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Riviera 515 SUV

By Peter A. Robson

Riviera 515 SUV

When we think about SUVs, most of us visualize a multi-purpose car. However, in the case of Australia’s Riviera—that country’s largest boat builder—their three, pod-driven SUV models from 47 to 61 feet offer similar versatility, but on the water. Each is equipped for comfortable cruising and/or full-on fishing, and each is built on Riviera’s proven blue-water-ready hulls.

Design and Construction  The 515 hull (LOA is 56 feet, eight inches, hull length is 53 feet) is based on the same running surface as the Riviera 50 Enclosed Flybridge and the Belize 54. The latter was developed while former Riviera CEO Wes Moxey was at the helm of sister company Belize Motoryachts. Moxey returned to Riviera as CEO after it was purchased by Australian tourism and property developer Rodney Longhurst. The Belize hull proved to be an excellent performer so Moxey brought the design back to Riviera and created the two new models.

Above the waterline, the 515 features notably clean lines with Riviera’s trademark wraparound tinted glass windows. The hull is hand-laid fibreglass, solid below the waterline with structural foam coring in the topsides, deck and hardtop.

On Deck  When approaching the 515 from astern, one can’t help being wowed by the clean lines of the huge (106 square feet), beamy, teak-planked cockpit and swim platform. With the hinged bulkhead window and saloon door open, the 515 seems to stretch on forever.

The test boat was fitted with a hydraulic swim platform with a capacity of 770 pounds—enough for a decent-sized dinghy and outboard. Two sturdy staple rails can be moved into any of several positions.

Twin transom doors lead into the cockpit. Between them is the transom storage centre with a double electric barbecue grill, and, on the test boat, a deep live well with a plexiglas window that can alternately be configured for extra storage. While the live well is useful for live bait, in our waters it is better suited to keeping alive those extra crabs, prawns and shellfish.

There’s a very impressive amount of storage in and under the cockpit. There’s also a fish locker in the sole and the requisite sink (and room for an optional icemaker) at the forward end of the cockpit. One very useful feature is the starboard side joystick docking station, which also makes for easy manoeuvering when fishing.

Overhead, the hardtop extends back to partially cover the cockpit and an optional canvas awning can be ordered to extend coverage further aft.

A slightly raised mezzanine area at the forward end of the cockpit has an aft facing settee with storage and a fridge/freezer underneath. The clean layout of the cockpit is designed to allow for folding deck chairs to be arrayed anywhere the owners and guests choose—and to be cleared for fishing.

Wide side decks and well-placed handrails make moving forward comfortable and safe. On the cabin top is a large sun pad with deep drink holders and stainless grab rails.

Interior  While the trend of seamless transition between cockpit and saloon is now widespread, Riviera was one of the first to include this feature, when in 2008 they began installing polished, stainless-framed hinged bulkhead windows that swing up and out. The concept works very well as it connects the two social areas, with the aft end of the U-shaped galley doubling as a serving area for the cockpit.

The doors and cabinetry on the test boat were finished in high-gloss cherry while the soles were finished with a dark oak engineered surface. This contrasts well with the beige leather upholstery. 

The galley is well equipped with plenty of solid countertop space and more than enough storage for extended cruising. To starboard is a linear cabinet with more counter space. Easily accessible from the cockpit, it features four ample fridge-freezer drawers as well as glass and bottle storage. There’s even more storage above. The 515’s galley/bar area is a welcome departure from the Spartan offerings found on most dedicated sport fishing yachts, and certainly a delight for those who love to eat well.   

Forward of the galley is a cozy lounging area with an L-shaped settee and high-low table facing a linear settee. This is an inviting space, a perfect area to settle in for the evening. The sills for the tinted, wrap-around windows on the 515 are lower than usual, which provide excellent views outside. Two huge electric sunroofs bring in ample light and ventilation. The raised helm area is offset to port with twin leather helm seats with bolsters. This is an inviting area, with room for twin flat screen multifunction units and the usual array of electronics and controls, including the well-placed Zeus joystick aft and to the right of the helm. When docking, this positioning allows the driver to walk to port or starboard to better see the distance from the dock, then return to operate the joystick.

The companionway to the forward accommodation area is open to above, atrium-style, and allows plenty of light. The woodwork here is also high-gloss cherry broken up by tasteful fabric wall treatments.

The standard layout has the master aft and to port, one guest stateroom aft and to starboard and one in the bow. The master isn’t huge, but has an island queen with hanging lockers and more than enough clothing storage. There is six feet, five inches of headroom on the inboard side and five feet, 10 inches on the outboard side. A long hull window and opening porthole make the space seem much larger.

The same hull window setup is in the starboard guest stateroom. That stateroom has twin side-by-side berths and room for a washer/dryer unit.

The master ensuite is pleasantly spacious with a separate frameless shower, vanity and porcelain vessel sink. The forward stateroom has almost seven feet of headroom with two hull windows, an island queen, high side cabinets, hanging locker and again, lots of drawer storage. It has a door to a second large bathroom that doubles as a day head with separate shower.

An optional layout has the forward stateroom as the master, utilizing the guest head as the ensuite and the portside one as the day head. Overall, the three carpeted staterooms are all very well done and unlike many guest staterooms, each is comfortable and even the twin-bed guest stateroom is roomy, in contrast to some that are tucked under the saloon almost as an afterthought.

Engine and Systems  Standard power is twin 626 horsepower Volvo IPS 800 diesels. The test boat was fitted with 600 horsepower Cummins QSC diesels with Zeus pod drives. The third option is 725 horsepower Volvo IPS 950 diesels.

The engine room in the 515 is roomy, with standing headroom in some areas and plenty of room to work around the engines. All the wiring and plumbing is neat and well placed.

The 515 utilizes the CZone monitoring and switching system, controlled from either of two touchscreens or via an iPad. The CZone is hooked into pretty well everything on board, except the engines (which use separate SmartCraft digital readouts). As well as monitoring items such as tank levels, AC and DC electricity usage, lights, alarms and so on, users can select one of several modes depending on whether cruising, at anchor, docked or when leaving the boat at the marina. Preparing to head out on the water, enter the “cruise” mode and the CZone will make sure all the appropriate systems are initialized. All the owner has to do is turn on the key. At the dock, all non-essential systems can be turned off with a simple touch.

Underway  The first thing we noticed was how quiet the diesels were (63 dBL at 21 knots). Conversation was easy at all speeds. This is partially due to good soundproofing and the fact that pod systems allow the engines to be positioned further aft than would be the case with shaft drives.

Once clear of the marina, we put the 515 through its paces. At 1,525 rpm we were making 12 knots while sipping 12 US gallons per hour. That translates to a very reasonable one mile per gallon. We climbed up on the plane quickly with almost no bow rise and with great visibility over the bow. Of course, as with most yachts, utilizing the trim tabs makes the process quicker, and the Zeus pods have an automatic trim tab function built into the drives.

A good cruising speed for the 515 is anywhere between 20 and 25 knots, though the fuel curve for the Cummins diesels is pretty well a straight line. For example at any speed between 20 knots (2,400 rpm/37.7 gph) and 26 knots (2,800 rpm/53 gph), fuel consumption only changed from 0.53 to 0.48 miles per US gallon. Even at wide open throttle (28.7 knots/3,060 rpm/63.4 gph) it only dropped to 0.45 miles per gallon. What this means is that when considering distance travelled per gallon, speed doesn’t make a significant difference.

Although the seas were calm during our trial, we did circle back on our wake and the 515 felt really solid and comfortable. The turning radius was not much more than about a boat length and a half, thanks to the pods. The 515 has a keel that runs three-quarters of the way aft and this helps dig in during turns and also makes for better straight line tracking than a planning hull without a keel. Overall, the 515 ran flat and so easily it was hard to believe we were making 25 or so knots.

Concluding Remarks  The Riviera 515 is truly a multi-purpose yacht that has ample accommodation, plenty of storage, excellent coastal or blue-water performance and a gourmet galley for any cruiser. And, because it is a sedan, there is no climbing up ladders or stairs. As an added bonus, the furnishings are top quality, exuding luxury and at the same time, the fit and finish inside and out is superb. Price as tested for the 515 is $1.9 million, duty paid.


<p>Managing Editor of Pacific Yachting. Moo!</p>

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