BOAT TEST: RIVIERA 48 PLATINUM SERIES
With a brand new upgrade and a legion of fans in the States, the Riviera Platinum Series 48 is one Aussie boat which can hold its own against the best cruisers in the world.
SEPTEMBER, 1998 - "It's unbelievable how quick and how awesome it is to drive. The MANs are very quiet, exhaust noise is minimal and the hard top is just great with air-conditioning... I've never been on something this big that goes so fast."
Brett Thomas, a seasoned professional skipper who has delivered more cruisers to Sydney than most mere mortals have cast eyes on, reckons Riviera's new 48-footer is definitely the way to go.
Only days after he delivered the performance cruising boat to town, I was putting to sea in the boat for a blatt down to Manly Beach. There was a southerly set astern as the tall cliffs of North Head flashed past inshore.
Yet even on this quasi-coastal cruise, I smelt a whiff of what Thomas was alluding to. As you see it here, in optioned-up export guise, the new 48 Platinum is the biggest, most high spec and powerful of all Riviera's boats.
It's their best yet, I reckon, with five-star comforts and speed to burn. Which explains the enthusiasm of Steve Batton from Lee Dillon Marine, when I stepped aboard.
LDM in Rushcutters Bay is the home of the 48. The crew there have sold a few marina arms' worth over the years, including a 48 to Tom and Nicole Cruise.
This new model - weighing in at about $1m a pop - is bound to fill a few more marina berths for the Olympic parade.
Inspired by the huge American market, the new 48 has also been given a tremendous layout change. And, in this case, the hull was also given a boost with the biggest motors on the options list - twin 800hp MAN diesels - which gave better than 28kt performance at just 2000rpm.
In other words, we were cruising around offshore at about the top speed of most flybridge boats. Not that you notice it in the enclosed flybridge, mind you... Spin a few yarns, recount a few salty anecdotes in here and next thing you know you've knocked over a ton of sea miles.
The enclosed bridge, with its deep comfy lounges, unimpeded views of the coastline, and reverse-cycle air-conditioning, is the box seat on this boat.
Sit up here and it's akin to sitting in a lounge room. Pittwater from Sydney seems ridiculously tame. Port Stephens or Jervis Bay sound better for the weekend. Or maybe the Whitsundays or Wilsons Promontory with a bit more time on your hands.
With extra long-range fuel tanks and a foam-insulated hull forward of the engine room bulkhead, the 48 runs like a train at sea. But for all its long-range cruising ability, the comforts are also something you can appreciate when mooching around as I did.
To better satisfy American buyers - now, the biggest market for Riviera boats - the 48 has a reworked saloon. Since the 48's debut at the Sanctuary Cove Boat Show back in May, the saloon has been met with such applause that it's now destined to be included in other Riviera models.
On face value, all that's been done is the removal of the port-side dinette and the creation of a separate dining area on the starboard side, opposite the galley.
It mightn't sound such a big deal on paper, but in practice it's created more 'quality room'.
Step inside the new-look 48 and over to port is one giant L-shaped leather lounge. There's no dinette to crawl in around, just a little coffee table to rest your cup on, and seating for up to six adults with legs and elbows outstretched.
From the lounge, the view forward to the starboard side is straight into the face of a large-screen television, which is part of a new entertainment system built in behind the tinted (you can't see in) windscreen.
Almost the entire starboard side of the 48 has been redefined. By omitting the dinette to port, the saloon has gained more floor space. And by enclosing the flybridge and making the 48 a single upper-station boat, there's now space for the small dining area opposite the galley, which will accommodate four dinner settings.
FIRST TO FINISH
The other big feature is the finish. It reminded me of a 57ft American Viking boat I once tested. However, it's got a distinctly more illustrious feel to it.
Instead of the teak surfaces being matt or semi-gloss, they're in-your-face maxi gloss. I like the look.
It's a combination of the teak, the choice of light-coloured headliner and fabrics, and the change to the saloon layout that makes the interior of the 48 seem much bigger than before. This is accentuated by the mirror panel on the servery and the clip-down, slim-line venetian blinds, used instead of traditional curtains.
Indeed, it's the finer points which create a lot of the boat's interior appeal.
Some of the other nice touches include teak accents, in areas such as over the waste receptacle; a water tank gauge where you can see it at a glance; and the prominent bar fridge with the ice maker that didn't go unnoticed.
The Riviera 48 is no less impressive in the area of accommodation. There's a small kids' or guests' cabin with bunks on the portside as you head up the companionway from the galley. As this boat had a very powerful davit on deck, the base of the davit came through the cabin to be fixed on the hull bearers.
More treasured guests will be allocated the cabin with island double berth in the bow. It's really a bedroom, with lots of hanging and storage space and plenty of foot room for dressing. The big plus here is no portholes - no leaks - and the foam-backed padded wall liner which coddles you as you move about.
And the other bonus is that the forward guest room has its own en suite, with standing-height shower stall, of course. But the owner's cabin goes one better, with a lovely queen-sized bed. It's amidships, away from the chines which can create water-slapping noises that keep you awake on your first night. There was also a separate en suite, mirroring that of the guests.
Naturally, to celebrate the new-look 48, Riviera called on its regular interior-decorating team, V2, a Queensland-based team of beautiful blonde-locked sisters with a flare for working with boats.
A whole new combination of finishes was chosen, with creams and golds lending an understated but regal air. It would be impossible for anyone to be offended by the look.
BACK UP TOP
But for all the beauty within, you must head back to that wonderful, fully-enclosed flybridge to really appreciate where this boat's going.
Step up from the cockpit and close the hatch over the ladder behind you and note that the engine noise disappears. Take a seat on the U-shaped lounge and note that the view through the surrounding glass is unimpeded. And don't shout - there's no need to raise your voice here...
Even parading down Sydney Harbour this day, about two years prior to the Games, I couldn't help but get excited at the thought of this boat flashing about the harbour, its crew enjoying a view so grand.
It's an exciting prospect - the Olympics, a time when the Riviera 48 will excel in a world-class arena of boats. Not that it hasn't already achieved this in America, of course.
There are subtle improvements in the bridge layout. Aside from air-conditioning and a lockable hatch over the new shaped ladder, the dash has been reworked so you can group all your electronics in the one cluster on the starboard side. Radar, GPS plotter, sounder and autopilot will all fit here.
As an option, this 48 had a high-backed skipper's chair with more padding than Father Christmas. And for the MAN engine there were electronic controls that, unlike many electronic shifts, didn't have any delay in them and offered fingertip responsiveness.
Flick the throttles forward and the 22-tonne boat jumps. We're talking a top speed of over 33kt and about 6kt at idle, where the V-eight engines run on just one bank apiece. Thus, it would take just a few hours of fast cruising, chin-wagging and eyeballing the coastline and you'd be in Port Stephens.
There you'd find an ideal anchorage and swing the Avon RIB duckie off the deck using the big Brower davit. Do a picnic ashore or maybe dine on the yellowfin tuna you landed off Swansea on the way up. Then share the sunset with an aft-deck barbie and some bangers.
Heck, you could even leave your run back to the office till the eleventh hour on Monday. The 48 has a dedicated laundry with a washer/drier. No-one will know you're wearing the same shirt as when you downed tools and raced out at 4.00pm on Friday.
After all, they're all white anyway - and, on or off water, you're the boss.
(Facts & Figures)
RIVIERA PLATINUM SERIES 48
$686,401 (w/twin 470HP Volvo TAMD 102DS)
PRICE AS TESTED
Reverse-cycle aircon ($8,824), 800lb Brower Davit ($12,446); teak cockpit floor and steps ($8,358), Raytheon Raypilot 650 ($6,082), Raytheon 620 GPS/Plotter ($4,702), Raytheon V750 colour sounder ($3,169), Raytheon SL72 Pathfinder radar ($6,183), fire system ($1,747), tinted saloon windows ($533), all-gloss varnish in saloon ($2,377), highback helm seat ($950), TV/VCR ($1,420), flybridge clears ($1,158), washer/dryer combo built in ($5,538), forward fuel tanks ($7,396), s/s deck cradle for tender ($1,553), Avon RIB 346 dinghy inc outboard and cover ($17,296), V2 interior upholstery, bed cover, pillow and slip, etc ($9,621).
Type: Moderate-vee mono
Deadrise at transom: n/a
Fuel capacity: 2550lt
Water capacity: 863lt
ENGINES (as tested)
Make: Twin MAN
Type: Direct fuel-injected, 90° V-eight turbo-diesel
Rated hp (each): 800hp
Displacement (ea): 14,610cc
Weight (ea): 1350kg
Riviera Sales Sydney, Rushcutters Bay (NSW), (02) 9363 0000.
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