There are some express cruisers with performance that just doesn't live up to their streamlined good looks. The Cruisers Yachts 520 Sports Coupe isn't one of these, proving itself to be a pleasure to run during my test on a boisterous Atlantic. The 520 Sports Coupe also ramps up the luxury level with such features as a rotating circular cockpit lounge, a synthetic teak cockpit sole, underwater lighting, electric hi-lo tables, and jack-in-the box televisions. It has all the toys; it has all the must-haves. Is this the express cruiser for you? Let's take a look.
Take Her Out
Closely spaced 3' waves can cause even a big boat to pound. However, aboard the 520 Sports Coupe, I maintained 32 mph in these conditions with little slamming. Credit the hull design and propulsion choice. Below the high chine, its fine entry, marked by a stem that's narrow when viewed bow-on and well-raked when viewed in profile, allows it to smoothly enter and re-enter waves. Moreover, IPS doesn't require pockets, or tunnels, aft as do conventional inboards. So the 520 Sports Coupe possesses full, uninterrupted deadrise aft.
When you cruise fast enough to cantilever the bow over a wave crest, the boat falls off that wave on a hull with a pure V-shape, not one with concave prop tunnels, which ride harder. Moreover, the lack of pockets increases buoyancy aft, which holds up the stern and, you guessed it, minimizes bowrise. So the 520 Sports Coupe's running angle is flatter than most boats with conventional power, resulting in less pitching in lumpy water. Cut the wheel hardover at 35 mph. You won't find the bow rising, the speed dropping, and directional control diminishing, as you might aboard an express with shaft-and-prop propulsion. Instead, the 520 Sports Coupe leans over, maintaining speed and inclination, and provides the kind of control typical of boats powered by stern drives or outboards.
Whip the wheel back and forth while going at a good clip and you get an instant response from the boat. And, of course, you'd be hard-pressed to get a 20-ton cruiser to net 0.75 mpg at 30 mph, which is what the 520 Sport Coupe burned. (Most get about 0.5 mpg, or 33 percent less economy.) My only complaint while running the 520 Sports Coupe is its hardtop. It's so long that it impeded my ability to see who was coming up in my wake.
Don't get me wrong -- I'm not bashing conventional inboards. They're tried and true, and, if nothing else, appeal to many traditionalists. In fact, you can order a new 520 Sports Coupe with conventional inboards. But the advantages of tractor or pod drives are undeniable: better speed, better range, better ride, better handling. Did I mention the ease of joystick docking? So for comparison, check out Regal's 5260 ($1.1 million with twin Volvo Penta IPS 600s), which also has a coupe top enclosing the helm deck. It's sold out through the 2010 model year and is offered with customized interiors, so the price stated is for reference only. With only two engines, the 5260 doesn't make the same top speed as the triple-powered 520 Sports Coupe, but it offers comparable handling and efficiency. Sea Ray's 51'-by-14' 48 Sundancer ($975,000 with twin 517-bhp Cummins MerCruiser V-drives) is somewhat smaller, displacing 35,000 pounds, but offers an integrated hardtop. For the 2009 model year, it will be offered with Zeus pod drives (price not available at press time) and will make 40 mph, according to Sea Ray. Also, a source at Sea Ray told me, on the promise of anonymity, that larger pod-powered, coupe-topped express cruisers are in development for debut -- and I quote -- "soon."
Way too many boats feature decor that might have been copied from a motel on the outskirts of Cleveland. Step into the full beam majesty of the midship stateroom aboard the 520 Sports Coupe to see what happens when a boatbuilder hires an interior designer. You'll feel as if you're in a South Beach penthouse. Duvet covers grace the berth. The cabinetry is a gloriously curved expanse of wood with highly figured grain, highlighted by indirect illumination and set off all the more by the scads of natural light. Built-ins, such as the nightstands and dresser, are topped in faux marble. The sculpted headliner is artful, although it compromises headroom above the berth. Sit and read in the soft-textured loveseat. However, the lack of a full-length mirror in this stateroom, which includes an en suite head with shower, is something most fashionistas will miss. There's room for one on the bulkhead beside the big-screen TV.
Common spaces are no less beautifully designed. The diamond-tiled galley sports a gray marble backsplash. The salon's tan headliner lends a warmer feel to the salon than the brasher gel-coated headliners of some other cruisers. Vessel sinks in the heads allow female crew to feel like Cleopatra. Feed her some grapes after she freshens up and see if I'm wrong.
Topside, the extra-long hardtop makes the 520 Sports Coupe's looks match its performance. Beneath it are much the same luxuries I found belowdecks: hi-def TV; a galley with grill, water, and refrigeration; climate control via reverse-cycle air-conditioning; and flexible seating. The aft lounge slides around a circular track in sections, allowing you to configure it for lounging, casual seating, or formal dining. (It also allows variations in boarding access.) Light candles, drape table linens, then sit for dinner as the harbor lights wink on. Afterward, regale guests with your favorite cruising adventure while being swept by the beacon of a nearby lighthouse. Express boat cruising doesn't get any better than aboard the 520 Sports Coupe.
EXTRA POINT: The rumble seat on the platform has a rubber cushion, rather than upholstered foam, so it doesn't soak up the splash from your wake when coming off plane.