parallel lounges, with carpeted stowage below and padded coaming bolsters. Two steps enable access on and off the bow. The lower features a hinged, nonslip lid covering an insulated cooler that drains to the bilge. The upper features a similar cover for the combination anchor/ladder locker at the bow. Clips accommodate a Danforth-style anchor to keep it from banging around within. The ladder is purposely left as only a two-step to prevent a careless captain or crew from snapping it off while nosing into the beach.

The Wolf Within
As I alluded to in a behind-the-scenes Stingray Testing Blog post, conditions on our test day were far from what you would call ideal boating weather. In fact, it was just plain lousy. Morning temperatures were in the 40′s, the wind was howling, and the rain was pouring. Still, the 198 LX managed to impress. With a 220-hp MerCruiser 4.3 MPI, the boat posted a speedy 3.0-second time to plane, 7.4-second time to 30 mph, and a 58.2 mph top speed. In a recent Boathouse Bulletin engine test Mercury technicians recorded similar acceleration numbers, and a 59 mph top speed in better conditions.

Length 19’9″
Beam 7’10″
Max. Draft 3’2″
Deadrise 19 degrees
Weight 2,662 lbs
Fuel capacity 34 gal.

Let those numbers sink in for a moment. That’s impressive acceleration and a nearly 60 mph top speed… from a 4.3-liter engine. More numbers of interest? At a comfortable 25-30 mph cruising speed, you’ll be burning no more than six or seven gallons an hour. At full throttle, less than 17 gallons per hour. Getting plenty of speed from a smaller, more economical engine has become the Stingray way.

A good part of the reason is likely Stingray’s trademark Z-Plane hull. Rather than conventional strakes, it features overlapping planes. They lay much like the shingles on a roof, or the panels in a set of closed Venetian blinds. Punch the throttle and those horizontal surfaces act as planing areas; reach speed and they become spray releases. According to Stingray, the Z-plane design delivers a smoother flow of water to the prop. A notched transom also lessens drag by allowing the drive to be mounted higher.

It’s an exhilarating feeling at speed, although to be honest in lousy conditions like I encountered, it can also occasionally prove a bit stressful. With the drive trimmed high the boat felt quite light and loose, almost flighty at times. I’ve found the trick is to go with the flow. Keep a light hand on the wheel and you’ll achieve the best results. Have a death grip on the wheel and you’ll likely overreact to every twitch.

Performance Data
Test conditions: Heavy wind chop, 2 POB, quarter tank fuel
1000 5.2 1.3 4.0
2000 8.5 4.2 2.0
3000 32.5 7.2 4.5
4000 47.1 10.5 4.5
4800 58.2 16.6 3.5
Power Mercruiser 4.3 MPI 220-hp stern drive, swinging a 21-pitch Laser II prop.

Given the conditions, I was also pleasantly surprised by how the boat handled. Like its personality on the top end, the 198 also proved aggressive and thrilling in the turns. Stingray reps reveal they both deepened the entry slightly and sharpened the keel. Crank the wheel and you can snap off a sharp, crisp corner guaranteed to thrill. And though, as mentioned, the boat could feel a little looser than most, I noted a predictable feel all the while. That inspired the confidence to push the boat—rather than back off.

It’s a feeling I’m guessing Stingray owners are quite familiar with.

Other Choices: The Tahoe Q7i bowrider is a bit smaller and lighter but is extremely inexpensive. The Rinker Captiva 196 BR is another contender, and this one’s available in both sterndrive and outboard power versions. The Bayliner Discovery 195 runs in these waters, as well.

For more information, visit Stingray Boats.




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About the author:

Jeff Hemmel

Jeff Hemmel writes for, Boating,, and Powersports Business. The former Senior Editor at Watercraft World, Jeff is a multi-time award winner as well as a 2008 inductee into the IJSBA Hall of Fame. His first book, "The Anti-Pirate Potato Cannon...and 101 Other Things For Young Mariners To Try, Do, & Build On the Water," received a bronze medal in the 2010 Moonbeam Children's Book Awards. For more info, visit Jeff Hemmel's website.

4 thoughts on “Stingray 198 LX: Classic Bowrider

  1. Jeff,
    I did a google search on 198LX reviews adn found this one. Looks like you did your homework well checking this boat out. My last boat was a 2005 185 sport Sea Ray 4.3 TKS mercruiser with a factory tower. I liked the boat pretty well and have mostly decided that I would like to get back into boating for my kids who will be 3 years old (triplets) in Dec. I like the single axle trailer approximate 2600lb boat and after looking at several models I really like the layout of the 198LX with the 220 mercruiser MPI. I am also looking at a 19H2O Chapparral, Sea Ray or possibly Tahoe Q5 or Q7. My question to you with the always advertised approximate +10mph of a Stingray the competitors will say that 100% of the speed is from the bottom being flatter and not as much of the boat being in the water. Can advise on if you feel this boat would be comparable in handling to the competitive models or be at a significant deficit in controlability/handling? Also when pulling skiers/tubes? I dont plan on running a boat at 60mph often but it would seem that cruising speed in this boat could be accomplished at lower rpm, etc. Thanks for any insight-Lee

  2. Hi Lee – As always, the best bet is a test drive. The Stingray is definitely a different feel, especially on the higher end. You will get more speed from the same engine and some aggressive handling, but it is a lighter, looser feeling boat overall. Some people like that, others might find it a little unnerving at times. It really just depends on your driving style. I like the speed that Stingrays are capable of, but I also like the solid, predictable, “heavier” feel of boats like the Sea Ray or Chaparral. At towing speeds the difference may not seem as noticeable, but it will become apparent at higher speeds. Good luck – Jeff H.

  3. Thanks for the reply…..I’m sure (hopefully) when I get ready to pull the trigger I can make it conditional on a test drive with whichever model I choose. With the 198 being new in 2013 it probably would be tough to find a used one to test drive. The 2nd place most likeable package so far is a 19 H2O Chapparral and probably a Sea Ray in 3rd place and Tahoe Q5 in 4th; all 4 of these models appear to be appoximately within 100lbs of each other while there may be some price difference price wont be a drastic decider since all seem to be roughly with 2-3k of each other. My primary obective is combining decent performance with decent cost of operation. I figured since my last boat (05 sea ray 185 sport) had a 190 TKS mercruiser and I was mostly pleased with it I’m sure the 30+ hp gain with the MPI 4.3 would be nice and most people have told me that the 220MPI engine will actually get slightly better fuel economy. I really liked the hull layout of the 198, the storage layout including the compartments under the drive and passenger consoles seemed very well thought out. What I do want to try and research to the best of my abilities is the questions regarding everything else. We will not do a large amount of long distance driving in the lake we use but might occaisonally take a 15 mile trip/ride to the dam…..if this is approx a 60mph boat I would hope that it wouldnt rattle your teeth out compared to the chapparral or sea ray to take a ride and cruise at 45-50 mph? Or from your experience is this hull only going to give a decent ride in glass smooth water? Not sure if you couldnt just trim it a little if you were in rougher water to produce a better ride? Regarding the handling if what you are describing is just quicker/sharper than normal handling without cavitating in hard turns then I am ok with that….these may be a couple of items you cant answer for me but again thanks for your insight…..I ‘ve bought several used boats in the past and the only way for me to find exactly what I want is to purchase new I want to make sure my homework is done right!!

  4. ….or better question yet for you…..if the sole difference in all the above models was only the hull design would that steer you in a particular direction for normal recreational use regarding what to buy?

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