If the SLX-R 350 is any indication, Sea Ray is thinking outside the box. Those invited to her premier at 2019’s Miami boat show were ushered into a dark tent, the only light coming from the red LEDs and underwater lights on the gleaming 35-footer. Suddenly, a projection on the ceiling gave us the rundown on the R Series in a scene a colleague described as “Sea Ray meets Blade Runner.” One could feel the excitement that emerged from the builder’s in-progress transition. “We really just started with Sea Ray,” Brunswick CEO David Foulkes told the assembled; there were at least a baker’s dozen of us on board and seated comfortably at the helm, in the bow and at the C-shaped settee aft of the helm.
A few months later I was standing at her helm, blasting across a tabletop-flat lake en route to Nashville at over 56 knots with the 1,400-watt Fusion stereo tuned to Outlaw Country. The 10-inch Fusion Signature Series subwoofer seemed to reverberate in my bones, albeit in a good way. Once on the water at WOT and a 40-plus-knot cruise, I turned down the tunes to listen to the sweet exhaust note of 900 supercharged horses.
Mercury Racing’s 450-hp powerplants were always meant to accompany the SLX-R. The R Series was envisioned as an upper-echelon performer, dripping in carbon fiber accents and nearly every conceivable option. “It’s like the M Series of Sea Ray,” Sales Director Ritch Ragle told me, comparing it to BMW’s performance brand. “We wanted to give the nod that Sea Ray is in the performance game.”
Like the M cars, Sea Ray has done a careful job curating the 35-footer to emphasize elevated design and performance. The R package demarcation from the base SLX graces the vessel with aspirational, next-level options that set it apart in Sea Ray’s larger dayboat category. However, it retains clever touches that define the model line, including dedicated space for coolers in the bow and cockpit, storage under just about every seat, a pair of benches that convert into large sunpads that flank the bow for unfettered access all the way forward and at last count, 18 USB ports on deck.
Our run to Music City took us through the Old Hickory Lake and Lock. Awaiting our turn to enter, I simply used Skyhook to hold us in place. When it was time, I maneuvered us next to another vessel with the joystick. We tied up, slid the sunroof closed and retreated to the flip-up, aft-facing seating on the stern. In lockstep with the tunes, I deployed the footrest as the SureShade emerged from the hardtop, the ideal perch out of the sun. Once running, I barely looked at the Simrad glass dash to get my bearings, just to keep an eye on speeds that averaged over 45 knots.
Soon, the mini metropolis spread out before us. We docked in the shadow of the Tennessee Titans’ Nissan Stadium. Barely one minute after I stepped off the bow, the SLX-R was on her way to an impending date with a trailer and Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Summerfest Independence Day celebration.
As their business pushes forward into the next 60 years, Sea Ray looks to the outboard-powered SLX as perhaps a redefined, refined Sundancer adapted to meet today’s cruiser market and a critical part of the continued evolution of the Sea Ray brand. —Jeff Moser
Displ.: 12,060 lbs.
Fuel: 177 gal.
Water: 30 gal.
Standard Power: 2/450-hp Mercury Racing outboards
Cruise Speed: 45 knots
Top Speed: 56 knots