Bayliner 197 SD (2012-)
(w/ 1 x 135-hp MerCruiser 3.0L TKS)

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197 SD (2012-)
Bayliner 197 SD (2012-) Test Video

This boat brings to our mind Crocodile Dundee's famous line to a potential mugger with a mere switchblade: " this is a knife" as a pulls out a 15" near-machete. That's sort of the way we feel about Bayliner's 197 SD deckboat bowrider compared to some other bowriders we've seen. The builder says she will hold 10 people, and for one of the first times ever, we'd say the builder is being a little too modest. We think the 197 ought to be on the U.S. Marine Corps' "to buy" list for landing craft. And, as with most Bayliner boats, the best part is the bottom line.

Key Features

  • Black hullside color
  • Black painted trailer
  • Tilt steering wheel
  • Unique seating arrangement provides “family-sized” cockpit and seating capacity wrapped around an easily stored 19 footer
  • Engineered for great performance with standard 3.0L engine
  • Easy access to water and beach
  • Family water sports are a cinch with a transom design that features an aft lounge cushion, hold-downs for inflatables, stainless steel ladder


Bayliner 197 SD (2012-) Specifications
Length Overall 18' 7''
5.66 m
Dry Weight 2,695 lbs.
1,222 kg w/ eng
Beam 8' 1''
2.46 m
Tested Weight N/A
Draft 2' 8''
.81 m
Weight Capacity N/A
Draft Up N/A Person Capacity N/A
Draft Down N/A Fuel Capacity 35 gal.
132.5 L
Air Draft N/A Water Capacity 10 gal.
37.8 L (optional)
Deadrise/Transom 17 deg. Length on Trailer N/A
Max Headroom open Height on Trailer N/A
Bridge Clearance 7' 0''
2.13 m
Trailer Weight N/A
Total Package Weight (Trailer,Boat & Engine) N/A
Prices, features, designs, and equipment are subject to change. Please see your local dealer or visit the builder's website for the latest information available on this boat model.

Engine Options

Bayliner 197 SD (2012-) Engine options
Std. Power 1 x 135-hp MerCruiser 3.0L TKS
Tested Power 1 x 135-hp MerCruiser 3.0L TKS
Opt. Power 1 x 190-hp MerCruiser 4.3L

Bayliner 197 SD (2012-) Captain's Report

by Captain Steve

Bayliner 197 SD

Bayliner's 197 SD (Sun Deck) has bow -- and how! For people with lots of friends, or a big family, Bayliner's remarkable deckboat may be the ticket to Ryde.

Dual Entry -- Bow or Stern

One of the most useful aspects of a deckboat is the ability to board from either the bow or stern. Not everyone is adept at backing into a slip, and if you're one of those captains, then fear not. Drive her straight in and you're good to go. The fact is, many marinas in Europe are set up for just that kind of boarding and the boats' have twin bow rails to hold on to.

Bayliner 197 SD

Our Capt. Steve blasts down a Tennessee river with the hammer down to see if he could rip off the optional Bimini top. He could not as through-bolted hardware and strong canvas and stitching all passed his test.

I also like to see consideration for those who are not fortunate enough to have a floating dock, and need a way to step down into the boat from a fixed pier. Bayliner has you covered again with the 197 either way. If you have a floating dock, then board on the aft swim platform which will be about the same height. If you are boarding from a fixed pier, then it should be just one easy step down to the bow of this cleverly-designed deck boat.

Bayliner 197 SD

Here is the aft walkthrough. The hatch on the top step is for a wastebasket. Notice the track (A) to the side of the walkthrough opening that holds the seatback in place. You need to open the engine hatch to lift the seatback out. The big socket (B) ahead of the gas strut holds a large pin that keeps the hatch closed. Most people will probably just step over the seatback, but you can get it out if you really want to.

Extended Fun

An extended swim platform is available as an option as is a transom shower and I wouldn't buy the boat with both of these options. The extended platform is lower to the water, and therefore makes an ideal staging area for putting on the skis, easing onto the tube, or even just lifting yourself out of the water without using the 3-step reboarding ladder. The extended platform also reaches over the lower unit when it is in the down position. I'm a saltwater boater, and don't care for the feeling of dried salt on my bod, so a freshwater washdown when I get out of the drink is a must.

At first glance I thought the aft pad was a bit small, but I did grow to like it after spending time on and around it. Our camera crew used it to sit on and with the walk-thrus port and starboard I grew to see that it is actually quite handy. Tall, leggy ladies who want to lay out and work on their tan can do so forward (more on that later). And another thing… I had a regular sized soda bottle, and the cameraman had a big gulp sized drink, and the drink holders at the aft pad had both size holders. Nice touch.

Bayliner 197 SD

At first I didn't care for the small sun pad on the engine box, but then I came to appreciate its utility. Two storage compartments are to the sides, and the port can hold skis. Notice the extended swim platform that adds 2' (.6m) to the LOA. It's also much lower to the water.

Board Room

There are two places to store your skis on the 197, a roomy compartment at the aft walkthrough, and the equally spacious sole storage compartment. But that was just the start of the storage on this boat. A dedicated space for a carry-on cooler (not included) was under the center aft seat cushion, and all the seats have the usual bin underneath, with the exception of the ones covering the non-skid steps.

Sun Worshiping

And then there's the missing sun pad. Not having a place to lie out just won't do on a boat, especially with one called a "Sun Deck". Not to worry, I opened the port seat storage compartments and, voila, there were the four optional filler platforms and cushions neatly put away. Add the cushions and now the entire forward half of the 197 is a massive, and I mean massive, sun pad. It's also just ahead of the bimini top and nicely out of the shade zone that I covet so much.

Bayliner 197 SD

Here is the overall layout. Notice the different sized drink holders on the engine box, and you can see how the closed engine hatch lies over the seatback to the walkthrough.

Bayliner 197 SD

Here is the bow seating area with the sun pad in place. Notice the leg under the filler platform so it can support bodies better. I found the grab handles positioned at the caprails to be convenient.

Life's a Beach

If you're into beaching your boat then the 3-step beach reboarding ladder at the bow will come in handy. But that leaves sand coming into the boat, so I'd like to see Bayliner add an optional shower at the bow to rinse the feet off before stepping onto my snap-in carpet. (Yes, I'm a neatnik, but my family has gotten used to it.)

Bayliner 197 SD

The wide, squared-off deck in the bow is why the design is called a deck boat. I'd like to see a shower here as well as on the aft deck. Notice the quick storage in the bulwarks.

The Helm

I was comfortable at the helm, and the bulwarks aren't overly high so resting my arm on the caprail was natural. My hand also fell quite easily onto the engine control but I'd like to see that control moved just a bit further forward. When advanced to the horizontal, my knee kept hitting the trim toggle switch on the lever. If it was forward the problem is solved and the drink holders that are now ahead of the engine control could be moved to a new position just behind.

The panel features full instrumentation including the much coveted trim gauge. An optional depth gauge is available and I wouldn't leave home without it. I appreciated the power rack and pinion steering as well as the standard tilt wheel. These are two important items of standard equipment on the Bayliner 197 and you do not see them as standard on all price-point boats.

Bayliner 197 SD

Here's the textbook version of the Bayliner helm. To the right of the wheel is a cubby (A) that I'd like to see angled down inside. When I hit the throttle (as I do) the contents dumped out on my lap. I like the handy stereo controls (B). Check out the wide caprail that makes a comfortable armrest.

Bayliner 197 SD

… but with the engine control in the high speed cruise position, my knee kept hitting the trim switch (A). An easy fix for the next version.


As for the handling characteristics, it is in a word… not bad. Ok, that's two words, but the 197 SD was carving nicely through the turns with neither a tendency to fall off the turn nor dig in too badly so that it would become uncomfortable. The 197 bled off enough speed in hard turns that if you don't have the foresight to slow down and keep your guests comfortable, then the boat will do it for you.

Trimming is pretty basic. Come up on plane and bring the trim up to just about the 1/4 mark on the gauge. You'll feel the boost in performance and the steering will loosen up just a bit. If you go higher than that, you'll start the bow oscillating. If that happens, then you lower a notch or two and you're back in the sweet spot.

Bayliner 197 SD

The 197 cuts a nice profile, especially with the optional extended swim platform and Bimini.


I've already mentioned the bow filler cushions, shower and extended swim platform. I'd also check off the Bimini top and cockpit cover as there are no canvas packages on the standard list. There is also a "Flight Series Package" that consists of a wakeboard tower, extended swim platform, and cool hull side graphics. Truth be told, I'd probably skip this as this seems to be more of a relaxing ride, or tubing boat, as opposed to a wakeboard boat, but there are those that would disagree as I saw several Flight Series 197's being shipped from the factory where I was testing.


I tested the 197 SD in a river in Tennessee which was the environment that she was designed for, plus lakes. Her low freeboard and relatively shallow deadrise make for good performance in these kinds of protected conditions. The top speed that I recorded with her 135-hp sterndrive engine was 39.1 mph. Her most economical cruse speed was 27.1 mph. For complete test data with fuel consumption, noise levels, range, time to plane, etc.., just click on the "Test Results" tab at the top of this report.

The standard engine provided is the 135-hp MerCruiser MPI/A1 3.0 L CARP compliant gas engine and Alpha 1 sterndrive. The base MSRP price with dealer prep and freight is listed as $30,249 in the U.S., except in California. Of course, the dealer sets the actual price.

Bayliner 197 SD (2012-) Test Result Highlights

  • Top speed for the Bayliner 197 SD (2012-) is 39.1 mph (62.9 kph), burning 11.2 gallons per hour (gph) or 42.39 liters per hour (lph).
  • Best cruise for the Bayliner 197 SD (2012-) is 27.1 mph (43.6 kph), and the boat gets 4.88 miles per gallon (mpg) or 2.07 kilometers per liter (kpl), giving the boat a cruising range of 154 miles (247.84 kilometers).
  • Tested power is 1 x 135-hp MerCruiser 3.0L TKS.
For complete test results including fuel consumption, range and sound levels
go to our Test Results section.

Standard and Optional Equipment

Bayliner 197 SD (2012-) Standard and Optional Equipment
CD Stereo Standard
Power Steering Standard
Trailer Standard
Exterior Features
Carpet: Cockpit Optional Runners
Outlet: 12-Volt Acc Standard
Swim Ladder Standard
Swim Platform Standard
Tower: Watersports Optional
Transom Shower Optional
Bimini Top Optional
Cockpit Cover Optional

Standard = Standard Optional = Optional

Bayliner 197 SD (2012-) Warranty

Bayliner 197 SD (2012-) Warranty Information
Warranties change from time to time. While has tried to ensure the most up-to-date warranty offered by each builder, it does not guarantee the accuracies of the information presented below. Please check with the boat builder or your local dealer before you buy any boat.

Full Warranty Information on this brand coming soon!

Bayliner 197 SD (2012-) Price

Bayliner 197 SD (2012-) Price
Pricing Range $31,703.00
Prices, features, designs, and equipment are subject to change. Please see your local dealer or visit the builder's website for the latest information available on this boat model.

Test numbers for this model are archived.