The Ottawa River was flat and calm during my test, so I can't rave about the seakeeping ability of Doral's sexy new Alegria. I can tell you that it planes faster and flatter than just about any other express cruiser I've tested in this size range (it has an LOA of 47'4"). I can also tout its close-quarters handling as stellar.
What these two qualities can credit are the boat's drive train and hullform. In addition to dictating the boat's handling and performance, these features also set the stage for the Alegria's accommodations and serviceability. Together with the Alegria's breathtaking lines, you have one unique express cruiser.
PROPULSION. The design of most express cruisers is set up so that the hull stops short, and the platform, which is integral to the deck, overhangs the water like a flying buttress. The Alegria's hull extends below its swim platform. The hull of Chris-Craft's 46 Roamer ($457,381 powered like our test boat) also extends beneath its platform. This difference offers several advantages and is key to setting both boats apart from the pack in other areas.
For one thing, having a longer hull for a given LOA allows Doral to equip the Alegria with straight-shaft inboards without sacrificing cabin space. Boats with shorter hulls-that is, most express cruisers you'll come across-install V-drives to shorten the drive train and retain room for a big aft stateroom belowdecks.
Also consider the difference in positioning within the boat. Straight-shaft engines are mounted more forward, and their weight moves the longitudinal center of gravity (LCG) closer to amidships than V-drives do. This accounts for the easy planing without excessive bowrise I noted during my trial of the Alegria. Plus, having the LCG more centered reduces pitching, so you won't seesaw your way through a nasty chop. Another benefit found in the extended hull is that it provides a longer running surface compared to boats of similar LOA, which aids in planing, pitch reduction, and stability. This is particularly true if you carry a RIB or waterbike on the platform. Boats with overhanging platforms can get squirrelly offshore if they're carrying a lot of unsupported weight aft.
The design also incorporates shallow prop pockets, sized at just one-third the propeller diameter. This results in excellent close-quarters handling, as reverse thrust isn't stymied the way it can be aboard boats with deeper pockets. Using a buoy as a target in open water, exposed to wind and current, I made the Alegria dance, spin, back, and crab without the use of the thruster. Apply the standard bow thruster, and the Alegria is a joy to operate in the marina.
If there are downsides to the Alegria's hull design, they come in the form of reduced speeds and increased draft because of the LCG's positioning and the shallow pockets. For example, Sea Ray's 420 Sundancer ($391,000 powered by 430-bhp Cummins MerCruiser diesel V-drives) topped out at 38.2 mph when we tested it, despite being beamier, weighing the same, and having 100 fewer ponies. Plus, it draws only 3'4".
There's no downside to the Alegria's serviceability, however. Drop in through the day hatch, or lift the entire cockpit sole hydraulically. Unlike V-drives, the engines aren't crammed against the transom. Also, boats taper aft, so the forward placement of the Alegria's engines means they're in a beamier section of the hull. You have easy 360-degree access to the motors, genset, seacocks, and other accessories. What I didn't like was the location of the rudderposts. They're tough to get at. Plus, several wire runs lacked chafe protection where they penetrated bulkheads. Doral says this was a result of rushing the boat to the water for my test and that production boats won't suffer the same lapse. Check it out anyway.
It was while inspecting the Alegria's electrical system that I discovered yet another unique feature. Most cruisers this size use a 24-volt DC electrical system with an auxiliary 12-volt circuit. The Alegria's DC supply is entirely 12 volts. Since voltage is inversely proportional to amperage draw, and because amperage dictates wire size, boats using 24 volts can be wired with smaller gauge, less-expensive wire. This not only saves money-it saves hundreds of pounds of weight. Most DC appliances, with the exception of electronics, run fine on voltages as high as 32 volts-hence the auxiliary 12-volt system aboard boats wired for 24 volts. Doral's philosophy is that the simplicity of a single DC voltage is worth its weight and expense, which is kept down to a great extent by splitting the boat into two separate 12-volt zones, thus shortening the length of wire runs. Same cat, different skinning method.
ZEE LINES. The Alegria is, in my view, the best-looking boat in its class. A standout visual feature is the way the sheerline aft remains fluid all the way to the platform's aft edge. Other builders have disguised the "hung shelf" look of their swim platforms by running the sidedecks down and aft to the back of the platform. But that impedes boarding from the side. Aboard the Alegria, the soft lines of the deck tumble home and meld smoothly with the rounded corners of the platform and half-round profile of the wraparound lower rubrail. It looks great, boarding is easy, and it's further proof of Doral's willingness to break from the mold.
Another example of innovation can be seen in the electrically retractable foredeck access hatch and steps. Hit the switch and the windshield opens on center and a set of steps deploys down along the face of the companionway hatch. Neato. The bow is marked by a dual chaise lounge sunpad, an anchor locker with fender holders, and excellent rode access. LED lighting is embedded in the rails. Rail and cleat fasteners are hidden for a clean look, yet they remain serviceable, thanks to unique pry-up covers on the stanchion bases.
Belowdecks, high-gloss cherry, maple, and mahogany mix with brushed stainless-steel accents for a fresh look. Counters are solid-surface imitation granite-no sprayed rock here. The headliner is sculpted, yet seamless in look. Natural and electric light, both direct and indirect, is bountiful. However (there's always a however), I do think the hinges for the in-sole hatches should be recessed. As is, you're sure to stub bare toes on them.
Accommodations include a large, well-equipped galley that features a vent fan in addition to the requisite appliances. The salon is equally well appointed. There are two staterooms and two head compartments. These bear discussion. The forward head is accessible from the master stateroom. Complete with vanity, sink, and stowage, showering takes place in a completely separate compartment. The convenience of this arrangement is obvious. The aft head is typical, with shower, vanity, and commode all sharing the same space.
The master stateroom features a foam pad mattress berth, a thing I usually disparage in favor of an innerspring model. But in this case the foam is warranted, as the mattress is an electrically adjustable recliner, like those advertised on television. It's a cool feature and not at all surprising aboard a boat that's so clearly distinct from the competition.
THE HIGHS: Straight inboard drive train and hull-under-platform design enhance ride, handling, and serviceability. Cool gadgetry. Unique 12-volt system.
THE LOWS: Ouch! Recess those toe-stubbing hinges. Test boat needed better chafe protection for wire runs. Poor rudderpost access.
EXTRA POINT: A unique valve arrangement automatically fills the freshwater tank when you hook up to the dockside water supply.
Displacement (lbs., approx.).............26,000
Minimum cockpit depth......................2'8"
Fuel capacity (gal.)........400
Water capacity (gal.)........92
Price (w/standard power)...........$530,282
Price (w/test power)...........$530,282
Standard power Twin 480-bhp Volvo Penta TAMD 75P EDC diesel inboards.
Optional power Twin Volvo Penta or Cummins MerCruiser diesel inboards to 960 bhp total.
Test boat power Twin 480-bhp Volvo Penta TAMD 75P EDC diesel inboards with 444 cid, 4.21" bore x 5.31" stroke, swinging 25" x 28" four-bladed Nibral props through 1.77:1 reductions.
Standard equipment (major items): Radar arch; windlass; bow thruster; radar; chartplotter; VHF radio; depthsounder; 2 battery chargers; dual 50a shorepower w/cordsets; 7 batteries; central vac; multiplexed audio/video system w/6-disc changer; DVD player; flat-screen TV; full camper enclosure; vacuum-flush commodes; 16,000-Btu and 7,000-Btu a/c; electrical foredeck access ladder and hatch; cockpit shower.