BOAT TEST: PRINCESS V52
Princess is attracting renewed attention thanks to its snappy designs, smart dress sense, and eager hulls. DAVID LOCKWOOD reports on the darling V52
With the Australian dollar soaring to a 26-year high against the pound, the time has never been better for buying a British conveyance. But beyond the monetary advantages there's something else weighing in your favour - hitherto new levels of sophistication from global boatbuilders who have been making their pre-existing models smarter rather than releasing a rash of new models.
The refinements that have been taking place at Princess Yachts in Plymouth haven't gone unnoticed. The new boats are well-executed, mindful of the existing client base but exciting enough to be generate fresh interest, especially while competing UK marques have been in various stages of restructuring.
Since the doors opened for Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show in May, Princess has sold a troika of its new luxury motoryachts and V-Class sportsyacht to local buyers. We're told buyers were inspired by the new level of price competitiveness, but also the increasing wow factor and design nous. These things are certainly evident on the dashing V52 driven hereabouts.
Scott Davis, himself a Princess V-Series owner and so enamoured he's now working for the local importers, delivered the first V52 in Australia from Sydney to the Gold Coast with its new owner last year. They took three to four days cruising north via Pittwater, Port Stephens and Yamba. It was very much a pub and club crawl, but the boat's owner (ex-V48) was apparently swept away by the 25kts smooth cruise.
"Owners do tend to be brand loyal and move up through the ranks," Davis explains. "Since this trip the same owner has joined our Princes Seafari to Fraser Island and he's the first to sign-up for our Hamilton Island cruise starting September 1. We'll take about five boats, spend a week getting there and a week back home, just an intimate group of owners and their family having fun."
There are some 50 Princess boats in Australia today and, we're told, no one owner is left hanging. Another of brand's strengths is the local servicing network that includes six English engineers who used to work at the Princess factory. That said, Princess has changed a lot in recent years and, I will add, these boats are strides ahead of the lone we first tested - I think it was a V50 - way back in 1999.
But while they are more sophisticated the boats aren't complicated. Their systems are simple to operate, most everything from servicing items below decks to switches at the helm are easily accessed, and there's no high-tech control panel to baffle the skipper. Interestingly, a rival UK marque has dropped its Pilot control panel for this very reason. Too smart by half.
It also helps that, in 2008, Princess was 75 per cent sold to L Capital, an investment entity sponsored by luxury brand group LVMH and Groupe Arnault, the investment vehicle of French billionaire Bernard Arnault, who is the fourth richest man in Europe this year, according to Forbes.
His luxury marques are many, from Louis Vuitton to Tag Heuer, Krug to Kenzo, Parfums Givenchy to this relative new interest of Princess boats. The local agents aren't exactly struggling for funds, either. This means stock is ready for delivery and boat buyers in this league don't normally have time to waste.
In many ways, the V52 is a boat where the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. It looks cool pictured arcing in front of the Miami-like art deco highrise on the Gold Coast. But the thing I like is that external chic extends indoors where the excitement continues to build. As you move from the saloon to the accommodation you find real innovation as reflected by the scissor-berths in the forward VIP cabin. We'll get to that.
Then comes the inventory: the V52 is a loaded base - you get the fenders, first-aid kit and fine China, for example. You also get the level of fit and finish that is commensurate with the price tag. The boat seen here teamed dark wenge flooring and cherrywood coachwork with black leather trim that's well-lit thanks to abundant glass and a sunroof. It's austere but not an introspective boat.
Specked for the Australian market, our V52 also had Sidepower bow and stern thrusters with dual docking stations, Raymarine C120 combo chartplotter with 4kW HD radar, rear cockpit cover to better suit our climate, and dishwasher and Bose for entertaining. These things complemented enough factory-fitted electronics kit to press your buttons some more.
While you don't get a tender garage as per the V62, you do get a 400kg hydraulic submersible swimplatform to make launching your jet tender a breeze. Indoors, there are electric side-opening windows, popup large-screen television, and the aforesaid sunroof. But in respect of horizontal surfaces, there's isn't an inch that's superfluous. It's a balanced, well-considered, wide-appeal layout.
We ticked off the expected deck gear: hot-cold transom shower, LED lights, big cleats that follow the rail lines, but also noted aft crew quarters that were left as storage for stashing water toys, fishing gear, and so on. Bulwarks and moulded toerails, with a long bowrail with lifeline, make going forward safe for kids and mouldies. Teak-topped, the portside sidedecks lead from the swimplatform while starboardside emanates from the cockpit.
The attractions of the foredeck include sunpad, stainless steel Ultra Anchor with 50m of chain, recessed Lewmar windlass and concealed fender baskets. The mooring line dish locker will come in handy, but we couldn't find the anchor wash. Evidently, owners will fit a gurney and run an outlet to the bow.
Looking back, the raked windscreen with big pantograph wipers adds to the intent, but a lot more time will be spent kicking back in the cockpit at anchor. To this end, there's a comfortable U-shaped lounge for 10 set around a great big teak table that converts to a sunpad/daybed under the extended Aussie-extra awning and side clears. The cushions were a refreshing combo from Sheets Ahoy.
Opposite is what comes close to the perfect amenities centre with electric barbecue, top-loading fridge-freezer, sink, storage for refuse, and drinkholders so you can flip the marinated seafood. The six underwater lights will add to the stage at night.
A tri-fold day invites you indoors, on the same level as the cockpit, where the surround glass, opening roof and side windows create an atmosphere that's bright but connected. The windows frame the views from the 10-seater U-shaped lounge set around a high-gloss cherrywood table with leather inlay. An inbuilt buffet, opposite behind the twin leather helm seats, contains icemaker, wetbar, pop-up television, and storage.
The décor of dark wenge flooring, black leather and huge matt-black dash (with windscreen demister) doesn't distract your eye from the ocean views, while cool stainless steel air-con grills, metallic-pewter sprayed panels, and LED lighting adds to the ambience. The joinery was impeccable and the soft trims perfectly executed. All of it trumpets British class. Storage for personals at the helm and a nav/map locker to port are also welcome.
DOWN AND OUT
I've never been a big fan of galley-down designs but the atrium-type number has abundant light below decks while the large opening encourages discourse. Additionally, it keeps the main living area clean, uncluttered and free flowing. There are layout options: this boat had a two-cabin layout with lower saloon; you can have a three-cabin layout and delete that saloon. Thing is, the lower dinette converts to a double bed anyway and who, realistically, will be sleeping six aboard this parent's retreat.
Two-pack Pewter-coloured cupboards, a black leather servery, white solid-stone counters and leather-lined cutlery drawers added to the sophistication, while utility comes from the three-burner cooktop with extractor fan, combination micro/oven/grill, counter-height fridge with small freezer, and small dishwasher. Mount an extra freezer in the lazarette/crew quarters if you want to cruise. With just 364lt of water you will need a desalinator, too.
The lower dinette, with big opening portholes, was rather elegant, facing the galley and big television. We suppose eight can dine in comfort on more formal occasions. The en suite to the VIP guest cabin in the bow has a second door so as to double for communal head, and the tapware here and in the galley is fittingly stylish.
We also like the fact the head has natural ventilation, electric quiet-flush loo, while guests will appreciate the big separate shower. The oiled teak flooring is something different, welcome, but demanding ongoing maintenance.
That VIP guest cabin in the bow is a revelation, with scissor berths that spread to create a twin single. We can only presume, with sufficiently thick mattress protector, that the join between the bunks can be slept on when in double mode. The surrounded high-gloss dark cherry joinery cabinetry and hanging lockers will swallow a week's clobber, while opening portlights and escape hatch direct light and air inside, as contemporary reading lights lift the level of chic.
But the piece de resistance is the full-beam stateroom with headroom, queen-bed, flanked by sofa and buffet with dresser opposite, and with more opening portlights to keep you connected and comfortable. The en suite is oversized, too, and the whole thing is just so very liveable that we couldn't imagine anyone finding issue with the V52.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
Avid Trade-a-Boat readers will know we've long had an appreciation for the deep-vee hulls with prop tunnels designed by naval architect Bernard Olesinksi. Aggressive chines role the spray away, there's great vision at the helm (stand-up and look through the sunroof when close quarters manoeuvring), sporty power-assisted steering and genuinely exciting speed for fast offshore cruising.
Using vee-drives means the CATs are mounted well aft, thereby maximising volume in that full-width aft stateroom, which really is akin to what you will find in a 60-plus-footer. But it's the prop tunnels, which reduce draft to just 1.1m, and modest displacement of just 13,200kg (base boat) that ensure a snappy exit as you advance the throttles. Vroom, vroom!
The engineroom satisfied our inspection. It almost has standing room. There were upgraded 11kVa Onan for three Crusair air-con units delivering 64,000btus, big sea strainers and coolant bottles that were easy to find, batteries in boxes, with the power steering and hydraulics for the swimplatform back aft. There's good access around the engines and 24DC fans for ventilation.
The latest variable-speed Sidepower electric bow and stern thrusters with "hold" function and optional joystick controller can turn the V52 into a virtual pod-driven boat. Meantime, you get the great Olesinski hull and sporty handling that is very much an attraction of the Princess Vee Series. It's hard to know how they'll improve the boat from here.
(Facts & figures)
BEHIND THE WHEEL
The V52 that we drove along the Gold Coast recorded 37.2kts on the GPS as I grasped the sports wheel and pushed the throttles to the dash. Some 200rpm off those top revs gave a fast cruise of 31.7kts for about 225lt/h. The cruising groove of 400rpm off the top gave between 25 to 28kts for 174 to 214lt/h. This will give a cruise range of about 260nm, enough to port hop along the coast.
At the helm, the V52 really does deliver driving pleasure that's commensurate with a British or European sports car. The twin 715hp Caterpillar C12 engines seemed more harmonious than in other boat installations we have recently experienced. No vibration, low noise, a heady combination of power and performance in keeping with the Princess marque.
PRICE AS TESTED
Twin 715hp Caterpillar C12 turbo-diesels, 85% fuel
RPM SPEED FUEL BURN RANGE
650 7.3KTS 23lt/h 546nm
900 9.7kts 42lt/h 392nm
1100 10.8kts 75lt/h 246nm
1300 12.2kts 114lt/h 182nm
1500 16.4kts 147lt/h 190nm
1700 22.3kts 167lt/h 227nm
1900 27.4kts 193lt/h 242nm
2100 31.1kts 229lt/h 231nm
WOT 34.7kts 255lt/h 232nm
<I>Official sea-trial data supplied by Princess Yachts International. Please note: the above figures are to be used as a guideline only as boat loading, weather and sea conditions etc. will have a significant influence in the amount of fuel used.
Upgraded Caterpillar C12 engines, sternthruster, extensive Raymarine electronics package, upgraded Bose sound system, two-cabin layout, décor upgrades, teak sidedecks, underwater lights, barbecue, dishwasher, icemaker, twin 32in LED TVs, upgraded generator to 11kW, air-con and demister upgrades, and more
POA re exchange rate
MATERIAL: Handlaid GRP with composite decks
TYPE: Modified deep-vee monohull by Bernard Olesinski
LENGTH OVERALL: 16.61m (inc. pulpit)
WEIGHT: 13,200kg (twin Volvo D11s)
BERTHS: 4 + 2 (+ crew quarters)
HOLDING TANK: 136lt
MAKE/MODEL: 2 X Caterpillar C12
TYPE: Fully electronic six-cylinder turbo-diesel with common rail injection
RATED HP: 715 at 2350rpm
WEIGHT: Approx 1570kg (inc. gearbox)
GEARBOXES (MAKE): ZF
Princess boats have greater poise and pose, a new level of Euro-inspired design, and tighter fit and finish these days. At the end of our test, I noted no rattles, not a drop of water on the windscreen or rear saloon doors, and no stress driving offshore or in the busy Broadwater. Real pleasureboating in a package that will wow and woo.
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