2016 Bayliner VR5 Bowrider

Boat Reviews

Boat Review by: Matt Spencer

bayliner vr5 idle

When you’re one of the world’s most recognizable brands like Bayliner is, it’s easy to sit back and rest on your laurels. But that doesn’t keep you moving forward and for 2016 Bayliner has made a giant leap forward, introducing a brand new line up of boats - the VR Series. In this Digital Test Drive we were able to get our hands on the 2016 Bayliner VR5.

A rebirth for the Bayliner brand - the VR5 is set to take the reigns from the legendary 185 - one of the best selling boats in the world. When you look at the VR5 and 185 side by side you might think that the VR5 is a far departure from its predecessor, but as we will soon find out it is still a Bayliner at the core.

Fresh off an NMMA Innovation Award Win at the 2016 Miami International Boat Show, the VR5 has some pretty cool intricate design details that provide both form and function. The first of what’s known as the “Beam Forward” design. As the name suggests, Bayliner carries the full 8 foot beam all of the way forward to the nose, giving it one of the the largest bow lounges in its class. This can be seen when looking at the design lines of the boat as the VR5 has a more blunted nose rather than a sleek, tapered point. Gone are the days of those pointy bows as people realize they don’t allow for much space.

I was able to sit with my back against the port side of the bow and put my feet up on the starboard cushions and I wasn’t even close to hitting the other side. So not only is the bow lounge large, that also means it has plenty of storage. This is one of Bayliner’s brand identities, to have a boat with plenty of storage and this new design amplifies it as all three cushions in the bow lift to reveal plenty of storage. Even under the center cushion is spacious enough for larger items where in some boats it’s really just a placeholder - again, that beam forward design allowing them to make the most of space.

Moving into the main cockpit space through the center walk-thru, you walk over the in floor ski locker. This locker lifts on a gas assist strut and is fully finished inside. Bayliners in the past would have an unfinished floor locker to simply save the consumer on cost, but the VR5 is a new breed of Bayliners.

The port side console has storage in the walk thru and the larger sister of the VR5, the VR6, has a head in the port console. Both consoles on the VR5 are connected by a curved, full windshield with black trim to match the black hull sides.

bayliner vr5 running

The helm console on the VR5 has a subtle style to it as it has a flat design with a center, rounded hood that houses twin, multi-function gauges. There is a drink holder to the right and stereo controls on the left with aircraft style toggle switches flanking the tilting steering wheel. The helm seat is sporty and bucket style, with a flip up bolster.

The cockpit has an L shaped seating arrangement with a companion seat as a part of this. The backrest of the companion seat pulls triple duty. It can sit towards aft allowing the companion to sit facing forward. It can then shift forward, allowing for a chaise-style lounge or go all of the way down to make for a full lounge, spanning the cockpit length on the port side. As you might have expected from what we talked about earlier, there is ample storage under each of the seats in the cockpit.

While it was just myself and a cameraman poking around the boat, I was confident that if we had a gang with us there would be plenty of space for everyone not only to sit, but to move around while at the dock or hanging out at the sandbar.

bayliner vr5 high speed

All of this cockpit space comes from what Bayliner is calling their “Aft Advantage.” In the past, swim platforms were built into the running surface of the boat, taking away from the interior cockpit space. Instead, Bayliner has used an extension for the swim platform pushing it out over past the end of the running surface. This allows that space to be utilized as interior space. To get to the aforementioned extended swim platform, you can get through the starboard side walk through. There is a full sunpad that spans the beam of the boat over the engine cover, but at the starboard side that platform lifts up so you can walk through, in the floor there is a cooler and it can even prop up to give you a chaise sun lounge, possibly the best spot on the boat. Underneath that sun pad you will find the brand new MerCruiser 4.5L, 200-hp motor powering the VR5. As part of the Brunswick family of products, it’s only natural that this would be powered by a Mercury. In the past it would have been a 4.3L block, which was manufactured by GM. What this lead to were shortages, and supply chain issues. Mercury then had the epiphany that they have the technology, ability and materials to manufacture their own proprietary block, so enter the new 4.5L.

I’ve tested this block in other boats and the first thing I noticed not only then, but also now in this VR5 is how quiet it is. Part of that is the block itself, but also it’s due in part to the full cockpit liner of the VR5. This was especially noticeable once I had the VR5 up on plane, which only took 3.6 seconds. Riding at a comfortable cruise of 21-mph at 2500 rpm I noticed again how quiet the MerCruiser was, but also how there was minimal interior water noise. Just the low growl of the motor, the wind in my hair and the sound of the water splashing off the exterior of the boat.

bayliner vr5 dockside

Pushing the throttle down more I pumped it up to 35.2-mph at 3500 rpm and was impressed with the midrange throttle response from this new block. Also available in a 250-hp version, there was no shortage of torque with the 200-hp MerCruiser as it propelled us to a top speed of 47-mph at wide open throttle! Any family boat that can do almost 50-mph is alright with me! Turning towards handling I was also blown away with how well the VR5 tracked and handled. It held it’s straight lines with laser precision, but the turns are what got me. The VR5 turned effortlessly in both directions as well when going from lock to lock turns. It’s an easy to drive boat that is fun to rip around in. It showed its stability as I took a few waves across the beam from the chop I turned up. I don’t know why I was surprised, I have always been impressed with how Bayliners perform in water tests, but it’s always nice to be pleasantly surprised once again.

I think the VR5’s Innovation Award is going to be the first of many accolades for this new lineup from Bayliner. We will get our hands on the bigger VR6 soon and if I were to speculate I would guess there would be an 18 foot version coming to the VR series as well. I mean, why wouldn’t you expand on this platform that has already received such great feedback. It’s an exciting new venture for Bayliner and it’s all part of why they’re one of the most recognized brands in boating.

For more information on this boat visit: Bayliner.com

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Length: 20'4" 6.2 m
Beam: 8' 2.44 m
Dry weight: 2,895 lbs 1,313 kg
Fuel Capacity: 33 US gals 132 L
Base Engine / Drive: MerCruiser 4.5L IO
Engine HP: 200
Fuel Type: Gas
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