If you want something fast, exciting, eye catching and capable in rough weather, this boat fires itself directly into the bullseye
For your theoretical £250,000, if you want something fast, exciting, eye catching and capable in rough weather, then the XO Cruiser fires itself directly into the bullseye. It is a fantastic-looking machine with taut lines and a menacing stance, particularly in the blackon-black colour scheme of our test boat. The hull, as with all XOS, is aluminium, but the GRP deck makes for a less utilitarian feel on board and a smattering of creature comforts. That’s the key to this boat – despite its razorsharp hull and thumping great pair of 350hp Mercury Verados on the transom, it is probably the most leisure-focused boat that XO has ever produced. Though the yard’s cabin boats are fantastic year-round tools, the Cruiser is much more effective for dayboating in good weather and entertaining guests. Given the narrow beam the designers have to play with (the XO is over a 1.5ft narrower than the Sea Ray), they’ve had to be smart with the deck layout to maximise its usability. The unit in the aft section is a good example as it plays the part of seating, sunpad and wet bar. Thanks to adjusting cushions and a folding mechanism, the forward-facing bench folds forward to create a two-person sunpad, but it’s at the aft end where the clever stuff happens. Lift the cushions here and they reveal the wet bar complete with sink, grill, top-loading fridge and some wooden storage trays designed to hold cutlery and other cooking tools. The idea is that, at the touch of a button, the whole
unit rises to around waist height but on this, hull number one, it was too heavy to make the move. Clearly something to rectify on future models and it would be worth them spending some time on improving the functionality of the entire unit. The principal of the design is sound but it’s too fiddly as it stands and the whole process needs to be smoother to make it more effective.
A table can be installed amidships and its supplemented by flip-down seats either side that disappear back into the coamings when not in use. Despite being such an open design, the cockpit is tucked down below a substantial windscreen, which does a good job of keeping the wind at bay if you are dining on anchor.
There is a surprisingly spacious cabin below decks too. It’s not going to cater for week-long stays as it lacks cooking facilities and hanging storage for a start, but for weekends it’s comfortable. In truth, most owners will blast over to their chosen destination and find a hotel, but it’s comforting to know that there is a large bed and separate bathroom waiting for you if required. Despite there being no portholes to speak of, the use of white liner and triple-deck hatches overhead ensure it’s plenty bright enough and headroom in the cabin itself is adequate. It’s crouching room only in the heads but it does at least have some storage and a pull-out showerhead. If nothing else, on a boat that isn’t exactly brimming with deck storage, this cabin is a great place to stow kit
and be able to get changed after a swim or watersports.
Just because the Cruiser has a clever deck layout and some creature comforts, doesn’t mean that it’s forgotten where it came from. These boats are built on a reputation of searing performance and go-anywhere ability, and the Cruiser is a 4.4-tonne boat (excluding engines) with a deep-vee aluminium hull (23° at the transom), and 700hp hanging off the stern. With three-blade props instead of the four blades we had on test, it will top out at 50 knots and cruise, with ease, at 40 knots through horrible conditions. It did in Poole during our sea trial, in a terribly steep chop aggravated by a fierce east wind and unkind tide.
You almost plug into this helm like a pilot does a fighter jet. It’s low slung and driver focused with seats that adopt a limpetlike grip to your hips and cushion every landing with shockabsorbing kindness. You can’t comfortably stand to drive this boat so the seated position has to be right on the money, and it is. The substantial throttles jut out of the dash and thrust themselves beneath the palm of the helmsman so they don’t have to lean forward an inch to use the driving controls. Sink into the seat, keep your back straight and let the hull do the work, or the shock absorbers on the rare occasion that you do take a hard landing.
The four-blade props may take a knot or two off the top end but the grip out of the hole and in tight turns is extraordinary. The hull has such a beautifully balanced natural running attitude that you needn’t employ the Zipwake trim system and can mainly concentrate on trimming the outboards so that they are singing sweetly. What powerplants these Merc 350s are – savagely fast, delivering powerful blow after powerful blow even if you are at the top of the rev range. Yet, at the same time, they are smooth and refined and amazingly quiet given the performance they offer. Drop back to 25 knots and the engines and hull combine to make progress so effortless, it’s as if the boat is hovering a foot above the surface of the water. It’s an astonishing machine to drive and what joy that in pursuit of producing a more leisure-focused product, the Cruiser doesn’t forget its roots and still considers seakeeping and performance a priority.
There are changes that need to be made to make the cockpit arrangement more workable and it isn’t the easiest boat to crew given how sparse the foredeck is and that it can only be accessed through the windscreen. However, for its size, it’s one of the most capable production boats on the water that comes with a brilliantly comprehensive standard spec that includes items that most owners would always choose.
Now, though, it’s time to look at another metal boat that will use your £250,000 in a rather different way.
Contact Wessex Marine. Tel: +44 (0)1202 700702. Web: www.xoboats.com
In cruising mode, the two suspension helm seats are supplemented by a forward-facing aft bench
The bench also converts into a sunpad if the British summer ever decides to pay a return visit The helm is driver focused and sensationally comfortable, and easy to use in rough conditions