November 2021 Trailer Boat Reviews
Words and pictures by Matt Vance.
Build Quality
MODEL Rae Line 180 XS
DESIGNER Rae Line Boats
BUILDER Rae Line Boats
LOA 5.59M
BEAM 2.29M
ENGINE Volvo Penta V6 petrol 200hp
Max Horsepower 200hp
Passenger Capacity 6 people
DEADRISE 19 degrees
  • Stylish, well-appointed interior
  • Transom area is great for skiing and watersports
  • Social cockpit layout includes twin consoles and a swivelling helm seat
  • American-style bowrider styling is family-friendly

Christchurch-based Rae Line’s latest is the 180 XS featuring Volvo Penta’s new Aquamatic Sterndrive V6 200 DPS – potent petrol power in a stylish bowrider package that’s bound to turn heads.

When I reviewed the Rae Line 205 a while ago, I was rambling on about the bowrider thing and how it reminded me of the Wella Woman, glossy magazines and Florida.
When Ben from Sports Marine rolled into the carpark with the latest version of the Rae Line 180 XS hitched on the back I wanted to yell “Move over Wella Woman and don’t forget your shampoo… James Bond has arrived!”


The gleaming black hull and faux-leather trim with the sleek look only an inboard configuration can achieve had 007 written all over it. It would have been easy to stop there and be mesmerised by the looks, but if I squinted and concentrated hard I could see underneath it all a well-proven, sea-kindly practicality applied to the bowrider concept. It was the kind of trick I have come to expect from the Christchurch boatbuilder and I could not wait to get this latest addition to the Rae Line range in the water.

So often good design is about finding something that works and building on it. The Rae Line 180 XS has been developed from the popular 185 bowrider, which has a reputation for being stable, fast and soft-riding.
The cockpit and transom have been skilfully modified to allow for an inboard sterndrive. This makes the cockpit marginally shorter than the 185 Outboard model, but it does provide a more useable swim deck, especially when the swim platform is added.
The result is a sleeker-looking package and lower centre of gravity, as well as a more skier-friendly transom layout. The structure of the boat includes stringers and a bow bulkhead, all contained in a foam-filled floor liner. The result is a strong, dry hull with plenty of curves to catch the eye.

Like the hull, the layout of the Rae Line 180 XS has had some clever thinking applied to it – in the style of an American bowrider. The 180 XS is a dual-console boat with forward seating and a large cockpit; she is also one of the roomiest 18-footers around. The wide bow area has cushioned U-shaped seating with plenty of space for lounging. There is generous storage under the seats to accommodate the clutter that comes with a family day out on the water.

Further aft there is a large underfloor locker for skis and fishing rods. The walk-through between the dual consoles is accessed via a hinged windscreen and when bow riding is not an option the whole forward cockpit can be covered with a domed and zipped canvas tonneau cover.
The starboard-helm console is well laid out with great access to the dash electronics and good 360o visibility. The ‘one screen for all’ Simrad package makes for a clean, elegant dash in keeping with the style of the boat. The swivelling helm chair offers the comfort of a bucket-style pedestal seat, which rotates to make the cockpit a social space.
This is a boat where you sit down to helm so the ergonomics are car-like, with good visibility through the windscreen and a relaxing helm position.
The striking paint job adds to the head-turning looks of the 180 XS. It was developed over two lockdowns by the folk at Rae Line. It features full-gloss black running right throughout the boat, set off by a contrasting silver metal-flake stripe running from the deck back down into the hull and into a reverse stripe.

Both the bow and main cockpits are elegantly trimmed in Ultralon U-Dek, black on teak, which matches the bold, Bond-like colour scheme.
At the aft end of the cockpit, the usual outboard configuration gives way to an inboard engine box with seats on either side. The engine box forms the basis of the multi-stepped swim deck ending in the swim platform which extends out over the sterndrive. The sleek styling complements the powerhouse 200hp freshwater-cooled Aquamatic Sterndrive V6 200 DPS, a new integrated package from Volvo Penta with more boogie than a Year Nine disco.

On the water
With a Tuesday afternoon to ourselves, we had plenty of room on the boat ramp to get a first look at the Rae Line 180 XS. Upon walking around the 180, my first impression is of refined elegance. There are probably larger 18-footers around but not many as pleasing to the eye.

Under the good looks, there is some clever engineering. Every conceivable space has been used to enhance the onboard experience, from the helm station to the boat’s generous and ingenious storage options. As with other Rae Lines I have reviewed, the detail is immaculate.
As luck would have it, our photo boat was a Rae Line 185, so it was an exercise in compare and contrast all afternoon. From the photo boat, we were able to get some good angles on the 180 XS.
She has a sure-footed, solid look on the water, trims nicely and her wake made little fuss. The Volvo V6 has the sound to match the boat’s sports car looks. This powerplant seems a good match for the 180 XS, which looked well within her comfort zone no matter how much throttle we applied.
With the photos all done I eagerly clambered aboard for a trick at the helm. Behind the wheel, she was all pleasure: the Rae Line 180 XS just sprung onto the plane, accompanied by an authoritative growl from the V6 Volvo. Her deep-vee hull profile, full-ish bow sections and well-positioned chines offer a two-stage dampening to any chop that might threaten to cause a slam.

The chines also showed their worth during some tight manoeuvring. Their length and placement work together with the low centre of gravity provided by the inboard gave a noticeable bite to the hull in the corners. There was a reassuring sensation that the hull would not let go, which was backed up by the grip of the Aquamatic drive, which showed no indication of cavitation – a sure sign of a well-sorted motor and hull package.

The whole Rae Line package provided acceleration and a fun factor similar to a big jet-ski or a muscled-up jetboat.
In the flat water in the lee of Quail Island, the 180 XS skated around in style with minimal wake. A short sprint towards Lyttelton gave us some harbour slop to contend with, but the boat’s weight and high freeboard ensured a dry ride, while the hull – which responded well to trim – soaked up all the bumps. The windscreen was at a comfortable height, diverting much of the slipstream blast while maintaining excellent visibility and offering great ergonomics.

We enjoyed comfortable cruising in the 3,000-3,800rpm range, which gave us between 23-29 knots. This is a large sweet spot, which still left plenty of performance at the top end to push the boat well over 40 knots.
If you want a bowrider with an engine that can be heard but not seen, with the ability to turn heads while you are having fun with the family, the 180 XS could be for you. She has the pedigree, practicality, speed and style of James Bond himself.


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