Bavaria Sport 31 sportscruiser boat review

By: James Nicholls, Photography by: Barry Ashenhurst

Presented by
  • Trade-A-Boat

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It’s a sign of our strong-dollar times that you can buy a dashing sportscruiser like the Bavaria Sports 31 for considerably less than she cost a decade ago

Bavaria Sport 31 sportscruiser boat review
B>BOAT TEST</B> - Bavaria Sport 31

Any fan of sportsboats will not fail to be surprised and excited by what the Bavaria Sport 31 has to offer. This German manufacturer’s name is synonymous with building outstanding motoryachts and it has the trophy cabinet to prove it.

The Bavaria Sport 31 certainly comes with big wraps. Words like excitement, comfort, space, speed, safety, manoeuvrability, handling and practicality are liberally spread across the reviews by highly regarded critics around the world. Could this really be a boat that could be all things to all men? Well I suppose the answer to that question depends upon what sort of man or woman wants to own it.

Talking with Andrew Howden and Ian Sherwood of Ensign Ship Brokers, the Australian distributor for Bavaria, those prospective buyers come in all shapes and sizes, metaphorically speaking. Whereas the Sport 34 would be an ideal craft for two couples or as a family boat, the Sport 31 is perhaps best suited to a single couple or smaller family.

The internal layout is open-plan, with forepeak cabin separated from the rest of the living space only by means of a fabric pull-across curtain. Yet this is no bad thing, the very openness of this living area is light-filled, well ventilated and very adaptable. The suite of seats in the forward cabin can quickly be transformed into a comfortable double bed, while the two single beds in the owner’s cabin convert easily into another double. The use of this space and its adaptability provides a dynamic interior that, like its bigger sisters, provides the feeling of a larger vessel. Being on a 31-foot Bavaria is equivalent to some other manufacturer’s 34-footer — so well used and thought out is the design.

In more detail the Sport 31 is instantly recognisable as the smaller sibling of the Sport 34 and 43 previously tested. The layout and materials utilised are similar and because of this Bavaria is able to keep its pricing competitive — they are not reinventing the wheel with each different model. Indeed many of the fixtures and fittings are common across the entire Bavaria range, but with differences and concessions due to space.

There is less privacy in the 31’s interior, although it looks basically the same as the bigger 34, except for the lack of a bulkhead and the single rather than twin-sink galley layout. But there’s plenty of good storage space over the whole boat and the owner’s bed is an impressive full-size.

Our test boat benefits from a popular light oak finish rather than the darker mahogany option. In conjunction with the dark colour of the mattresses and cushion fabrics it was a like being in a very sophisticated, upmarket lifestyle magazine.

And this is what the Bavaria Sport 31 is all about — living stylishly on the water. Of course it is not a luxury liveaboard superyacht, yet for weekend fun in comfort or holidaying on the water I cannot think of many vessels of its type better suited to the task. The quality feel continues in the cockpit, lashings of teak on the extended swimplatform and champagne-coloured upholstery and sun lounger — a fitting colour that perfectly suits the Sport 31’s genre.

Realising the full value of your Bavaria is as much about selecting the right options package as it is the initial model selection. While these packages are comprehensive, they are relatively simple to get your head around. For instance, the accessories and navigation parcels selected for our test boat presented considerable financial savings over more basic options. The navigation kit had bowthruster, VHF cabling (including antenna) and a Garmin chartplotter all for the cost of the bowthruster alone. The Relax package comes with some excellent goodies including an engine bay ladder, extra refrigerator in the cockpit, a stainless steel cupholder for the helmsperson, along with the complete Fusion marine multimedia pack — every desirable entertainment option delivered with one tick of a box.

Anytime we see the word "sport" in a performance vehicle’s moniker, we expect to walk away from a test with a stupid grin on our face. And the 31 was no exception. This boat is fast, athletic and easy to drive. Larger vessels from this range have been described as having skiboat-like ability in the water and this characteristic is further enhanced in the Sport 31, which is amazingly agile and responsive by virtue of its Z-Drive with the power-assisted hydraulic steering.

As a concession to its size the 31 is available with single or twin-engine setups. If it comes within your budget I would recommend going for the twin-engine option in either Volvo Penta diesels or MerCruiser petrol engines. Our test boat was outfitted with the latter and it was a veritable blast, but the choice, which is nice to be given, is yours. This is another great example of what is so good about the Bavarias. The options and choices that are available to the owner, be it a visual, cosmetic or technical nature, allow each vessel to have its own identity and to satisfy the requirements and needs of its owners.

Yes, the test boat is a real flyer and a hoot to drive. And unlike some of its rivals this Bavaria boat, although manufactured many miles from the sea, allows its pilot to maintain a feeling for the water and the condition of the waves beneath its hull.

I was looking at an old USA motorboat publication from 1944, when I came across this paragraph that rang true for the Sport 31: "It is a smart boat, which should make an excellent vessel for the younger generation to take up their boating in, and a number of young fellows could spend many pleasant hours onboard a dandy little craft such as this." To this quotation I would add the caveat that one could spend many pleasant hours onboard this dandy whether you are young or old, and this boat will appeal to the gals as well as the fellows.

It has to be said the Sport 31 is just easy: to play with, work on, get to, and maintain. The engines, concealed and quiet-running, rest in a tidy engineroom, the cover doubling as a sunbed. The experience Bavaria has gained from listening to its customers for the past 36 years, along with the implementation of innovative production methods and state-of-the-art technology, means it has built a boat that is pretty much as good as it can get in this bracket.

The Sport 31 has been created for the purpose it was intended and delivered at a price relevant to the market. Those who enjoy dayboating, entertaining, weekending and holidaying aboard, as a couple with friends or a family unit should certainly assess the very considerable merits of this special craft.

Is it the perfect boat? Well Bavaria to its credit continues to seek to improve upon what it already has achieved. To this end, by the turn of the New Year the new revamped 31 now renamed the Sport 32 will have arrived in Australia. Like the rest of the new Bavaria Sport range it will feature bigger side windows, providing even more natural light into its impressive interior, and coloured hull options.

If things could be better I think one criticism might be that the 31 is only available as a soft top. A hardtop version is not available unless you make the step-up to the Sport 34 (now rebadged as the Sport 35). Apart from the fact the 31’s covers are also a little fiddly to get on and off (better perhaps to choose a tonneau unless you plan on sleeping in the cockpit), I really cannot find much fault without nit-picking.

Due to the economies of scale realised by the massive Bavaria assembly line, where its boats journey a distance of more than 6km during the build process, and the hugely favourable Aussie dollar, the landed cost in Australia of a craft this size is now cheaper than it was in 2002. Ten years ago the equivalent basic Bavaria model sold, I am told by the longstanding Australian distributor, for $269,000. The base price now is $191,500, while the price of the boat as tested is $235,000. Got you thinking?



Accessories and navigation packs


TYPE: Planing monohull
BEAM: 3.31m
DRAFT: Approx 1.23m (drive lowered); 0.75m (drive raised)
WEIGHT: Approx 6000kg (dry)

FUEL: 520lt
WATER: 150lt

MAKE/MODEL: 2 x MerCruiser 5.0L MPI DTS
TYPE: V8 petrol

Ensign Ship Brokers,
Smiths Marina, The Spit,
2/81 Parriwi Road,
Mosman, NSW, 2088
Phone: (02) 9960 2799
Fax: (02) 9960 2911

From Trade-a-Boat Issue 433, Nov-Dec 2012. Story: James Nicholls. Photos: Barry Ashenhurst.


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