REVIEW: GRADY-WHITE EXPRESS 360
Jack Murphy heads north in hot pursuit of no ordinary fishing boat – meet the Grady-White Express 360.
You’d expect a fishing boat with a couple of outboards on the back to stick out like a sore thumb at a marina full of luxury gamefishing cruisers. Double that if the marina is full of the hardcore blue-water hunters from the Game & Leisure Boats stable.
I almost walked past the Grady-White Express 360 when looking for the suggested ‘fishing boat’ I was to be testing. Yet there she was, bold as brass, sitting shoulder to shoulder with a couple of blinged-out behemoths, nonchalantly holding her ground.
The Express 360 isn’t a new release from its American manufacturer, but it is finally available through the Gold Coast-based Australian dealer, Game & Leisure Boats – thus making it the newest and largest addition to the Grady-White ensemble Down Under.
3, 2, 1, BLAST OFF!
It’s rare for me to jump on a boat thinking about the journey more than the destination, yet as I boarded the Express 360 we could’ve charged all the way out to the continental shelf just for the joy of ride and I couldn’t have been happier.
Casting an eye around as we ambled out through the calm of the Broadwater destined for a play out wide, I was quick to notice the quality of the design and the strength of the fittings. This observation was underlined once we cleared the entrance and pushed off the coast.
On a boat with so many bits and pieces attached it is usual to expect a clunk, rattle or bang whenever you come over the top of a wave. But, like a duck gliding onto a lake made of the softest butter, the Express 360 barely ruffled its feathers. When we did land flat on the water, of course you get that slap that no smallish boat is immune from, but the bone-jarring vibration which usually follows was absent.
Like all Grady-Whites, the Express 360 features the exclusive SeaV² hull design. Minus the jargon, this feature basically makes the boat ride softly at speed while still retaining its stability at rest. This is achieved by having a keel that constantly sharpens from the transom to the bow.
Yes, the Express 360 has the lines of a Cadillac but she drives like a Lotus Esprit – making mincemeat of tight turns while the wide chines deflect any spray. This hull is comfortable, predictable, super stable and devoid of bad habits.
BURGER WITH THE LOT
After an exhilarating ride it was time to get down to business checking the Grady over in more detail.
I know everyone goes on about storage but along with working space, it is something that the Express 360 has in spades. This boat would have no problem accommodating an army of my excessively equipped fisho mates plus the hangers-on and their handbags.
And with those special guests in mind the Grady-White presents with surprising luxury. There’s air-conditioning at the helm, a driver’s footrest and wait for it, 10 drinkholders scattered throughout the boat. I think it’s safe to say those good ol’ boys are just as keen on a cold one as us Aussies.
On the slightly negative, trophy hunters will be disappointed with the transom door, which is a little tight for landing Aussie-sized fish. A really well-sealed side dive door would be a cool solution.
But don’t despair, the Express 360 has got plenty of other tricks in its oversized cockpit. One of my favourites would have to be the 275lt refrigerator/freezer fishbox with its digitally controlled thermostat. That means no more stopping to buy ice every morning and having to lug it along with 101 tackle boxes, rods, reels and gaffs.
The cockpit coaming padding is another detail that you might look past at first glance, but if you’ve been slogging away for a couple of hours on big fish it’s a godsend for your thighs.
Also included is a livewell, a rigging station and great hardtop rod storage that runs vertically along each side of the base – a much better idea than the horizontal rocket launchers, which only pro basketball players can reach.
Access from the open back deck to the helm station is via two steps. This height difference is really handy as it gives the driver great visibility when backing down on fish or docking. The steering position also caters well for skippers of all different shapes and sizes; that is you can comfortably drive either sitting or standing up – a big tick in my books.
Then we get to the crème de la crème; a retractable dash that
with the flick of a button lifts to reveal the glittering array of electronics. It adds a touch of wow factor and is hard to stop playing with.
On the starboardside of the helm station you’ll also find a cozy lounge area with a pullout table for two – great for the girls when the guys are playing with their rods on the aft deck.
THE POINTY END
Venturing below I was pleased by how much room is down there – you could quite easily live aboard this boat.
On the portside is a comprehensively outfitted galley, with stainless steel sinks, teak drawers, a freezer with icemaker and an electric glass-top stove. Opposite and to starboard is a large seating area and dining table ready to cater to four.
Don’t get too comfy though because separating the vee-berth forward and the rest of the cabin is a small glass panel that lights up to reveal a neon blue marlin. It’s probably just there keep you on your toes in case, while kicking back with a full belly, you forget you’re supposed to be fishing.
Next port of call for my notepad was the amenities and surprisingly enough, the head is quite spacious. It features a sink with a counter top, shelves, a storage cabinet, a marine head with 68lt holding tank and even a shower for washing off the evidence of a successful day on the fish.
There are also two huge beds onboard – one in the vee-berth and a second sneakily tucked underneath what would be the helm and upper deck area. Essentially, you do have to crawl to access the second bed, but I’d crawl through the bilge to get to a cosy guest cabin like this one. It’s inviting and a great utilisation of space.
In summary, the interior of the Grady-White Express 360 is hard to criticise. It’s practical, stylish, packed with storage and easy to navigate. Some would say the main cabin is too inviting. On slow days it would be hard to resist the temptation of jumping on the bed with the tellie on and a bowl of fresh prawns.
PARTNERS IN CRIME
I have to say I wasn’t expecting to see outboards on this boat. I know a few old salts who have seen a fish or two – our editor being one – who might just turn their noses up at outboards on a battlewagon, so I had to ask myself, "Are they a good thing?"
In answering that question the following factors come to mind. Usually, when venturing out for a day blue-water hunting, the smell of diesel fumes wafting from old inboards act as a starter’s gun for my senses. I immediately feel the excitement and anticipation of screaming reels and beasts that live beyond the horizon. But for many that same smell is the switch that turns their stomach inside out.
Well, there’s no smell from the twin 350hp V8 Yammies strapped to the back of the Grady-White. Instead, you’re hit with a jolt of adrenalin as these twin brutes kick into gear and roar like angry lions.
And with a maximum horsepower rating of 1050, this hull can handle even more power. That’s where the extra outboard option comes in. Yep, the Express 360 can be set-up with triples for the really horsepower hungry – now we’re talking!
DRIVE AWAY, NO MORE TO PAY
Personally, I think for a boat of this calibre and breeding the Express 360 is very competitively priced. There’s no doubt she’s capable of footing it with the big boys and I’m sure we’ll see a few pop-up in the tournament scene.
The standard features list is also very extensive, with the before mentioned livewell, rigging station, fishbox, air-conditioning, flatscreen TV and trim tabs to boot. But the list literally goes on and on. Apart from the optional outriggers, if you can think of it, there’s a good chance the Express 360 already comes with it – so you really do get a lot of bang for your buck.
That said, Grady-White might’ve gone a little overboard spec’ing this rig out and could’ve offered a more aggressively priced rig. One example of this would have to be the bowthruster that comes standard. With a twin outboard setup I’d actually prefer to save myself a few dollars and opt for no thrusters, but each to their own.
It’s no fluke Grady-White boats are at the top of many anglers’ wish lists. The attention to detail, design, layout and finishing is, and always has been, quite impeccable.
Grady-Whites have also always been serious fish raisers and the Express 360 will be no different. It’s a boat that’s comfortable in nature, punches well above its weight and has the ability to handle like the best of them – so a shame we headed back to the marina without wetting a line.
› Exceptional seating solutions throughout
› Great use of space, with an extra double bed extending underneath the helm deck
› Excellent dash configuration
› Twin outboard setup works well
› Transom door is nowhere near adequate for landing large fish
› So much storage you might lose your favourite lure
The Express 360 is now the biggest Grady-White in the Australian market. It’ll surely be a force to be reckoned with inside fishing and cruising circles. It looks great on the water and even better inside the cabin. This powerhouse of a boat will surely give the big boys a run for their money.
GRADY-WHITE EXPRESS 360 SPECIFICATIONS
TYPE Planing monohull
LENGTH 11.96m (overall)
WEIGHT 6.7 tonnes (sans engines)
MAKE/MODEL 2 x Yamaha 350 V8
TYPE Four-stroke V8 petrol outboards
RATED HP 350 (each)
REC. MAX HP 1050
Game & Leisure Boats,
Factory 1, Runaway Bay Marina,
247 Bayview Street,
Runaway Bay, QLD, 4216
Phone: (07) 5577 5811
Originally published in Trade-a-Boat #442, July/August 2013.
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