NITRO® says the previous versions of the Z18 are the best-selling fiberglass bass boats, so it would be easy to understand if the manufacturer didn’t want to make changes. But NITRO® has upgraded the official boat of Major League Fishing with an angled panel to mount the bow fishfinder, more leg room under the helm console, and integrated net stowage abaft the seats. A 175-hp Mercury Pro XS outboard adds 3.4-liter V-6 4-stroke power and numerous features that help make the engine easier to manage and maintain. The boat, motor, and trailer remain among the most complete turn-key bass packages available.
- NITRO® Vortex Technology (NVT) hull with Rapid Planing System
- 175-hp Mercury Pro XS outboard
- Aft 30-gal. (114 L) Guardian aerated, divided livewell with timer
- Lowrance HOOK2 5 Combo flush-mounted fishfinder
- Hydraulic steering with tilt
- Custom-fit, single-axle trailer with powder-coat finish and GALVASHIELD corrosion and chip resistance
- 2-bank, 8-amp battery charger with exterior receptacle
- 34-sq.-ft. (3.16 sq. meter) bow deck for casting mobility with lots of stowage
- Bike seat and jump seat with pedestals
- Recessed trolling-motor pedal area for Minn Kota and MotorGuide trolling motors
- Oversized, lockable port and starboard bow rod lockers with lift assists for rods up to 8' (2.44 m)
- Step to bow deck with 62-qt. (58.67 liter) insulated cooler and removable trash receptacle
|Length Overall||18' 8'' / 5.69 m|
Acceleration Times & Conditions
|Time to Plane||4.2 sec.|
|0 to 30||7.3 sec.|
|Load||2 persons, 3/4 fuel, no water, 50 lbs. of gear|
|Climate||89 deg., 72 humid; wind: 5-10 mph; seas: light chop|
1 x 175-hp Mercury Pro XS 4-stroke
1 x 150-hp Mercury FourStroke
1 x 175-hp Mercury Pro XS FourStroke
|Hull Warranty Extended||Lifetime|
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Contents of Report
The NITRO® Z18 is a high-performance bass boat that is rigged with everything a serious tournament angler will need, including electronics, a trolling motor, tackle stowage, and casting decks. Powered by a 175-hp Mercury Pro XS FourStroke outboard, the Z18 provides speed with stability thanks to its hull, which uses what NITRO® calls NITRO® Vortex Technology (NVT) to minimize chine walk and allow high-speed turns. And she does it without a more prestigious brand name and the higher price tag that comes with it.
• Nitro Vortex Technology hull with Rapid Planing System. The bottom is designed for a smoother ride and quicker hole shot.
• Mercury Pro XS Outboard. Mercury’s new Pro XS outboard adds torque throughout the rpm curve, simplified maintenance with the cowling top.
• Composite Coring in the Deck. No wood in the deck means a lighter deck but also nothing that will absorb water and rot or go soggy with time. Nitro says the decks also have thermal stability, which means they won’t get soft baking in the sun.
• Z-Core Seating with Force Flex Suspension. Bucket seats are contoured for comfort and designed in collaboration with fishing legend Kevin VanDam.
• Standard Hydraulic Steering with Tilt. Makes for a more responsive feel and it’s safer.
• Lowrance HOOK2 – 5 Combo Multifunction Display. It comes with one unit standard, which isn’t something that can always be expected on an 18’ (5.49 m) boat.
• Matched Trailer. Designed specifically to fit the Z18 so the boat sits lower on the trailer and rides more smoothly over the road.
The NITRO® Z18 is a fishing machine, and as such has numerous features designed to appeal to the serious angler. All decks are finished in 16-ounce marine-grade carpet.
Mercury Pro XS Outboard
The 175-hp Mercury Pro XS outboard is a 3.4-liter V-6 powerhead matched to a lower-unit gearcase with a 1.85:1 gear ratio.
The outboard comes with standard hydraulic steering and brings many advanced features to the NITRO® Z18, including:
• “Idle Charge” battery-management system detects high power draw and increases idle speed to turn the alternator faster. The idea is to help boaters keep their batteries charged when peripheral equipment overtaxes the electrical system. The 175-hp Pro XS outboard has an 85-amp alternator. Mercury says that the engine has a “best-in-class" net charging output of 20 amp at 650 rpm. This is important on a boat equipped with a trolling motor, livewells with pumps working, a large electronics suite, as well as other accessories.
• A top cowl service door allows for easier checks of engine oil level. Opened with a single push, the door also places key service and maintenance decals out of sight. Concealed inside this door is also a folding cover carrying handle, to give boaters a handhold when they do need to lift the cowling off these sleek outboards. Getting a look under the bonnet on a regular basis is a good idea and can help boaters spot leaks, corrosion, and other problems earlier, and maybe head off headaches later.
• Adaptive speed control that maintains RPM regardless of load or sea condition changes, which greatly improves the driving experience.
Bow Casting Deck
The bow casting deck measures 6’6” by 4’1” (1.98 m by 1.24 m) providing 34-sq. ft. (3.16 sq. meters) of space for the angler on top of the composite-cored deck. The composite deck eliminates plywood from the construction, and the manufacturer says this deck is less likely to absorb water and weaken over time. The deck has a pedestal bike seat with short and long pedestals, and a recess in which the trolling-motor foot pedal can be mounted.
Trolling Motor. Buyers can choose from five Minn Kota and MotorGuide trolling motors with 80 lb. (36 L) thrust and shafts ranging from 45” to 52” (available as options ranging from $450 to $2,190).
Flush-Mount Electronics. The panel allowing flush-mount of a fishfinder display can accept units from Lowrance, Humminbird, and Garmin up to 12” (30.48 cm) display screens (options range in price from $395 to $4,745). In another improvement over previous generations, the panel is now raised at an angle, helping to reduce screen glare.
Another advantage of a large bow casting deck is having usable space beneath it to stow all of the gear that makes any day on the water a success. Rod lockers to port and starboard stow 8’ (2.44 m) rods. A compartment on centerline has a pair of beverage holders and a divider system designed to keep Plano 3700 tackle trays organized so anglers can lay hands on what they’re looking for in a hurry. All of these lockers have molded-in drainage channels around them, and reinforced lids held open with gas-assist struts.
The step onto the forward casting deck is flanked by a pair of cupholders with slots for keeping tools handy. The step is hinged and conceals an insulated cooler, which has an available raised tray to keep a sandwich out of the ice. To port is a waste receptacle that removes for easy dumping.
The helm console and seat are positioned to starboard. The helm console has a removable tinted acrylic windscreen.
The helm dashboard can accommodate a display up to 10” (25.4 cm) and has a pair of analog gauges to either side. To port are a tachometer with a trim gauge inset, and a voltmeter below. Below that is the engine ignition, as well as switches controlling the boat’s systems including power to the navigation lights and a rheostat to dim the helm lights. To starboard are a speedometer with inset fuel gauge and a water pressure gauge below. Below those are switches that control the bilge and livewell pump, as well as a horn button.
The passenger footwell on the port side has stowage for up to six rods, with a pad on the inboard bulwarks to keep reels from scuffing the boat or getting scuffed themselves. The port side is wired to accept an optional second console ($1,025), and it installs or removes with just three thumb bolts.
The helm and companion seats are contoured to help the crew stay put when the boat is operating at speed. In line with ABYC regulations, each seat has a grab handle for security.
A dedicated stowage spot for a landing net is located behind the passenger seat with a recessed section where the head will fit vertically, while the long handle will stow athwartships along the leading edge of the aft casting deck, abaft the driver’s seat. Because it is recessed to accept the diameter of the handle, a trip hazard is eliminated. A strap will hold the handle in place.
Aft Casting Deck
The aft casting deck measures 6’8” by 3’2” (2.03 m by 0.97 m). As with the forward deck, the space beneath does not go unused. Outboard to port and starboard are lockers lined with removable tubs designed to stow seven Plano 3700 tackle trays each. Because they are removable, they can be packed with appropriate tackle at home, and also are easy to clean.
A divided livewell is on centerline. With a 30-gallon (114-L) capacity, it has pumps for filling, recirculating, and pumpout, as well as a two-piece lid that lets anglers keep one side covered as needed. A jump seat or bike seat can be mounted on either a high or low pedestal.
Batteries are mounted aft in a locker that holds the single cranking battery for the engine and also a pair of batteries for the trolling motors. The batteries are mounted to a cover in the sole that allows access to the bilge pump. A built-in battery charger has a receptacle at the port side of the engine well.
The construction of the NITRO® Z18 has numerous attributes that let the boat perform as expected. The NITRO® Vortex Technology (NVT) hull has a running surface made up of longitudinal sections shaped with parabolic curves in cross-section. Nitro says the hull is unitized, meaning all parts are permanently bonded together and uses a foam-filled stringer system.
The Rapid Planing System uses a notch to introduce air ahead of the lower unit to improve hole-shot performance, according to NITRO®. The manufacturer also says the setback of the engine due to the stepped transom delivers clean water to the prop. The transom also has an anti-backwash feature so a boat slowing down and coming off plane won’t get swamped by her own following sea.
In addition to these performance features, the construction of the Z18 is also NMMA certified, with flotation that meets or exceeds NMMA and U.S. Coast Guard requirements, and the boat also uses an EPA-compliant fuel system.
The NITRO® Z18 comes with a trailer designed to fit the boat. The trailer has an all-welded rectangular frame treated with GALVASHIELD, which the manufacturer says offers impact, corrosion, and chip protection. The trailer has 14” wheels, a spare tire carrier, a swing-away tongue, submersible LED lights, and a winch with a nylon strap and bow safety strap. Carpeted bunks and fender boards protect the hull from scrapes. A hub-lubrication system comes with a six-year/100,000-mile limited warranty.
The NITRO® Z18 has a LOA of 18’8” (5.69 m), a beam of 7’10” (2.39 m), and a draft of 15” (38.1 cm). With an empty weight of 1,700 lbs. (771 kg), 70 percent fuel and two people on board, our test boat had an estimated test weight of 2,300 lbs. (1,043 kg).
With the 175-hp Mercury Pro XS outboard turning a 23p Fury propeller, we reached our top speed of 62.5 mph (100.6 kmph). Best cruise came in at 2500 rpm and 22.5 mph (36.21 kmph). It was at that speed that the 3.7 gph (14.01 lph) fuel burn translated into 6.2 mpg (2.64 kmpl) and a range of 222 statute miles (357 km), all while holding back a 10-percent reserve of the boat’s 40-gallon (151 L) fuel capacity.
For acceleration, the NITRO® Z18 reached planing speed at 4.2 seconds, went from zero to 20 mph in 4.7 seconds and went from zero to 30 mph in 7.3 seconds. Mercury uses Transient Spark Technology to advance engine timing under hard acceleration and the company says that increases torque from 5% to 7%.
Keeping in mind that bass boats are designed primarily to run in straight lines to fishing spots, when we put the Z18 through some maneuverability tests, the boat responded predictably, carving sweeping arcs in each direction at reasonable speeds.
Options to Consider
• Hot Foot throttle pedal ($185)
• Trim lever on wheel ($70)
• 6” (15.24 cm) jack plate (starting at $475)
• 8’ to 10’ (2.44 m to 3.05 m) shallow-water anchor, one or two (starting at $2,030)
• Mooring cover for console (starting at $655)
• Anti-fatigue mat ($80)
• Rod organizer ($145)
• Removable port console with hardware ($1,025)
• Battery charger upgrade (starting at $75)
• Center seat in cockpit ($270)
• Hydraulic fishing seat pedestal ($150)
• Oxygen generators, two ($315)
• Automatic bilge pump ($125)
• Hydrowave electronic fish attractor ($540)
• Keel protector (black or white) ($315)
• Snap-in sandwich tray ($30)
Lifetime transferrable on the hull, interior stringers and transom, plus a one-year warranty on components. Galvashield coating on the trailer is warranted against corrosion for three years.