Few things can be more appealing for day cruising than a big deckboat. Not all of us can make the time for overnights and those cabins become nothing more than wasted space. For those who could use that space for other things, enter the Sea Ray SDX 290 (formerly known as the 290 Sundeck). It’s all about maximizing space for either holding people or entertaining them.
- Comfortably seats 17 people while underway
- Open floor plan with expanded beam and convertible seating, including aft-facing transom loungers and optional sun pad
- Submersible swim platform option
- Enclosed head compartment with portable head, vanity and sink
- Standard arch with Bimini or an optional watersports tower with articulating Bimini
- Stereo with wireless Bluetooth for easy control of audio devices on board
- Wet bar with integral sink and faucet
|Length Overall||29' 2'' / 8.9 m|
Acceleration Times & Conditions
|Time to Plane||4.0 sec.|
|0 to 30||8.6 sec.|
|Load||2 persons, full fuel, no water, 50 lbs. of gear|
|Climate||59 deg., 84 humid.; wind: 0-5 mph; seas: calm|
1 x 380-hp MerCruiser 8.2 MAG DTS
1 x 300-hp MerCruiser 6.2L MPI ECT Bravo III with DTS sterndrive
1 x 350-hp MerCruiser 6.2L MPI ECT Bravo III with DTS sterndrive
1 x 380-hp MerCruiser 8.2L MPI ECT Bravo III with DTS sterndrive
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A deckboat of this size appeals to so many because few of us have the time to spend weekends away or to take the boat to distant horizons. For those who play closer to home, there’s a definite need to make that play-pen the best that it can be and maximize our time onboard.
Equally important is the notion that buying a boat immediately increases an owner’s circle of friends. The SDX 290’s capacity is limited only by the number of seats, 17 in this case. Everyone can come along while cruising to that favorite anchorage for a private party.
One of the most instantly recognizable characteristics of a Sundeck is the beam being carried so far forward to a more squared-off bow. It’s a design element often found in the deckboat genre. It opens up the bow area and makes it more of a social area than just an area to sit in while underway.
The bow seating design provides generous U-shaped seating for nearly a half dozen people and we like that all cushions are a seat and a half wide. If there aren’t many people up front, a couple can stretch out on the chaise-style lounges and work on their tans. With the table in place, passengers can enjoy lunch or cocktails.
Each hinged seat bottom cushion opens to reveal the self-draining and insulated storage compartments that can be used for keeping food and drinks cool if the carry-on cooler isn’t big enough.
By the Numbers
We measured the Sea Ray SDX 290’s bow at 5’1” (1.55 m) at the forward end and 6’6” (1.98 m) at the aft. Between the seats we measured 31” (79 cm) so occupants will not be knocking knees when facing each other at the table. Side caprails are 21” (53.3 cm) above the cushions, providing comfort and safety.
Beach access is provided via a beach ladder concealed beneath a center bow hatch that opens on gas struts. A freshwater pull-out shower at the bow facilitates washing sand off passengers’ feet before they step onto the clean deck. Our test boat had the optional windlass that can be ordered with either a galvanized anchor ($3,323) or a stainless steel one ($4,246). It takes the place of the bow beach ladder and all controls for the windlass are located at the helm.
The cockpit lounge starts with a roomy L-shaped seat to port and an opposing double seat to starboard. The helm and companion seats have flip-flop seatbacks that can be moved forward to expand the cockpit seating.
Storage is underneath the seats and to port there’s dedicated storage for a 25-quart (23.7 L) carry-on cooler. The cooler slides out so that passengers don’t have to get up to access it, which is good. We would, however, like to see a raised lip in the deck, or some other means to hold the cooler in place when the boat is running.
Shade provides a welcome respite on a sunny day. The SDX 290 comes with a standard Bimini top, but we recommend going one better. Sea Ray also makes available a collapsible watersports tower ($4,615) fabricated from black or white powder-coated tubular framing. It includes a Bimini top mounted above the framing and provides an elevated tow point 6’8” (2.03m) high for wakeboarding. This towpoint is accessed through a zippered slot in the Bimini. The tower is collapsible but the Bimini sticks up in the air unless owners opt for the tower with the tilting Bimini ($5,385) that will lay flat when the tower is lowered. Additional options include wakeboard racks ($1,115).
In the SDX 290’s stern, an aft-facing lounge seats four and keeps beverages at hand with drink holders on each side. For added comfort, the lower cushions lift to raise the knees just a bit, a remarkably more comfortable position. Do it all the way across or split it two-thirds and one-third.
Previous models had a center cooler in the middle of the seats, but this served more to inhibit the usability of the seating than to increase the convenience of not having to go into the cockpit to get a drink. In our opinion, the layout on our test boat was better. We’d rather have more guests join us in the seats and get up if we need to. To starboard, and a little out of the way, are an optional remote for the stereo ($231) and a 12V accessory plug. Since most of us are controlling the music via Bluetooth anyway, we don’t see this location as a hindrance.
Since we’ve been touting this boat as a premium level entertainment platform, let’s get to the entertainment features.
The Swim Platform. The swim platform is the recreational focal point on this boat. It extended 2’9” (.84 m) from the transom and was covered with the optional SeaDek rubber non-skid ($654) that is more comfortable to walk on and remains cool to the touch, even in direct sunlight.
The conventional reboarding ladder is to the starboard side but Sea Ray has gone one step better -- literally. In the center of our test boat’s platform was a manual flip-out swim step ($1,385) that created a wide step leading into and out of the water. This is not only a great feature for the family, it’s also good for people who boat with pets. Fido can now get out of the water as easily as he did when he jumped in. When deployed, the step has positive buoyancy, which brings it up within reach and makes it easier to stow from topside. Additionally, when people are in the water there are two stainless-steel grab handles that allow for them to comfortably remain close to the boat.
The Cockpit Wet Bar.
In its most basic form, the SDX 290’s cockpit wet bar provides a freshwater sink and trash receptacle. Owners can upgrade with a cockpit grill ($2,462) and cockpit refrigerator ($1,100). Both will put increased demands on the electrical system and will require the shorepower package ($2,000) and the inverter ($2,692) that allows both units to be used when on the water or when tied up at the dock.
Sea Ray offers side-mount pedestal tables ($538 each) and we recommend purchasing two, one for the bow and one for the cockpit. If water toys are going to be a part of the picture, an air compressor can be added ($308).
The head compartment is located in the port console and it has an interior light, and opening portlight for ventilation. We measured 4’3” (1.29 m) of headroom with 2’9” (.84 m) over the toilet. An interior upgrade ($538) adds a freshwater faucet and a metallic countertop that has a distressed hammered appearance. A portable head comes standard and owners can upgrade to the optional VacuFlush head that includes a 10-gallon (38 L) holding tank ($1,846). We would also add the dockside pump-out ($231).
The head also has a neat little trick. Sea Ray recognized that virtually every owner uses the head area for storage and provided a flip-down shelf that basically fills in the counter, creating a single-level compartment above the toilet. For the most part, items in this compartment, such as beach chairs or water toys, will be taken out once the boat arrives at its destination. After the items are removed, flip up the shelf, latch it into position and a functional head remains.
The SDX 290’s helm has a sleek, modern feel. The silver interior color that we've seen throughout the boat is continued at the helm console. A dark visor lies above the central pod that houses a pair of SmartCraft gauges. An upgrade is available that includes a Raymarine Chartplotter ($1,269) and the digital dash option includes the chartplotter and integrates the audio control to the Fusion 750 Series stereo ($2,538), all with touchscreen functionality.
If the SDX 290 is for spending a lot of time towing watersports, we would recommend the Smart Tow digital speed control tachometer ($769). A GPS-based engine controller provides for more precise speed settings while towing.
To the left-hand side of the helm is a flat area that has a flip-open cover. This "saddlebag storage" is a convenient feature that we used during our short time on board. There is a 12-volt accessory plug located inside that facilitates cell-phone charging. It also leaves the adjacent stainless steel drink holder open for its intended purpose.
The Sea Ray SDX 290’s standard single engine is a 300-hp MerCruiser 6.2 L with emission control technology that meets EPA clean air standards and an optional 380-hp big block is available ($7,154). The MerCruiser 8.2 MAG also has the ECT technology and could be the better choice for high-altitude applications. Both engines include digital throttle and shift, and turn a Bravo 3 sterndrive with counter-rotating propellers. Hydraulic trim tabs are standard issue for the SDX 290 and when used with the SmartCraft auto trim mode, make for smooth and effortless piloting.
The Sea Ray SDX 290 has an LOA of 29’2” (8.89 m), a beam of 9’ (2.74 m) and a draft of 42” (106 cm). With an empty weight of 6,471 lbs. (2,935 kg), full fuel and two people onboard, we had an estimated test weight of 7,401 lbs. (3,357 kg). With the 380-hp MerCruiser 8.2 MAG ECT turning a Bravo 3 outdrive, we a top speed of 47.5 mph at 5000 rpm. At that speed we were burning 33.3 gph for a range of 109 miles. Best cruise was at 3000 rpm where the speed was at 25.8 mph and fuel burn was lowered to 11.1 gph. That produced a range of 177 miles while maintaining a 10% reserve.
In holeshot tests, we reached planing speed in 4 seconds and accelerated to 20 mph in 5.4 seconds, and 30 mph in 8.6 seconds.
While she certainly is a big boat, the SDX 290 has the agility and maneuverability of a sportboat. We noticed no chine walk during our heavy handed “drive it like you stole it” turns and she has just enough slide to maintain the turn but not induce the forces that shove everyone onboard to one side. When driven with a tamer hand, she felt smooth and comfortable and when we drove back through our own wakes, the SDX 290 felt rock solid.
The fit-and-finish of the SDX 290 is high quality. All cushions are fabricated with multiple vinyl textures and foam densities, quilting, bead welting and custom embroidery. In the recessed areas of the bulwarks, there are expected speakers and stainless steel drink holders but the areas are also lined with a new material recently introduced by Sea Ray. With its soft-touch, Ultravinyl is similar to Ultraleather but it's more resilient to the elements and it adds to the level of class seen throughout the SDX 290.
The Sea Ray SDX 290 comes with an MSRP of $110,518 when powered with the standard 300-hp engine. Our loaded test boat priced out at $141,400, less trailer.
The Sundeck line from Sea Ray has always been about maximizing play space without compromising ride quality. The SDX 290 has the stability and size to provide a soft, dry ride.
As far as looks go, she’s also a home run. To complement the good looks, there are a handful of hull colors and graphic packages available to jazz up this big deckboat.