- It has been designed and built on a no-compromise basis in terms of performance, seakeeping, handling and functionality.
- Such a purist approach is inevitably expensive even in boating terms, but the end result is a craft as close to perfection as you are likely to find in this size and category.
- The steering is as quick as the boat and perfectly poised, making one-handed high-speed turns a delight.
- Greg Copp reflects on an unusual craft that combines luxury exclusivity with typical Scandinavian practicality, and is left in no Shadow of a doubt as to its qualities …
You may be wondering why what looks like an Axopar 28TT is brandishing such a clandestine title. The truth is, there is a touch of Axopar to the Brabus Shadow 500 insomuch as it uses the same hull moulds as the Axopar 28 ‒ but that is it. If you are familiar with Brabus, you will know that this German company takes a Mercedes-AMG and totally rebuilds it, from the con rods to the door catches. The end result is an ultra-exclusive luxury car with blistering performance, and a price tag to match.
Brabus Marine, the collaboration of Axopar and Brabus, have taken much the same approach with the Shadow 500 Black Ops. Our test craft is one of a limited production run of 28 boats, whose gun metal grey paintwork puts an extra 60,000 euros on the price tag over a standard Shadow. Using a carbon-fibre/vinyl-ester GRP hand-laid mix for most of its mouldings, it is both light and extremely strong. It has extra carbon fibre in its stringers and forward hull sections, and the transom is constructed totally from carbon fibre – keeping down the stern weight while creating an extremely strong mounting for 500hp of propulsion. The engines are stock bar the Brabus-branded engine covers, but then Mercury have done a great job with their new range of 4.6L V8 outboards, and 500hp for a boat displacing 2.3 tonnes is plenty. Brabus opted for the Pro XS version of the new Mercury 4.6L V8, as it weighs just over 220kg, which no other engine can match in terms of weight/capacity/torque.
The Brabus touch goes beyond the hull and engines. The Silvertex upholstery is superbly stitched and finished, with every seat back inset with the Brabus logo. The dash area has inset carbon-fibre panels and dark polished glass sections, into which the system switches are mounted. The leather-clad steering wheel is designed for that perfect point-and-shoot driving experience, intended to replicate driving a high-performance car. All trim tab controls are mounted in the wheel, along with the Sleipner bow thruster switch and the hi-fi control. Very sensibly, Mercury’s Active Trim system is used to keep the outboard legs perfectly trimmed at whatever speed, so unless you really feel the need to manually tune the leg angle, you simply drive on the throttles.
Like the Axopar 28, there are three layout options: the cabin version, which has a double tomb-like aft cabin with a sun pad on top, accessed through a lifting section within the bench seat; an aft galley, which has a sizeable wet bar/galley across the aft bench seat and includes a big fridge, sink/tap, BBQ griddle and storage beneath; and an open deck, which, lacking a cabin or galley, has an open aft deck area, which like the aft-galley version has access to a large under-deck storage compartment, and a huge storage compartment under the bench seat. All versions enjoy a long, insulated icebox for extra drink storage on the port quarter – easily mistaken for fender storage. All boats are also fitted with a small fridge under the navigator’s seat and a small sink/tap under the helm seat – both accessed by folding the seats forward. Not surprisingly, this boat has a luxury heads compartment fitted with an electrical toilet, entered via a large door at the front of the console. It sits deep, giving enough headroom to comfortably sit down, with a storage area and a Corian worktop-mounted sink.
The forward seating in the bow area enjoys a small drop-in table, as does the cockpit seating area. In the latter case, the helm seats rotate to face aft, so six can sit around it. The cockpit covers are easily zipped in under the canvas T-top to create a fully enclosed area, so in our English climate you have a virtually coupé-like driving experience when you need it. Deck access is perfect on either side, with tall bulwarks running all the way back to twin open bathing platforms flanking the engine. All the stainless work is powder-coated black in keeping with its black ops image. You can order the Shadow 500 in one of three alternative colours, namely platinum, off-white or glacier blue, with a variety of different upholstery colour schemes. For those that want a fully enclosed boat, there is soon to be a coupé version.
Driving the 500 Shadow
The power delivery of the 500 Shadow is much like that of a motor cycle – virtually instant with little delay. There is no cavitation, and the transition from displacement to planing is only really noticed if you watch the bow drop. It hits 30 knots in 5 to 7 seconds, which is hard to calculate exactly as the boat accelerates faster than the GPS can update, so you have to factor in a ‘lag factor’ when timing it. Forty knots flashes up moments later and the boat then hammers on to a top speed of 57 knots. The steering is as quick as the boat and perfectly poised, making one-handed high-speed turns a delight. With so much torque on the transom, I was half-expecting to feel the boat slide its stern a touch when driving hard out of the corners, but the Shadow was having none of it. She will heel hard in tight turns, but that is as far as it goes.
This boat can take some punishment, as heading into the exposed sea further south, the Shadow had no problems running through a south-westerly F5 at speeds topping 40 knots most of the time. There was not a single complaint from the carbon-reinforced forward sections, and as I was advised, she prefers 40 knots to 30 knots in short chop, and consequently picks up the stern just a touch more, making the sharp hull fore sections more effective. The hull has the same lines as the proven twin-step Axopar 28, a boat that bears testament to the efficiency of a good twin-step design. The trim tabs were not needed on our test day, but heavily loaded or running into a head sea at a low planing speed, they would prove useful. Her low sweet spot is around 27 to 30 knots, at which point she is spinning at around 3500rpm and returning around 2.5mpg. Though Mercury do not release torque figures, this is the lowest engine speed at which this motor is likely to produce maximum torque. Her upper sweet spot, conditions permitting, is 40 knots towards the top of the torque curve at 4500rpm.
There is one drawback in using this boat’s offshore potential and that is the seating. Designed as a luxury superyacht tender, you get adjustable luxury seats, which with the seat bolster folded up give you a reasonable standing position, but limited security considering this boat’s temptation factor. At 6ft, I could just see over the windscreen when standing, but someone an inch or two shorter would feel inclined to sit to look under the lip of the screen. Considering this boat’s performance, sprung adjustable-height seats, built in the same luxury style, would be a good idea. This is the only criticism I have of otherwise great helm ergonomics.
The Shadow 500 Black Ops is unusual insomuch as it combines luxury exclusivity with typical Scandinavian practicality, and with its covert colour scheme it is one of just 28 boats. It has been designed and built on a no-compromise basis in terms of performance, seakeeping, handling and functionality. Such a purist approach is inevitably expensive even in boating terms, but the end result is a craft as close to perfection as you are likely to find in this size and category.
What we thought
- Great seakeeping and handling
- Ultra-rapid performance
- Granite-like build quality
- Easy movement on deck
- Good weather protection
- Could benefit from some ‘offshore-focused helm seats’
Fuel figures (Mercury fuel flow meter)
RPM Speed (knots) LPH NMPG
1000 4.3 9.2 2.1
1500 7.3 15.6 1.7
2000 9.7 25.6 1.7
2500 13.0 34.8 1.7
3000 19.3 42.0 2.1
3500 27.0 49.4 2.5
4000 32.0 67.0 2.2
4500 40.2 87.0 2.1
5000 45.0 107.0 1.9
5500 50.2 128.0 1.8
6000 55.0 150.1 1.7
6200 (WOT) 57.0 165.0 1.7
- LOA: 9.18m
- Beam: 2.95m
- Transom deadrise angle: 20 degrees
- Displacement: 1840kg (no engine)
- Power options: Twin 250hp V8 Mercury Pro XS
- Fuel capacity: 280 litres (74 gallons)
- RCD category: B
- Test engine: Twin 250hp V8 Mercury Pro XS
57 knots (2-way average), wind F4/F5, crew 3
As tested: £212,000 (inc. VAT) (depending on exchange rate)