- … the courageous 44GT feels a bit like a rich man’s folly – thrilling but imperfect.
- It looks superbly self-indulgent, and once up and running it drives beautifully …
Alex Smith heads for Monaco to test a high-end Italian rocket ship from the new boys on the block.
Back in 2006, an Italian entrepreneur by the name of Carmelo Zocco had a very specific ambition. As a lover of fast powerboats, he wanted to create one of his own – but it couldn’t be just another homogenous also-ran. It would have to combine rapier performance with stylistic sophistication. He wanted a crisp, minimalist, automotive-style design that would sidestep the fleeting whims of fashion and offer a more classically distinctive form that would stand the test of time. He wanted to generate a craft that could be recognised and appreciated even from a distance or when tied up at the dock – and he wanted to do all of this alongside a level of detail and a quality of fit-out that would earn the boat a place among the highest echelons of the powerboat world.
When Revolver Boats were eventually founded in 2010, Zocco immediately acted upon this predilection for power and style by outsourcing the design for the first of his fleet to Michael Peters Yacht Design. The boat that emerged was the R42, a 1400hp race machine that made no real attempt to conceal its supersport underpinnings. However, while that initial craft was an out-and-out speed machine, the latest boat to emerge from the Revolver stable is a slight departure. In place of that intimidating ‘R’ (or Race) suffix is the altogether more approachable ‘GT’ (or Grand Tourer) label – and that tends to make us feel like we’re on relatively safe ground. Yes, it means plenty of power and speed, but it also means the ability to keep you warm, secure and comfy, and to go great distances without having to endure discomfort or fatigue. It was with the utmost interest, therefore, that we headed for Monaco to take a closer look at the 44GT.
The finer details
Designed by the highly regarded Italian designer Alberto Mancini of AM Yacht Design, the core concept underlying the new Revolver 44GT is apparently to transfer ‘the qualities of a grand touring car to the sea’. Now it’s always a slight concern to hear a boatbuilder describing his work in car terms, particularly when that descends (as it does here) into florid gushings about ‘moving sculpture’ and ‘high performance in fashion dress’. And yet you can certainly see the automotive influence in the external lines, with 60s sports car-style ‘shark-fin’ vents, not just on the aft end but also in the windows and on the foredeck. There’s also a raked potency to the bow section and a bulging, haunched ‘wheel arch’ line to the stern that echoes very powerfully some of the world’s more exalted marques. Remarkably, however, this theme is also pursued down below.
Step inside and everything revolves around a central column with the dash built into one side and an impressively lofty heads compartment built into the other. At the helm itself are two very high-end sports seats, with another four lined up in a bench-style configuration at the back end. The use of an aft screen that lifts out of the deck and a glass roof that slides back to meet it means you can enjoy full protection and proper climate control in here. In fact, on our test day, it was scorching outside, and yet with a 5kW generator feeding the AC unit, all six of us were able to remain in the cockpit as though languishing in the back of a high-end Bentley. Or at least that might have been the case if the design team had been just a bit more thoughtful …
Despite lovely fabrics, plenty of light and some glittering fixtures (not least in the form of that glorious six-spoke steering wheel), the almost schizophrenic arrangement of roof heights in here is very strange. The most obvious example is on the aft bench, where the outside seats are hemmed in by plunging GRP structures. The result is that they are far too tight for an adult to make use of them. Move further forward and the sheer bulk of the housing for the sliding roof again limits both head height and visibility around the helm – and as you move past the helm toward the bow accommodation, another fibreglass roof angle compels you to bow your head en route.
Even so, the nature of the boat’s strong, lightweight build (vacuum-moulded structures with vinylester resin, sandwich construction and attractively exposed multiaxial carbon stiffeners) means that, like the upper space, the below-deck accommodation feels very clean, modern and architectural. Again, you need to stoop a bit down here, but with a pair of galley prep sections on either side plus a convertible dining section in the bow and a dramatic view aft, around that central heads column, it remains an impressive place to be.
The forgettable details
Despite its aesthetic loveliness (and the triumphant fold-out design of the elegant aft swim platform), there are some odd design choices on the 44. For instance, the light switches are covered by sliding black plastic covers, which are supposed to declutter the walls, but in practice they are as clunky to operate as they are unnecessary. In addition, the lids, hatches and covers are all secured with a pair of locking spring braces, plus catches that require you to ‘prod-lift-twist-and-pull’. This is simply the wrong choice for a boat as it involves using both hands simply to access or close a space. Of course, the extra few seconds of effort might seem trivial in a paragraph on a page, but I’m willing to bet they would take on far greater significance after a million-euro bank transfer and a year of ownership.
Back outside, in stark contrast to its finely crafted arrangement of angled, contoured and vented mouldings, the rubbing strake is a very fat and rudimentary-looking affair with peculiarly clumsy joints. The thick rubber lining around the screen is similarly oversized and similarly imperfect, with a level of finish that would fall short of the standards expected on any production craft, let alone one with aspirations on this scale. And it’s elements like these that make this boat’s price tag of nearly a million euros look so jarringly expensive. After all, you could buy Bavaria’s flagship, six-berth, 44ft sports cruiser plus a high-end Mercedes and a three-bedroomed house for the price of the 44GT. Of course, I know that this lovely boat is distinctive almost to the point of feeling unique, but I also know that in order to succeed, Revolver will need to achieve a more rigorous and unstinting quality of finish than this.
Slick and serene underway
With a pair of 550hp diesels and Arneson surface drives, the Revolver is by no means your average 44ft runabout, and in many ways, the driving experience reflects that. As you might expect of a boat with a rig like this, it takes a good while and a good bit of trim manipulation to get you going, but once you’re up and out, the running efficiency feels splendid, as does the lovely heel and slip of a fast, light-footed turn.
We had very little in the way of swell on our test day but the ride appeared relatively soft – and while there were a few rattles over the wakes (from the lids, the hatches and that bulky overhead roof section), our progress felt as refined as promised. The efficiency also felt quite decent. With six on board and a straight run from a standstill to the top end, our test figures suggest a range of up to 270nm, but when you ease back to a cruise from higher speeds, the nature of the plane suggests that the quoted range of around 400nm at 40 knots with a fuel flow of 100 litres per hour is by no means outlandish.
So far so good, then – but again, there is evidence that this bold new design needs a bit more hands-on testing to snap it into focus. For instance, the helmsman’s ‘high chair’ comes with nothing to brace your feet, which leaves them dangling uncomfortably in mid-air, more than a foot off the deck. Meanwhile, despite the elevation of the chair, the even greater elevation of the dash means the top-mounted compass is not visible from the seated position. You are also surrounded by thick fibreglass structures – not just above your head but also on the screen corners, making visibility much more awkward than it needs to be. And yet from a driver’s perspective, the most difficult feature is the fact that the tab switches are hidden from view around the back of the wheel on the steering column – and not in a place that enables you to operate them with intuitive flicks, but in a place that has you craning forward and around the wheel to see what you’re pressing. Again, then, there’s plenty of potential here, but lessons do need to be learned and applied in preparation for the production craft.
From the clever central column to the multilevel walk-around layout and the closing cockpit with its climate-controlled interior, there are plenty of promising and unusual features to enjoy on the new 44GT. It looks superbly self-indulgent, and once up and running it drives beautifully, with all the imperiously elevated pace and creamy rooster-tail arcs you could want. However, not all of Revolver’s tangents work so well. The fixtures and fittings need reworking, the helm position needs an overhaul and the tab switches need to be relocated. More to the point, the wildly impractical arrangement of head heights appears to have been left pretty much unplanned, and some of the finish on this prototype craft is also below par. In short, as things stand, the courageous 44GT feels a bit like a rich man’s folly – thrilling but imperfect. With time to tweak the details and hone the product, who knows? This oddly charming craft might yet become Italy’s answer to the long-legged Hunton. But for now, it feels like a monument to the pre-eminence of automotive passion over clarity of thought.
- Stylistic flamboyance
- Lofty, light-footed plane
- Generous heads compartment
- Assured handling cocktail of slip, grip and heel
- Poor finish in places
- Flawed helm ergonomics
- No cockpit versatility
- Awkward headroom throughout
- Bulky sliding roof mechanism
- Challenging price tag
RPM Speed (kn) Fuel flow (L/h) Range
1000 7.5 26.0 311.5
1500 9.2 52.6 188.9
2000 10.1 79.0 138.1
2500 12.8 114.0 121.3
3000 47.0 190.1 267.0
3200 50.0 207.0 260.9
- Designer: Alberto Mancini
- LOA: 13.4m
- Hull length: 12.65m
- Beam: 3.57m
- Weight: 8400kg
- Deadrise: 22 degrees
- Fuel: 1200 litres
- Water: 140 litres
- Berths: 2
- Power: 1100hp
- Engines: 2 x 550 hp (405kW) Cummins QSC 6.7 – Arneson Drives ASD 08
770,000 euros (plus VAT)