November 2022 Launch Reviews
Words by Craig Ritchie. Photography by Craig Ritchie and Sea Ray.
Build Quality
MODEL Sea Ray SLX 260
BUILDER Sea Ray Boats
PRICE AS TESTED $495,279.00
LOA 9.41M
BEAM 2.59M
ENGINE 1 x Mercruiser 6.2l MPI 350hp
  • Clever, family-friendly layout
  • Exceptional attention to detail
  • Well appointed and nicely-presented
  • Storage space galore
  • Brisk performance and benign handling with very little bow lift under acceleration

The first Sea Ray produced by an all-female design team, the new SLX 260 raises the bar on comfort, convenience, functionality and performance.

Sea Ray has always been about raising the bar and going beyond the expected. It’s a winning formula that has allowed the company to earn a global reputation for quality and value, which has made it among the best-known and best-selling boat brands in the world.
Never one to rest on its laurels, the American boatbuilder is raising the bar again with its all-new SLX 260. This mid-sized day boat is designed as an upscale family runabout that’s built for watersports, entertaining guests, or just enjoying family weekends on the water. But it’s a unique design in one important sense, being the very first Sea Ray created from the keel up by an all-female design team.
Evidence of this industry-first is abundant, albeit in a multitude of subtle ways. There’s no single knockout feature that stands the SLX 260 apart, but rather, a number of ‘good grief, why didn’t I think of that?’ tweaks and refinements that make the end product so much more than just the sum of its parts. It all becomes apparent as soon as you step aboard, and I was fortunate enough to have that opportunity recently in New York City. Moreover, my host was none other than Carrie Fodor, senior manager of design at Sea Ray and leader of the team who brought the new SLX 260 to life.


So, what makes this boat different from the other models in the lineup?
“The SLX 260 is full of surprises,” she says. “When we initially envisioned the boat, we all stepped back and solicited a lot of input from boaters, of course. What do you like about your boat? What do you not like about it? What would you change? And through that consultation process we began to see clear consensus around specific areas. So, we had that as our starting point. Our team then began addressing those points, drawing design cues not only from within the boating industry, but from outside influences like fashion, architecture and nature. It was an interesting process, and that’s why we say the boat is full of surprises. Its approach to even basic things like gear storage, for example, is unlike anything else out there.”
With those words to ponder, it was time to explore.

From the dock the easiest route on board is via the deep stern swim platform, which is finished in SeaDek soft foam decking for safety and good looks. Boarding from a high dock? Not a problem in the SLX 260, as Carrie demonstrated by flipping out a neat step concealed in the starboard cockpit gunnel that’s built for that very purpose. Once aboard, the step simply retracts flush into the gunnel where it’s out of the way.
Further attention to detail includes Sea Ray’s provision of six 20.3cm cleats instead of the usual four, making it possible to rig spring lines and keep the boat from constantly rubbing against the dock.
Sea Ray offers the SLX 260 in outboard and sterndrive variants, if we can use that word again. Even on the outboard-powered boat, the swim platform is deep enough that crossing from one side to the other is easy. The starboard end of the platform conceals a four-step stainless steel boarding ladder and a perfectly-placed stainless grab handle, while a pull-out transom shower situated to port takes care of any sand or other debris that finds its way onto the platform.

Take a seat
Both outboard and sterndrive versions of the SLX 260 make the most of its big swim platform by providing an enormous aft-facing lounge that might just be the best seat in the house. Without exaggeraton, it’s as wide as a queen bed and about two-thirds the length, making it without question the most spacious and comfortable spot aboard for lazing in the sun.
The big lounge has a few tricks up its sleeve though, starting with a front cushion that lifts to reveal a deep, insulated cooler with a drain. Of course, the seat has integrated drink holders, USB charging ports, a remote control for the Fusion stereo, and buttery-soft upholstery that finds an ideal balance between being firmly supportive and cushy comfy.
But the real jaw dropper here hides under the port side of the seat, which raises independently to reveal an absolutely enormous storage locker that runs right up the port side of the boat. It’s more than big enough for wakeboards, surf boards, water skis, a rolled up floating mat for the kids, inflatable tow tubes, or possibly even a smaller stand-up paddleboard. The storage capacity on the SLX 260 is truly jaw dropping, and especially for a boat measuring just 9 metres in overall length.
A wide starboard-side pass-through with an in-floor storage locker beneath leads forward, where a single step down brings one into the cockpit. A large and inviting L-shaped lounge seat stretching across the stern and continuing forward along the port side immediately beckons one to sit down and get comfy, but not yet – there are still more surprises to uncover.

SLX 260 Outboard cockpit

Lifting the transom seat cushion reveals access to the engine in sterndrive models, or a storage compartment on outboard-powered boats with a large gear caddy suspended over the compartment floor, keeping toys separated from the batteries, fuel tanks and other mechanical equipment. In both versions of the boat, the forward end of the port-side seat offers still more storage space beneath its seat cushion, with the lid held open by a gas ram. As with all storage compartments on the SLX 260, the lid is fully finished on the inside, with the closure both guttered and protected by a gasket to ensure gear stays dry. Four more stainless steel drink holders occupy the port stern corner of the cockpit – of 17 beverage holders in all. The beautifully upholstered seat cushions feature a tasteful diamond quilting detail along the lumbar supports, and a deeper seat cushion profile than we’ve traditionally seen – a design Carrie says is aimed at providing better ergonomics and greater comfort over the course of a day.Facing that fantastic L-shaped lounge is a starboard-side bench seat with a dedicated storage space in its base for two soft-sided, carry-on coolers. “Those are the best,” she smiles. “The built-in cooler that we have on the swim platform is great, but how do you get your stuff to the boat? You can load up the soft-sided coolers at home, so everything stays nice and cold on the way to the boat, and the shoulder straps make them easy to carry down the dock.”Between the two cockpit seats is yet another massive storage compartment in the sole. Like the others, it’s fully finished inside, completely gasketed and guttered, and fitted with gas rams to facilitate stowing or retrieving gear.

Far forward on the port side, a high-back bucket seat with a flip-up bolster not only swivels, but slides for optimal comfort. It faces the neatly sculpted passenger console with a locking glove box, more drink holders, a well-positioned grab handle, a USB charging port, a side-wall niche for securely storing phones, and a well-positioned armrest on the gunnel.

Attention To DetailThe passenger console opens to reveal a sizable head compartment with a Vacuflush toilet, accessed through a hinged door with a small magnet in its base. A corresponding magnet on the helm console locks the door open if desired – a neat arrangement with no moving parts to rattle in rough water.
The helm console of the SLX 260 is neatly designed with a glass dash arrangement up top centred around twin 9-inch (23cm) Simrad touchscreen displays. There’s also Mercury VesselView Mobile functionality, active trim control and CZone digital switching, along with an audiophile Fusion Apollo stereo. The attractive, brushed chrome-on-black steering wheel is nicely-proportioned and equally comfortable for drivers with either large or small hands.
Just below the displays is a dash pad which can be ordered with an integrated inductive charger for cell phones. The dash panel also provides a convenient storage space for cell phones, and even larger devices like iPads for those who prefer to navigate using Navionics on a portable device.
The throttle control is thoughtfully-positioned for driver comfort, regardless of height or arm length. Behind it is a similar cell phone niche to that found beside the co-pilot seat, and the dash top sits low enough that drivers of smaller stature will have no problem seeing forward, regardless of how the helm seat is adjusted. Like the passenger seat, the helm seat in the SLX 260 provides a flip-up bolster, plus swivel and slide functions controlled by small levers on the inboard side of the base cushion.
Overhead, Sea Ray’s second generation Power Tower supports an integrated Bimini top with an available pull-out sunshade that extends aft to protect the entire cockpit. The tower lowers with a helm-controlled electric actuator, allowing the boat to easily pass under low bridges or to be dry-stack/rack stored when not in use. Because it’s still possible to drive the boat with the tower lowered, it also serves as an effective umbrella when an afternoon shower passes through.
A second actuator at the transom pass-through provides added convenience when storing the boat, allowing the top to be raised or lowered without having to sit at the helm.

Front and centre
Passing forward between the consoles and the walk-through windscreen leads to the bow seating. The pass-through neatly conceals a one-piece air dam that swings out from the side of the passenger console. Closing this dam and the walk-through windscreen essentially seals off the front end of the boat, providing much greater comfort for all-seasons boating.
The bow seating on the SLX 260 features forward-facing lounge seats at the face of each console, each with pull-down armrests, integrated drink holders, USB chargers, full wrap-around upholstered coaming, hidden speakers, and yes, even more under-seat storage, which extends right into the console on the starboard-side. Between the seats is a further aft-facing seating position. Installing the removable table here, and adding a filler cushion, converts the space into a very large and inviting sun pad.
Look down between the bow seating and there’s still another in-floor storage locker. Carrie Fodor told me the new SLX 260 offers a full 0.68m3 more storage space than the outgoing model, and I can well believe it. Not only are the storage spaces abundant, but they’re big, easily accessible, and all boast large openings held open by gas rams to facilitate access.
Far forward, yet another little surprise awaits with the addition of a shower/washdown right beside the windlass in the anchor compartment, allowing boaties to quickly rinse down a muddy anchor before getting underway.

The need for speed
The outboard version of Sea Ray’s SLX 260 is rated to handle engines of up to 300 horsepower, with a Mercury Verado 300 considered to be optimal power. In the sterndrive edition, maximum (and preferred) power is the MerCruiser 6.2L MPI, which churns out 350 ponies. More power, yes, but with the sterndrive boat weighing around 230kg more than its outboard counterpart, performance between the two configurations winds up being very similar, with planing times in the range of four seconds and top speed at wide-open throttle of over 40 knots – pushing 80kph.
That’s plenty quick, but it is the Sea Ray’s ride character that really sets the SLX 260 apart. Pin the throttle from a standing stop and the boat just leaps forward, with no bow rise to speak of. That’s unusual, in that virtually all bowrider runabouts in this size range suffer some degree of bow lift when you put the hammer down. Not so with the Sea Ray, so kudos to Carrie’s design team for that one.

It’s also a nicely mannered boat when underway, simply going where it’s pointed without any real fuss or fanfare. Drivers quickly develop a real sense of confidence at the helm, with the boat responding to inputs calmly and holding well in the turns. Even when one intentionally goes into a sharp turn too hot for comfort, the boat just rolls in and makes the course change, without the stern blowing out or showing any hint of prop ventilation. In that sense, it’s really a fun boat to drive because it just does what you want it to do without ever losing its cool.
At least some credit for the easy handling has to go to Mercury’s automatic trim function, which comes as a standard feature on the SLX 260. Even if you’ve driven boats for decades, the system works so well – and so quickly – it makes any requisite adjustments before you can even reach for the tabs. That’s really slick.

But engine controls are only part of the magic, and a bigger part of the SLX 260’s splendid ride characteristics come down to the design of the boat itself. From its performance-oriented outer hull to its internal architecture, low centre of gravity, exquisite balance and advanced engineering, this boat has been designed from the outset to bring occupants pure joy while under way, not fright.
Carrie Fodor was right – Sea Ray’s SLX 260 really is full of surprises, and all of them good. Families in the market for a capable, versatile, comfortable and enjoyable runabout will find a lot to like here. This is a boat that truly raises the bar on Sea Ray’s legendary quality and performance, and that’s saying a lot.