Just a foot longer than her predecessor, Sea Ray’s 320 Sundancer nevertheless offers big-time living space.

Introduced earlier this year, the 320 Sundancer will replace Sea Ray’s popular 310 model, and in my view she’s destined to win the hearts of even more cruising families. Responding to input from focus groups across the country, Sea Ray has made changes in her layout that achieve the seemingly contradictory goals of increased living space and greater stowage capacity. And she’s not just a stretched version of the 310; Sea Ray has given the 320 a new hull form, redesigned for better fore-and-aft balance and a smoother ride in rough seas.

Part of the extra space comes from a modest increase in size, an addition of about 20 inches to her overall length and three inches to the beam. Although three inches doesn’t seem like much, added along a length of 30-some feet, it adds nearly eight square feet of area to the interior and deck spaces, while the additional length adds about 20 square feet to her layout.

Just as important as size, however, is how Sea Ray uses that extra space. In the saloon there’s a big, crescent-shape settee along the starboard side that is far less intrusive than the fixed dinette that was used in the 310 model. In the 320 a removable table makes the saloon a cozy dining area, but when mealtime is over, the table can be stashed in its stowage cuddy, converting the entire saloon into an open entertainment space. At bedtime the settee serves as a berth for an extra guest or two little ones.

To make the saloon seem even larger and more open, there’s a wide mirrored panel above the back of the settee. A similar mirrored panel above the midcabin’s U-shape settee serves as a unifying element that makes the entire saloon/midcabin seem like a single open space. To enhance the illusion, the stairway up to the bridge deck is comprised of open steps cantilevered from a slender center pillar that barely disrupts the visual field between the saloon and midcabin.

With all the spaciousness, I wondered where all the stowage was. Sure, I could see that there were three big eye-level cabinets above the saloon’s settee, flanked by two even larger ones, all faced with an attractive, low-maintenance cherry veneer-like Formica, and the galley had several big cabinets, both above and below the countertops. But Sea Ray’s marketing specialist, Gary McCloud, told me the 320 had more than 132 cubic feet of enclosed stowage space. “Where is it?” I asked.

Beneath the saloon sole, there are two stowage bins, one 15"x20" and another 46"x20". Behind the starboard settee, there’s a 12"Dx18"Hx42"W hidden stowage cabinet that is accessed by pulling the back of the settee towards the centerline. Then there’s the cavernous space beneath the island berth forward, the large hanging locker to starboard, and another big cabinet beneath the TV on the port side. You get the idea. Sea Ray made other changes as well. One I especially like is the centerline island berth, offering access on all three sides, instead of the angled berth on the 310 and some other models.

About the only thing I didn’t care for was the shower setup in the head. The head itself is spacious enough, about 41⁄2'x3' with four mirrored cabinets at eye level and a large under-sink stowage space. But the “shower” itself is one of those pull-out-of-a-faucet affairs that attaches to a bracket on the bulkhead, and the “enclosure” is just a curtain. Granted, there’s a limit on what can fit on a boat this size, but if you’re going to offer a shower, it ought to have a fixture and an enclosure that won’t douse the other essential facilities in the area.

Sea Ray also revamped the bridge-deck and cockpit layouts. The helm station is all new and slick, with touchpad switches controlling such functions as the bilge pumps, blowers, lights, and trim tabs. Large, easy-to-read, backlit gauges are mounted on a handsome burl instrument panel in front of the wood-accented tilt wheel. To the inboard side of the helm, there’s a good-size panel for mounting additional electronics and a VHF.

The walk-through between the bridge and cockpit is slightly to port of centerline on the 320, directly in line with the entry to the saloon stairway. This setup allows for a better traffic flow than the 310 did, which placed the walk-through along the port side and required you to jog around the helm seat to enter the saloon steps. The layout on the 320 also allows for a larger wet bar and ice chest to port, along with a seat that allows one of your guests to face both the helm and cockpit seating areas.

At the helm, McCloud pressed the touchpad controls to levitate the forward end of the cockpit deck a couple of feet, revealing a pair of 300-hp MerCruiser Magnum MPI inboards that flanked the centerline. Scanning the engine compartment, I was pleased to see that critical access points (batteries, dipsticks, oil filters, strainers, and engine oil fills) were all within easy reach. Hooking up the fuel-flow gear was a no-sweat operation, even in the hot Miami sun. It was time to lower the cockpit, cast off, and put some wind across the deck.

Though the 320 is only slightly larger than her predecessor, at 13,200 pounds she is heavier by about ten percent. Given that she has the same engine options, I wanted to see how the added weight would affect her performance. As McCloud eased the Morse controls to full throttle, my radar gun showed a two-way average speed of just over 36 mph and our trim gauge indicated a well-balanced 31⁄2-degree running angle with the tabs fully retracted. The 320 took the one-foot chop right in stride and was well-behaved through three- and four-foot wakes. However, around 3000 rpm, bow rise momentarily blocked my forward sightlines as we came up on plane. At higher (or lower) speeds she trimmed out nicely, without help from the trim tabs.

Since such performance is related to the new hull form, I spoke with Sea Ray’s vice president of product development, Mark Owens, to find out how it differs from that of the 310. He told me that bow sections on the 320 hull have a finer entry and more deadrise for a smoother ride in rough seas, while deadrise aft is has been reduced from 23 to 21 degrees to improve balance, by developing more lift at the stern.

Owens also shared some construction details. The 320 uses solid fiberglass laminate in the hull, with a vinylester skin coat to resist blistering. Balsa core is used in areas like the foredeck walkway and cockpit soles, but penetrations are back-filled with composite to eliminate water migration.

Never content with the status quo, Sea Ray already has some changes planned for 2003 models, like upgraded electronics, an optional transom-mounted stereo remote control, and a choice of vinyl or (as some say) more comfortable Sunbrella material for the forward sunpads. Not any bigger this time around, just a little better.

Base price: $145,000 with 2/260-hp MerCruiser 5.0L MPI Bravo III gasoline stern drives
Optional power: 2/320-hp MerCruiser MX6.2L MPI Bravo III gasoline stern drives, 2/300-hp MerCcruiser VD-350 Magnum MPI V-drives, 2/320-hp MerCruiser VD-MX6.2L MPI gasoline V-drives, 2/225-hp MerCruiser D-Tronic D4.2L Bravo III diesel stern drives, 2/240-hp Volvo Penta KAD 44P EDC/DP diesel stern drives
Standard equipment: swim platform; Sunbrella bimini, front, aft, and side curtains; cockpit table; wetbar; stereo; 13" TV/VCR ; Norcold refrigerator; Raymarine 220 VHF

SPECIFICATIONS
LOA: 35'6"
Beam: 11'5"
Draft: 2'9"
Weight: 13,200 lbs.
Fuel capacity: 200 gal.
Water capacity: 40 gal.
Test engines: 2/300-hp MerCruiser VD-350 Magnum MPI gasoline V-drives
Transmissions/ratio: ZF 63 IV/2.00:1
Props: Hall & Stavert 18x19 3BC Nibral
Steering: Teleflex hydraulic
Controls: Teleflex mechanical
Optional equipment on test boat: 4.5-kW Westerbeke gasoline genset; bow thruster; freshwater cooling; Raymarine ST-60 Tridata
Price as tested: $170,000

CLICK HERE TO SEE SEA RAY YACHTS CURRENTLY FOR SALE IN CALIFORNIA

This review/article originally appeared in Power & Motoryacht Magazine, October 2002 and is written by George L. Petrie. For more great powerboat reviews, visit their website and subscribe at: https://www.powerandmotoryacht.com/uncategorized/subscribe-power-motoryacht

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