Axopar 28 AC
By Peter A. Robson
An exceptional new RIB-styled, outboard-powered walkaround from Finland
The sleek, clean and sharp lines of the Axopar 28 AC (aft cabin) are striking—and that’s just the start. From bow to stern this new offering is a refreshing departure from the norm. Pacific Yachting was fortunate to be able to sea trial the first Axopar to arrive on the West Coast—and we were impressed! We weren’t alone. The Axopar 28 was recognized in 2016 with three major awards: the European Powerboat of the Year (in the up to 35 feet category); Motor Boat & Yachting magazine’s best in the Sportsboats & RIB category: and the Best of Boating awards’ Best for Fun category. The prize judges’ criteria included overall design, innovation, use of space, performance, good handling and craftsmanship. The Axopar 28 is the only boat to ever receive all three of these awards.
For those not familiar with Axopar, this Finnish company was started in 2014 by Sakari Mattila and Jan-Erik Viitala—former principals of the well known Scandinavian brands Aquador, XO Boats and Paragon Yachts—so they bring a great deal of hands-on experience to the table. The two have since sold their interest in those other companies and are focusing solely on Axopar. Their new brand has certainly caught on, with more than 300 of the 28-footers built and sold since 2014.
The first model in the Axopar line was the 28 and the company has since introduced 37- and 24-foot models. One of the impressive aspects of Axopar is their base price and all options are clearly posted on their website (in Euros), making it easy to sort out the cost from the safety of your computer (exclusive of the outboard engine, shipping, duty and taxes).
Design The lightweight fibreglass hull is based on a RIB design with a low centre of gravity, which makes the Axopar very stable. The rectangular cabin is the most striking feature, with squared off corners and a forward sloping front window. The plumb bow and stern are also notable design features that help give the Axopar its unique look.
Two prominent “steps” in the deep-V hull help reduce surface tension when planing and combine with a very sharp V-entry hull for smooth riding and enhanced fuel efficiency. Axopar uses monocoque construction (structural skin, imagine an egg shell) where the deck becomes an essential part of the boat’s overall integrity and strength. One benefit is a much lighter boat than usual, which means less horsepower is required.
While most boats of this size from Europe are designed for inboard diesel engines, the Axopar 28 was specifically developed with an integrated bracket for an outboard.
Deadrise aft is a comfortable 22 degrees. The hull is solid fibreglass below the waterline while the topsides are cored. The stringers are glued to the hull and then hand laminated to ensure better bonding strength.
The Axopar 28, in addition to the aft cabin model tested, is available in open cockpit, T-top and enclosed cabin configurations.
On Deck The walkaround decks and raised bulwarks with sturdy stainless hand and grab rails make it easy to move around. One can board by climbing over the bulwarks or stepping onto the swim platforms to either side of the outboard engine bracket.
On the test boat there wasn’t a lot of room aft of the main cabin due to the raised trunk cabin (with hatches to the berth below), but there were multiple cushions that formed a sunpad/seating area on top of the trunk. In contrast, the standard “Cabin” model does not have an aft berth and therefore no raised trunk cabin allowing for a more spacious cockpit.
The head/toilet area is in an unusual location. Instead of being accessed from inside the cabin, it’s accessed externally via a hatch in the forward end of the main cabin. The head compartment is quite wide and contains a manual flush head connected to a 40-litre holding tank. The test boat was fitted with the optional 45-litre fresh water system and a tap in the head compartment sink.
Up on the forward deck is a V-shaped seating area with cushioned seats, backrests and a Flexiteek-topped table, which can be lowered to make another sunpad. Up in the bow is a locker for the anchor and chain. The entire deck area from bow to stern is self-bailing which means any water that comes aboard, doesn’t stay aboard.
Overall, we were very impressed with the fit and finish of all exterior areas. Axopar certainly isn’t cutting any corners when it comes to quality of construction.
Interior The cabin is compact but comfortable, with access through wide port and starboard sliding doors. These doors are robust and the sliding mechanism is well engineered.
Most of the cabin space is taken up with the twin helm seats and an aft settee, all beautifully upholstered. The helm seats swivel to face the aft settee and there’s an optional table designed to fit between the two. The seats also fold down into a double berth.
The 28 will appeal primarily as a day boat/commuter or yacht tender, as opposed to an overnighting cruiser. However, despite a lack of counter space, there’s an option for a cold-plate fridge unit and/or single burner “hob” gas cooktop tucked under the two helm seats, which can be hinged out for access. If pressed to dine aboard, owners would probably be better off by hanging a barbecue over the side and keeping a cooler tied down on deck, though the fridge option would come in handy.
The aft settee is split and hinged to allow access to the double berth behind. There is only about three feet of headroom here, but the two overhead hatches in the trunk cabin top, as well as side windows, make this area less confining than many other yachts with quarter-berth-type accommodations. This area would certainly sleep two adults, or simply serve as extra storage.
The helm area is simple and clean. There’s a recessed iPad mount so the unit can double as a chart plotter. However, there’s plenty of room for one or two Garmin GPSMAP 7410 or 7412 touchscreens that can integrate with a sounder and radar. Other helm instruments include a unique trim tab control that uses a joystick. There’s an optional bow thruster control and Mercury Marine’s versatile VesselView digital engine readout and control unit. The angled front window should reduce glare while large side and rear windows provide exceptional all-round visibility. Above is a large manual retractable canvas sunroof.
As with the exterior, we could not find any fault with the high quality construction and craftsmanship throughout the interior.
Engine and systems Standard power for the Axopar 28 is either a 200 or 300 horsepower Mercury XL Verado outboard (though the boat is rated for as low as a 150 horsepower outboard). The test boat was fitted with the 2.6-litre, 300 horsepower Verado—a powerful, smooth-running and quiet supercharged, six-cylinder four-stroke gas engine. We were immediately impressed by how amazingly quiet it was. At idle, you simply could not hear it running.
The test boat was also fitted with the optional electric Side-Power SE40 bow thruster—a worthwhile feature, especially in a tight or cross-wind docking situation.
Another important factor in our climate is cabin heating. To this end, a Webasto Air Top 3900 forced air heater is offered as an option. It comes with an integrated 24-litre diesel tank with its own fuel filler.
There is no dedicated windshield defroster, though exterior vents push fresh air down on the windshield. With the Webasto option, air is pushed up to the windshield from console vents. Of course, there are also the large side doors to provide ventilation.
Shore power and a battery charger are options that would assure the batteries are always topped up.
Underway As notable as the Axopar 28 was at the dock, it was even more so underway, even with four passengers and full fuel tanks. Acceleration was quick and we slipped effortlessly onto the plane. The steering was light and pleasantly responsive and the turning radius only about two boat lengths. We carved into turns with ease, even at its top speed of 43 knots (6,000 rpm). At a more sedate cruising speed of 27 knots (4,000 rpm), the fuel consumption was a remarkable 1.6 litres (0.42 US gallons) per mile. This translates to 2.4 miles per gallon or 11.3 gallons per hour. For its size, the Axopar 28 can boast some of the lowest fuel consumption numbers we’ve ever seen.
On the day of the test, there was a strong westerly blowing in the Strait of Georgia and despite the two-foot chop, there was absolutely no pounding and the movement of the boat was soft. Another pleasant surprise was that, despite the chop, we never took a drop of water over the bow. This is an outstanding characteristic.
Driving the Axopar was a real pleasure, either standing up against the helm bolster or sitting in the comfy helm chair with feet on the well-placed footrest. The sea-kindly handling should make it a snap to travel short or long distances to the cabin or across the strait for the day in comfort and in all but the worst weather.
Concluding Remarks The Axopar 28’s main draw will be as a commuter boat/day boat, a megayacht tender, or perhaps as a fishing platform. It could be outfitted for overnighting, but that clearly isn’t its best use. The performance and fuel economy are both outstanding. Fit and finish, as noted, are also first-rate. Its striking design is another feature that will draw in customers, though according to the owner, it’s already creating a buzz wherever it goes. Freedom Marine has just been appointed the dealer for Axopar in British Columbia, and at the moment, they are the only authorized dealer in Western North America. We’ve heard that Axopar’s order books are pretty full, but regardless, we’re sure to see more of this impressive offering on the West Coast beginning this season. Price varies with options, starting at $125,000 with the 300 horsepower Verado outboard, plus tax, landed in B.C. For a look at Axopar models, options and further pricing, visit Freedom Marine’s website boatingfreedom.com.