By Capt. Steve
A Boat on a Mission
With heavy competition in the 18' (5.49 m) center console market, Robalo seems to have come up with an interesting mix of design features that should make her appeal to the offshore angler who wants a decent-quality coastal fishing boat at an affordable price. Because she only draws 11” with the outboard up, with the addition of a trolling motor, you also have a flats boat.
Let's take a look at what separates the R180 from the pack--
The R180 measures in at 2,150 lbs. (1,179 kg) dry, without an engine. Most 18’ center consoles weigh between 1,700-2,100 lbs. (771-952 kg), so that means the R180 is at the high end of the scale. This is a significant distinction because the price-point boats tend to be on the light side. It becomes evident that Robalo holds nothing back in the build quality of its entry level center console.
As already noted, the Robalo 180 has a high freeboard, one of the highest in the industry no matter what price point. This is one of the main reasons that it weighs more than other boats in class. The R180 is also a bit beamier than a number of boats in class which also adds to weight and stability.
*Reasonably Priced Options.
Here's an area where a builder typically makes up for the lower price. Many builders have expensive options, or option packages that create a margin that may not be in the base MSRP. Apparently Robalo didn't get the memo as I find its optional extras to be quite reasonably priced.
*Owned by a Publicly Traded Company.
Of the fifty or so center console brands on the market, the only other ones owned by a publicly traded company making center consoles, that I can think of, is Brunswick. Marine Products Corporation is the parent of Robalo as well as Chaparral, one of the most respected names in sportboats. While there are no absolutes in this business, if I owned a Robalo I would feel a bit more secure with my investment knowing that there are some financial oversights of the builder. And, because Marine Products Corporation also makes sportboats there is bound to be some positive cross-pollination of design and engineering ideas.
A Look on the Trailer
Before the test I had the opportunity to take a look at the R180 while she was still out of the water and there were some features to take note of. She had an18-degree deadrise which is pretty standard. She has single lifting strakes on each side of the keel and reverse chines that should add stability while casting on a drift. More interesting was the flat keel pad running along the bottom. This is part of what Robalo calls it's “Hydro Lift” hull design that should give quicker planing times, a higher top speed, and a more docile turning characteristic. We'll see...
Performance and Handling
On the water, I found the R180 to be a pleasure to operate. She was very responsive to the helm, and while we had a flat calm day to test in, it was easy to find wakes to carve through and the R180 performed quite well. Launching off waves, she held a nice even keel and made a gentle stern first reentry that kept me in control and comfortable. Even crossing the wake from the side had a stable feel. Doing hard-over “test captain” turns were equally comfortable but were met with a little ventilation; however it's rare that you'd operate this way. Normal turns were a non-event.
With the 115-hp Yamaha 4-stroke powering our test boat we reached a top speed at 6000 rpm of 41.1 mph. At that speed we were burning just 10.4 gph for a range of 178 miles. Best cruise came in at 3500 rpm and 20.1 mph. At that speed we were burning only 3.8 gph for a range of 237 miles. However, I found that the R180 felt most comfortable at 4000 rpm, and 25.5 mph. That's where my hand settled on the throttle more often than not, and since that speed generated only an additional 1.1 gph fuel burn at the cost of only 3 miles to the endurance, that's probably where you'll be cruising, too.
Thanks to the flat keel providing additional lift, we had a quick time to plane of 3.8 seconds. Acceleration was average with the 115-hp power plant as we reached 20 mph in 8.1 seconds and cruised through 30 mph in 12.1 seconds.
Starting at the stern, the R180 doesn't come with a standard engine, per se, but the base price reflects the 115-hp Yamaha 4-stroke, and a 150-hp Yamaha is a second option. I found the 115-hp to be perfectly adequate for the mission of this boat. I mean let's face it… you're not going to be heading to the canyons in this boat; you'll be sticking to coastal areas. A larger engine will get you there faster, but is it really what you want to do?
The stern of the R180 is pretty nicely laid out. There is a non-skid casting deck that runs across the whole stern, and it's wide enough for me to feel secure even in a light chop. As you step off the casting deck, you can lift up both sides to reveal jump seats. As I settled into one of these seats, I was pleased to see that the security of the leaning post was right within reach, and I was also able to brace my foot against the base for two points of security when the going gets rough. In the center of the two jump seats is a 15-gallon (56.78 L) livewell, colored blue and with round edges to reduce the shock to your live bait. A three-step reboarding ladder is to starboard.
The leaning post features optional powder-coated rails, and a 72-quart (68.14 L) cooler with a ruler molded into the top. It's held securely in place with brackets and bungees, and the seat is high enough to allow you to access the cooler without having to remove it from its mounts. The leaning post is just the right distance from the helm, and gives you enough room to stand behind the wheel, and remain comfortable while still operating from the seated position. There's a footrest at the bottom of the post, but I’d also like to see a recessed footrest in the console. (I did find that there was room for it when looking inside the console itself.)
There's a large amount of stainless steel around this console for a boat trying to maintain its cost-effectiveness. The wheel is center mounted in the console, and there's plenty of room to mount a 12" (30.5 cm) display in the center of the panel. Clutter is kept to a minimum thanks to the standard Yamaha digital multi-function gauges. At the top of the console a compass is center mounted with two small storage areas to either side that are rubber matted and self-draining. To both sides of the console you will find vertical rod storage.
Inside the Console
I measured 23" (58.4 cm) from the console to the gunwale on each side. This is unusually wide clearance for an 18’ boat. Around the front of the console is the usual seating that is found on nearly every center console on the planet. The front of the console swings open to reveal a storage area that was fitted with the optional Porta-Potti on our test boat. The compartment has ample artificial light, and is large enough for sitting head room only. None of the bulkheads are padded, but there's a clothes/lifejacket rack overhead and a grab handle on the inside bottom of the door. I would like to see a magnetic catch to hold the door in the open position. I can think of only a couple of other center consoles which have access doors in the forward quadrant of the console and this design has its advantages, particularly for portly anglers.
At the Bow
The bow area features, what is in effect, two casting areas. The lower casting deck has a hatch over the 25 1/2- gallon (96.5L) fish box/cooler that drains overboard. You can also step up onto the forepeak to find a higher casting deck to use while in calm water. I felt completely secure standing on this elevated platform and all that was missing was the rod in my hands. In the center of the deck is an anchor locker that's fitted with an anchor keeper to hold your Danforth securely in place.
Options and Pricing
The Robalo R180 comes nicely equipped with the Yamaha 115 horsepower 4-stroke plus trailer for a base price of $29,395. I use the term "nicely equipped" as you can pretty much take this boat fishing right from the dealership floor, but there are some notable options that I would consider.Center consoles are not well known for the amount of shading they provide and for that reason I would at least get a Bimini top and boot. If you wanted to get a little more extreme, and of course good looking, there's an aluminum T-top with canvas available. Whether you install electronics or not, a console cover is a must-have. Robalo offers a Garmin 740 GPS fishfinder with a 7" (17.8 cm) display.In the utility category, a custom anchor is available. If you don't plan on using the upper deck at the bow for casting then you may want to consider the full-welded bow rail. The R180 can be pre-wired for a trolling motor which would make the dual battery charger a good idea. The boat only draws 11” with the outboard engine up, so with a trolling motor you can venture onto the flats. (Make sure your trolling motor will reach the water.)Our test boat was equipped with the optional trim tabs but I never touched them.
I've seen a lot of center consoles over the years and they all start to blend together, but there are several features that make the Robalo R180 a standout in my mind. While she may not be the lowest priced 18’ CC boat on the market, she is quite reasonably priced, and you get a lot of added value for 2 to 3k more, in my opinion. What you are getting in addition to the clever design features, such as the front-opening center console, and the casting platforms both on the bow and the stern, is the hefty displacement and increased freeboard. Both of these aspects make this boat more offshore capable, to my mind. Yet, performance is not encumbered because of the boat’s 18-degree deadrise and her keel pad. Further, because of her minimum draft of 11”, gear up, with the addition of a trolling motor, you can take her into skinny water just like a bay or flats boat. That added utility is another reason why I think this boat is a good investment.
Test Result Highlights
- Top speed for the Robalo R180 (2014-) is 41.1 mph (66.1 kph), burning 10.40 gallons per hour (gph) or 39.36 liters per hour (lph).
- Best cruise for the Robalo R180 (2014-) is 20.1 mph (32.3 kph), and the boat gets 5.28 miles per gallon (mpg) or 2.25 kilometers per liter (kpl), giving the boat a cruising range of 237 miles (381.41 kilometers).
- Tested power is 1 x 115-hp Yamaha four-stroke.
Standard and Optional Features
|Power Steering||Standard Hydraulic Steering|
|Washdown: Raw Water||Optional|
|Outlet: 12-Volt Acc||Standard|
10 year limited