SUNSEEKER PREDA­TOR 50

A world ex­clu­sive test of the all-new Sunseeker Preda­tor

Motorboat & Yachting - - Contents - Words Nick Burn­ham Pic­tures Richard Lang­don

In 2013 the high-end 50ft sports cruiser mar­ket went into hy­per­drive. Sunseeker launched the San Remo at the Lon­don Boat Show in the Jan­uary. It looked fan­tas­tic, with sleek styling and an op­tional open­backed hard­top over the main deck cock­pit area. The in­side was a stylish and beau­ti­fully wrought co­coon of qual­ity, com­plete with full beam master cabin. But there was no get­ting away from the fact that it was just a con­vinc­ing up­date of Sunseeker’s Portofino 48, some­thing that larger hull win­dows and neat in­te­rior de­tail­ing didn’t en­tirely dis­guise.

When Princess launched its new-from-the-keel-up V48 later that same year, al­though the ba­sic lay­out was sim­i­lar, it did high­light some of the San Remo’s short­com­ings, most notably the lack of full stand­ing head­room through­out that full beam master cabin. Princess also in­tro­duced the con­cept of a deck saloon ver­sion as well as a more tra­di­tional open-backed hard top (cun­ningly launch­ing the open in Cannes and the deck saloon ver­sion al­most si­mul­ta­ne­ously at the Southamp­ton Boat Show). It was a for­mula that Fair­line mir­rored with its Targa 48, also avail­able in Open and ‘GT’ (deck saloon) ver­sions, plus a Squadron 48 fly­bridge vari­ant. All had IPS600 and all were two cabin with the op­tion of swap­ping the lower dinette for a third twin-bunked bed­room. Sim­i­larly priced once you matched the spec­i­fi­ca­tions, the trio fought head-to-head for sales.

For 2018, Princess has up­dated the V48 to cre­ate the V50, iron­i­cally in much the same way that Sunseeker had up­dated the 48 Portofino, by cre­at­ing larger hull win­dows and up­scal­ing the in­te­rior fin­ish. But this year it’s Sunseeker’s turn to pull the wraps off a new from-the-keel-up model. The San Remo is dead, long live the Preda­tor 50.

On pa­per the con­cept is broadly sim­i­lar, a hard top sportscruiser sport­ing the clas­sic Sunseeker curve to the sheer­line ac­cen­tu­ated by the stain­less steel rub­bing band, and the equally clas­sic blocky Sunseeker script at the aft end of the boot top line. The only slightly jar­ring note is the way that the rub­bing band changes di­rec­tion when it reaches the en­gine vents. Get up close and per­sonal and you re­alise that this is a re­ally tall boat, side decks at eye level when you’re stood on the pon­toon. Large triple sec­tion hull win­dows closely mir­ror the rest of the Preda­tor range, as does the pro­file of the hard top. Step aboard and you’ll dis­cover that Sunseeker has com­bined that ex­tra height with a cou­ple of ex­tra feet in the length and 8in more in the beam to ban­ish the word com­pro­mise for ever.

LIFE ON DECK

It’s not the hull win­dows or the hard­top pro­file that earn this boat its Preda­tor moniker, it’s the fact that it has a proper deck saloon whereas the San Remo was all cock­pit on the main deck. But un­like Fair­line’s Targa 48 or Princess’s V50, you don’t lose the ten­der garage as a re­sult – there’s still space for a Wil­liams 325 be­hind the tran­som. You get the sun­pad on top too, al­beit split

by a fold­ing back­rest that al­lows you to choose be­tween for­ward fac­ing cock­pit seat­ing or ly­ing full length. A very pleas­ant touch is an aft fac­ing seat ahead of it; so many boat cock­pits only al­low you to sit fac­ing the saloon doors, leav­ing the view be­hind you. It’s a neat lay­out and it keeps the cock­pit short, max­imis­ing the in­te­rior space. Move into the saloon (linked or shut off from the cock­pit by a top-hinged win­dow and a con­ven­tion­ally open­ing, rather than slid­ing, glass door) and it feels mas­sive, helped by enor­mous side win­dows. It’s no il­lu­sion ei­ther, as the in­te­rior length of the Preda­tor 50 matches that of the Preda­tor 57. Sunseeker is stay­ing tight-lipped about vol­ume com­par­isons - the Pred 57 is larger, but not by as much as you might think.

The most ob­vi­ous ben­e­fi­ciary of this ad­di­tional length is the large C-shaped seat­ing area around the ta­ble as well as a sep­a­rate L-shaped raised set­tee next to the helm. Over­head, the one carry over (in ap­pear­ance at least) from the San Remo is a large car­bon fi­bre slid­ing roof sec­tion with in­set glass pan­els so that it only shuts out the weather, not the light. Fin­ish is typ­i­cal Sunseeker, high qual­ity satin cherry as stan­dard, with sil­ver oak or walnut in gloss or open grain satin at ex­tra cost.

Head down­stairs and the lay­out is en­tirely fa­mil­iar, a guest cabin for­ward with its scis­sor berths of­fer­ing vee berth sin­gles or a cen­tre­line dou­ble and en­suite ac­cess to the day heads. The space op­po­site the gal­ley can be con­fig­ured at build with ei­ther a dinette or a twin-bunk third cabin. The full beam master cabin is aft. But while the ba­sic setup might mir­ror the boat it re­places, the ac­tual feel­ing is quite dif­fer­ent. It’s down here that you re­ally feel the ben­e­fit of that in­creased height: the head­room in

the gal­ley is vast. But that ex­tra space is also three di­men­sional; there’s masses of el­bow room, enough to add a third leg to the gal­ley in the form of a neat break­fast bar (al­though you’ll have to delve into the op­tions list and pay ex­tra for stools if you’d like to sit at it). And that master cabin now has full height head­room ev­ery­where. Okay, the floor might jig up and down a lit­tle more than the very shal­low steps of the V48 floor, but your scalp is safe. The stan­dard lay­out in­cludes a small ta­ble with op­pos­ing seats un­der the star­board side win­dow, but you can swap this for a set­tee or match the chest of draw­ers fit­ted to the port side for a small ad­di­tional cost if you pre­fer (that last op­tion isn’t a bad one be­cause while stor­age is good, there’s noth­ing un­der the bed ex­cept diesel – the fuel tank lives there). Talk­ing of ad­di­tional cost, “sprung mat­tresses for all beds” is also on the op­tions list, which feels a lit­tle mean in a £750,000 boat…

DRIVE TIME

So the Preda­tor 50 is a ‘space ship’, all in­te­rior com­pro­mise ban­ished. The (three quar­ters of a) mil­lion pound ques­tion is, has that com­pro­mise sim­ply been shifted across to the driv­ing experience? At the helm all seems nor­mal, the 16in Volvo dis­play of­fer­ing vir­tual en­gine in­stru­men­ta­tion as well as nav­i­ga­tion (there’s space for a match­ing sec­ond screen) and the usual IPS joy­stick sited just be­hind the throt­tle levers. But all is not as it seems – there are no pods pok­ing out of the hull of this boat, in­stead you’ll find con­ven­tional shafts and rud­ders. That joy­stick (in­cluded with each of a range of pack­age up­grades) links en­gine con­trols, rud­ders and a 12hp vari­able speed bow thruster to of­fer Ips-style ma­noeu­vring and dock­ing. Just like IPS, push the stick where you want to go and the boat responds. Twist it and the boat spins. So why the change? With that ex­tra height, length and beam comes ex­tra weight and while the 435hp from each IPS600 unit was enough to push the San Remo past 30 knots, for the larger Preda­tor 50 ad­di­tional power was needed. Up­grad­ing to more pow­er­ful IPS units would have pushed up the cost to the point where con­ven­tional shaft drives started to make more sense, so the en­gi­neers opted for vee drive shafts, al­low­ing the engines to sit in much the same place as IPS drives and leav­ing space ahead of them for that gen­er­ous full beam master cabin.

The first tell­tale is a cul­tured flair of revs on start up from the wa­ter­line height side ex­hausts. At low speed the boat is ex­cep­tion­ally quiet, and as the revs build the deci­bels barely rise. The bow does though, block­ing sight lines as the Preda­tor climbs on to the plane, enough to re­quire half tabs and sit­ting on the raised seat bol­ster to main­tain good vi­sion. In fair­ness, tall bow cush­ions in place for the photo shoot didn’t help – if you were go­ing any dis­tance you’d prob­a­bly re­move them. The wind­screen is a long way ahead of the helm and the mul­lions are swept stylishly back, which blocks pe­riph­eral vi­sion a lit­tle, al­though in prac­tice it’s one of those things you no­tice when the boat is sta­tion­ary but seem to work around un­con­sciously at speed.

The flat calm sea con­di­tions weren’t very con­ducive to ex­plor­ing the outer reaches of the new boat’s sea­keep­ing abil­ity, only the wash from 74 tonnes of Preda­tor 74 photo boat at a frankly im­plau­si­ble 40 knots pro­vid­ing any kind of chal­lenge. The Preda­tor 50 thun­dered through the moun­tains of wa­ter stream­ing off the 74’s stern quar­ters with the slightly blunt feel of a boat tuned to­ward space rather than pace, but it’s hardly a fair

test. In more nor­mal cruis­ing con­di­tions the Preda­tor 50 feels ev­ery bit as ca­pa­ble as you’d ex­pect of a Sunseeker.

The steer­ing is en­tirely elec­tronic rather than hy­draulic with no phys­i­cal link to the rud­ders them­selves. Nor is there a tie bar be­tween the rud­der posts, both move in­de­pen­dently of each other, pow­ered by in­di­vid­ual elec­tric mo­tors, al­though a syn­chro box means full steer­ing can be main­tained should one mo­tor fail. With no re­quire­ment for phys­i­cal lever­age, the steer­ing is su­per quick. Just over one turn whips the boat from the straight ahead to full lock, slightly over two turns crank­ing you hard over the other way, and it’s fin­ger­tip light. The Preda­tor 50 banks en­thu­si­as­ti­cally in re­sponse, feel­ing ev­ery inch the sports boat, even though the shaft and rud­der setup means the ac­tual turn­ing cir­cle at speed is fairly broad. It’s still a fun steer though.

VER­DICT

There’s no get­ting around the fact that the Preda­tor 50 is nearly 20 tonnes of vo­lu­mi­nous boat, not an ag­ile slalom skier. It’s built for cov­er­ing ground and it does that well, and most of all, qui­etly. At the helm it’s barely any louder at 20 knots than it is at tick­over, and that raised seat­ing area along­side means that the whole crew can gather and en­joy the jour­ney. In fact, they’re bet­ter off here than in the cock­pit, where in­evitably it’s nois­ier with just a hint of a vor­tex ef­fect that will even­tu­ally frost your sun­glasses with a light dust­ing of salt spray.

So the new 50 is a big­ger (and more ex­pen­sive) boat than its pre­de­ces­sor and its com­pe­ti­tion, but does it live up to its Preda­tor billing? The an­swer is an em­phatic yes, pro­vided you ac­cept that the Preda­tor moniker is more about sporty styling com­bined with world class lux­ury and re­fine­ment than sear­ing pace, ra­zor-sharp han­dling and off­shore wave-jump­ing – th­ese days it’s what the mar­ket de­mands. It is a gen­uinely good look­ing boat, the shaft drive gives it more of a ‘big boat’ feel, and it re­tains enough driv­ing dy­namic to jus­tify the ‘sport’ in sportscruiser. CON­TACT Sunseeker Lon­don. Tel: +44 (0)207 355 0980. www.sunseeker.com

It’ s built for cov­er­ing ground and it does that well and qui­etly

The glass doors slide out of the way to clev­erly open the in­te­rior to the cock­pit

The U-shaped fore­deck seat­ing en­sures there is space for deck hatches above the VIP cabin

The open dash­board al­lows nat­u­ral light to flood down into the lower deck lobby

L E F T There is space for a Wil­liams 325 in­side the ten­der garage MID­DLE The aft-fac­ing bench makes the cock­pit more so­cia­ble RIGHT The raised seat­ing area ad­ja­cent to the helm is great on pas­sage

Tra­di­tional shafts are the only op­tion on the 50, though there is an op­tional joy­stick

Ro­tat­ing Sunseeker logo that al­ways stays cor­rectly ori­en­tated what­ever the po­si­tion the steer­ing wheel is in Cool all-black dash marred slightly by white en­graved warn­ings. We’ll be care­ful Sunseeker! Touch pan­els are an in­evitable part of modern boat­ing, but this one is small and hard to read in sun­light

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