Whether one cares to admit it, whether you like it or not, the current market trend is towards the pod-drive configuration, and Riviera has introduced the third such model in its comprehensive range, the Riviera 53 Enclosed Flybridge, as a dedicated pod-drive model.
A brand new three-cabin two-bathroom model from the keel up, you can buy this model with pod drives only, be it Volvo Penta IPS, Cummins MerCruiser Zeus or ZF, all in either two- or three-engine configuration. And while to most it would visually appear to be more of the same from Riviera, the keen eye will note the slightly higher sheerline and topsides of this new model, especially from amidships forward, suggesting greater internal volume.
While the aft hydraulically operated ADC rise and fall platform was large in proportions, the size of the cockpit it led one onto, certainly quickly reinforced that observation. Riviera Director of Branding, Stephen Milne, was quick to point out though, that this boat was about innovation in design also, so as to maximise this extra space. “With the additional space which accrues from the pod-drive system,” Milne stated, “our designers have gone all-out to maximise every opportunity, with quality appointments and a multitude of user-friendly ideas we have gleaned from our clients and our dealer network. This boat has been two years in the making and over that time our designers have spoken to a lot of people. The end result, this fresh approach to design, signals a new generation of Riviera sophistication and practicality.”
This innovation Milne spoke about began in the cockpit, for there were better mooring cleats and rope guides in each corner, better access out each side of the coamings for the fishermen, a wider transom gate albeit with a tilt-over rather than cumbersome (I never was that keen on the old design) fold-over bridge, and increased storage provision in side and transom cupboards.
Other cockpit features included two distinct levels up from cockpit to saloon level, an aft-facing lounge against the cabin bulkhead for an elevated view of proceedings in the cockpit, on the other side of the saloon door a sink and storage cupboard – and on the rear transom beam an entertainment module to die for. Lift the lid on this unit that occupies the space traditionally devoted to a live-well, and you find an electric BBQ with grille and plate, servery area, cutting board, sink and running water.
The other very special feature, and it has become a Riviera ‘trademark’ of late, was the ‘floating’ cockpit floor which hydraulically lifted to reveal the mechanical side of this Riviera 53. While there are two other means of access to the engines and peripherals in this below-decks aft void – through a hatch at the base of the steps up into the saloon, or if it is inclement weather outside, through a hatch immediately inside the saloon – this electric-hydraulically operated floor assembly perhaps offered the best insight into just how much space was available below decks.
What an eye-opener it was; so large in fact that there is even an option to put a crew cabin in there and still have plenty of room left over. As such, there was good access to every single piece of well-presented engineering associated with the boat; the 3500-litre athwartships full beam integral fuel tank, the grey, black tanks (the 740-litre freshwater tank was under the master berth, in effect just ahead of the fuel tank), the Onan 17.5kVA genset, the Victron Energy 24V/1200W/25A 9901 Multi-Plus Compact inverter and Victron Energy 24V/50A 9403A Skyllatg charger.
The Cruisair 28.1kW air-conditioning units, the battery bank of six house and two engine 112Ah AC Delco AGM batteries; and of course the all-important engines and drives, three 320kW (435hp) D6 diesel, 6-cylinder, 5.5 litre Volvo Penta IPS600 units running twin counter-rotating Volvo Penta T2 forward-facing propellers.
For me, four aspects particularly stood out in this cockpit area. The first was the overhead awning structure – brilliant. The second was the uncluttered look, helped immensely by the omission of an external access ladder or staircase to the flybridge level. The other two, below decks, were perhaps a little more subtle; the first being the realisation the imposing weight of the fuel and water tankage was virtually amidships, thereby greatly enhancing the ride balance of the boat. The second was the actual layout and area devoted to each facet of engineering; perfect in respect of the perhaps not so experienced skipper who may be over-awed by all the mechanicals in a confined space, entwined in an often intimidating spider-web of intrigue and mystique – as is the case in many vessels!
The other perhaps illuminating aspect considering the lack of an aft area for the tender (other than if you clutter the whole swim platform up with a cradle), was the very good access to the bow. Climbing up moulded cockpit steps each side and onto the sufficiently-wide walkways, the bowrail assembly and grab-rails galore ensured the walk forward to the anchoring area was entirely hazard-free. Sensibly, and the base plates moulded into the foredeck somewhat gave it away, your tender and davit would be mounted up here also.
Stepping in through the magnificent Aritex saloon door, the underlying first impression once again was one of spaciousness. Yes the hopper window and the wide entry door enhanced the flow-through look, but the unique galley design to portside and opposite it the compact internal staircase feature to the flybridge – were an efficient use of space.
The U-shaped galley to portside and adjacent the hopper window was an entertainer’s delight, certainly very well spec’d with two drawer-style freezer and refrigerators, dishwasher, Miele cook-top with oven below, and plenty of bench space and storage provision. Forward of this galley and the staircase assembly which incidentally incorporated a further two fridge and freezer drawer combos as well as a magnificent full-height pull-out pantry, was the virtually circular formal dining and lounge area.
To portside was the dining setting which capably seated five people, and following dinner, guests can relax and enjoy desert wines from the adjacent wet bar – on the most appealing leather lounge opposite.
Décor in this room was stunning, the 360-degree window views complemented by the feature ceiling, contrasting vinyl and fabric wall and ceiling coverings, the carpeted lounge and Amtico wood flooring in the galley, and the beautiful gloss cherry wood finish. And, the leather coated front bulkheads; what a revelation and what a most innovative way of softening what are invariably large flat and often unappealing areas of wood panelling.
Between these two bulkhead features was the rather inviting central staircase which led down onto a light and bright central companionway. As is the norm now in your typical pod-drive accommodation layout, this Riviera 53 Enclosed Flybridge offered three cabins and two bathrooms. Décor was consistent with what we found on the saloon level, with generous lashings of deep gloss cherry woodwork complemented with feature bed-heads, fabric panelling, feature ceilings and plush upholstery – ambient is a word that sprang to mind for this area had a non-intimidating homely feel about it.
The for’ard VIP cabin featured a queen-size berth in a room that was most generous in dimension. Storage abounded, there was a vanity setting for the ladies, a cedar-lined wardrobe, an overhead hatch and continuing the LED lighting theme from the saloon, there were lights aplenty. I guess you can do that when you run LED lighting throughout the boat, for the power draw is minimal.
The twin single ‘children’s room, to starboard and opposite the two-way house and VIP bathroom with separate shower and Tecma electric head, was yet another revelation in terms of space allocation, for a double berth would have been equally at home in a room of this dimension. As in the VIP cabin, it was the way Riviera had ‘stepped outside the square’ and approached the little things like lighting, storage, bedside tables and décor – that made it so endearing.
As impressive as these rooms were though, the master stateroom went one better again. Unique certainly not in actual layout but again from a presentation perspective, features to impress in this full-beam amidships cabin included the massive fore and aft king-size berth, the ladies vanity setting to starboard, the lounge to portside, the feature head-board and at the foot of the berth the ‘entertainment’ wall, and, the panoramic side viewing windows complete with round opening and alarmed (no driving off with windows open) portholes each side.
Then, add to this the starboard side (of the bed-head) walk-in cedar-lined wardrobe of gigantic proportions, and the separate shower and head in a bathroom of the other side of the wall to the head-board – and you surely have a room fit for royalty.
The World Above
There was just one more area left to investigate and I must say the flybridge ‘sky-lounge’ up on the third floor of this Riviera 53 was simply – more of the same. With again generous head-height, this was to all intents and purposes a mirror image of the level below, where the formal area flowed through to the cockpit, as one. Ostensibly an enclosed flybridge as the model designation suggests, I am pleased to report however that the aft end was open, but able to be enclosed with the set of ‘clears’.
This contemporary flybridge level was all about lifestyle living, for there was a starboard lounge facing the two Pompanette skipper chairs, then aft of that an ingenious cherrywood assembly which unfolded and completely covered the entranceway; no falling down those stairs. Aft again of this entranceway was a wet-bar module complete with refrigerator, icemaker and on the aft extremity, a remote helm station. Opposite this was a rather salubrious dining setting for five.
Other special features to catch my eye on this level were the backrest on the aft part of the lounge, which slid back and forth so as to enable forward or aft viewing, the generous allocation of appropriately-positioned grab rails, the contrasting décor and the roof overhang which extended out to the extremity of the pulpit cum rocket-launcher’ rails and rod-rack.
A light and bright area courtesy of a sunroof overhead, plus panoramic side windows and aesthetically very pleasing feature windows scalloped into the hardtop, taking pride of place on this flybridge level was however – the space-age, well-appointed helm station. While perhaps unusual to find a station off to the left hand side like this, the associated very real plus with this style of layout was the increased floor space it offered. Features at the helm included two Raymarine E140W screens, the CZone vessel management read-out, a neat console beside the skipper, and Volvo Penta’s single EVC remote controls and joy-stick levers. Yes you heard right, three engines, one set of controls – so, so easy!
You can of course choose between a forward or aft helm station lay-out but from my perspective this was exactly how an enclosed-flybridge station should be. The view when underway was stupendous, both fore and aft and to each side and I must say there was very much a feeling of solidarity when underway – especially when we applied a blast of full throttle and reached a speed of just over 30 knots. For those of you who wish to go faster again, the ZF drives option enables owners the choice of larger horsepower Caterpillar or MTU power options.
This 53 seemingly handled blue water in its stride, it was quiet, we never managed to get any water on the screen (I am sure in bigger seas you would though) and when asked the question in an aggressive tight turn at the cruise speed of 25 knots, it cornered well. Equally as accomplished was the Riviera’s efforts in a following sea – it tracked well – and also noticeable was the rigidity of the hull, for it is built of vacuum infused GRP and composite materials, to ISO and ABYC standards – pleasingly there were no rattles, bangs or shakes And for those who doubt the ability of the three-engine configuration to offer a reasonable cruise range, at 25 knots cruise speed the 53 with its triple IPS600 mode of power – had a range of 400 nautical miles.
Well appointed – yes; innovative – yes; an agile performer – yes; a luxury cruiser in the true sense of the word – yes; value for money – yes! For me, this Riviera ticked all the boxes and while I was most impressed with the ‘new-era’ Riviera 61 model I tested recently, this new model I feel – goes one better again!