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TOPIC: Review: 2016 Bayliner VR5 and VR6 bowriders

Review: 2016 Bayliner VR5 and VR6 bowriders 04 Oct 2015 02:07 #1

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The most important boat in Bayliner's history

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Yep, I went there. There have been a lot of Bayliners in the company history deserving of a spot in a frame on the company's halls. I believe this will be another one. This boat represents a wholesale separation from past Business As Usual. This is a new philosphy and will form the basis in thinking, at least, for every new Bayliner from this point forward.

Welcome, everyone, to the new VR series from Bayliner.

Basically, this is the new replacement for the BR bowrider series. If you go back as far with the marque as I do, these would represent the new Capris. Whereas up until now, Bayliner has focused on deckboats and the Element series, these boats are the traditional V hull Runabout (hence the VR in the name) that at one time formed one of the core branches to Bayliner's product line.

Okay, so what are we looking at, then? Well, what we have here are two models, and a new way of looking at them. The VR5 is the smaller model replacing the 185BR and the 195BR (the 190BR OB lives on at a lower price point), and the VR6 is the larger boat that will slot in where the departing 215BR used to reside. The big story here is the way Bayliner is looking at these boats, and also how they are constructed. Let me explain...

Quick history lesson for the club members here. As we have seen from a number of posts, Bayliner switched from bolt-on to built in swim platforms starting around 1990. 1950s became 2050s, 2655s became 2855s, and those of you who have 1980s Contessas kind of just giggled at the "new" 2855 Ciera. From 1990 to very recently, most runabouts were measured by length overall, which included the built-in swim platform. The 20 foot boat you thought you were getting really only had 18.5 feet of usable space, whereas the older boats had a lot more room in them.

The VR boats represent, in some way, a strategic throwback to the 1980s - despite appearing built in, get close to the boat and you will notice a vertical seam at the junction of the swim platform and the transom. The swim platform is bolted on. And that allows Bayliner to say that yes, the VR5 really is a full 18 feet of running surface, interior space, and utilization. LOA is 20 feet overall for the VR5. The VR6 is 22 feet LOA, but has a 20 foot running surface. This means that competitors like the Chaparral 18 H2O Sport will fit, in its entirety, within the outline of the VR5.

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The payoff here is the VR5 does not feel like an 18 foot boat. It reads like a smaller 20 foot boat. Both boats have much higher freeboard and 6 more inches of beam versus their predecessors. The upshot of all of this is simple: The VR5 is absolutely cavernous inside, and the VR6 feels like a football field. There's really nothing else on the market that comes close to the comfort and space that these boats offer.

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Layouts are similar between the VR5 and VR6. The extra 2 feet the 6 gets is all between the helm station and the rear seating. The VR6 gets a changing room with an optional porta potty (find another 20 foot bowrider that has one. Go ahead...we can wait) and a finishing section that results in a U rear seating area versus the L lounge in the 5. Both the 5 and the 6 have walkthroughs for the sunpad, and an adjustible backrest for when it's used as a lounge.

Here's the VR6 interior:

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VR5 interior:

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How different is the VR5 versus the 185? See for yourself. VR5 on the left, 185BR on the right:

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Construction is the other big news here, and here's where we see a major departure from Bayliners past. First off, the hull running surface is the same hull design as the about-to-die 642 Overnighter. The VR boats are completely composite with no wood construction. The cockpit sole is solid fiberglass with a self bailing cockpit design. If you've been around Bayliners as long as I have, these two changes are massive, and completely change the feel of the boat over and above the additional room. I will get into this in a minute, but compare a 185BR to a VR5 and the VR5 feels like it came from a completely different boat builder. The boats feel far more solid, expensive, and noise and vibration free. Fit and finish, even on the prototype boats we were running, were very good - and much better than in Bayliner's past, even recent past. Appointments and upholstery were a solid step up too - the VR5 was running a desert sand interior, and teak-look SeaDeck along the cockpit that makes me wonder why they didn't think of it sooner.

That's gelcoat in the ski locker, by the way.

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....and in the engine bay.

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Crucially, one of the boats they had on hand was a VR5 with everyone's favorite coffee-grinder, the 3.0L 4 cylinder. While I didn't test drive it, I did crank it up just to make fun of it, and....I had to swallow my insults. Even with the engine hatch open it was...smooth. Qiuet, even. Closing the engine hatch made the engine indecipherable from the 4.5 in terms of NVH. I had to rev it to even get any inkling that there was a 4 banger in the engine room. They finally, finally tamed the 3.0L 4 cylinder!!!

So build quality takes a huge step forward. I asked Bayliner brass if this was all in my head, and here's what I got back: In order to control costs of raw materials, it's easier to control fiberglass than it is to control wood. Furthermore, Bayliner is designing boats going forward as modular components in order to save costs. The result of these actions are two fold - first, removing wood from the structure makes the boats more resiliant and strong, resulting in a smaller number of larger parts (less flexing, more solidity, better ride), and two, components like seats are now shared across a number of models as much as possible. The folding seatback in the VR5 is the same as the VR6 and some European models. The bow cushions are shared with the Element XL, down to the part numbers. The hulls themselves are modular, but we will get to that in a minute.

This all brings us to performance.

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The VR5 is nothing short of amazing, and really fun to drive. Remember, I bought an 1850 Capri brand new off the showroom floor in 2000, and I have run a number of 185s since then. The VR5 feels like a grown up boat, now. The ride was nimble, easy handling, but sporty enough to handle watersports manuvers. Crank the wheel hard over and the RPM automatically modulates to counteract the bleeding off of speed - you get a little shove in the back at the apex of the corner, right when you would expect a slight bog. There are no shakes, shimmies, rattles, or vibrations anymore. Even the wakeboard tower was rock-solid and didn't move an inch despite lauching the VR5 off wakes all day long at full throttle. The VR5 we had was equipped with the standard 4.5L 200 hp V6 with a Merc Alpha One. The 3.0 is a credit option, and after driving the 4.5, listen to me here: You don't want it. The 4.5 is spirited, feisty, smooth, powerful, and efficient. We ran the 5 all day long at speed and quite a bit of it was WOT, and we used a little more than 1/2 tank of fuel for the entire day.

The drivetrain is simply awesome. I have raved about the 4.5 before when installed in the 215 Deck Boat, and here in the VR boats it finally reaches it's full potential. Interestingly, even the Alpha One was more refined than in years past. I would even go so far as to call it acceptable for the price points. The VR6 is optionally available with a 250 hp 4.5 and a Bravo 3. I was able to run a 215 Deck Boat with this set up, and I can absolutely tell you that if you go for the VR6, that's the setup you want. It corners hard, and hangs on for days.

We haven't even gotten to the best part yet - Bayliner's efforts at taking cost out of the boat have born fruit. The VR5 is a full $700 LESS than the 185BR started at, which is a screaming bargain no matter how you slice it. No prices yet for the VR6, but I would expect the same.

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I try to be as objective as possible. Let's be honest, we're all Bayliner fans here and its easy to point to someone like me and go "Of course he likes it....he's a member of the BOC." Well, recall in the XR7 review I was less than enthusiastic about that boat. No such issues here....the VR series stole my heart and should steal yours too. Add it all up and I feel confident in saying this: The VR boats are the biggest separation from the past Bayliner has made yet, they are a huge step forward in quality, and they make a convincing arguement to be at the top of the shopping list for ANYone. Gone are the days where qualifiers like "....for a Bayliner" will be used. While I admit there are slight differences in fit and finish between this and, say, a Chaparral H2O, nobody is going to take the hit in room and the extra cost to get it, and unless you are in the marine industry, you may not even notice it anyway. Overall, the VR boats are hugely satisfying, sporty family boats, and I cannot say enough good about them after spending the day on them. I love them.

Like the Element, the VR boats will have many permutations if they take off. Remember what i said about engineered modularity. The swim platform mounting points were engineered to be strong enough to mount an outboard to, so there's your hint for the 2017 models. Bayliner outright told me that the hulls will be the same regardless of whether it will have outboard or stern drive power (they just won't cut the hull for the drive if it's destined for a Mercury on the back), which opens up some fascinating possibilities for what to do with the engine room of the I/O in an OB application. Or maybe some other power application that someone told me after one too many beers. But I can't talk about that. ;)

Bravo, Bayliner....bravo.

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_________________________________

Full disclosure: Disappointingly, I didn't get a chance to run the VR6 due to scheduling - every time I came back looking for it, another media group had it out. That said, the VR5 shares the same basic running surface and the same 4.5L engine block, and I spent a LOT of time in the VR5, so my impressions of the VR5 will also stand for the VR6. You will also notice that I have limited pictures of the event. I had a technical issue with my camera the day after the event and unfortunately lost a good majority of the footage and pictures I took. Apologies about that.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Greg Tomamichel, TommyJodi, vubui, rickbr

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Matt Train
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Last Edit: by Download_Complete.

Review: 2016 Bayliner VR5 and VR6 bowriders 04 Oct 2015 08:19 #2

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Thanks Matt, no doubt about your feelings for the VR5.

Interesting your comment about much more freeboard - the photos from the UK boat show certainly looked like a deep v hull. I would imagine these boats handle some choppy water pretty well.

The trouble is that after such a glowing review of the VR5, all us 175 owners will be looking at or bank accounts and thinking "Well maybe. ..."

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2007 Bayliner 175 3.0l Mercruiser
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Review: 2016 Bayliner VR5 and VR6 bowriders 04 Oct 2015 11:02 #3

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Great review thanks alot.

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Review: 2016 Bayliner VR5 and VR6 bowriders 04 Oct 2015 13:13 #4

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Thanks Matt as always Great review.....

I like the concept of no wing glass, but even more I would like to see a no windshield option....

Do the cushions have hinges or are they pop out style?

Thanks

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Review: 2016 Bayliner VR5 and VR6 bowriders 04 Oct 2015 14:43 #5

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Any word on weight?

Tom

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

Review: 2016 Bayliner VR5 and VR6 bowriders 04 Oct 2015 15:02 #6

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Pop out.

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Review: 2016 Bayliner VR5 and VR6 bowriders 04 Oct 2015 19:32 #7

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Bulletproof A1 G2 :cheer:

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Review: 2016 Bayliner VR5 and VR6 bowriders 05 Oct 2015 14:41 #8

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TommyJodi wrote: Any word on weight?

Tom


Just verbal approximates. The VR6 supposedly comes in around 3500 lbs.

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Review: 2016 Bayliner VR5 and VR6 bowriders 13 Oct 2015 15:39 #9

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VR6: The 215 BR this boat replaces carried an MSRP sticker reading $34,728; the new VR6 lists at $33,299.

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N. Michigan

Review: 2016 Bayliner VR5 and VR6 bowriders 13 Oct 2015 17:25 #10

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SlipAway wrote: VR6: The 215 BR this boat replaces carried an MSRP sticker reading $34,728; the new VR6 lists at $33,299.


Yep. Configurator is up on Bayliner.com if anyone wants to spec one out.

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Review: 2016 Bayliner VR5 and VR6 bowriders 21 Oct 2015 19:16 #11

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I just ordered the VR5 here in the Netherlands and am very happy to read your positive review! There really wasn't much info available when ordering, had to go by a few pictures from a boat show in Cannes. First time boat owner, so can't wait till winter is over and I can get in the water.

I ordered it with a MerCruiser 4.3L V6 MPI with 180HP, which doesn't seem to be available from the US website. Here's hoping it will come close to the one you've tested. Any ideas on that?

Cheers,
Rick

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Review: 2016 Bayliner VR5 and VR6 bowriders 21 Oct 2015 21:44 #12

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rickbr wrote: I just ordered the VR5 here in the Netherlands and am very happy to read your positive review! There really wasn't much info available when ordering, had to go by a few pictures from a boat show in Cannes. First time boat owner, so can't wait till winter is over and I can get in the water.

I ordered it with a MerCruiser 4.3L V6 MPI with 180HP, which doesn't seem to be available from the US website. Here's hoping it will come close to the one you've tested. Any ideas on that?

Cheers,
Rick


I would expect similar performance, honestly. My 1850 with that same 4.3 ran 55 - 58 mph, and I would expect around 45 mph for a 4.3. It will be plenty.

Honestly, the only engine I would avoid is the 3.0L, and that engine is going away in a year or two anyway.

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Review: 2016 Bayliner VR5 and VR6 bowriders 10 Dec 2015 17:17 #13

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Lenny from Boats.com finally put his video review up. I was driving the camera boat. ;)

www.boats.com/reviews/bayliner-vr5-video-boat-review/

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Review: 2016 Bayliner VR5 and VR6 bowriders 05 Jan 2016 22:21 #14

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Ok so on the way home from running errands, I stopped in at my boat dealer to say hi to the guys. They have a vr5 on the floor. Just got it in. Has anyone else seen one up close? I would be interested in hearing your comments about it.

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Hell, Michigan (yes we really live in a city named "Hell" in Michigan)
2012 BR 185 - 3.0 TKS
1999 Chaparral 233 Sunesta Ltd., 5.0 Volvo
1985 Harris Flotebote Classic 240
1993 Yamaha Waverunner III VXR
1993 Yamaha Waverunner III
1995 Yamaha Waverunner III GP
1995 Yamaha Waverunner III VXR PRO

Review: 2016 Bayliner VR5 and VR6 bowriders 06 Jan 2016 00:20 #15

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RobMick wrote: Ok so on the way home from running errands, I stopped in at my boat dealer to say hi to the guys. They have a vr5 on the floor. Just got it in. Has anyone else seen one up close? I would be interested in hearing your comments about it.


With full respect to your 185, I personally feel the VR boats feel like they are from Sea Ray, not Bayliner. The 5 is the largest 18 foot hull I've ever seen and it rides and drives as if it were a 20 foot bowrider.

I also like the layout better than the Sea Ray 19SPX, which would be an in-between size between the 5 and the 6.

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Review: 2016 Bayliner VR5 and VR6 bowriders 06 Jan 2016 19:05 #16

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Lik I said, yesterday was the first time actually seeing the new boat in person. A couple of observation that caught my eye as compared to my 2012 185, which no offense taken, I love my 185. Also I have to keep her as I cannot have a boat with an 8' beam 8' as I would not be able to get it through some tunnels that I have to pass through to get to the other lakes on my chain...

But here are a few items..
The overall size does feel like a 20-22' boat
I love the "faux" teak matting
Swim platform is nice, but was kind of disappointed with the mounting of the ladder....tucked underneath held in place by a rubber cord
Beam forward design is huge up front in bow
Doesn't have Storeage behind bow seat backs, ( I really like those little spots in mine)
Ski locker is bigger than my first apartment...awesome actually...someone could sleep in there if they had to
Stern walkthru actually stays open, heavy door thru to cockpit, in videos it seems as this is very light weight and you have to hold open when walking thru...that is not the case..
Especially the stern seat is very soft, seems almost too soft to hold up
Looking up under the helm the wiring is very neat, well thought out (ergonomic) and accessible to ALL gauges and electrical. My current 185 looks like a rats nest there and it is very difficult to work or find what you need under the helm for accessories or troubleshooting
The gunwales when sitting in the stern seat behind the captains seat seem about 48" tall from floor to top. The captains chair is on a molded pedestal which is good otherwise your shoulders would be at the top of the gunwale. Seams as though you sit low in this boat, maybe from all glass construction, maybe by design, just feels odd to me. Would have to get used to it.
With the new seating design, there is no storage in the gunwales. I sort of like those areas on my boat to put smaller items and not have to place them into a deep Storeage locker with other larger items.
Above or in front of the steering wheel on the dash is a rubber padded tray to keep stuff..I like that as I did that to my boat so things wouldn't slip around, but I also like a hidden or "out of the sun" box on my dashboard to keep light and temp sensitive stuff in (phone/wallet/iPod). I lined that Storeage box on y 185 with kitchen cabinet liner and it keeps everything safe, soft and prevents sliding out.
I like that there is a cup holder on the dash, not at your feet like on my 2012. I think they had one on the dash in 2015 also.
All the cup holders are Ss...nice
Rub rail all around boat is both Ss and rubber insert...classy looking.
I saw the interior in the white. I think it also comes in a tan...with the faux teak liners in it, I think that the tan interior would be too much, well "tan"
Under the stern seats just like on a 185 with the sport seating is plenty of room for Storeage, engine work, additional battery, whatever.

Over all it is a very, very nice boat especially for the money...for me anyway, it would take some getting used to but when sitting in the captains chair looking forward, it looks like a deck boat it is so wide...

Just thought I would share my thoughts and first impressions from seeing in person as compared to my existing 2012 185..

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Hell, Michigan (yes we really live in a city named "Hell" in Michigan)
2012 BR 185 - 3.0 TKS
1999 Chaparral 233 Sunesta Ltd., 5.0 Volvo
1985 Harris Flotebote Classic 240
1993 Yamaha Waverunner III VXR
1993 Yamaha Waverunner III
1995 Yamaha Waverunner III GP
1995 Yamaha Waverunner III VXR PRO

Review: 2016 Bayliner VR5 and VR6 bowriders 06 Jan 2016 20:09 #17

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Great input.

It's very clear to me the VR5 only replaces the 185 on paper - in every other regard, it's a MUCH larger boat (including weight....which is giving me headaches considering I want to order one with a minivan that can only haul 3500 lbs). In reality, it replaces the 185, the 195, and lower levels of the 205/215 with one boat. The customer who would have gotten a basic 3.0 185 is likely now an Element XL customer.

The high gunwales are intentional, as it is perceived as a safety item for younger families. I used to think it was bunk, but now that I am married with a child, I completely agree with them. It also means the boat can take rougher water - which is a huge plus to people like me who would hit Lake Geneva WI and Lake Michigan.

The thinner gunwales/lack of storage is also intentional - they wanted to maximize interior room at all costs and simplify construction. Side scallops mean more parts, more quality control, etc... I think they compensated by giving more storage under the seats and the ski locker, same with the consoles and the lack of storage in there. I had an 1850 Capri, I know exactly what you mean about those storage cubbies.

I share your concern about the rear seat durability, but then again, I made a 1986 Bayliner's vinyl last 25 years...*shrug*. I think it will last with proper care.

I would wish for an armrest for the shift and throttle control - I noted that it was difficult in rough water to control at times.

Here's the tan "Desert Sand" exchange. I would have agreed with you in theory, but in person it just works and really makes the boat look premium:

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Good feedback though!

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Review: 2016 Bayliner VR5 and VR6 bowriders 07 Jan 2016 02:20 #18

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Great point about the weight!! Now if you tow "safely" and by the book our 3500 towing capacity vehicles technically cannot pull this boat at least again by the numbers and being within the acceptable weight limits. I am sure that Bayliner has studied this, at least I hope that they did...if I didn't live around the corner from the lake, I don't think that I would chance towing this boat any distance with my 3500# tow rated vehicle...being a price point boat, and enticing new owners into the market, with their mini-vans and small crossovers there is little room many times for an additional tow vehicle and a boat....I hope they did their homework on this issue...reminds me of when Chevrolet launched the Nova. The car was selling in every market except they couldn't give them away in South America....someone figured out after the fact, that Nova in spainish, no va, means it does not go! And this was the largest company in the world General Motors!

I understand about the bigger lakes and intercoastal waters too. Good point. I only have mine on our inland lakes here and at most I might cross over someone's 1' wake. I also agree with the lack of armrest doe the captain....personally I am not a fan of the combo wake tower/Bimini top either...I haven't seen one with just the Bimini top. Also I prefer the full windshield, not the one with the missing side windows...looks unfinished to me.

I have to disagree with you regarding the likely 185 3.0 customer now being an Element XL owner.....no way! I think that the boat is ugly, too jack of all trades for me....reminds me of a deck boat that didn't finish growing out of its pontoon boat skin....if I was in the market for a new boat, and all things being equal to my current 185, especially the beam which is 7'7", let's say for argument that the VR5 was 7'7" as well, even though it's not, I would not feel comfortable enough with my current vehicle, a 2015 vehicle rated at 3500# for towing to tow this boat home and therefore would probably have to look at something else.....believe me, the work it took to get the "admiral" on board to at least even consider buying a boat was plenty...there is no way on earth that she would EVER consider that to buy a boat we would have to buy a different vehicle...no way, no how...

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Hell, Michigan (yes we really live in a city named "Hell" in Michigan)
2012 BR 185 - 3.0 TKS
1999 Chaparral 233 Sunesta Ltd., 5.0 Volvo
1985 Harris Flotebote Classic 240
1993 Yamaha Waverunner III VXR
1993 Yamaha Waverunner III
1995 Yamaha Waverunner III GP
1995 Yamaha Waverunner III VXR PRO

Review: 2016 Bayliner VR5 and VR6 bowriders 02 Feb 2016 03:42 #19

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Thank you it was a great review and had a lot of information. I am a new member in the process of ordering a VR5 I have the option of ordering the mercruser 4.5 200HP or the 4.3 220HP motors for the same price. I am not sure which one to order any suggestions or recommendations would be welcomed

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Review: 2016 Bayliner VR5 and VR6 bowriders 02 Feb 2016 10:17 #20

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I think I would want the new technology 4.5 liter.

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Review: 2016 Bayliner VR5 and VR6 bowriders 02 Feb 2016 14:41 #21

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Jeff is right, and I had this same conundrum (I am probably ordering a VR5 later this spring).

Here's the inside scoop from someone "in the know":

YOu unequivically want the 4.5. The 4.3 is older, and heavier - which offsets the horsepower advantage. It also isn't as fuel efficient and a little more difficult to maintain. The performance between the 4.3 and 4.5 is nearly the same (I don't have exact numbers), but the 4.5 is SOOOOOOOO much better to be in front of. It's smoother, has a better power band, and the RPM-compensation in a turn is a really fun feature that makes the boat much sportier feeling.

Full disclosure, I owned the 4.3'd version of the VR5's predecessor, the 1850 Capri Sport. It was a great engine for it's time. That time is past.

The only positives I can think of with the 4.3 is there are a lot more of them in the wild, and therefore more parts available. But as time goes on, that advantage will wane because the 4.5 is Merc's new entry level stern drive engine, and they are going to put it in absolutely everything below 25 feet.
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Review: 2016 Bayliner VR5 and VR6 bowriders 02 Feb 2016 14:55 #22

  • nicker22
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I have seen both these models at the Toronto Boat show a few weeks back. Im a currently 185 owner so I really only looked at the VR5 as it was the directly replacement for me. Love the helm area and seat and the option of the new merc and really like the NO carpet. Not sure on the seating yet. Not in love with the flip back and forth seating. The walk through is nice my worry would be with people sitting in the back and making a hard turn starboard a person could slide right off the seat. Lack of storage on the gunwals was also a let down.

Other then that the boat looks nice, you would need step up the towing vehicle too as this boat is much heavier then the present 185.

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Bayliner 185 BR
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Review: 2016 Bayliner VR5 and VR6 bowriders 02 Feb 2016 15:13 #23

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+1

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Hell, Michigan (yes we really live in a city named "Hell" in Michigan)
2012 BR 185 - 3.0 TKS
1999 Chaparral 233 Sunesta Ltd., 5.0 Volvo
1985 Harris Flotebote Classic 240
1993 Yamaha Waverunner III VXR
1993 Yamaha Waverunner III
1995 Yamaha Waverunner III GP
1995 Yamaha Waverunner III VXR PRO

Review: 2016 Bayliner VR5 and VR6 bowriders 02 Feb 2016 15:30 #24

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nicker22 wrote: I have seen both these models at the Toronto Boat show a few weeks back. Im a currently 185 owner so I really only looked at the VR5 as it was the directly replacement for me. Love the helm area and seat and the option of the new merc and really like the NO carpet. Not sure on the seating yet. Not in love with the flip back and forth seating. The walk through is nice my worry would be with people sitting in the back and making a hard turn starboard a person could slide right off the seat. Lack of storage on the gunwals was also a let down.

Other then that the boat looks nice, you would need step up the towing vehicle too as this boat is much heavier then the present 185.


Fully loaded, on trailer, about 3,500 lbs. The boat weighs around 2,8XX lbs alone.

That's direct from the factory in Reynosa.

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Review: 2016 Bayliner VR5 and VR6 bowriders 02 Feb 2016 16:17 #25

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Love that desert sand interior! in love with the flip back and forth seating.
"Full beam forward" just not sure about that... making her look pretty ugly IMO.

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