If you want some­thing fast, ex­cit­ing, eye catch­ing and ca­pa­ble in rough weather, this boat fires it­self di­rectly into the bullseye

Motorboat & Yachting - - Travel -

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

The bath­room has crouch­ing head­room only but it does make overnight stays pos­si­ble The nar­row vee berth is ba­sic but over­head hatches al­low plenty of light and air in

Flip the bench seat for­ward to re­veal the wet bar and stor­age draw­ers

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