Two-speed transmissions are one of the - if not the - most underused accessories on performance boats. Take Sunseeker's XS 2000, for example. With the transmissions in high gear, I was romping and stomping over three-foot ocean waves at nearly 70 mph and loving life. For the long idle back to the docks, I downshifted to low, which made the boat amazingly docile as I maneuvered it into the slip.
In addition to the ZF two-speed transmissions (1.3:1 ratio in low gear, 1:1 in high), the XS 2000 is equipped with TriMax surface drives developed by renowned Italian designer Fabio Buzzi. A study in simplicity, the TriMax consists of a propshaft that runs from the transmissions straight out the back of the boat. Above each propeller is a stainless-steel tube that sucks away air, giving the prop better bite as it works to get the boat on plane.
Transmissions are especially handy with the XS 2000's TriMax surface drives. Without the ability to shift into low, the 39' boat would be nearly impossible to maneuver around the docks. With the tall gears and big props needed to achieve high speeds on boats equipped with single-speed transmissions and surface drives, bumping the boat into gear causes it to lurch forward. Low gear makes such a boat much more maneuverable.
There is one catch - the boat has to be designed for TriMax drives. That means about 4' of extra hull structure must be built onto the boat to support the shafts and rudders. The British-built XS 2000 may measure 39', but its running surface is only about 35' long. Fountain's 42 Lightning is set up similarly, with a running surface that's actually about 38' long. It's offered with the 420-hp Yanmars and Arneson surface drives for a price of $422,724. Fountain estimates top speed in the mid-80-mph range.
THE HIGHS: ZF two-speed transmissions are perfect for this boat. Romps in the ocean like a dolphin. Acrylic windscreen works great. Built-in transom steps are easy to climb.
THE LOWS: Look for emergency shutoff switches. For this much money, we want to be able to sit at the helm. Engines are too close to front of compartment. Anchor locker lid needs a gas-strut support.
ADVENTURE GEAR. Running in the Atlantic Ocean in three-to-four-foot wind-whipped waves, I brought the XS 2000 on plane and flipped the toggle switch at the helm to high gear. From 2700 rpm and 50.3 mph to the top end of 69.4 mph, the boat maintained a level attitude, gracefully leaping from wavetop to wavetop. If you don't like to work the throttles when you're running in waves, this is the boat for you. Slam the levers forward and leave them there. That's another benefit of the TriMax drives. You don't have to worry about hurting the gears as you would in a stern drive. With these motors, the TriMax's 2"-diameter shafts won't twist if you hammer the throttles as the boat comes out of the water. Pretend the XS 2000 is a rental car - abuse it all you like. It's built as tough as a two-dollar steak with a laminate reinforced with Baltek balsa coring and Kevlar for maximum strength at minimum weight.
Because the drives aren't trimmable, the XS 2000 gets its level ride from the positioning of the two 1 1/4"-tall steps that run straight across the bottom. The first step is beneath the helm console; the second is about three feet aft. The inner pair of lifting strakes terminate at the first step, and the outer pair ends at the second. The running surface abaft the second step has no strakes.
At the bow, the XS 2000 sports a pair of wings that flare out on each side to a maximum width of about 7". These are called anti-stuff planes and in the unlikely event that you stick the bow into a wave, they pop it back up to help level the boat more quickly.
For leveling side loads, the XS 2000 is equipped with Buzzi-designed trim tabs developed with practicality and long life in mind. The only external elements are the tabs themselves, which tuck up into insets in the bottom of the boat. The hydraulic pumps and all other hardware are inboard, which makes them easy to maintain and protects them from the corrosive marine environment.
Operators used to running stern drive boats will need to become familiar with the XS 2000. When turning, don't crank the steering wheel hardover. The XS 2000's response is quicker and more precise than a stern drive's. Say you're making a turn to port: Set the wheel and let the boat catch up. If you want to make a course correction, go easy. Turn the wheel too far and you could upend your crew.
STANDING ROOM ONLY. Our test boat was from an early production run. When I turned the steering wheel, I dragged my knuckles across the ignition keys, located to the right of the wheel. I saw a later version of this boat and was pleased to discover that the keys had been moved to the middle of the dash and out of hand's way.
One thing that didn't change is that the driver and passenger in the front bolsters must travel standing up at all times. This works fine while running in the ocean, but if you're stuck in a no-wake zone for 40 minutes, you'll want a cushion to sit on. The XS 2000's three-person aft bench seat is separated into three separate buckets and has stowage in the base. Sunseeker smartly separated the bottom cushion into three separate pads so you don't have to raise the whole thing to get to stowed gear. There is also a set of 12-volt battery posts in this area to make getting a jump easier.
The helm is set up with the throttles between the front bolsters so you can run with a driver and a throttleman, both of whom are behind a racy acrylic windscreen that actually works. Instruments are ringed in bezels with eyebrows to provide shade. The speedo and twin tachometers rest up top, and monitors for water temperature, oil pressure, hours, fuel level, and volts sit in two rows below.
The dash lacked two things. One was a glovebox, which can be overlooked because there were large map pockets on the back of the front bolsters. The other was an emergency shutoff switch that attached to the driver with a lanyard. Its absence was astonishing. Fortunately, Sunseeker has since added these.
Side walkways provide passage to the foredeck, but they're not wide enough to accommodate a shod foot. There's an anchor locker all the way forward, but the lid needs a gas-strut support to hold it up. Abaft the cockpit is a large sunlounge. Access to the water doesn't get any better than the steps built into the transom that lead down to the surface with stainless-steel rails on each side. The stern locker not only has ample space for lines and fenders, it also provides access to the rudder posts and hardware, which are enclosed in a molded cylindrical locker.
Want protection as you lounge? Flip a switch at the helm and a molded-fiberglass hatch in the foredeck slides forward to uncover a bow seating area. The horseshoe-shaped lounge can seat four people facing each other or two facing forward with their legs up. There's stowage under the side cushions.
The fore and aft backrest cushions open to access the head compartment aft and the berth forward. You have to crawl into both areas. The head is formed from a molded liner to facilitate cleanups and has an access panel that lets you get to the wiring for the instrument panel.
TOOL TIME. On our test boat the engine hatch opened manually, which wouldn't pass muster in the U.S. The updated version opens on a power ram. Much better.
Once the hatch is up, you can see that the engines are installed on four mounts with bolts driven into tapped aluminum plates fiberglassed to the tops of the stringers. The batteries are in boxes outboard of the motors, and the cables are protected in flexible plastic conduits when they exit their containers. Good. All the hoses and wires run along the front of the compartment in a partially closed plastic channel.
But the motors are too close to the front of the compartment. There is only 2" between the pulleys and the compartment bulkhead, which will make it tough to replace belts and hoses.
LAST WORD. High performance is the highest priority for this British invader. But that single-minded approach isn't for everyone.
Displacement (lbs., approx) ........8,818
Transom deadrise ...23°
Minimum cockpit depth ...............3'6"
Max. cabin headroom..3'8"
Fuel capacity (gal.)..124
Water capacity (gal.)..2
Price (w/standard power) ...............$367,585
Price (w/test power) ...............$391,642
STANDARD POWER: Twin 350-bhp Yanmar in-line-6 diesel inboards.
OPTIONAL POWER: Twin diesel inboards to 840 bhp total or twin gasoline inboards to 1,100 hp total.
TEST BOAT POWER: Twin 420-bhp Yanmar 6YL2-STE in-line-6 diesel inboards with 316 cid, 4.17" bore x 4.33" stroke, swinging 17.7" x 27.6" Rolla five-bladed ss props through ZF two-speed transmissions with 1.3:1 and 1:1 reductions.
STANDARD EQUIPMENT (major items): Curved wind deflector; ss bow roller; ss deck hardware; integrated swim ladder; ss rails; fuel filters; transom shower; sports steering wheel; full instrumentation; trim tab controls w/mechanical indicators; compass; horn; VHF radio; AM/FM/CD stereo; auto. fire extinguishers; 2 auto. bilge pumps; 4 batteries.