BOAT TEST: RIVIERA 58
It's the largest craft to go into series production locally, appropriately by Australia's biggest pleasure craft builder. DAVID LOCKWOOD reports on Riviera's new flagship 58...
SEPTEMBER, 2002 - Did you know necessity invented stools, convenience suggested elbow-chairs, but luxury accomplished the sofa? That being the case, the new Riviera 58 must rate as the epitome of luxury.
You see, on the Riviera 58 there are plush leather sofas flanking the saloon, tracing the dedicated dining area and featuring heavily in the fully-enclosed flybridge. Seats for slumping are just about everywhere you turn, and well, most of them have views.
We report this most important detail from where we began our tour of the Riviera 58 - from a lounge in the flybridge with views through big picture windows of the villas along the Coomera River. The Coomera, in case you didn't know, flows from Riviera's new factory all the way to the sea. Trouble is, most of it is a no-wash zone.
What to do in a big no-wash zone? What better than to take time out to test the sofas, gauge the softness of their leather, assess the depth of their backrests, measure their legroom? Veritable lounge lizards, we were...
But it wasn't till we were clear of the river, after yours truly stepped up to the dash and took control of the wheel, that I found the true meaning of luxury. In fact, it must have been something more than luxury that invented the electronic helmseat. Methinks it was indulgence.
Riviera's new 58-footer has not one but two electronic helmseats clad in soft leather and fitted with flip-up footrests that are fully adjustable - back, forward, up and down - via a push-button control fitted on their armrests.
Located in the enclosed flybridge, which is air-conditioned and fitted with big windows, the helmseats are the best seats in the house. I can report this detail having spent a good deal of time tweaking the buttons and getting myself set. Not that sofas and electric seats were all we tested during our time aboard.
Luxury I expected, but Riviera's big 58-footer was a much more serious bit of work than I imagined. Consider, if you will, things like twin generators, air-conditioning to all cabins and flybridge, a giant flat-screen television, domestic appliances including a dishwasher, and a walk-through engineroom with twin 1400hp Caterpillar engines.
But most of all, stop and consider the effort that has gone into making this boat. The Riviera 58 has triple the R&D of any other model in the range and, as such, you will find a terrific amount of thinking in its layout. There are lots of nice touches such as those sofas, but there is also a new hull that underwent extensive tank testing before a shred of leather was pulled into place.
Dutch boat designer Frank Mulder is a well-respected name in megayacht circles and an expert in hydrodynamics. Riviera gave Mulder some drawings and told him to design everything from the chine down. This left Riviera with the styling reins for its new 58.
Typically, Mulder makes an assessment of the size of boat he is designing and what will be necessary to accomplish the builder's speed goals within budget and without outrageous power requirements.
The new 58 ended up with a deeper forefoot than the previous flagship 48, a flatter run aft and prop tunnels that gave lift, improved the shaft angle and created blade clearance for a smooth ride. The boat has wide strakes that are more downturned than other Rivieras and a keel for directional stability.
Extensive tank testing revealed a boat with a top speed in excess of 35kt, that displaced the water nice and flat - and further aft from the bow compared with other Rivieras. According to all the tests, the new 58 was going to be fast and high volume like most Rivieras, but also dry.
To this foundation, Riviera's design team applied their signature superstructure styling and luxury layout, complete with lots of lounges. They carefully studied the four major competitors in the over-50 convertible market - Hatteras, Viking, Ocean and Bertram.
While the new Riviera 58 has its own identity, the galley is reminiscent of that in a Bertram 67 Enclosed Bridge, the master cabin is similar to a Viking 61's, and there is a little bit of something from Hatteras in there, too. All good stuff.
Locally, none of this matters as the number of US-built convertibles imported here can be counted on one hand. On its own merits, the new Riviera 58 will convert a lot of 43 and 48 owners, win back a few buyers of Salthouse boats, and help stem the spill from 48ft flybridge cruisers to over-50ft low-profile European motoryachts.
"We are convinced it [the Riviera 58] will keep more Aussie boaties in flybridge boats and stop them going to the European designs. Our boat is big on space, specs and layout, plus it offers terrific value for money. It is a bigger boat all round," said Riviera Marine's General Manager, Phil Candler.
A BROAD ABROAD
Presently, Riviera is exporting 60% of its production run and the figure is growing. While there is plenty of room for growth in Australia, the boatbuilder is, of course, counting on greater sales overseas.
In Europe for example, Rivieras are perceived as luxury cruising boats, not just fishing boats. In fact they sell better there than Hatteras, Viking, Ocean and Bertram, which are likely to get a big surprise when the new Riviera heads their way.
Unlike the Riviera 48, which has a two-week build time, the new 58 takes six weeks to put together.
"Already demand is higher than we can meet," said Candler. "US and Euro dealers want double what we can do in our first year, which could be as many as nine boats."
The first Riviera 58, the boat tested here, was bound for Lee Dillon Marine in Rushcutters Bay, Sydney, but the second model was heading to the US and the third boat will sail into New Zealand.
The response Riviera got to its new 58 at the Sanctuary Cove Boat Show was music to the ears of the design team, who admit to a fair amount of trepidation due to the massive investment in R&D. The consensus among customers and dealers was that the new Riviera 58 had exceeded expectations.
As many as a dozen sales have come already from big-boat buyers and dealers around the world. Not bad for a 58-footer that sells from $1.89m and costs just over $2m as seen here.
BUILT TO LAST
Obviously, the Riviera 58 is substantially bigger than the 48. It is built using the same process but on a much larger scale. The crane used to lift the deck in place is itself a mammoth piece of machinery. Yet it is still an owner/driver boat, with an external driving station for snappy parking.
The size of the galley, the entertainment system and accommodation, which comprises four cabins with three bathrooms, put this boat in the serious liveaboard or long-range category. There is a long list of options, but the most important one is the fourth cabin. The factory offer either a kids' or a crew cab - which might appeal to Europe - or a utility room or workshop, which may be a bigger hit with local big game anglers.
There are also options in the powerplants. Our Riviera 58 ran twin 1400hp electronic Caterpillar diesel motors, an $141,622 upgrade over the standard boat's twin 900hp MTUs. Twin 1100hp Cats are available (a 2 x 1000hp option is coming) as are bow and stern thrusters, a foredeck crane, tender brackets, teak decks and suchlike.
What isn't alterable is the lay-up, which consists of solid glass below the waterline and a foam and balsa-cored superstructure. The engine bearers, stringers and ring frames are glass-encapsulated foam. All up, displacement is 36,000kg, which compares favourably with 37,195kg for the Viking 61 and 42,413kg for the Bertram 60.
Like other Riviera cruisers, the new 58 is backed by a five-year transferable hull warranty. Though it is not built to survey, the underwater engineering is solid stuff, with 2.75in shafts, five-blade 33 x 45in props, and big bronze rudders that make this 58-footer really responsive to the wheel.
FIVE-STAR ENCLOSED BRIDGE
My tour of duty started on the Riviera 58's enclosed flybridge, which is accessed via an offset transverse ladder (with a nice amount of rake and plenty of handrails for safe access at sea) conveniently close to the saloon door.
I won't pull any punches - this is the best bridge I have set foot in, better than enclosed bridges on other Australian boats, NZ boats and the few US-made convertibles I have tested over the years.
Obviously, the Riviera benefits from its brand-new design, which allows a contemporary approach to be taken with the mouldings, and a boat to be made that won't be out of date in a decade's time.
The dash isn't one big flat panel, old-fashioned and angular, a thoughtless vinyl-clad slab. No, it is a sweetly moulded dash with elliptical consoles, dedicated mounting areas for 10-inch screens, a huge switch panel on the co-pilot's side, air-conditioning outlets reminiscent of those in a car and comfort derived from, well, those lounges and fully-adjustable electronic leather helmseats.
Other driver conveniences include a Clarion stereo remote with LCD monitor for the three cameras in the saloon, cockpit and engineroom, spotlight remote, night driving lights, Raymarine electronics, Sidepower bowthruster, electronic Cat engine panels and Twin Disc electronic Power Commander controls.
The floor is that hard-wearing Amtico mock teak-and-holly flooring material. The starboard side is traced by a long U-shaped lounge that converts to a double berth - perfect for the skipper when anchored by the reef - topped in a plush buff-coloured Alcantara mock suede. The lounge has storage inside and can sit six people for cruising.
Opposite is a Granicoat-topped amenities centre with a moulded sink, hot and cold water, 240V outlets so the skipper can run a toaster, wetbar with glass drawers, and two other drawers plus a big cupboard. Skippers can sleep and do breakfast before venturing below for their daily shower.
More than a mere helmstation, the enclosed bridge is an entertaining space, cruising spot and additional accommodation. Smart details include handrails on the bridge ceiling and a big sliding saloon door.
With the door closed, you can barely hear the motors running. The Riviera 58 is one of the quietest boats around.
A separate helm for sportsfishing or close-quarters parking is located on the rear bridge deck. The moulded console is fitted with Cat gauges, a carbon-fibre dash panel, Twin Disc electronic shifts and a Sidepower bowthruster joystick. The wheel is a trick anodised alloy number.
Near the West Coast-style aft sportsfishing helm is a quarter-seat for a photographer. It would be a great place to snap some pics of a big fight. The view down to the cockpit is huge. There is an overhead spotlight, but the rocket launcher is an option.
Stating the obvious, the 58's cockpit is big, with a massive full-length boarding platform with cut-outs to drain the water, a recessed swim ladder and a proper marlin door with big stainless hinges.
The boat has a terrific livebait tank built into the transom, but anglers mightn't warm as much to the raised mooring cleats in the corners that could foul a line. Also, the hinges on the lid for livebait tank need to be beefed up.
I counted seven cockpit storage lockers - with double-moulded doors for a smooth internal finish - came across a hot/cold deck shower and manual bilge pump, and noted gas struts on all the subfloor hatches. Portside, there is access to the lazarette and holding tank and evidence in the hull moulding of the big aft tunnels.
Recessed into the teak-topped floor is a massive fishbox with overboard drain and a macerator to blend the scales and crud. The box is the size of a small spa, big enough to hold 200kg of trimmed fish, a boatload of junk and a load of beer.
Back under the bridge overhang is a dayboating centre comprising a moulded icebox with Rivtech temp-adjustable fridge unit, a moulded sink with hot and cold water and four overhead drawers for tackle or bait-rigging items.
An electric Miele barbie rests in a separate moulded unit on the starboard side of the saloon companionway. Just remember to keep the door closed to keep the smoke out.
There is a separate opening door and a four-step ladder leading down to the engineroom, which has stooped standing room down the centreline. The twin Onan generators - 22kW for running the AC units and other onboard luxuries and a 7kW auxiliary - are tucked back under the steps and access to all sides in the event of a breakdown isn't the best.
The wet exhausts are Riviera's favoured Aqualift system with big pong boxes. They work wonderfully well on this boat, as the V-12 Cats are truly smooth and quiet. They can be started in the engineroom via separate ignition panels and each motor has analogue gauge panels for easy servicing.
You also get wet exhausts for the generators, an oil-change system and easy access to the Twin Disc electronic modules. Access is good to all sides of the motors, the big Vortex strainers, and four fuel filters. There is a freshwater tap inside.
The boat's electrical system is 24V/240V. There is a boat lighting plan in the bridge, intercom system, auto fire system, fuel shut-offs below the galley floor, engine shut-offs at the helmstation, manual and auto bilge pumps, and a high-water alarm linked to a flashing blue light on the bridge hardtop.
Big engine vents with a dorade system seem to pump plenty of air inside. I thought the engineroom was well-planned, but for the limited access to the gensets and batteries, which are the things prone to needing running repairs.
Externally, the new 58 has very fair mouldings and a great finish that reflects a company hellbent on improving all the time. Fishermen out there would say that the all-white flagship would look even better with a tower, and we can't wait to see a 58 sporting a custom dark blue hull. Whatever, factory-rolled it rates as the best enclosed bridge 58 you can buy.
Inside, however, the Riviera has a more traditional feel, a Bertram ambience derived from lots of high-gloss timeless teak joinery - cherrywood in a more modern option - stately brown leather and privacy behind Roman blinds.
Big on floor space, the saloon is three steps away from the cockpit, accessed via a terrific sound-insulating saloon door offset to starboard. The AC/DC control panel is located in a teak cupboard right near the door.
Along the starboard side is a big teak wetbar with illuminated glass and bottle storage, a recessed sink with hot/cold water and lots of storage. There is a fridge unit for the Pina Colada mix and a clever cupboard with a pull-out tea towel rack.
The saloon is airconditioned via a 24,000BTU unit, with another two 24K units for the cabins and bridge.
To port is the most enormous of all the leather lounges. It can seat six or seven people comfortably beside the saloon's picture windows, facing the boat's big flat-screen television, DVD player and timber coffee table. An intercom is nearby.
A handrail aids your passage forward to the dedicated dinette to port, with another L-shaped leather lounge and a beautiful high-gloss timber dining table, mounted on two stout stanchions, which you can easily set for four people. Views stretch out the windows and the dinette is within arm's reach of the galley.
The type of refrigeration installed is up to the owner. My view is that the upright fridge/ freezer affects cooking space, conversation with guests and the flow of the boat, however others might quite like the privacy it affords the U-shaped galley [Ed: Riviera is reviewing this configuration].
Amenities include a teak-trimmed Fisher and Paykel dishwasher, Blanco garbage compactor, two-burner ceramic hotplate and range hood, Insinkerator, Sharp convection microwave with stainless steel facia, and handy water tank gauge. Of course, the 58 also has an icemaker.
The high-gloss teak finish extends to the three overhead cupboards, two above-sink cupboards and three underbench cupboards, a drawer, and another dedicated tea-towel locker.
The boat has just one sink, and not a massive amount of benchtop or cooking space fashioned from the usual moulded Granicoat.
Opposite and above the dinette is the boat's entertainment system, which includes a Bose lifestyle 50 sound system, huge Sony flat-screen DVD/CD/VCR and a cupboard for the video remotes. From wherever you sit in the saloon, the big screen is clearly visible. Floor and lounge space is sufficient to entertain 12 people.
Five steps down from the saloon is a vast amount of accommodation. The crew or kids' cabin to port, which has bunks that are top-and-tailed, can be converted to a utility room, workshop or tackle locker. But many might prefer the extra berths which are adult-length. The cabin also has a Thor washer/dryer, Intervac ducted vacuum system and some storage for personals.
Though it is a small detail, it is worth noting that all the doors on the Riviera 58 have double-toothed catches to prevent vibration. While cruising down the Coomera, the boat seemed to have fewer noises that other Rivieras I've tested.
Naturally, the owners' cabin is the highlight. Running transverse on the portside, the big cabin has an extra-large queen-sized island bed facing back to the boat's centreline, but roughly amidships where there isn't too much chine noise or motion.
The owners are treated to a walk-in wardrobe, full-length hanging locker, dresser with stool, big mirror and twin drawers, separate Sony television and DVD player, his-and-her bedside tables, drawers under the bed, an overhead hatch and air-con controls.
A navy blue and straw coloured quilt covers the innerspring mattress, which has a bedhead in a matching blue textured fabric, and lots of scatter cushions. While the high-gloss teak gives a traditional feel, the fabrics have a degree of a timelessness.
The first of three bathrooms is the owners' ensuite. The VIP guests also have an ensuite, while the dayhead is shared by occupants of the smaller third and fourth cabins and short-term guests.
Each bathroom features a full-sized shower stall just like home, lots of dressing room, moulded Granicoat vanity and Vacuflush toilet. There are stylish Grohe fittings, extractor fans and air-con outlets, frosted hatches, moulded sinks, storage for personals, mirrors and chic Club Riviera towels.
The third cabin to port has twin bunks topped with gold and black fitted bedspreads, two drawers and a hanging locker. It plays second fiddle to the master guests' cabin in the bow, which has an island queen-sized bed, his-and-her hanging lockers, and a striped bedspread redolent of a Bedouin's tent.
In total there is a sleeping capacity of eight, plus one in the enclosed flybridge.
That comfortable lounge in the saloon is also big enough to sleep an adult by night or day, taking the boat's accommodation to 10 - or two big families.
GOLD COAST CRUISING
Finally, we reached the end of the Coomera River, where the Gold Coast estuary allowed us to open up the throttles. It is worth noting that the Riviera 58 was fitted with a Slow Idle mode that, when flicked, kept the boat running at 4kt for close-in manoeuvring. Thanks to the Twin Disc controls, a further troll mode produces 8kt.
On top of this, the electronic Twin Disc shifts had Idle 1, 2 and 3. These settings, available by turning a knob on the throttle box, could be adjusted to suit your needs.
With the big 3412 Cats, the Riviera 58 was amazingly quiet. The engines were barely discernible with the bridge door closed. Think of it like a Benz idling at the lights. You could carry on a conversation as though sitting in a library.
In fact, you are so removed in the bridge with the door shut that the Clarion video system should be considered an essential bit of gear to keep in contact and monitor what's happening in other parts of the boat.
The big V-12s don't work too hard on the Riv. At 1000rpm they produce around 9kt, which is a comfortable troll speed. As you apply the throttle, the boat moves to planing speed with what I would call a flat transition.
We got a speedy cruise of 27kt on the GPS at 1750rpm, where fuel consumption would be around 170lt/hr per motor. Top speed at 2350rpm was 35.8kt. We touched on 36kt, slightly tide-assisted, as we turned into the Southport Seaway.
Offshore, the big battlewagon travels with a perfect, natural trim angle - we were half full of fuel and water - and it most definitely shunts the spray flatter than all other Rivieras. With a genuine 36kt-plus top speed, the boat is terrifically fast if you want it to be.
When it comes to seaworthiness, there is no substitute for waterline length. The big battlewagon galloped along under my tutelage, maintaining an impressive 27kt. I could have headed north to the tropics or south to Sydney, but back to the river I went for some more serious lounging.
Offering more bang for your buck, the new Riviera 58 is a top entertainer, a luxury liveaboard boat, a long-range fishing platform and comfortable cruiser. It is all these things and, well, it is just a beautiful place to unwind. I promise you.
(Facts & Figures)
$2.034 million w/twin Caterpillar 1400hp diesel motors
Teak decks, bowthruster, oil change pump, electric BBQ, entertainment centre, half rear awning, saloon carpet cover, electronics and more
Material: Fibreglass with composite superstructure
Type: Deep-vee planing hull
Weight: 30,000kg base boat dry
Berths: Six + Two
Make/Model: Twin Caterpillar 3412E
Type: Turbo-charged, fully electronic V-12s
Rated hp: 1400hp
Weight: around 2649kg ea
Gearboxes (make/ratio): Twin Disk MG 5145-A
Props: Five-bladers 33 x 45in
Riviera Sales Sydney, Rushcutters Bay (NSW), (02) 9363 0000.
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