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TOPIC: Review: 2016 Bayliner Element F18 Center Console

Review: 2016 Bayliner Element F18 Center Console 30 Sep 2015 21:29 #1

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"How scalable is this concept?"

When I asked that question in the business meeting during the introduction of the original Element, you could tell I had just dropped The Big One. The room suddenly got a little quiet, and the Bayliner brass shifted a little. Come on guys....if it's such a great idea, certainly you didn't limit it to one product.

The answer was a qualified denial/non-denial, which was all I needed to hear. Rumors of an 18 foot hull, nudges and winks, but nothing more.

Fast forward to 2015, and I don't think anyone could have possibly predicted the success of the Element. The Element line has grown to 3 models, the original 16 footer, the 18 foot XL, and the "it's kind of a pontoon but not really" 22 foot Element XR7. Three models, three hulls.

Make that four, because here comes the next volley, the Element F18 Center Console.

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What is it?

Basically, it's an Element XL center console.

Bayliner is currently exploiting markets that are selling boats. The F18 exploits a current hole in the market that Robalo fills. This boat is aimed at protected water fishing, and coastal salt water fishing markets. Outboard-powered fishing boats are still moving off dealer lots at a good clip and Bayliner has a really good hull in the Element XL. The F18 simply takes the XL hull and adds a self-bailing cockpit, a center console, a 30 gallon built-in fuel tank, and some flip up seats in the stern that fold down to provide a hard deck with nonskid. The boat comes standard with a lot of fisherman-friendly features like a flip-back seat (leaning post is optional), full instrumentation, and huge amounts of storage fore, aft, and in the console. It's pre-wired for a trolling motor. There are optional live wells in the stern and a removable casting chair up front. It also comes with a pair of swim steps on either side of the outboard.

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Beyond that, it's pretty basic. There's room on the console for some limited electronics and there's some cupholders on either side of the console. The nice thing about it is it really only provides the basics and nothing more. Like the Element itself, it's everything you need, and nothing you don't.

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Performance

So how does the F18 run? Well...like an Element XL with a higher observation deck. The standard 90 provides plenty of power and good acceleration, and the optional 115 just adds to the party, and moved the boat forward with alacrity. There was next to no bow rise when getting on plane, and top end was in the upper 30s. Stability both at rest and underway, an Element hallmark, is typically excellent. If anything, the higher seating positition leverages the flat cornering attitude of the Element and amplifies it - it feels nearly pontoon-boat stable when cranked into a corner. The boat was so stable, we pressed it into open-water photo boat duty for the other new models that were on hand:

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The only dynamic crticisms I have are the controls. The steering is not power assisted, and requires a firm hand at speed. The throttle is cable activated and can be a little stiff as well, resulting in erratic controls in rough conditions. The boat is extremely sensitive to trim, and cannot be trimmed up too much before it starts to porpoise. Hard cornering results in the prop ventillating and the boat losing speed, which more a feature than a fault. All of these are minor complaints at best.

The bigger critism I have with the F18 is more dependent on how you intend to use it. This is not a rough water boat - things noted of the original Element and Element XL. The hull design that prevents bowrise on acceleration also does not permit excessive trimming up in rough water, and too much speed results in slapping as the boat comes back down off a wave. Freeboard when standing was a little on the short side, especially when moving around up front. The stability counterbalances this, but be mindful when in rougher weather. Overall though, I think these complaints will be minor considering the use case of the boat.

The Competition

When compared to the other competitiors on the market, things get verrrry interesting indeed. THis boat is tipped to hit the market well-equipped, with a 90 hp Merc, on a trailer, for around $20,000. Robalo's R160 and R180 center consoles are the nearest competiton, and this boat kind of slices in between the two when price is taken into account. The R180 is closest in size to the Element F18, but the price undercuts even the R160. The Element has a full 6 inches of beam and another 2 feet of length over the R160, has 40 more horsepower, and built in fuel. Option the R160 up to a 90 hp and the Robalo is $2,000 more expensive without ticking any other option.

Switching to the R180, it becomes even more of a screaming deal. The Robalo has a deeper V hull and a few inches on length and beam over the Element. It comes standard wth a 115, and a $30,000 price tag. A fully loaded Element F18 with electronics, a T Top, and a 115 will likely undercut this by several thousand dollars.

I think the boat is perfectly positioned, equipped, and priced. It's anvil-simple, well finished, and a very utilitarian package that takes the ease of ownership of the Element, and makes it even better. I predict it will find plenty of buyers. This is a great package worth checking out if you are an avid fisherman.

And make no mistake, if this boat takes off, the Element family may end up growing even more. ;)

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The following user(s) said Thank You: FISHIN00, TrophyHunter, paperhanger, TommyJodi, GS-Boston

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Matt Train
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Chicagoland, IL
Last Edit: by Download_Complete.

Review: 2016 Bayliner Element F18 Center Console 01 Oct 2015 12:44 #2

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Great review! When are the VR5 and VR6 reviews coming? Interested.

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2003 Bayliner 1952 cuddy

Review: 2016 Bayliner Element F18 Center Console 01 Oct 2015 14:35 #3

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Hopefully today.

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Matt Train
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Review: 2016 Bayliner Element F18 Center Console 01 Oct 2015 15:20 #4

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Now how do I add a built in 30 gallon fuel tank to my element? Hrmmmm.....

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2015 Bayliner 160 Element 75 HP, Smart tabs, Tach, Lowrance Elite-5 HDI.

Review: 2016 Bayliner Element F18 Center Console 02 Oct 2015 12:23 #5

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Should this pesky hurricane Joaquin significantly damage my Element XL, I'm getting one of these.

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~Joe
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Mercury 115

Review: 2016 Bayliner Element F18 Center Console 02 Oct 2015 14:14 #6

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Sorry for the delay on the VR boats guys, I had a family emergency come up. Things are better now and I will write it up today.

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Matt Train
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