BOAT TEST: RIVIERA 4000 OFFSHORE HARDTOP PLATINUM SERIES
Riviera's 4000 Offshore is one of the Australian boating industry’s success stories. DAVID LOCKWOOD sampled a very special Platinum Series Hardtop to find out why...
APRIL, 1998 - I thought boat testers knew best. After all, we get to see the local boats, the imported boats, the opposition's boats and their opposition's boats - and often all in the course of a few days or weeks on the water.
After years of playing this nautical hopscotch you believe you have a good feel for what works and what doesn't. You've judged the best, turned your nose up at the worst and rightfully figure you've become something of an expert on the subject of boats.
Right? Wrong! Riviera, Australia's biggest boatbuilder and exporter, has proven it's the one which knows best. Drawing on a wealth of marketing and customer experience both here and overseas, it has gained a better understanding of the big-boat market than any lowly seascribe could hope to muster.
Certainly, I wouldn't have thought that it could build a big-selling sportscruiser and peddle it to the Americans or Europeans. That would be akin to selling sand to the Arabs. And, surely, the days of the go-fast sportscruiser remain all but a bad memory for the locals caught with them in the 1980s.
CALLING THE SHOTS
So it came as some surprise to see the Riviera 4000 Offshore at last year's boat show. It's a sporty boat competing with all the big names in sportscruising: Wellcraft, SeaRay, Bayliner and Carver, to name a few.
Without their turnover and economies of scale, I figured it was going to go nowhere fast. In fact, I silently dismissed this boat as an export mistake and assumed that we Australians weren't ready for it, either.
A boat that goes fast is one thing, but paying the fuel bills when petrol is running at $0.80/lt is another. And when you can buy a flybridge cruiser with a penthouse built-in for the same money, the sportscruiser seemed to me, at least, a poor cousin stuck way down there at water level.
Yep, I got caught holding the wrong end of the gun. In a year, the Riviera 4000 Offshore has sold throughout Australia and overseas at a great rate of knots. The factory is up to hull 30-odd and almost half of them have been destined for overseas dealers. How'd they do it?
Simply, the 4000 Offshore is not the boat I prejudged it to be. It's narrow, sleek and has go-fast lines, but it runs shaft-drives and the latest generation diesel engines.
Fuel bills?... What fuel bills? Maintenance of ageing legs?... Gone too.
Further, there's a big cockpit with floor space catering for the Australian way of life. You can stage a barbie in the sun for a dozen and dive straight off the marlin board when the snags have settled. And in the overseas versions, there's a Mediterranean Deck which includes a giant sun lounge.
Skipper the 4000 Offshore and you'll find everyone seated on the same level behind the same big wrap-around windscreen. You can socialise as you captain the boat on its passage along the coast, across the bay or down the harbour. No more being condemned to the flybridge and missing out on the party below.
Then, when the sun sets over your anchorage, there is somewhere genuinely commodious, comfortable and pragmatic to retire to. The cabin is long but surprisingly wide, with full headroom, deep lounges, a useful galley and a big bathroom or head. While the dinette converts to a second bed, the accommodation best caters for a hedonistic couple on the island berth in the bow cabin.
HARD TOP, BUT NO HARD HAT
Taking the sportscruiser even further afield, Riviera has produced a new hardtop version. Again, it's something I thought best left in the Great Lakes or Sea of Japan. But, again, I was as wrong about that as I've been picking the winners of the Melbourne Cup.
In fact, this hardtop version was bred from consumer demand. A good customer of Lee Dillon Marine in Sydney wanted it, so one was made and now in a matter of months the third hardie has rolled off the production line.
The hardtop works because, essentially, it isn't a hard-hat area.
There's headroom inside for a 1.95m giant from the aft overhang all the way to the bow cabin. And the fibreglass turret doesn't cost a king's ransom - just $8000 more than a bimini with clears.
IT'S ABOUT GOING OFFSHORE
But the answer to the success of the 4000 Offshore - hard or soft - goes beyond all that. The reason it works is that it's not just a sportsboat but a genuine sportscruiser, and more social than a boat with a flybridge.
Not everyone wants to go gamefishing and it's proving just the ticket for blasting up the coast from Sydney Harbour to Palm Beach, Marina Mirage to Moreton Island, or St Kilda to Portsea with a boatload of friends.
In other words, the Offshore half of the title is a big part of the boat's attraction. The hull has a narrow entry to slice the waves, a very prominent flare in the top sides to shed water, and a keel to keep it tracking down swell like a greyhound chasing a bunny.
And do this under the hardtop and you can kiss the passages goodbye, still gain a good view of the ocean and coast through the solid-glass windows, and arrive at your destination no more dishevelled than if you'd just been up to the 7-Eleven in the Beemer for your Sunday papers.
IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS
The 4000 Offshore's layout is actually a cross between a flybridge boat and a sportsboat. The cockpit, which can be teaked, is as big as a Riviera 36 Convertible's and is one big deep well with room to fish, party or picnic outdoors.
Underfloor is storage in twin oval-shaped fish, fender or livebait tanks, while the cockpit sides are graced with a number of compartments for keeping the odds and ends in place along the way. There is a large eutectic fridge to port, a storage hatch with room for a drinks fridge inside and, on the starboard side of the steps up, a sink with room for an ice-maker.
Take two steps from the cockpit and you are out of the sunroom and into the lounge room. Seating is what you'll find here, and lots of it -finished in first-grade marine vinyl with piping.
There's a two-person bench seat behind the skipper's two-person bench, and a huge L-shaped lounge on the port side. In all, there is room to seat eight bodies out of the sun.
The deck around the helm lifts up on hydraulic rams to reveal the engines. Access to them is excellent, with room for a genset and air-conditioning units (especially welcome on the hardtop version), refrigeration and more.
To get to the bow, whether for sunbaking (a sun lounge up front would be nice) or checking that the anchor chain stacks neatly when the skipper hits the button on the helm, you simply step up and stroll around the wide bulwarks flanking the cabin.
The thick stainless bowrail helps you keep your footing, and it has been raked in line with the windscreen and the hardtop or targa arch to generate the boat's sporty lines. And, it should be said, wherever you look on the upper deck, the finish is good enough to cut it at marinas around the world.
CATERING DOWN BELOW
Down through the sliding plexiglass hatch hides a different world again.
Guests will appreciate the big head and Vacuflush toilet and perhaps even the separate standing-height shower on the port side, just ahead of the galley.
For catering, the U-shaped galley is immediately on the port side so you can serve back up into the cockpit. It has adequate bench space to roll out a fillet of smoked salmon, slice a lemon, nip some dill and create a production line of canapes.
Weekends - or winters with the pumpkin soup aboard - will be better served by the microwave, two-burner electric stove, fridge and reasonably sized sink for washing up.
The pantry and drawers are well-made, and the whole area looks smart in a light, sanguine lime-washed American Oak.
Opposite is an L-shaped dinette which could seat four and, if you had to, the lounge cushions convert the area to a second double berth.
Ideally, you will have shaken your guests by now and will choose to stay aboard at the marina, polishing off the last of the chicken salad and helping yourself to the top-shelf bottles in the big drinks cabinet, holding decanters and glasses, alongside the dinette.
A day with the Offshore 4000 comes to a close in the owner's cabin in the bow. It's big enough to have an island berth, and there is ample hanging space for tomorrow's business shirts. And with just your partner aboard, you can leave the wide doors to the cabin open.
CONSIDERED A WINNER
All of this is but a mere fantasy for me, having spent only a short time aboard blowing the cobwebs out of two big diesel engines. The Platinum series 4000 Offshore comes standard with twin Cummins C450 430hp diesel engines, however the sexy black-hulled hard-top version we had was fitted with Caterpillar 3208TA 435hp V-eights.
At 2450rpm, it's pulling 28.5kts and blowing away whatever comes near. With full fuel and water, you can get the hull up to 34kts.
But it's around the mid-20kt speed that you can recline under the hardtop with the wheel in your hand and dual controls flanking the big dash, passing the parade from behind the big tinted windows with a high degree of chic.
With some of the finer upholstery touches from Riviera's interior-decorating team, V2, this boat is ready to tackle the sportscruising world...
How remiss of me not to have realised that 12 months ago, when an enlightened market had already judged it a winner and a well-priced one at that...
(Facts & Figures)
RIVIERA 4000 OFFSHORE?HARDTOP PLATINUM?SERIES
PRICE AS TESTED
Type: Deep-vee mono
LWL: not given
Draft: not given
ENGINES (as tested)
Make: Twin Caterpillar
Type: Inboard, V-eight, turbo-diesel
Displacement (ea): 10,400cc
Rated hp (ea): 435hp
Weight (ea): 943kg
Riviera Sales Sydney, (02) 9363 0000 or charter from Eastsail, (02) 9327 1166.
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