|Max Headroom||open||Bridge Clearance||
|Std. Power||1 x 90-hp Mercury 4-stroke|
|Tested Power||1 x 115-hp Mercury 4-stroke|
1 x 115-hp Mercury 4-stroke
The new Element XL adds 2’ (.6 m) to the overall length from the original Element, and Bayliner put it all right at the aft seats.
Bayliner had three goals for the Element XL design team.
Create a Boat with a New Definition of Safety. For those just getting into boating, research has shown that they are expecting a vessel with the handling characteristics more in line with the vehicle they are all used to… a car. Cars don’t lean into turns, cars don’t pop-up in the front end when accelerating (well most don’t!). And those are the types of things that novices find uncomfortable.
So how do we create a boat that doesn’t ride like a boat? Well frankly, there’s a type of boat that’s been handling that way all along… the pontoon. We just have to make a boat that behaves like a pontoon boat, but still have the characteristics of a fiberglass V-hull. Bayliner accomplished this with the design of the “M-hull”. The hull is virtually shaped like an M with a V-hull flanked by twin sponsons to the outboard sides.
Bayliner designed the M-Hull to allow the Element XL to have handling characteristics that people are much more familiar with.
This solved the “problem” of bowrise as well as leaning into the turns, for the most part. There’s still a bit of bowrise but it’s so minimal that it’s really only noticeable for its absence. And if you work at it you can make the boat lean slightly, but for all intents and purposes, it’s a flat turn so that goal is met as well. This hull design also has the added benefit of adding enough flotation to the outside of the hull that stepping aboard is a much more stable event. There’s no dipping to one side when stepping on the caprail and therefore there’s a greater feeling of stability that a boat in this size simply doesn’t usually display.
Another characteristic of the M-hull is that when stepping aboard the Element XL there is less of a feeling that the boat is tipping excessively. Bayliner also added a non-skid pad to the center of the hull to further ease the boarding process.
Create a Boat That is Easy to Operate. Here we have a boat with a basic electrical system and fuel system. That’s it? The fuel goes straight to the engine, the electrical connects to a few switches and the ignition. It couldn’t get anymore simple, and therefore, there are so few things to go wrong. This will probably be the lowest maintenance boat this side of a rowboat. Pretty much all that will need to be done is to keep her clean and most of the problems will be eliminated right there.
Easy to Trailer
In addition to being easy to operate, the M-hull has the added benefit of being practically idiot-proof when it comes to loading her onto the trailer. The bunks fit so well inside the outer sponsons that it self-aligns when driving onto the trailer. Sure if you load a big enough angle it won’t line up, but really, if you have to work at it anything can be screwed up. In this case, it works right if you at least aim for the front of the trailer. Just back the trailer in so that the water just covers the tops of the fenders (of the trailer, not the tow vehicle!) and drive the boat on. Done.
The design of the M-hull allows for one of the easiest boats to trailer that we’ve seen. The hull literally lines itself up between the bunks unless the operator really works to make it NOT line up.
Create a Boat That is Cost Effective. There’s a big difference between a boat that is cheap and a boat that is cost effective. Without a doubt, the Bayliner Element XL is the latter with an MSRP of $18,817 for boat, motor, and trailer. Bayliner managed to keep the price down in two ways.
Keeping it Low Priced
1. First, she’s a basic build. There are no fancy contours, no complicated molds. In fact, the whole boat consists of only 5 pieces of fiberglass. There aren’t any seats to bolt in, they’re all molded right in. There are only two hatches, one for the anchor locker, and the other at the battery compartment. The fuel tanks are removable and live under the aft-port seat. Even hinges are minimized. All seat cushions are held in position with hard plastic L-brackets.
2. The second way to keep the price down is by adding in only what you need and nothing you don’t. There is absolutely no puffery added in with the exception of a carry-on cooler. Everything else that is desired will be added on as an option. And to be clear there aren’t a lot available but the ones that are, are ones that most will consider.
Another significant improvement over the original Element is that this time there are more available options being offered. The first option that will probably be the most requested is a stereo ($450). A small waterproof circular head unit attaches to the side of the helm console providing the tunes, and we’d like to see that moved to the rear of the console so that the captain can get to it easier. Even with one person on board, that person will be at the helm so why not face them?
At $450 the stereo is a little pricey, and if we’re buying a boat built on an entry-level price, an after-market stereo may be the way to go.
Then there’s the “Sport Package” ($1,571). This consists of a sport arch at the stern with an elevated tow-point keeping the towline above the engine. It also includes sporty hull side graphics, a bow filler cushion and a wakeboard rack. The bow filler turns the forward section into a sun pad.
The sport arch adds an elevated tow point along with board racks.
The “Fishing Package” ($2,143) turns the Element XL into a weekend fishing boat for the family. This package consists of a bow casting deck with a pedestal seat, a trolling motor secured to the bow, a livewell under the forward mid-ships seat, and a fishfinder mounted to the helm. Now go catch dinner.
There are four components to the Fishing Package that transforms the Element XL into a weekend fishing boat.
A second fuel tank is offered and adds another 6-gallons (22.7 L) of fuel to the standard 12-gallon (45.4 L) tank making a total of 18-gallons (68 L) total. This will serve to increase the cruising range from 79 to 119 and the endurance from 3 hours and 12 minutes to 4 hours and 48 minutes.
A digital depth gauge ($307) is offered and it’s an option that we would seriously consider since this is a boat that will rarely see the inside of a main channel. No, the Element XL is made for things like exploring off the beaten path, down the little rivers and streams, off into the little hidey-holes and coves where canoes and kayaks love to spend their days. It’s also likely to be beached… a lot. Yes, we’d absolutely add the depth gauge to the purchase price.
Lastly, there’s an aft filler cushion that turns the dual chaise lounges into a single sun-pad.
The Difference Between the Element and the Element XL
The original Element was such a hugely popular model that when we tested the prototype hull #1, Bayliner representatives on site kept getting offers to buy the boat then and there, cash, as is, right in front of us. True story. So if it was so great, why change it? Because everything can be subject to choices, and this is no exception.
So what was changed with the development of the Element XL? Mainly the length. Bayliner added 2’ (.6 m), all of it right behind the helm seat. This converted the single, sideways, sun pad into dual aft-facing chaise lounges. This probably made it easy for someone to come up with the “XL” for eXtended Length as well. Bayliner also added the ability to add on some options that weren’t available on the original. The previous only offered a tow arch and stronger engine of the same horsepower.
• Molded in Seats. There are no seats mounted into position on the Element XL. All are molded in with cushions added to the top and back. Therefore, none are adjustable, none will swivel, none will slide. Now when we tested the original Element, we noticed that the helm seat was a little too far back for our short test captain, and the new XL is exactly the same. But this time, Bayliner ships the boat with an added seatback cushion called “The Wedge” that moves the seatback forward just a couple of inches and now it’s just right. This also adds to the Element XL being an ideal boat for the kids to operate. Now even they can reach the controls with no problem.
The “Wedge” makes the helm seat more user friendly to those with short stature, which of course includes the kids in the family.
• M-hull. This is a unique hull design that is discussed in detail above, but it’s clearly a distinguishing feature so we add it in here.
• Anchor Locker. Not many boats in this size, and certainly none in class, bother with the addition of an anchor locker. But there it is right in the bow, and it’s in addition to plenty of additional storage space under each seat.
• Midships Cleats. Another feature that few boats in this size offer, and it’s an important detail for a boat that will likely be operated single handed a lot of the time. Now a single driver can pull up to the dock and tie up that cleat without ever leaving the helm. Then the other cleats can be tied off at leisure.
• Most Basic Helm. There’s only one gauge in the panel. It’s a speedometer with a voltmeter embedded in the bottom. That’s it. There’s nothing else needed. Even the fuel gauge is mounted to the top of the fuel tank.
The helm is basic and straightforward with only one gauge. The electrical system and fuel system make up the bulk of the boat’s functions.
The Bayliner Element XL has a LOA of 18’2” (5.54 m), and a beam of 7’5” (2.26 m). With an empty weight of 2,000 lbs. (907 kg), ¾ fuel and 2 people onboard we had an estimated test weight of 2,492 lbs. (1,130 kg).
With a Mercury 115 4-stroke turning a 12.25 x17P 3-bladed prop, we reached our top speed of 41.2 mph at 6300 rpm. At that speed we were burning 11.1 gph for a range of 60 miles (with the optional 6-gallon reserve tank). When we dialed back to a best cruise speed of 24.6 mph and 4000 rpm, we were burning only 3.3 gph which gave us a range of 119 miles and an endurance of over 5 ½ hours while still holding back a 10% reserve.
We had a quick time to plane of only 2.8 seconds, reached 20 mph in 4.8 seconds, and accelerated to 30 mph in 7.8 seconds.
Without a doubt, the Element XL is a calm, protected water boat. Winds were blowing 15-20 mph across the water on our test day and that created just enough chop to make for a fairly bouncy, and mildly wet ride. However, after finding a lee shore to operate behind a whole new “element” to her handling was revealed and she became a nice handling and comfortable boat to operate.
While she’s designed for protected waters, the Element XL is still at home crossing wakes.
One of the goals with the Element was to create a boat with minimal bow rise on acceleration and while we can’t really come up with “no bowrise”, it seemed pretty self evident that “minimal” was indeed achieved. In fact, the only time we’ve seen less bowrise is with pontoon boats. Here, the bow came up roughly 5-degrees, and it was barely noticeable, except for its absence.
The second goal was to create a flat-turning characteristic. This is a goal that was also met, again, a characteristic that is typically reserved only for pontoon boats. It seems that the design scheme of the M-hull takes on the design traits of toons as well as the better part of the handling characteristics.
While remaining perfectly level isn’t achieved, this clearly shows how the Element XL can still be characterized as having flat turning characteristics.
Otherwise, operations are quite straightforward. Once on plane, bring the trim up two or three shots and the boat will accelerate and the torque pull on the steering wheel disappears. Trim up any higher and the propeller will ventilate. There’s no noticeable bow rise from trimming but the spray moving back towards the stern speaks of at least a minimal amount of forward lift.
In hard turns, the propeller will ventilate even with the engine trimmed back down. Some may view this as a design flaw, but we believe that it keeps right in line with this boat being targeted for the entry-level crowds, and that means the kids as well. In other words, the boat will protect the occupants even if they fail to protect themselves. There are no hard turns thanks to this ventilation, and therefore, no unsafe turns. No one is going to get tossed out, or off to the sides, and that’s a big plus for a boat like this. She’ll bleed off speed, and the turn becomes comfortable and manageable. Take off power to get the propeller back in clean water and then she can be accelerated again. Without a doubt, this is an ideal first boat to give the kids an introduction to operating on their own in.
Even when trying to turn hard, the Element XL will bleed off speed and ventilate the prop, all of which will keep things completely controllable and safe.
At the stern there are dual swim platforms to either side of the outboard, the starboard one has the three-step reboarding ladder, mounted off to the side and away from the sharp edges of the running gear along with a grab handle to ease reboarding.
The motor well has a platform to stand on in the center, making removal of the engine shroud a much easier affair.
Here is where Bayliner added the extra length to the Element XL that provided for a pair of aft-facing chaise lounges to either side. In-between is a carry-on cooler with the handles fitting into molded recesses to the side of the lounges to hold it in place while still keeping it easily removable. Behind the cooler is an access hatch to the single battery.
Here is where Bayliner added the extra 2’ (.6 m) to the Element XL.
Under the port seat is the removable 12-gallon (45.4 L) fuel tank, and our test boat had the optional 6-gallon (68 L) reserve tank. Both were connected to a crossover switch making it easy to select one or the other. Under the starboard seat is storage that runs all the way forward under the helm seat. This is also where the all-around navigation light is stored.
The Element XL comes standard with a 12 gallon (45 L) removable gas tank. Here we have an optional 6 gallon (22.7 L) tank added in.
This entire area can be made into a sun pad with the addition of a pair of filler cushions that easily fit into the storage underneath the starboard seat.
In the center of the cockpit we have two more seats to port, both are singles, and both allow for facing either the captain or fore and aft, depending on which seat you’re in. There is storage under the two seats with the aft seat storage running aft into the compartment just behind. The forward seat will accommodate a conversion to a livewell if the fishing package is selected.
Dual seats across from the helm allow for facing forward or aft.
The helm is as basic as we’ve ever seen. A single gauge for speed and volts is in the middle of the panel and nothing else to confuse or clutter is present. The wheel is mounted to an adjustable base, the control is mounted to the starboard bulwarks. The seat is in a fixed position with storage underneath and a back cushion brings the seatback forward a few more inches for shorter operators. There is also a fire extinguisher mounted under the helm seat. Beneath the console is a recessed footrest and to the side is the optional stereo.
At the bow are two more chaise lounges, this time forward facing, and this will probably be the most popular spot for at least the first two passengers to board. With the beam of the Element XL carried so far forward there’s 21” (.53 cm) of space between the two seats so there’s no concern about knocking knees together.
Dual forward-facing lounge seats make up the bow layout.
Between the two seats there is a convenience that we don’t typically see in a boat in this size and class, and that’s an anchor locker. It’s under the second of only two hatches on the boat and it will serve to make anchoring that much easier since we now don’t have to move people to get to the anchor. We’d like to see the addition of a forward cleat to secure the anchor rode to but since we’re not going to be anchoring in a heavy sea we can still safely anchor from the cleats at the sides of the bow.
Who’d Want One?
So with such a basic boat the question becomes, who would want one. The answers are many, lets go over some of the target customers.
• Kids. If there were ever a boat that we would toss the keys to the kids with, this is it. It’s so simple to own and operate that we can’t think of a better way to get the kids hooked on boating, probably for life. We can’t think of a single professional mariner that we know of that didn’t start out running the family boat as a kid. It’s got some of the safest handling characteristics of any boat afloat so let them take their friends out for the day too. Take them to a basic boating class, ensure that they’re wearing life jackets, and they’re good to go.
• Adults. Adults can also be first time boaters, and just like with the kids, this is an ideal boat to “get their feet wet” on. It also makes a great second boat for use as the marina “golf cart” for getting around some larger yacht centers with a restaurant here, a laundry there… etc.
• Families. Is there a better way to spend a day than taking the boat down the river, dropping the hook and swimming/snorkeling the day away? Of course not. And now is the time to let the younger kids operate the boat while still being supervised. The best way to teach responsibility is to give responsibility. It’s also the easiest boat to trailer so go get a tow hitch and hit the water.
• Veteran Boaters. Sometimes even the pros want to take a break from the endless maintenance that larger boats require and just spend the day on the water doing nothing on a no-stress boat. This is that boat. It’s a low/no maintenance boat that even we have to admit was a fun boat to operate.
• Elderly. If there are grandkids in the picture, we can’t think of a better way to entice them to visit than with the keys to one of these boats hanging on a hook by the back door facing the dock. Or to even head to the favorite ramp with a beach right next door. Heck, the grandparents will be more popular than the parents.
The Bayliner Element XL has a LOA of 18’2” (5.54 m), and a beam of 7’5” (2.26 m).
Pricing and Observations
With a starting MSRP of $18,817 it’s hard to argue the value of the Bayliner Element XL. She represents one of the best values we’ve seen and therein lies the key to why Bayliner has sold so many of the original Elements. With the options we had on our test boat, the price “as tested” topped out at $20,041, which still make her among the most cost-effective boats available. Her size allows her to be stored alongside, or for that matter, in the garage. But frankly, her most advantageous feature is that she’s just a fun boat to operate.
= Standard = Optional
Full Warranty Information on this brand coming soon!