Shoot Out: Express Cruisers

Pod-powered cruisers. Alternative power.

March 5, 2008

Want all the luxury a large cruiser can provide plus a high-tech propulsion system that sends a shot across the oil barons’ bows? Then look no further. We tested three big express cruisers, all of which are powered by the latest in diesel-driven pod drives from MerCruiser and Volvo Penta. We looked for value, performance, finish, and those little details to determine which deserves your hard-earned cash.

COBALT YACHTS 46, 800-468-5764

****THE BASICS****
LOA: 46’10”
Beam: 14’0″
Draft (max.): 3’6″
Displacement (lbs., approx.): 34,000
Transom deadrise: 16°
Fuel capacity (gal.): 350
Water capacity (gal.): 105
Price (approx.; w/twin 473-bhp Cummins MerCruiser Zeus 3500s) $909,590

PERFORMANCE: The only Zeus-powered boat, it posted a 37.1-mph top speed. At a 30-mph cruise, it burned 35.2 gph and produced 82 dB-A sound level readings, each on the high end in our group. It displayed the least bowrise, never exceeding 5 degrees inclination. The Zeus joystick made docking a dream.


DETAILS: The unique lines of this boat, with its angularity and graceful tumblehome aft, are the result of multipiece molds. The hull-to-deck joint is rabbited, glued, and bolted. A special stringer arrangement makes 7′ headroom possible, the best in class, without ballooning the foredeck. Real leather, real marble, and real glass tile throughout. Touchscreen multiplexed electrical controls.

AMENITIES: Two staterooms and two heads with privacy doors. Private aft cabin head. The innovative master head has a multipurpose space-saving layout that makes room for the biggest, best-equipped galley of the group. Hydraulic ramp swim platform deploys to reveal hidden steps. Hardtop and canvas. Wetbar is a second galley. Genset: 9.5kW.



HIGHS: From the flawless depths of its gel coat’s gloss to the “frenched” (recessed) anchor strike plate to the seamless assembly of disparate parts, the 46’s finish rates best in class.

LOWS: The shorepower cord retraction system switch is too high within the lazarette, making it clumsy to get to. The “cavity steps,” revealed when the platform is lowered, lack nonslip.

FORMULA 45 YACHT, 800-736-7685

****THE BASICS****
LOA: 48’2″
Beam: 13’11”
Draft (max.): 3’5″
Displacement (lbs., approx.): 30,500
Transom deadrise: 18°
Fuel capacity (gal.): 350
Water capacity (gal.): 100
Price (approx.; w/twin 435-bhp Volvo Penta IPS 600s) $949,830

PERFORMANCE: This boat delivered a 37.5-mph top speed. Cruising at 30 mph, it burned an even 30 gph and produced 78 dB-A sound readings, the quietest of the group. Bowrise while attaining plane momentarily hit 7 degrees, a little high. IPS joystick makes docking child’s play.

DETAILS: Chemically bonded and through-bolted hull-to-deck joint is tops. Hull graphics and striping are Imron painted for durability. Details? Drawers are dovetailed, drinkholders are padded against rattling cans, and there’s a second 115-amp alternator on each engine — one charges the starting batteries, the other the house bank.

AMENITIES: Two staterooms, both with pocket doors and private access to each head. Master head is split, with the shower to port and the commode and vanity to starboard. Upright refrigerator/freezer in galley. Electric sunroof precludes the hassle of canvas and provides best climate control. Optional grill brings wetbar up to Cobalt’s utility. Standard fixed swim platform. Genset: 12.5kW.



HIGHS: Climate-controlled cruising without the need for a pilothouse…and no canvas! Walkthrough windshield means more room belowdecks. From hull paint to drinkholder liners, the details are covered. ****

LOWS: No windshield washers and poor anchor rode access are glitches. Exceedingly difficult to access the engine-intake seacock levers.

FOUR WINNS V458, 231-775-1343

****THE BASICS****
LOA: 49’4″
Beam: 14’0″
Draft (max.): 3’7″
Displacement (lbs., approx.): 30,000
Transom deadrise: 19°
Fuel capacity (gal.): 380
Water capacity (gal.): 101
Price (approx.; w/twin 473-bhp Cummins MerCruiser Zeus 3500s) $682,315

PERFORMANCE: We recorded a 40.2-mph top speed from this boat and noted that it burned 29.4 gph at 30 mph. That’s better than a mile per gallon, a good benchmark. It produced 82 dB-A at that speed, tying with the Cobalt for noise level. Its maximum 6-degree inclination is a pleasing feature. Same IPS joystick control as the Formula.

DETAILS: Tin-coated copper wiring harnesses terminate in high-amperage watertight connectors. Stay-dry foam seats hide springs that compress water out of exterior seats. Voltage sensitive relays take care of battery management. Contact switches automatically illuminate engine room and other areas when hatches are lifted.

AMENITIES: Two private staterooms with heads; private access to master head from master stateroom. Master head is split, with shower to starboard and commode and vanity to port. Upright refrigerator/freezer in galley. Hardtop and canvas. Wetbar includes blender, refrigerator, and icemaker. Huge extended swim platform gives it the best exterior entertainment layout — and the smartest electric grill location. Genset: 9.3kW.


HIGHS: Sportfish ride, sportboat performance. Most sociable cockpit arrangement in its class. Lighted, superbly rigged mechanicals. ****

LOWS: Shower needs better drainage, and access to the shower sump is impeded by waste line routing. Single-piece cabin carpet is clumsy.

The Bottom Line

In our opinion, the Four Winns V458 has the best topside layout. It also is the fastest and most economical, and we loved its sporty handling. But it’s not finished to the degree of the Cobalt 46 Yacht or Formula 45 Yacht. We stewed over those two for days and kept commenting on how highly impressed we were with Cobalt’s first entry into the big-boat market. But, in the end, Formula’s hardtopped coupe design, which extends the inside to outside without forgoing the pleasures of the outdoors and makes it look great in the process, won the day. Congratulations, Formula. Now get to work on improving access in the engine room.


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