There’s nothing wrong with giving people what they want. The new Bayliner Element, in fact, embraces several current boating trends — among them a desire for increased accessibility and versatility, and a renewed focus on outboard power. People these days want a vessel that’s easy to own, operate and maintain, and can be used equally for watersports, fishing, entertaining or simply relaxing on board.
But, here’s the twist. I first saw the Element in the factory about nine months ago, well before the above-mentioned tendencies were bandied about. It’s a trend setter, not a trend follower. And at a base price of $11,999 — “for a low monthly payment that’s comparable to a cable bill,” according to the company — this model will have a lot of new and reinvigorated boaters taking notice.
As well they should. The Bayliner Element is a distinctive take on the deck boat concept, not unlike the approach the Honda Element took in the sport utility market. Coincidence? Keep reading and decide for yourself.
The layout is clean, uncluttered and pleasingly symmetrical, accommodating up to six people total. A wraparound bow lounge and full-beam sun pad allow stretching out fore and aft. The latter is recessed rather than flush with the gunwales like most sun pads, adding safety for younger children. In fact, the freeboard is nice and deep all around.
Amidships, the 16-footer has a unique (if somewhat compact) cockpit with both a forward and aft-facing seat opposite the helm. This does a couple of things: First, it lets the captain stay in the social mix. Second, it allows a spotter to easily watch skiers, boarders or tubers being pulled behind the boat. Small swim platforms on each side of the motor facilitate re-boarding; the one to starboard has a folding ladder.
The boat was purposefully designed with automotive-like driving in mind, which is evident at the helm with single, big, multifunction gauge. The overall style is clean, almost minimalist, in keeping with the rest of the boat. Standard power is a dependable 60-horsepower Mercury FourStroke, capable of reaching a top speed of nearly 30 miles per hour and cruising at about 21 miles per hour.
Of course, driving performance is determined by more than the speed. One of the Element’s most innovative features is its signature M-hull. Similar to the cathedral hull pioneered by Boston Whaler in the ’60s, this design has sizeable sponsons that extend forward to provide more stability and floatation at rest, and more bite and less yaw while cornering, like a tri-tube pontoon or a car. See a theme here?
The Element’s ease of use carries over to its upkeep and ownership, as well. The boat has a self-bailing cockpit that you can simply hose down and let drain at the end of the day. Plus, it comes with a specially designed, single-axle trailer and can be stowed in most average-sized garages.
There aren’t too many options offered on the boat, but then again, you don’t really need any. The Sports Package includes a stainless-steel arch with board racks, special graphics, black or red gelcoat, and a bow filler cushion. You can also add a cooler below the sun pad, and a depth finder and stereo at the helm. The optional bimini and mooring cover are both good ideas to protect your boat and its passengers.
In the end, the real talent of the Bayliner Element isn’t just knowing what today’s boaters want, but recognizing and delivering these things ahead of anyone else. At a price that’s hard to beat.
Length Overall: 16 feet, 2 inches
Beam: 7 feet, 5 inches
Draft (drive up): 10.75 inches
Dry Weight: 1,750 pounds
Fuel Capacity: 12 gallons
Power: 60-hp Mercury FourStroke outboard
Base Price: $11,999