Riviera 395 SUV

Sports util­ity cruis­ers can be likened to the hot hatch­backs of the boat world. They have to work hard for their money.

Boating NZ - - Contents - BY KEVIN GREEN

One of the smaller Rivieras, the 395 doesn’t lose any­thing by way of style, fin­ish or per­for­mance.

The busy sports cruiser cat­e­gory is not for the unimag­i­na­tive builder. A large flotilla of com­peti­tors await – Bri­tish, Ital­ian, Amer­i­can and many oth­ers. So it’s a hot cat­e­gory, and the tem­per­a­ture’s hottest in the 40-foot zone. These are tran­si­tion boats for the mass-pro­duc­tion builders and, for the pre­mium mar­ket ones like Aus­tralia’s cre­den­tialled Riviera, it’s the en­try-level model. Riviera has built around this 43-foot size be­fore but the mar­ket has moved on sig­nif­i­cantly since then because of mass-pro­duced com­peti­tors snap­ping from be­low and pre­mium mar­ket com­peti­tors push­ing hard from above to add value.

This means that dif­fer­en­tia­tors are per­haps be­com­ing more dif­fi­cult as com­mon com­po­nents, such as the Volvo IPS pod drives on this Riviera 395 SUV and it com­peti­tors, show.

Us­ing the car anal­ogy again, some of the key sell­ing points in­clude a big boot (aft cock­pit), being quick at the traf­fic lights (to pull a skier out) and sharp han­dling for easy park­ing. Other niceties are plenty of us­able deck space to be moth­er­ship for the wa­ter toys in shel­tered bays while also pulling enough horse­power to blast off­shore for the week­end.

In between there must be live­abil­ity at the an­chor­age, so enough com­forts to keep the adults happy yet not be overly com­pli­cated or high main­te­nance as busy own­ers only want to jump on and blast off.


The open-plan two-cabin Riviera 395 SUV has the spec­i­fi­ca­tions to ac­com­plish this well, in­clud­ing a base price on par with sev­eral com­peti­tors, so I thought it best to find what lay un­der the bon­net my­self.

Aes­thet­ics can make or break the deal for many prospec­tive own­ers in this cat­e­gory, but for oth­ers – and this is where down­siz­ing Riviera own­ers come in – it must still look like a Riviera. The 395 SUV ac­com­plishes this by con­tin­u­ing

the curved pro­file of its larger sib­lings and those un­du­lat­ing hull win­dows, which def­i­nitely makes it look like Riviera, al­beit in a fairly com­pact pack­age.

The newly-de­signed hull con­tains the req­ui­site high vol­ume for liv­ing be­low decks and enough flare in the bows to be sea­wor­thy while giv­ing the owner suf­fi­cient el­bow room in his suite. Other key de­sign points that dif­fer­en­ti­ate a Riviera from, say, Euro­pean com­peti­tors, are the wise use of bulk­heads and over­hangs to pro­tect you from the harsh south­ern hemi­sphere sun.

Wa­ter ac­cess is an­other ma­jor re­quire­ment, as is dock­side con­ve­nience, and the lat­ter proved fine as I stepped aboard from the pon­toon on Aus­tralia’s Gold Coast where hull num­ber-two gleamed white in the mid­day sun. The wide swim plat­form can house a bunch of kids fish­ing while dad op­er­ates the tran­som bar­be­cue and there is still enough room for the in­flat­able to be stacked out­side against the 316 stain­less handrail.

Un­der that bar­be­cue is a lazaretto to take the de­flated dinghy as well.

Step­ping into the vast cock­pit re­veals the cor­ner seat­ing and din­ing ta­ble with bar fridge nearby. Also nearby is the star­board side Volvo IPS joy­stick con­trol for those tight ma­rina berthing sit­u­a­tions. Most of this area is snug un­der the fi­bre­glass sa­loon ex­ten­sion and side win­dows give plenty light and vi­sion.

Al fresco din­ers can eas­ily reach in through the large open­ing win­dow to their coun­ter­parts at the in­side dinette, per­haps where the par­ents are en­joy­ing a glass or two while the kids mess about in the cock­pit area. This is where fuss-free sur­faces are needed so sim­ple bare fi­bre­glass floor­ing (with syn­thetic teak op­tions) and a vinyl sole in the sa­loon will with­stand a spilt Coke and the sub­stan­tial sa­loon door lip pre­vents sea wa­ter en­try into the sin­gle level in­side/out­side area.

Given that an­chor­ing is ma­jor part of this style of boat, Riviera has en­sured that the rode is ad­e­quate for all con­di­tions thanks to a deep chain locker that avoids chain build-ups and an over­size elec­tric Muir wind­lass/cap­stan with manual over­ride and 35lb an­chor.

Then it’s time to kick-back on the dou­ble sun-pad and slip a few coldies into the drinks hold­ers. Guests can safely join you by hold­ing onto the tall 316 stain­less handrails when mov­ing for­ward. Equally good is the large cleat­ing mid­ships and all round should you go along­side the fuel dock.

The sa­loon is airy and open thanks to ver­ti­cal bulk­heads, large open­ing side win­dows and a stylish visor over the front to shade the in­stru­men­ta­tion. Ac­cess is good via the un­clut­tered cor­ri­dor through to the port­side steer­ing con­sole with dou­ble lounge bench be­hind it and op­po­site is the star­board gal­ley. It’s sen­si­bly lo­cated towards the back so ad­join­ing the aft deck.

This is sim­i­lar to some other mar­ques but what dif­fer­en­ti­ates Riviera is the de­tail­ing. So there are sturdy lon­gi­tu­di­nal handrails, Sun­brella soft fur­nish­ings and light oak wood, plus strong stain­less fix­ings on doors and cup­boards. These are built to last, so main­tain the value of your as­set should you ever sell. Other qual­ity touches in­clude the dou­ble

El­e­gant and fuss-free – an ex­cel­lent space for en­ter­tain­ing.

leather helm bench and an er­gonomic leather fas­cia with Garmin in­stru­men­ta­tion.

There’s twin 12-inch screens for nav­i­ga­tion and a cen­tral one for the Volvo en­gine con­trols. All other sys­tems are man­aged by the New Zealand­made Czone dig­i­tal bus screen and con­trols. Er­ror find­ing is a ma­jor ad­van­tage with these dig­i­tal bus sys­tems so any prob­lems show on the screen.

Tra­di­tion­al­ists will ap­pre­ci­ate the chunky but­tons for repet­i­tive con­trols such as wipers, lights, horn and so on while the kids can pump up the vol­ume of the Fu­sion hi-fi that’s piped through­out the 395. The gal­ley is mod­est but suf­fi­cient – re­flect­ing the day use and week­ender gen­eral clien­tele for this boat.

There’s a deep sink, sin­gle elec­tric hob and mi­crowave con­vec­tion oven – the lat­ter two ap­pli­ances re­quire the 7 KVA Onan gen­er­a­tor to run. Cook­ing needs to be a sta­tion­ary af­fair as there’s no fid­dles to pre­vent spillage. On the plus side there’s en­ergy-ef­fi­cient dou­ble drawer re­frig­er­a­tion and for the non-per­ish­ables, over­head lock­ers.


A wide cen­tral cor­ri­dor be­side the helm leads down be­low where the sin­gle bath­room is star­board­side be­hind the owner’s bow cabin and the mid­ships guest one. The large bath­room has dual ac­cess so the sec­ond door leads to the owner’s

berth. In here vol­ume is high as the tall top­sides cre­ate an airy space, ac­cen­tu­ated by the man-sized open­ing sky­light but the elon­gated side win­dows are a wee bit small.

But the open sky­light should draw in enough air flow to make those tropical an­chor­ages bear­able with­out the rum­ble of the air­con and genset combo. Bed­time should be peace­ful as the queen-sized semi-is­land bed has steps along­side and an in­ner­spring mat­tress that felt sub­stan­tial when I put my own der­rière on it as I clicked on the bulk­head tele­vi­sion and re­clined.

Thanks to IPS pods there’s no bow thruster to dis­turb my reverie so plenty un­der-bed space for stor­age with four large draw­ers for his and hers. Typ­i­cal of Riviera, lock­ers are at pre­mium all round this suite with a tall wardrobe, over­head lock­ers and shelf space.

The 395 shows good ver­sa­til­ity in the guest cabin because it has three beds across its mid­ships lay­out, ideal for a gag­gle of teenagers, or two of the beds can become a dou­ble with an in­fill. Being un­der the sa­loon sole, height is ob­vi­ously re­stricted but padded head­boards should min­imise the bumps.

Hull win­dows on each side re­duce that claus­tro­pho­bic feel­ing, along with open­ing port­holes (with alarms wired to the helm). There’s room for a TV on a bulk­head, van­ity ta­ble and un­der-bed stor­age along with cup­boards; so more than enough for a long week­end.

In the bath­room, the most strik­ing fea­ture is its elon­gated win­dow an­gled down towards the ocean which means users have this kalei­do­scopic feel­ing as they use the sep­a­rate shower unit or stand at the van­ity sink. Moulded tiles are sure un­der­foot yet give a qual­ity touch and should be fairly eas­ily scrubbed. Mir­rors on the two over­head lock­ers are per­fectly placed and fresh air is a short reach above to the open­ing sky­light while an elec­tric head fin­ishes these ex­cel­lent ablu­tions.


The busi­ness end of the Riviera 395 SUV is at first not ap­par­ent, as a small­ish hatch in the aft cock­pit lets you only peep at the twin Volvo IPS 500s. But that’s only un­til you press a but­ton and the en­tire cock­pit sole el­e­vates to fully re­veal the en­gines and pod trans­mis­sions.

Hull in­tegrity de­pends on the fit of this large hatch so it has a deep, re­cessed lip with wide rub­ber seal and a hy­draulic arm to seal it. The 43-foot hull is built around these 370hp su­per­charged en­gines with their for­ward-fac­ing pro­pel­lers.

Tra­di­tion­al­ists un­der­stand­ably view this for­ward-fac­ing de­sign as being vul­ner­a­ble to de­bris but given the well proven na­ture of this en­gi­neer­ing, with Riviera alone hav­ing in­stalled over 1,000, there’s a lot to be said for them when it comes to ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity.

Other haz­ards for any kind of sail drives is elec­trol­y­sis cor­ro­sion and this is some­thing Volvo has tack­led with its QL Ac­tive Cor­ro­sion Pro­tec­tion Sys­tem. This helps pre­vent gal­vanic cor­ro­sion at­tack­ing the metal parts of your stern­drive, a sys­tem that com­ple­ments the sac­ri­fi­cial an­odes. The hand-laid fi­bre­glass hull is heav­ily laid up with a strong keel, col­li­sion bulk­head at the bow and sand­wich deck for in­su­la­tion.

Ser­vic­ing should be drama-free on this lay­out because all key points – oil­ways, fil­ters, belts and elec­tri­cal con­nec­tions are ac­ces­si­ble from four sides. The AGM bat­ter­ies are sen­si­bly placed above wa­ter level, as are switches and other com­po­nents, while

the bilges have suf­fi­cient depth to cope with a leak should a skin fit­ting fail. Also slightly el­e­vated is the 7KVA Onan gen­er­a­tor that sits mid­ships and the air con­di­tioner is on port.


Leav­ing the dock is lit­er­ally child’s play with the joy­stick pod drives pre­cisely con­trol­ling all four points of the hull. A twist on the joy­stick towards your direc­tion of travel pushes the boat that way and Volvo’s use­ful high-power mode is good for windy days, as in fact our day would be.

Sit­ting on the dou­ble leather seat I pushed the throt­tles down while tweak­ing the tab but­ton to flat­ten the bows so that those pesky jet skis buzzing around me wouldn’t cause an ac­ci­dent. Us­ing the In­ter­cep­tor tabs with their wide and deep ver­ti­cal foils gave pre­cise con­trol to the trim on the 395 as I also could tweak each foil to con­trol our heel as I banked into long slow turns.

Stand­ing at the bol­ster seat only a light touch was re­quired on the wheel as I pushed the hull’s shoul­der deeper to spin through some dough­nuts with­out any side­ways slide, then bolted up­right again for a blast in the calm wa­ter­way with only a faint mur­mur com­ing from the Volvos as the Garmin GPS showed our speed top­ping out at a shade of over 30 knots, the speed bar­rier for sport cruis­ers; at least in my eyes.

The ride was smooth with ab­so­lutely no rat­tles from in­side or out while the mo­tor spun at 3,655rpm and drank a to­tal of 144 litres. De­cel­er­at­ing to a more eco­nom­i­cal cruis­ing speed of 26 knots didn’t vastly im­prove con­sump­tion, which showed as 144 litres per hour; over­all slightly more pes­simistic fig­ures than the fac­tory data but nev­er­the­less giv­ing an av­er­age range of 300 nau­ti­cal miles, so more than enough for those blasts along the coast on this sturdy Riviera 395 SUV and lazy long week­ends at your favourite an­chor­age. BNZ

The ride was smooth with ab­so­lutely no rat­tles.

RIGHT A lux­u­ri­ous, well-padded set­tee wraps around the solid tim­ber sa­loon ta­ble. FAR RIGHT From helm sta­tion to bath­room, the 395 car­ries the same im­mac­u­late pre­sen­ta­tion.

BOT­TOM With gal­ley views like this, con­cen­trat­ing on the cook­ing might be dif­fi­cult.

ABOVE Re­lax­ing by the beau­ti­ful sea at san­dinia Re­lax­ing by the beau­ti­ful sea at san­dinia Re­lax­ing by the beau­ti­ful sea at san­dinia. ABOVE Re­lax­ing by the beau­ti­ful sea at san­dinia Re­lax­ing by the beau­ti­ful sea at san­dinia Re­lax­ing by the beau­ti­ful sea at san­dinia.

BOT­TOM If it’s soli­tude and peace you want, re­tire to the fore­deck. If you ask nicely, the skip­per will serve the G&TS.

ABOVE & LEFT The flow between cock­pit and sa­loon is seam­less. On balmy nights al fresco din­ing is com­pul­sory, with much of the fare served straight from the tran­som BBQ.

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