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Bayliner Element XR7

Bayliner Element XR7

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Bayliner Element XR7

Alex Smith investigates Bayliner’s answer to the ‘all-water’ party platform.

What are we to make of this? A 25ft boat with seating for 16 people? A fibreglass monohull with rectangular internals? An open, blunt-bowed platform with a heads compartment and a wet bar? Before your mind implodes at this outrageous contravention of boating boundaries, it would be useful to put this bizarre new creation into a more comfortable market context …

Basically, the XR7 is the third and the largest of the Element craft to emerge from the affordable boating stalwarts at Bayliner. As the name suggests, the idea behind the Element line is to eradicate the expense, the difficulty and the complication, and to enable new boaters to enjoy a day out without fear or doubt. To that end, this latest boat (like the original 16ft Element and the larger XL model) uses Bayliner’s patented M-Hull.

This is a shallow, trihedral-shaped platform, which is designed to plane easily, run flat, corner without too much heel, track steadily in displacement mode and remain stable when people wander about on board. In other words, it aims to offer the novice a thoroughly accessible and unintimidating experience. But while the two smaller models are full of shallow, jet boat-style internal mouldings, the gargantuan XR7 exhibits a broad, lounge-style arrangement very similar to that of a pontoon boat – and that is no accident. On the contrary, what Bayliner have attempted here is a very deliberate fusion of the pontoon boat’s spacious internals with the dynamic coastal underpinnings and sophisticated stylistic appeal of a fibreglass monohull. But just how successful have they been?

Not Your Average 25-Footer

Step on board and it is immediately plain that there are some very good things going on here. For a start, the aft swim platform is a huge piece of equipment. Even with the A-frame, the generous boarding ladder and the outboard engine in position, it’s easily big enough to accommodate a changing wakeboarder. The two cleats are also usefully recessed to avoid creating a trip hazard, and the metal frames that wrap around the aft ends of the deck furniture are a handy way to steady yourself in the swells.

Head through the enormous hinged gate into the cockpit itself and things continue to feel engagingly oversized. The broad central walkway runs unbroken, all the way from the stern gate to the blunt, taper-free forepeak, where it takes a step up to another boarding platform, complete with a second telescopic ladder. On either side of this walkway, there is an attractive symmetry in evidence, with a long, deeply cushioned lounge seat running fore and aft in each of the four corners, enabling you to face forward, inboard or aft. Meanwhile, the central deck section, which divides the two primary seating areas, is given over to the more practical side of a day out. To starboard is an elevated helm unit with heads compartment inside, and to port sits a wet bar with an access gate so you can step onto the pontoon amidships. In short, with a spacious deck, deep freeboards and the ability to carry 16 people in comfort, the XR7 is easy to understand and to enjoy.   

The features are sensibly conceived too. You get the two wakeboard-sized under-deck storage spaces and the port boarding gate as standard. You also get six mooring cleats, ten cup holders and plenty of grab handles, all of which are upgradable to stainless steel. Up at the helm, the side-mounted throttle is well out of the way of curious kids, and the dash also comes with an anti-glare brow and tilt-adjustable steering. The standard provision of the bimini top, swivelling helm seat, iPod-ready stereo and 24-litre cool box is also welcome, but to make the most of this boat, you should scour the options list for items such as the bow ladder, fridge, ski tow bar, portable head and forward bimini.

Other than that, only two real issues present themselves – firstly the ‘finish’ (which I deliberately abuse with inverted commas because in several parts of the boat it doesn’t yet feel like ‘finish’ at all), and secondly the price, which starts at £44,955. To put that in perspective, you could buy three 16ft Elements or two XL models for this kind of money, so while the XR7 is undoubtedly very generous as regards its capacity to accommodate passengers, it is by no means a budget punt for the powerboater in search of a playful novelty.   


Beauty in Perspective

With its slightly unnerving absence of taper and curve, and its vertical slab sides, shamelessly amplified in glittering black, the XR7 cuts a monstrous presence on the water. And yet, despite appearing much bulkier than its dimensions suggest, you have to concede that in a world of pontoon boats, this fibreglass alternative is a big step in the right direction. After all, the downward plunge of the topsides toward the swim platform and the upward surge of the rubbing strake ahead of the helm do at least help indicate which end is the front. It’s still a long way from graceful, but Bayliner deserve much credit for having the courage to transfer this boat from the safety of the design studio to the critical glare of the real world.


Up, Up and (sort of) Away

In stark contrast to the traditional pontoon boat, the XR7 is designed to cater for coastal entertainment as well as gentle inland lakes – and that’s a happy truth, because the winds off Cannes have stoked up a little bit of chop and the assembled press are eyeing Brunswick’s fleet of boats with a view to picking the biggest and most seaworthy. At the helm of the XR7, however, I am not at all concerned. True, the wetness of the ride renders it unable to substantiate Bayliner’s claim that it is ‘ideal for rough or calm water’, but once you get up to speed, she lifts onto the peaks of a moderate sea and scoots along in very reasonable comfort. A top end of around 33 knots is also perfectly acceptable, particularly given the weight and scale of this boat, and so too is the stability, which is almost as pronounced on the plane as it is pottering around at displacement speeds.

However, like the smaller Element craft, the XR7 does offer a rather pedestrian drive, with quite a slow plane and a flatness of attitude that makes the helming experience feel adequate rather than entertaining. And when you try to make it cavort like a true sports boat, its dynamic limitations become particularly evident. Put the wheel over at planing speeds and, even if you are circumspect with wheel and throttle, the change of direction is routinely accompanied by a rise in the revs, a slipping of the prop and a washing away of your hard-won pace. Sadly, that persistent slippage means we can’t really see what the Verado 200 can do, but given the XR7’s substantial weight (2 metric tonnes) and generous carrying capacity, this top-end motor is likely to prove a much more versatile option than the standard 150hp unit.


Verdict

Is the new Element XR7 really the ‘ideal, trailerable, all-water boat’ that Bayliner suggest? Well no, it isn’t. It’s wet in lively conditions, slow and ponderous to drive and prone to losing grip at the prop, particularly in the turn. It’s also lacking in the finer elements of finish, and its appearance is probably a touch too novel to achieve popular acclaim in the UK. And yet there’s a great deal to be said as a counter-argument to this. After all, the XR7 already looks set to achieve record sales on the lakes of America, where it is being openly welcomed as a realistic alternative to the much-loved pontoon boat.

And here in Cannes, what really exposes this boat’s true value is the reaction of the assembled press when we head back in from the exposure of the swells to the serenity of the harbour. While most of the journalists gave it a wide berth on the open water, the moment it’s tied up, the XR7 becomes the one boat in the 20-strong fleet to which everybody flocks for a comfy seat and a friendly chat over lunch. It may have its flaws, but with the possible exception of the Interboat Neo and the MasterCraft X55, the Bayliner XR7 is one of the most versatile and accommodating mainstream 25ft coastal runabouts money can buy.


Likes

  • Big inboard space
  • Extremely comfortable seats
  • 16-man carrying capacity
  • Versatility of application
  • Credible alternative to a pontoon boat

Dislikes

  • Imperfect finish
  • Slipping prop
  • Slow pickup
  • Wet ride

Notable Standard Features

  • Bimini top
  • Forward-facing bow loungers
  • Swivelling helm bucket seat
  • Twin under-deck wakeboard storage
  • Lockable console storage
  • Portside entertainment centre
  • Portside entry gate
  • Step-through transom
  • Waterproof iPod-ready stereo
  • 12V accessory outlet
  • Cool box (24-litre)
  • Black hull with ‘sand’ interior
  • Transom platforms with ladder

Notable Options

  • Verado 200hp outboard
  • Stainless steel trim
  • Bow ladder
  • Digital depth sounder
  • Docking lights
  • Drawer-style refrigerator
  • High-altitude prop
  • LED interior lights
  • LED underwater lights
  • Helm seat upgrade
  • Forward bimini top
  • Overall cover
  • Snap-in Seagrass deck covering
  • Ski tow bar
  • Wet bar (sink and tap with 38-litre tank)
  • Portable head
  • Trailer

Specifications

  • LOA: 7.77m
  • Beam: 2.59m
  • Weight: 2025kg
  • Fuel capacity: 151 litres
  • Max people: 16
  • Power: 150–200 hp
  • Engine: Mercury Verado 200

Price

From £44,955


Contact

Bates Wharf www.bateswharf.co.uk