If someone says “soft drink,” most people respond “Coke.”
If someone says “sport yacht,” most boaters respond “Sea Ray Sundancer.”
Sundancers, such as the 470 Sundancer presented here for your consideration, have epitomized luxury, performance and innovation on waters around the world for decades. This is the 23rd Sundancer I’ve personally tested for Boating. Read on to learn what I discovered during my day at the helm of this one.
In my book, a boat has to run right or it isn’t worth a damn. A Sundancer isn’t intended for folks who bash around offshore as a matter of habit. But if my test boat is any indication, Sea Ray designed and built the 470 DA to ride like that’s its mission.
Powering through the pass, the tide pushing hard from astern, it tracked through the swollen rip that closed lesser boats out and did so with hardly any extra attention needed to keep the wheel straight — and no attention to the throttle. As long as you are not reckless, the 470 DA delivers a set-it-and-forget-it ride with respect to speed.
Out in the Gulf, the swell was running 4 feet and choppy. At 30 knots, I could have run the 470 DA all day into that sea without pain to my three-person crew, the boat or myself. Dropping back to 25 knots, I deemed the ride downright soft and sure. The 470 was quiet underway too, never exceeding 80 dBA, which is very good; Sea Ray designs and builds with sound attenuation in mind. If you care to compare sound levels to those of similar boats, check out our test archive at boatingmag.com/boats.
The best economy came with the Cummins QSB 480s turning 3,000 rpm, producing 27 knots. At that speed, the engines were burning 34 gph combined, netting three-quarters of a mile per gallon. That’s about 50 percent better than you can expect from an inboard-powered boat of this size and weight, most of which struggle to net a half-mile per gallon. Efficiency is a real attribute of pod drives, like the Zeus drives that propel the 470 Sundancer. For another example, check Beneteau‘s Gran Turismo 46 ($750,000 powered by twin 435 hp Volvo Penta IPS 600 pods) or Cruisers Yachts Cantius 45 ($976,760, also with 435 hp IPS 600s). Both also deliver excellent fuel economy.
There’s more to derive from a sea trial than just performance and data. I look for weaknesses in the design, construction and layout, which often only show up while underway on a rough day. For instance, many coupe-style cruisers evidence excessive movement in the structure of the top or deckhouse while underway. Such movement, while rarely indicative of imminent failure, is usually accompanied by noise of some sort — annoying creaks and groans — and that movement often leads to leaks as sealant elasticity is worn out over time. So I look for movement. But the 470 Sundancer, despite its huge windshield, tremendous side windows, generous aft sliding doors and immense skylight, displayed nothing untoward. Since I was crewing with Ron Berman, vice president of Product Portfolio and a former engineering vice president at Sea Ray, I put the question to him about how they build a deckhouse with so much glass.
“Glass in frame adds to the stiffness,” he said, his eyes alight, “and the aft corner and forward mullions and side-window diagonal structure all support the top.”
Good thing it works. The layout is really special, since the result of all that glass is not merely excellent visibility from the helm, but it also creates a big sunroom in which to socialize. In fact, Sea Ray brings the outside inside aboard the 470 Sundancer in other ways as well. It’s a single level from the sliding doors through the salon and galley to the helm. Moreover, the sliding doors open such that almost the entire aft bulkhead disappears — it’s like being aboard an old Florida-style day boat, like a Merritt. And when seated in the meticulously appointed lounges, there is always a view to outside. Head down the companionway and, at the base of the steps, you find yourself in the “atrium” awash in daylight pouring in through the windshield above. Taken in sum, these features make up a design philosophy Sea Ray calls Sky Flow (the sky is inside and crew can flow between spaces).
In the cockpit, the Sun Gate backrests on the lounges provide options. They serve as seats, or they can be converted into a sun lounge in a jiffy. Overhead, a Sureshade awning extends or retracts as required.
On the bow — which I found safe and secure, thanks to wide decks, properly high rails and robust hand grabs — a chaise-style sun pad awaits. Opening the anchor locker, I discovered an all-chain rode, a chain stop fitted for safety and two big hatches to provide access.
Belowdecks, the Sea Ray 470 Sundancer boasts a tastefully luxurious two-head, two-stateroom layout that I believe will impress even the most experienced multiboat owners. Take one for a test ride, then let me know if you agree.
Sea Ray Boats – Knoxville, Tennessee; searay.com