Boat Review by: Matt Spencer
Those with discriminating tastes demand refinement in all aspects of their lives. They drive luxury cars for their build quality, quiet ride and performance. Their appliances in their house are quiet, reliable and high tech. Their house is state of the art and usually automated with networking packages so that all of their gadgets work together to create a best in class living experience. So why would they expect less out of their boat? Sea Ray feels the same way and that is the inspiration behind their SLX line of sport boats.
With 5 models in the SLX line up I was able to get a thorough walk through and test drive of the biggest in the family, the 350 SLX.
Walking up to the 350 dockside at the Miami International Boat show its presence was commanding as it occupied the corner slip on the main artery of the in water portion of the show. Throughout the day crowds would gather to marvel at this 35 foot day boat, especially when it was leaving and coming back from water tests and being expertly piloted into the narrow slip way using the Mercury Axius Joystick - but more on that later.
The one on display featured a white hull, deck and topside. It had subtle, yet contemporary styling that was true to Sea Ray heritage but unique in its own way, the same way a sibling in a family would.
Getting closer to the 350 SLX and scanning the cockpit it is clear that Sea Ray is living up to their mission with this boat and the SLX line up as a whole. The first thing that I noticed was the teak flooring laid into the swim platform which carried into the transom walkway and the rest of the cockpit. While optional, it brought up the stature of this impressive boat and brought a yacht quality to this sporty cruiser.
As you step aboard the swim platform of the 350 and look forward towards the cockpit you will notice a large handle to what appears to be a large trunk storage space of some kind. Lifting that up actually reveals a large sun lounge that stops in a reclined setting for you to kick back and soak up the rays. When other boat manufacturers try to incorporate these types of hidden lounges they’re either complicated and tough to figure out or cheap and flimsy. The stern lounge on the 350 SLX is neither. It’s simple to figure out and its build quality it strong and sturdy. The transom walkway is found on the starboard side and it funnels you into the center of the cockpit. When you step down into the large seating area you can tell is has been designed around entertainment and conversation. One of the many benefits a 10.5 foot beam affords you is a cockpit lounge that is spacious so that your guests are not on top of one another. There is a large L shaped seating area and kitty corner across from that is a two person loveseat that has its back to the helm. The two person companion seat can do a complete 180 to face the group, really bringing the area together.
To starboard between the loveseat and the transom walkway you will find the refreshment center that has an electric grill, sink and refrigerator - all options mind you. So the drinks are cold and the steaks are ready to serve, where might we accomplish this you might ask yourself. Well as if to magically appear out of nowhere a table rises out of the cockpit sole with just the simple press of a button. Okay this isn’t a new trick, I’ve seen it before but what impressed me was how fast it happened! The table went from fully retracted to fully extended in less than 5 seconds. Gadgets like this are cool but they are even cooler when they work well.
You know how some people believe in love at first sight? Well that was me when I first laid eyes on the helm of the 350 SLX. When I sat down in the double wide helm seat with dual stitching on the seams and soft touch vinyl I knew it was love. Technology abound at the helm front and center was the Raymarine touch screen chart plotter on the main level of gauges and down and to the left of the wheel was a second Raymarine touch screen for the Mercury VesselView SmartCraft system. Here you can access all of you system information as well as control the nifty features like the retractable table and sun shade that comes out of the hardtop. Down and to the right where your hand would naturally fall was the Mercury DTS - Digital Throttle and Shift along with the aforementioned Axius Joystick.
Forward of the helm is the compartment to retreat out of the sun or rain that has an opening porthole, CO sensor and TV. I’m not sure you could spend the night here but it would make for a perfect inside siesta spot. Across from this is the plumed head with sink and plenty of space for those on the claustrophobic side.
Finally the bow lounge leaves nothing else to be desired. Even though the beam tapers as it heads towards the bow. The seats are first rate, there’s spots to mount tables which aren’t in the floor so you won’t stub your toes and the teak flooring was carried into the bow to finish off the look.
My favourite part of the Miami International Boat Show was that you can get out and water test many of the boats and this was one of them. I was happy about this because not only did it give me a chance to check out the Dynamic Running Surface feature of the SLX but also a host of new features from Mercury and MerCruiser along with the dual 6.2 L 350hp engines powering this beauty. The 6.2L is Mercury’s latest block that is manufactured completely in house compared to the past when they would get them from GM.
One of the first new features from Mercury is their new Active Trim system. Simply put, it’s automatic trim. If you’re skeptical, you may be thinking that you can trim your boat better than any computer could and that it’s for people who don’t know how to drive, well you’d be wrong. The Active Trim takes into account every possible scenario through thousands of calculations to put your outdrive in the optimal trim position for every condition. Within minutes I was hooked, it was one last thing to worry about and it allowed me to enjoy the SLX driving experience even more, which is what this boat is about.
One of the hallmarks of the SLX is Sea Ray’s exclusive Quiet Ride system that reduces the interior noise and vibration by up to 50%. Through the use of well placed foam, what’s talled a tuned transom and sound dampeners they are able to reduce the inside noise of their boats. This is not my first time experiencing Quiet Ride, but it had been a couple of years so it was nice to be reminded about what true luxury on the water is like. The thought process behind it is that you wouldn’t settle for road noise, rattles and vibrations in your car, so why would you in your boat?
Admiring the 350 SLX from the dock you can’t help but think how big of a boat it is but when you get behind the wheel and out in the open water it almost seems to shrink in size as its handling is nimble, its response to throttle is snappy and its performance is top notch. The 700 horsepower powering this 13000 pound beast got it up on plane in under 5 seconds and to 20 mph in 6 seconds. It cruised in the high 20’s without breaking a sweat and I found the most comfortable cruise to be at 3500 rpm and 32 mph. Having room to really open the 350 SLX up we hit a top speed of just over 50 mph. Not bad at all for a boat that is over 30 feet long and this comfortable.
Taking it down to idle I was able to test out the improvements made to the Axius Joystick system. Right away the first noticeable feature is that as soon as you engage into neutral the Joystick becomes active. You know this because they added a colour ring at the base of the joystick. So as soon as it is active the ring turns green and you’re set to go. Now which ever direction you move the joystick the ring lights up red to indicate the movement. So you move the stick to the left and the left side of the ring lights up. But if you add a rotation in as well the colour on the ring spins as well. It’s a simple little feature that helps keeping track of your movements with the joystick.
It’s all part of the intuitive ecosystem that Mercury is creating with their products. They want the entire driving experience to be seamless from the moment you leave the dock to heading on plane to when you get back again. It’s this type of intuition you would demand if you’re shopping for a 350 SLX as well, so it looks like you are in luck.
|Length:||34' 6"||10.5 m|
|Beam:||10' 6"||3.2 m|
|Dry weight:||11,787 lbs||5,347 kg|
|Fuel Capacity:||160 US gals||605 L|
|Base Engine / Drive:||Twin MerCruiser® 6.2L MPI ECT* Bravo® III w/DTS Sterndrives|
|Engine HP:||T-300 hp|