|LOA||44 ft., 3 in.|
|Beam||12 ft., 11 in.|
|Draft||2 ft., 4 in.|
|Displacement||(Dry) 19, 616 lbs.|
|Engines||Twin 370 hp Volvo D6|
|Base Price||(Base Price) $420,000, (As Tested) $575,000|
|Twin Volvo Penta 370 hp engines with IPS drive, hardtop, windlass, swim platform, wet bar, microwave, stereo and more.|
|Bow thruster, genset, joystick drive, garage launch ramp and winch, autopilot/chartplotter/radar, ice-maker, TV/DVD, air conditioning, ultra-leather upholstery and more.|
|Beneteau, South Carolina, France; beneteauusa.com.|
|West Coast Dealer|
|South Coast Yachts, San Diego and Newport Beach, Calif.; (619) 224-7784; scyachts.com
Passage Yachts, Richmond, Calif.; (510) 236-2633; passageyachts.com
Denison Yacht Sales, Seattle; (206) 423-5504; denisonyachtsales.com
Westerly Yacht Sales, Vancouver, B.C.; (604) 685-2211; westerlyacht.com
Posted: January 1, 2014 | Boat Type: Motoryacht
Value + speed + stylish design = one sweet rideWith four models in the Gran Turismo line (five including the flybridge version of the 49), Groupe Beneteau has taken the world of express cruisers by storm. And by combining value, speed and stylish design, they’ve created one sweet ride. Barrett Canfield of South Coast Yachts has what I call “Beneteau Alley” in his backyard. It’s a long string of docks where the builder’s power- and sailboats line both sides from one end to the other — it’s like a Beneteau supermarket.
It would have been easy to get distracted and board all the boats, but the Gran Turismo 44 beckoned in the distance, demanding attention. The second largest in the series, the GT 44 has found the magic formula: a fast boat with a contemporary design combined with a very social platform that can easily accommodate a dozen for cocktails. It is aimed at the fashion-minded who like to cruise fast, entertain a crowd and get their money’s worth as well.
I stepped aboard the swim platform of the GT 44 and peered into the garage. The entire midsection of the transom including the aft sunpad lifts electrically to reveal dinghy storage that will accommodate an 8-foot tender with the outboard still attached. A winch in the forward end of the compartment and flip-out rollers on the transom allow you to hook up a dinghy and pull it up and inside the boat with the push of a button. No more towing a dink. Nice.
Two steps up on the starboard side and I was in the aft cockpit where a U-shaped dinette with a high/low table will accommodate six for dinner. Across, there is a mini-galley with a sink, an optional Kenyon grill and a refrigerator that can be exchanged for an ice-maker. It’s a compact and very workable central part of the boat.
There is a bit of a serpentine flow when you walk from the aft cockpit through to the helm area and the companionway steps. Forward, the passenger seat can be accessed from either side, and there is room for sizable storage lockers that hold everything from PFDs and flares to dishes and glasses. This entire section of the forward cockpit and the helm is below a huge sunroof built into the cabin top, which slides back to let in air and light, providing the best of both worlds: an open overhead when you want the outdoors and the protection of a hardtop when you don’t.
At the helm, the dash inspires confidence, as everything is within reach, including the gear shifts, joystick, analog gauges, rocker switches and the single Raymarine C120W chartplotter/radar. The visibility is good, except for the wide mullions that swoop down between the curved side windows and the windshield. They require a bit of a bob and weave of the head to make sure no one is in the blind spots.
Entering the boat, I stepped down to find the galley to port and an accompanying salon settee to starboard. A standup refrigerator is closest to the steps, and a curved counter leads forward to a double sink, a two-burner stove, an optional microwave and lots of storage. An opening port provides ventilation when cooking. The side of the counter forms a half-partition that sort of divides the galley from the salon and houses the flat-screen TV, which faces the L-shaped settee.
Although you’re well and truly “inside” the boat at this point, there is lots of light from the overhead glass companionway slider and the extra circular “window” that is up near the dash area and under the windshield. There is no cave-like feel in this bright living space accented with wood veneer cabinetry and lots of white upholstery.
The GT 44 is a two-cabin, two-head boat with plenty of privacy and separation. To borrow a real estate term, this boat has what might be called twin masters. The true master stateroom is aft; it spans the full beam and has a few different levels of overhead, which changes the headroom depending on where you are standing. To port is a separate lounge for anyone wanting to relax with a book or just to gaze out the hull port. An en suite head with a separate shower stall is to starboard. Storage throughout is immense, and a large bank of AGM batteries lives beneath the bed.
The guest stateroom is almost as luxurious, with a large island bed and high headroom. Two hull windows provide light, and an overhead hatch along with two opening ports bring in plenty of air. The stateroom has its own entrance to the head, which can also double as a day head for additional guests who may be sleeping out on the convertible dinette.
The interior design is contemporary Euro-chic, which is to say there is a functional elegance combined with a clean, minimalist finish. It’s very much like what you’d expect a compact two-bed/two-bath condo in Miami to look like.
On the Water
On test day, the inner waters of San Diego Bay were flat, and the Pacific outside looked much the same, so we stayed in the harbor and made our own test waves via wakes. The sailboaters around us looked perplexed (that’s a nice word) but intrigued as we shot onto plane and then to WOT at 32 knots and 3400 rpm. At that speed, range is about 170 n.m. The efficiency of Beneteau’s patented Air Step hull reduces the friction between the hull and water by injecting air from vents along the hull sides, creating an air cushion of sorts for the aft third of the hull to ride on. The air is channeled to the midsection and back out at the transom, effectively providing lift and, therefore, greater fuel efficiency.
The GT 44 comes standard with twin Volvo Penta D6 370 hp sterndrive diesels, the largest drives that Volvo builds. They are accessed via a hatch in the tender garage. A joystick is optional but provides maneuvering ease without pod drives. It takes a bit of getting used to, as the bow thruster isn’t as strong as the two sterndrives, so you have to get the hang of crabbing a bit. However, with only minutes of practice, most owners will feel like they’ve mastered the art of docking, even in a stiff breeze.
As I weaved my way back and forth over our own wake, I felt nothing but a sharp slice through the disturbed water. The boat didn’t thud, jump, skip or waddle in any direction. The bowrise was relatively minimal, and due to the Air Step hull, there was not much squat as the boat came up to speed. As I did hard stops and starts (the kind that make brokers nervous), Canfield reached to steady the coffee cups in their holders at the passenger seat. There was no need. The ride was smooth throughout, and the cups didn’t budge.
The Gran Turismo series includes a complete line of production motoryachts from 34 to 49 feet. The base model of the GT 44 starts around $420,000. As tested, with commissioning and delivery, it is $575,000.
Groupe Beneteau provides option packages that combine various features. The Dynamic package includes the sterndrive joystick, an aft garage launch ramp and winch, and a foredeck sunpad. There is also the Ambition package (arguably oddly named) that adds a 22-inch flat-screen TV, a cockpit grill, Volvo’s EVC displays and more. Additionally, you can select from a la carte options including AC/heat, an ice-maker, a Bose stereo, ultra-leather upholstery, an autopilot, electronics and more.
Like its siblings in the line, the GT 44 is an appealing combination of the value of a production boat and the choices and personalization of a semicustom yacht. Not a bad deal for the boater who wants to go fast and entertain many, and look good while doing so. It’s another design coup for Beneteau.