by Dom Wiseman

If there is a single boat that has captured the imagination of new boat buyers, then it would have to be the Bayliner 175. It has a simple and timeless design that belies its versatility. From cruising to fishing, water skiing to wake boarding this boat can handle it all, very well, and comfortably.
Onboard, there’s a welcoming beauty in the functional layout that instantly puts a novice boatie at ease and at 5.3m its manageable enough to not get yourself into too much trouble.
The Bayliner brand itself is also steeped in tradition and its reputation has been built ever since the company started in 1957. Since that time it’s grown considerably and across the world Bayliner now has more than 400 dealers representing it in over 60 countries. These days, it is owned by the massive Brunswick Corporation which can also count iconic outboard and inboard manufacturer, Mercury as one of theirs.



Bayliner build production run family boats ranging from 4.8m to 6.4m. The 175 is the smallest stern drive model in the line-up. It has a hand laid hull which is reinforced with timber stringers. Much has been written about timber in boats but Bayliner has been building these boats for decades using much the same process and as a testament to their longevity, you still see plenty of them running around.

Despite its diminutive size, there is a tonne of room on board the 175 thanks to the unique beam forward design Bayliner uses in all of its bowrider models. This design brings the width of the boat well forward and combined with a thinner gunwale used on this model, creates more space and, as a result, the 175 we tested has the most onboard space in its class.
The bowrider section was long enough for me to stretch out with my legs straight and is extremely comfortable. I’m only 175cm though and taller individuals may find this a little tight to do the same but two people will still find it accommodating. The seats are covered in durable white upholstery which is great in a country like ours where the sun can heat up seats rapidly making them too hot for your backside in swimmers.

Storage abounds in the 175 too and Bayliner has made use of every available space. Under the bow cushions is space enough for lifejackets and safety gear while between the driver seat and back-to-back passenger seat, which folds out into a nifty sun lounge, there is a deep storage space which will easily house any water sports equipment or day to day items. This compartment is not lined, in an effort to keep a handle on costs, but the advantage here is that you probably gain additional space.

Bayliner175-Glovebox copy
The passenger has a small glove box on the dash for wallets and keys while the aforementioned sun lounge is actually very comfy. On the test day I was almost lulled to sleep here as I lay waiting for the cameraman in the afternoon sun. In fact all the seats are comfortable, none more so than the rear corner seats, which due to the fact that this part of the boat rarely leaves the water when you’re bouncing over chop, is the place I’d choose to sit.
Between the seats sits the engine cover which has been designed with a flat surface that doubles as a table. The sound proofing is adequate but still allows for a throaty sound from the engine.

Mercruiser has a long history in the boating game and its inboard sterndrive units power a significant number of leading brands making them a great choice for anyone looking for an easy to maintain engine with a solid dealer network.
Powering this outfit is a 3.0-litre, 135 horsepower normally aspirated engine. It provides plenty of power and is capable of speeds up to 60km/h which is considerable when you’re literally sitting at water level.

This is really only a speed you want to be going when it is dead flat, so a cruising speed around 40km/h is more comfortable over longer periods and bumpier conditions.
The engine sounds nice and throaty at higher speeds and really gives the impression of knock your socks off acceleration. There’s no doubt that you would be able to wakeboard and ski behind this boat.

Sliding into the driver’s seat I was immediately comfortable and surrounded by a sporty feel courtesy of the low slung seat and driving position which is akin to a go-cart. The steering wheel, while not adjustable is at a comfortable height and the throttle controls within easy reach.

While standing, which will be much easier for novice boaties during close quarters driving or docking, the throttle and wheel are still easy to get your hands on. This will no doubt also make new owners feel more comfortable.
While seated, vision through the safety glass windscreen is more than ample and I could easily see myself cruising the harbour and heading to the fish markets with some friends.
The hull itself has been designed with a 19 degree deadrise which cuts through the chop and wake with ease. Late in the afternoon a strong southerly blew up across the harbour giving me a good chance to test the boats handling capabilities and I can say it was impressive.
At speeds the hull is sure and doesn’t bang over chop. Turning either direction, the power steering is responsive and the hull beds into the corner allowing more experienced drivers to accelerate out without bouncing. Going extremely hard into corners will see the hull digging in and bouncing a little if you’re not prepared but you’d really have to be giving it some throttle for this to happen and I doubt no one would ever need to be pushing any hull this hard.
The gauges are extremely easy to read and give an immediate indication of speed, revs and other necessary readings.

The Bayliner 175 sits on an unbraked galvanised single axle Karavan trailer which features a fold away draw bar for storage. The unit tows exceptionally well, but like all US boats can seem a little wider that you may expect due to the beam of the boat.
It can be towed with a standard family sedan easily.

The Bayliner 175 is aimed at family buyers and those new to boating and I’d have to say it fits the bill perfectly. The design offers cavernous space and ease of use with nothing that might scare off someone who has never owned a boat before.
All in all, it’s a simple package that is still capable of catering for a mass of uses from fishing to water sports or simple cruising.
For those looking for more, it also comes in a Flight Package which adds a wake boarding tower, new graphics and a swim platform.



  • Handling and ease of use
  • Internal space
  • Solid construction
  • Lifetime hull warranty


  • Sun lounge was tricky to fold out the first time

Price: $37,990 (as tested)
Construction: Fiberglass
Length Overall: 5.3m
Beam: 2.1m
Draft: 0.91m
Weight on trailer: 1,093kgs
Engine: Mercruiser 3.0-litre 135 hp
Fuel Capacity: 79.5 litres