RIVIERA

The prestige name, the unconventional style, the comprehensive list of standard features... Riviera's improved M400 Sportscruiser is getting plenty of attention
When Australia's biggest boatbuilder releases a new 40-footer that's a daring departure from your everyday sportscruiser, a boat which breaks new ground and sets the design precedence for a whole new range of sisterships, we should stop and take a closer look. And that is what we all did, apparently. Within hours of being unveiled at the Sydney International Boat Show the dealers had sold their allocation of the new M400 Sportscruiser. The waiting list was soon long.

Having first set eyes on the boat at the boat show, I then crawled all over one of the first M400s several months later, before revisiting this improved model for a thorough test drive. The boat was designed with input from the management team to be a family boat with the works. It's hard to ignore the huge standard inventory, features like broad walkaround decks, and the alfresco lunch setting for 10 in a mere 40-footer. At last, the long lunch is back.

On the styling front, the boat has an almost retro look derived from the long, thin cabin windows and angular lines. And the sheer volume of the boat, the upright lines, the straight bow, and the hardtop said to me something other than rakish sportscruiser.

So despite it running sterndrive legs, I initially made the mistake of thinking the M400 had shafts and was a replacement for the popular 4000 sportscruiser. It is not.

This is the first of what Riviera calls a new league in sportscruisers. By the end of May, the M360 will have been officially launched at the Sanctuary Cove Boat Show and the M370 will be deleted from the range. Thankfully, Riviera will continue the lithe M430, a genuine performance sportsboat. It will also retain its entry-level M290.

Riviera's Wholesale Manager, Alan Paterson, explained that the idea behind the M400 was to build a boat that had everything for the family but hadn't been done before.

Meantime, the local Riviera Sport agents said the boat has really divided people. Those who weren't interested in the sporty sameness of the sleek M370 have suddenly declared their love for the new M400. If not for its practicality outdoors then they embrace the Japanese-inspired styling down below. The interior is akin to a chic inner-city apartment and, I'll admit it, it immediately won me over from the moment I went below.

According to Damian Pudney, Operations Manager with Sydney Boat Share, which has an M400 under its fractional boat ownership scheme in Sydney, there's been an overwhelmingly positive reaction to this boat from his clients. Everyone who takes the M400 out for their allocated days comes back just thrilled, he told me, and it is by far the most popular boat in a managed fleet that spans the entire range of Riviera sportscruisers from 29ft to 43ft, including an imminent new M360.

DESIGN LINES
Interestingly, Riviera made key changes to the M400 after its release. Early models seemed quite doughy or lazy at jumping out of the hole. The boat pictured here, M400 No. 12 owned by a Sydney professional and family man who was running the M370 before, has the latest revised hull with extended running surface under the boarding platform. The owner said the improvements were clear as day compared with the early M400. In this case the greatly-improved acceleration came from twin Volvo D6 350hp diesel motors instead of the twin 375hp MerCruiser 496 petrol engines. Fuel economy also improved: where the petrol motors are chewing almost 140lt per hour at cruise, he said the diesels are using only about half that. However, these upgraded diesels cost $106,503 more than the standard 320hp 6.2MPI Mercruiser Horizon petrol motors. That's a lot of fuel.

The other evolution is in the hardtop. Sporting its new hardtop the M400 will be one of cleanest sportscruisers with a hardtop in respect of carbon monoxide levels at the helm. The roof will be vented to prevent the suck-back of fumes and salt mist which is commonplace on sportscruisers and yachts.

 The M400 is made using tried-and-tested solid GRP below the waterline and cored decks. There is a watertight collision bulkhead forward and a watertight forward engine room bulkhead. The engineering is similarly time tested and, thanks to the new extended hull, there's more room around the motors in the sub-floor engine bay.

The engine room roof is raised by a fast hydraulic ram. There is a floor hatch for day-to-day access to fuel filters and dipsticks.

In the engine room, the generous 500lt of water is forward of the engine, with 1000lt fuel to the sides, the holding tank, hot-water service and shower sump nearby. All the sinks in the boat lead to a common overboard plumbing line. A switch on the dash for the macerator lets you dump the 125lt holding tank without leaving the helm.

The Racor fuel filters and sea strainer for the new E-QD 7kVA digital Onan generator are easy to see. The gennie powers 16,000 BTUs of reverse-cycle air-con to the forward and mid cabins, as well as equipment such as microwave oven, 12/240V fridge, standard icemaker in the cockpit, hot water heater with heat exchanger, and 240V outlets.

Full marks for the easily-accessed battery management panel, maintenance-free batteries and split-switch panel system.

All the through-hull fittings have ball valves and double hose clips if they are on or below the waterline. The wiring is coded, as is the plumbing, and the boat comes with a fire-suppression and automatic engine shutdown system, plus remote fuel shutoffs. Only 316 grade stainless steel is specified for the deck fittings and the distinctive grills over the air intakes and blower exhausts.

After tight circuit work a good deal of water was coming into the engine room where the bilge pump promptly sent it back overboard. I suspect the water was coming through the blower aperture, which is very low to the water when hard cornering.

ENTERTAINMENT DECK
The fun begins with the tour of the decks. There's a big boarding platform with room to hang out on the teak deck, plus handy stainless-steel grabrails, a concealed swim ladder, and the option of fitting Weaver snap davits for toting your rubber ducky.

The transom has a big storage locker, easily-accessed built-in baskets carrying two fenders, and a hot/cold deck shower.

Non-skid panels on the hardtop suggest you can walk around up there and hose the bird calling cards off the gelcoat. Kids will doubtless put their mind to finding a way to climb up to the hardtop and dive into the briny. One route would be through the twin oversized quick-released sliding hatches in the hardtop that make cool sunrooves.

The M400 is packaged with anchoring gear: a windlass with foot switch and dash control, self-stow bowroller and sprit, 18kg stainless-steel anchor with 55m of chain, and a saltwater deck wash.

Though some might rue the lack of walkthrough opening windscreen, the wide sidedecks are covered in non-skid and designed to be very easily negotiated by mum and the kids. There are handrails and moulded steps in the cockpit, plenty of rails along the rooftop, moulded toerails and a bowrail with intermediate wire.

The foredeck is big and flat and equipped with a sumptuous sunpad with sculptured foam headrest, traced by stainless-steel grabrails and four drinkholders. As such, the bow becomes a lifestyle area where you - or the teenage recalcitrants - can catch some rays, sip on a drink and enjoy the sea breeze.

 If you're really lucky you'll get an invitation to the party in the cockpit. Chances are there will be one, because no other 40-foot single-level sports conveyance can match the M400 for entertaining space.

Between the lounge across the transom and the L-shaped lounge ranging along the starboard side of the cockpit there is seating for eight people in the sun and shade. Add two loose chairs and you can sit 10 people for breakfast, lunch and dinner around a trick teak and stainless-steel table akin to what I see on 20-metre motoryachts. The table incorporates drinkholders and converts into a daybed or sleepout for two. Because it's such a significant table, though a tad wobbly, Riviera has deleted the boat's internal dinette.

Along the portside is a moulded module containing a fridge and icemaker, sink with hot and cold water, handy food-prep space, stainless grab- and retaining rails, twin 240V and twin 12V outlets, courtesy and overhead lighting, and storage lockers.

Further up under the hardtop is a protected portside passenger seat for two facing the skipper that doubles as a three-quarter length chaise lounge. The new hardtop with big sunrooves and built-in ventilation will make things even breezier. We scrolled the Strataglass clear front curtain between the hardtop and windscreen for fresh air. The windscreen has wipers and washers for all-weather boating.

The hardtop is mounted on big stainless supports and, though there is some movement, it gives the M400 the impression of being a more substantial and practical boat than the common sportscruiser with chicken coop top formed by flapping canvas and clears. There's plenty of headroom, a helm loveseat for two with flip-up bolster, even a supplied Igloo cooler so you can carry the seafood from the fish markets aboard. Great thinking.

The upholstery on boat No. 12 was a beautiful upgraded Sunbrella fabric in a trendy natural taupe tone. There is the upgraded option of man-made suede or Alcantara. Cockpit covers and carpet are supplied. The owner went one better and fitted an optional stainless-steel barbie, inflatable ducky and extra television with digital aerial in the cockpit. Perfect for genuine sports fans.

Even the seriously good electronics package including a Raymarine RC80 sounder/chartplotter comes standard. The dash also has a boatplan with visual indicators for lights and bilge pumps, a chain counter, spotlight, Clarion stereo control, VHF marine radio, 12V outlet, trim tabs and a bowthruster as standard. The EDC gear shifts are just lovely.

INTERIOR GLOSS
I love the Japanese-style of the interior decorating and it is partly responsible for this boat's demand on big city waterways like Sydney. There's less of the boat and more of the modern apartment about the M400.

The lock-up cabin door pulls across to reveal a series of easily-negotiated steps, one of which conceals the garbo, leading to an open-plan saloon with contemporary light beech joinery with a satin finish, hatches for fresh air, plus air-con in the cabins. The joinery includes a series of storage cupboards and a clever cutlery drawer in the galley.

There is a useful amount of food-prep space, a microwave oven, recessed two-burner stove with small rangehood, okay cupboard space for appliances and platters and foodstuffs, and a moulded sink. The flooring is practical Amtico mock-timber vinyl. The water gauge is behind a cupboard. The two-door undercounter split fridge/freezer is big enough for weekending and longer away.

As mentioned, there is no dinette but a cream-coloured leather lounge with matching cube whose lid reverses to form a coffee table. Overhead timber lockers with frosted panes provide additional storage, and timber blinds instead of curtains are a nice touch.

The boat comes with a stereo and CD player in the saloon, additional speakers in the cockpit, plus a 20in LCD television and 12V DVD/CD viewable from the stateroom. The owner of this boat added another LCD television in the kids' room.

 Japanese screens on runners provide privacy to the forward stateroom, which has an island bed with foam mattress and storage below for bulky items. A number of designer bedding packages are offered. There are hanging lockers, a square hatch with privacy screen and built-in blind, mirrors and fixed portlights in side lockers. Even with shutters closed there's plenty of room.

The lone bathroom has an excellent Vacuflush loo, a shower stall by way of a sliding acrylic screen, a vanity, recessed ceramic sink, extractor fan and hatch, decent mirror, and storage for personal effects. There is a good amount of headroom and floorspace in a typically generous Riviera head.

Guests or the kiddies get the mid-cabin with a hanging locker, transverse double bed and starboard-side single bed. This M400 was being used for overnighting. It would be an injustice not to use the comfortable beds at least once in a while.

SPORTS CRUISING
This is a huge and beamy 40-footer, with massively flared top sides riding atop a noticeably narrower running surface. The boat is trim sensitive and leans over in tight turns an alarming degree. The boat tends to drive off the nose and hook around on its side in the turns, but didn't want to roll right over.

While I'm not sure how relevant my concerns are in reality, and while I wonder just how often owners put their boats through slalom tests, I would be taking it easy with the sharp turning should my mother-in-law be aboard the M400. The boat throws up a fair bit of spray at times, too.

The turbocharged electronic D6 diesels offer great fuel efficiency and the ability to range to nearby ports should you wish. At a comfortable cruise of 18.8 knots at 2510rpm, the twin 350hp Volvos were consuming just 70lt in total for a theoretical range of about 240 nautical miles, leaving 10 per cent of the fuel in reserve.

At 3000rpm, the boat was scooting along at 26 knots and I recorded a fast cruise of 27.1kt at 3030rpm with the motors drinking about 100lt in total. Top speed was 33.3kt at 3590rpm. At all times the boat shot to planing speed smartly. I would deem the hull moderately efficient, since it planed at around 10.4 knots at 1900rpm, which is higher than some boats.

The D6 Volvo Penta diesel motors and grippy Duoprops do have the potential to create a very sporty drive - but to be honest, I wouldn't underscore the first half of this boat's sportscruiser tag as its strength.

That's not to say it hasn't got strengths. As Riviera admits, it has dared to be different. The M400 leans more towards providing oodles of entertaining space, outdoor living areas and interior accommodation, which isn't such a bad thing. After all, these are the things that most family boaties want in a big city like Sydney. And for family boaters, Riviera has provided its most highly-specced boat to date with virtually nothing left wanting. You be the judge.


HIGHS

  • User-friendly decks and huge cockpit with a lunch setting for 10
  • An amazingly complete package
  • Wonderful amenities in the cockpit
  • Apartment styling indoors
  • Trusty Riviera systems, warranties, dealer network and resale
LOWS

  • Manufacturing changes to early model M400s have made those boats redundant
  • No walkthrough windscreen
  • Big teak table was wobbly on its pedestal
  • Concealed water-tank gauge
  • Engine room took on water in tight turns
  • Boat leans heavily in tight turns
  • Quite wet and bouncy into a headsea

RIVIERA M400
PRICE AS TESTED About $557,500 with Volvo D6 350hp motors and factory/owner options
 
OPTIONS FITTED
Engine upgrade, Sunbrella upholstery upgrade, digital television decoder and aerial, stainless safety rail on boarding platform, stainless-steel BBQ, dinghy and extra television
 
PRICED FROM $436,738 ex-factory w/ twin 320hp MerCruiser MX 6.2MPI Horizon motors with Bravo 2 drives
 
GENERAL
Material: GRP hull w/cored decks
Type: Moderate-vee monohull
Length Overall: 12.30m
Beam: 4.13m
Draft: About 1.80m
Deadrise: n/a
Weight: 8500kg dry w/std motors
 
CAPACITIES
Berths: 5+1
Fuel Capacity: 1000lt
Water Capacity: 500lt
 
ENGINE
Make/Model: Volvo Penta D6
Type: Six-cylinder electronic turbocharged diesel engine
Rated hp: 350hp @ 3500rpm
Displacement: 5.5lt
Weight: About 750kg
Gearboxes (Make/ratio): Aquamatic sterndrive
Props: Duoprop
 
SUPPLIED BY: 7 Seas Motor Cruisers, d'Albora Marinas, The Spit, Mosman, NSW, tel (02) 9960 7455, or visit www.7seas.com.au or www.riviera.com.au





Published : Sunday, 1 May 2005

Prices and specifications supplied are for the market in Australia only and were correct at time of first publication. boatsales.com.au makes no warranty as to the accuracy of specifications or prices. Please check with manufacturer or local dealer for current pricing and specifications.

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