Styling and sportiness share a home in a sleek near-57-footer.
I watched as a rather large section of the transom tipped aft and the swim platform disappeared under the water and the boat. The panel kept opening, its top edge moving toward the water. As it went it revealed a dinghy garage, a Williams Turbo Jet 285 tender tucked neatly away.
We were at the dock, so Alexander Marine’s Pete Zaleski couldn’t drop the panel all the way to the water, but its intent is clear: It’s both a ramp for the tender — its aft end dips into the water and four sets of rollers install aft for easier tender launch and extraction — and a rather sizeable aft beach for passengers. A winch makes retrieval a simple matter. It’s a clever solution to the maximization of space on a 56-foot, 9-inch yacht, and for many owners it will be the signature feature on their Azimut 55S.
Perhaps the most visually apparent feature of the yacht, though, is on the other end. Designers didn’t look at the bow and settle for, “You know what would be great up here? A sun lounge.” Don’t misunderstand. There is a sun lounge, and it’s big. Enough room for four people, though two or three is probably a more manageable number, despite eight cupholders. Aft of that however, is a bench seat that turns the area into a true social zone, and speakers that pipe the tunes forward amplify the bow’s entertainment quotient.
Another memorable feature for 55S owners will surely be the seating in the cockpit and salon. Beginning in the cockpit, there is a J-shaped settee that wraps around a wooden table and has room for seven or eight people. Access to the engine room is through a hatch in the forward bench. Slide the three-panel door all the way starboard to get it out of the way, and the cockpit settee — with the addition of a small filler — blends seamlessly with the salon settee, which has a table. A dozen or more people can easily sit as an extended group starting at the transom and running to the salon, where a color combination of white, cream, taupe, gray and darker brown trim paints a modern picture.
The forward section of the salon settee is a bench that serves double duty. With the push of a button, the seat lowers and converts from a forward-facing bench, where it’s part of the settee in the wheelhouse, to an aft-facing bench that’s part of the salon. And the forward corner of the long section of the forward settee can convert to an angled headrest and turn the bench into a chaise lounge, the occupant of which can absorb the rays through the windshield and the open sunroof.
To starboard, opposite the salon dinette, is the galley, which definitely has a European feel. For a long time, Azimut considered the galley a feature to be separated from the rest of the boat, either hiding it belowdecks or walling it off from the rest of the main deck. When American dealers insisted that arrangement wasn’t going to work for American buyers, the builder accommodated the dealers’ wishes, but in a nod to Euro style, the galley features — cooktop, sink, countertop — in the 55S are hidden under a flip-up top that matches perfectly with the cabin decor. The refrigerator and freezer drawers blend in too. So the galley is part of the action but also invisible when it needs to be.
Forward of that is the helm, where twin captain’s chairs on a shared base (a doublewide bench is optional) face a pod-like dash that is home to everything a modern captain needs. Two Raymarine multifunction displays are the stars of the show, providing everything from navigation aid to engine info to camera feeds to stereo controls to radar readouts and much more. Twin engine throttles are within easy reach and control all three Volvo Penta D6 diesels, each cranking out 435 hp and paired to an IPS 600 drive. Owners can choose which throttle has two of the engines tied to it. Next to the throttles is the Volvo joystick and the Seakeeper gyro display. A Volvo Penta display occupies the lower left corner, next to the thruster control.
From that helm — with its 360-degree view, opening side window, necessary switches and panel access — perched under the open sunroof, is where we conducted the sea trial on a pretty, warm and calm San Diego day. The hull, which was designed specifically for the S Collection and its triple pod drives, includes a sharp entry that cleaves waves easily, and ample spray rails that knock down the water and provide extra lift. The deadrise is almost 16 degrees at the transom, which could lead to a rolling boat, but the chines and specially designed strakes help offset some of it, and the Seakeeper gyro can handle the rest.
At top speed, 30.5 knots, the triple D6 diesels were spinning at just shy of 3500 rpm while burning a combined 66 gph. At 3000 rpm, the diesels were pushing the yacht at 22.3 knots while burning 50 gph. Sixteen knots, roughly planing speed, resulted in a 34 gph fuel burn and 2500 rpm. Puttering along at 9.4 knots, the engines were turning 1500 rpm and burning 8.1 gph.
At all speeds, the boat was quick to react to input from the sporty steering wheel, which came in handy on a crowded afternoon on San Diego Bay, especially around the sailboats that were racing between points it appeared only they knew.
For certain docking situations, a joystick in the cockpit will put many owners at ease and make them look like a docking pro.
Belowdecks, the 55S has three staterooms that can sleep six people easily. To starboard from the companionway is a room with twin single berths, a nightstand, a hanging locker and under-bed lockers. It shares the second head with the VIP in the bow. Forward of the VIP — yes, forward — is a space for optional crew quarters, accessed through a hatch up on the bow. It includes a tie-up berth, a Tecma toilet, a sink, a shower curtain and two wardrobes.
The VIP houses an island double berth, shelves that run along the bedsides, and two vertical and two under-berth lockers. Panoramic hullside windows and an overhead hatch provide natural light that complements the overhead LEDs and reading lamps. It has direct access to the second head.
Amidships is the master suite, which spans the beam and takes full advantage of the extra room the pod drives provide. To port is a vanity table with oversized chairs to either side. It becomes an intimate breakfast nook with the vanity top closed. Large hull windows on both sides are sectioned in sixths, one section of which opens and provides sea air and breeze. The queen berth lies diagonal with its head in the aft starboard corner, providing its occupants a view of the TV on the bulkhead and out both hull windows. Underneath is lots of storage space.
The master head is forward of the room itself, near the door to the suite. It includes a basin sink, a chromed tap, a Tecma toilet, a separate shower enclosure and a wall unit over the sink.
The ambiance of our test boat felt like a Miami apartment or condo, thanks to its Italian styling and elegant combination of white, cream, beige, taupe and brown upholstery, cabinets and flooring; LED lighting; stainless accents and other touches, and the visual aspect might be enough for some owners. But other buyers are going to want a sporty look with performance to match, and the 55S delivers that too. Its low profile, aft-angled windshield and swooping cabin windows deliver the looks, while the hull and pods deliver sporty performance that makes the 56-footer drive like a smaller vessel.