BOAT TEST: BENETEAU 38 FLYER GRAN TURISMO
French boating behemoth Beneteau has looked across the border for inspiration in its sporty 38 Flyer GT. DAVID LOCKWOOD reports on its local application…
Italians like to travelling in style. Take the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO. The GT bit is, of course, short for Gran Turismo, literally grand tour, a class of automobile designed to travel at high speed in comfort - and high style - for long distances. In the production boating world, Beneteau figures Gran Turismo is a fitting tag to help market its new 38 Flyer. But how does it take to our choppy waterways?
Trade-a-Boat flew to France to get the first drive of Beneteau's 38 Flyer Gran Turismo (GT) earlier this year. Our regular yachting writer Allan Whiting took up the assignment and commented that the styling was "outstanding". But what wasn't evident then was the value quotient of the package from a very competitive yard undercutting its competitors.
Landed here with twin 300hp Volvo Penta D4 diesel engines with sterndrives - and an upgrade pack including joystick docking device (Volvo Penta's equivalent to Axius), spare 110amp battery, upgraded 40amp instead of 25amp battery charger, foredeck sun mattress, 42lt cockpit fridge, quiet-flush electric head, multifunction Simrad 8in nav screen, with sensor sonic hub for iPad and iPod connectivity, plus woven beige outside upholstery - the Flyer GT 38 was selling for the keen price of $399,500. And that includes the generator and air-con missing from many competitors in this class.
As you might assume from the model designation, an Italian entity has designed the Flyer 38 GT. Click through the portfolio of Andreani Design and you find he has a hand in certain models of Ferrari, Maserati, Moto Guzzi, and Toyota. His big portfolio spans car interiors, pushbikes, industrial items, sportscruisers and sportsyachts from Cranchi and Atlantique, for example.
"The Gran Turismo concept is an Italian-inspired lifestyle statement that has resulted in thoroughbred style, sporting spirit and a fantastic amount of internal space," Andreani says in the brochure. He then goes on to say the boat draws on the world of high-performance cars. But it's not his hull.
The Flyer 38 GT has a patented Air Step hull jointly designed by the inhouse Beneteau team comprising P.Tableau, M.Tronquez and R.Laval-Jeantet. The hull is used right down the line to modest 5m long sportsboats, but only now has the concept been taken back up the line to boats as big as the new 44 and 49 Flyer that come with and without flying bridges.
The Air Step concept works by piping air from amidships deck fittings to the underside of the hull to break the suction and, thus, reduce drag. Beneteau also claims the technology improves stability because the air is directed aft, leaving the hull sides in contact with the water. More on the performance later.
The Flyer GT 38 is a true sportscruiser in the modern mould; a hardtop with sunroof (fast actuator), a foredeck sunpad, and a cockpit largely encased by big sidewindows. This is in keeping with Euro-designed sportscruisers that offer protection above decks for year-round boating. American interpretations tend to have soft tops or open decks instead. These days, we mostly covet sun protection and a comfortable seat in the shade in Australia.
Underfloor, I noted the engineroom has a liner, the sea strainers for the engines and generator are easily accessible, the plastic fuel tanks are forward near the fulcrum for the modest 650lt supply, and there's 200lt of water to last a long weekend at least. The generator also has a water/gas separator for less-obtrusive operation. What I didn't like so much were the unsealed ply edges in parts of the engineroom. This is something we have picked up before.
Back up top, the integrated teak-topped swimplatform is deep enough to kick back on, walkaround decks backed by a long bowrail with lifeline encourage access to the foredeck, where the sunpad can accommodate four and there are drinkholders. The split bowrail facilitates nose-in passenger pickups, the cleats are a decent size, but there was no deckwash. Oh, well, out with the bucket and lanyard. There is a hot/cold cockpit shower, thankfully.
The impressive one-piece safety glass windscreen enhances the GT's racy go-fast lines. We didn't drive the boat at night, but entrust Beneteau to make certain the vision from the central helm remains clear with no reflection from gauges. Our English colleagues consider the lightly tinted windscreen a negative but during the day, at least, vision was reassuring as we raced down Sydney Harbour with camera boat on our heels.
Akin to a covered balcony, the cockpit seats and eats eight around its U-shaped teak table that converts to a daybed perfect for kids to overnight in summer (with aftermarket rear insect covers). Or kick back on the Cleopatra lounge opposite that doubles as a quasi daybed. The obligatory amenities centre, with hotplate, sink and fridge, is akin to a second galley. With the sunroof and pushdown sidewindows you are assured ventilation. Or add a clear curtain rear and turn-up the heating in winter.
Down four steps, the Flyer 38 interior exceeds her 40ft LOA suggestion, with two cabins, headroom of 1.9m or more, and sleeping for four via a forward stateroom with 1.7m by 2m island double bed, plus private full-beam rear cabin with singles that can be pushed together for another double to suit a couple. Both cabins have panoramic portholes, hanging space, reading lights and mounting areas for flatscreen televisions. A nest of drawers lives under the stateroom bed.
If you're a sucker for punishment it's possible to convert the lower dinette into a berth using the supplied infill. As it is, it's a cosy space for four opposite a starboard galley, opening portlights directing fresh air inside (no extractor fan fitted) and overhead lockers offering storage areas in addition to what's beneath the lounge. I'm not so keen on the down-opening locker doors, however, as one could inadvertently put their wait on them. And if you fail to close them, the lids will drop down as you cross the waves, dumping their contents below.
A Pioneer sound system kept company with the main electrical control panel and gen-starter switch. Galley goodies include solid counters, deep sink and drain, two-burner electric hob, microwave oven/grill, 80lt fridge and nearby TV. The adjoining head is handy to the companionway, with an upmarket Euro fitout thanks to a porcelain sink, trick fittings and electric loo. There's a shower curtain and sump drain switch to send the water back overboard.
Yes, there are lots of moulded surfaces, plastic ceiling liners, and CNC cut joinery. But Beneteau has pulled it off in respect of the price point and the overall effect is liveable. However, the sense of space is the big achievement due to that Italian designer influence. Bravo!
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
Tellingly, the words "smooth cruise" are written in plain English and not scrawled on my note pad, accompanied by the numbers 2750rpm and 24.8kts. At this speed, consumption is about 73lt/h according to the official data, translating to a safe cruising range of 200nm. That's not huge but it fits within the likely owner brief. And you can still explore neighbouring ports of call, with a degree of safety thanks to twin engines.
Interestingly, the boat runs quietest at 3000rpm, where the official data has it purring at 81dBa, about the same noise level as inside a common car travelling at 100kmh. This returns a speed of 27.4kts, says Beneteau, for 83.2lt/h and a range of 192nm. So if conditions allow, fast cruising is most certainly on the cards for not much extra cost. Top speed was 32.7kts, snappy considering the modest twin 300hp engines.
BENETEAU FLYER 38 GRAN TURISMO
AT THE WHEEL
The central helm on the 38 GT affords the driver the perfect position and, without mullions on the mono-block windscreen, there's nothing to pinch the views. Mind you, you still need to duck to look out the sidewindows before making a banking turn, but they're deep windows all the same.
The two-person helm seat means couples can cruise together, while a nearby (tight) aft-facing bucket seat with bolster offers somewhere for the kid. The spread of stainless steel Volvo Penta gauges, Simrad 8in multifunction screen and twin Volvo Penta electronic engine screens add to the intent of the purpose-built big matt taupe dash.
Electronic throttles include single-lever mode, cruise control and (auto) trim assist, while the joystick falls to hand. The 12V outlet lets you recharge your phone/iPad. Although the boat hasn't an iPod/iPhone dock, the Simrad NSS nav screen features sonic hub for Apple/USB connectivity. Strangely, I failed to find the VHF radio.
But a tweak of joystick and we were away. Advance the throttles and the boat pops out of the hole. Admittedly, I couldn't discern any of the hydrodynamic traits from the Air Step hull. Suffice to say my notes clearly state "smooth cruise" and my time at the helm seemed relaxed. Indeed, the boat is a breeze to command and will suit newcomers to the market as much as those looking for a well-priced weekender.
PRICE AS TESTED
$399,500 w/ twin Volvo Penta D4-300 engines, joystick, and options
Official figures with twin 300hp Volvo Penta D4s, test boat displacement 8500kg, new hull, no antifouling, wind 10kts, calm sea. Speeds measured by radar.
RPM SPEED FUEL BURN
1000 6.4kts 8lt/h
1500 8.4kts 21lt/h
2000 11.2kts 49lt/h
2400 18kts 63.9lt/h
2600 21.8kts 67.8lt/h
2800 24.6kts 73.1lt/h
3000 27.4kts 83.2lt/h
3200 30.1kts 93.2lt/h
3400 32.5kts 107lt/h
3490 32.7kts 112.7lt/h
*Fuel burn is total for both engines. Official sea trials supplied by Beneteau.
Upgraded engines, generator and air-con. Trim level Ambition 2012 Joystick includes joystick and electrical steering, spare 110amp battery, upgraded 40amp charger, silver foredeck sun mattress, 42lt cockpit fridge, Quiet Flush electric toilet, Multifunction Simrad NSS 8in nav screen with sonic hub, and upgraded PVC woven beige external upholstery, and more
As above w/ Australian specifications and twin Volvo Penta D4-300 engines
MATERIAL: Solid moulded fibreglass hull and deck
TYPE: Hard-chine Air Step monohull
LENGTH OVERALL: 12.1m
HULL LENGTH (ISO): 11.31m
DRAFT: 0.9m to 1.1m (max)
WEIGHT: 7470kg (dry)
BERTHS: 4 (+ 2 on convertible dinette in saloon)
HOLDING TANK: 80lt
MAKE/MODEL: Volvo Penta D4-300 x 2
TYPE: Common rail electronic four-cylinder turbo-diesel
RATED HP: 300 at 3500rpm (max)
WEIGHT: Approx 663kg (dry)
GEARBOXES (MAKE): Volvo Penta sterndrive with joystick
Jones Bay Wharf 19-21, Lower Deck, Suite 90,
26-32 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont, NSW, 2009
Phone: (02) 9518 6977; 0413 879 774
The Flyer 38 GT represents keen buying for a boat that includes a generator and air-con for true away-from-dock autonomy. And when you consider the volume of this boat down below, you will want to spend time aboard. The interior is inviting, with de rigueur light-oak Alpi joinery teamed with light headliners and lots of glass. It's all very open, airy and in-vogue for what is clearly a high-volume production boat built to appeal to the sports racer in the masses.
From Trade-a-Boat Issue 421, Nov-Dec, 2011. Photos: Ellen Dewar
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