By Captain Steve Larivee
We think the GT 38 is a noteworthy boat for a number of reasons. While she may look similar to many other express hardtops in class, there are some important differences.
Air Step Hull.
First, is her Air Step Hull which we think gives her demonstrably better performance than the same hull without this design. Our testing has shown that the step is not just something that helps the boat at WOT, but also at all planing speeds.
In the US there are not many 38-footers on the market with diesel power, fewer still that drive sterndrive lower units. This is an efficient combination, giving the owner the economy and range of diesel engines, and the efficiency of dual prop pod drives.
In Beneteau's application, the joystick is standard.
There are a number of advantages to a centerline helm and the GT 38 takes advantage of them. First, three people can sit facing forward. Second, obviously, the skipper is equidistant from each side of the boat making docking a bit easier on one side. Third, there is no fore-and-aft bench seat with people being forced to sit sideways while underway.
Centerline Access to Mid-cabin.
We can think of only a few boats that have centerline access to the mid-cabin in class. This, combined with the engines shoved all the way back to the transom means that this full-beam cabin can have large twin berths running fore-and-aft. If a double is wanted, simply insert a small platform and sleep athwartships.
Natural Light Below.
More and more builders of express boats are discovering techniques of getting more sunlight below. This is an important attribute and it is done on the GT 38 better than on most other boats in class.
A "Step" in the Right Direction
The GT 38 was built with the patented Air Step hull from Beneteau. I've tested a large number of boats in this class and have come to expect the performance parameters to be within a certain window and I'm rarely off. The GT 38 was one of those exceptions. My expectations went out the window as everything I anticipated from the 38's performance was off -- and for the better!
Acceleration was the first thing I noticed a difference in. The Air Step hull really showed itself with the 38's quick acceleration. I measured only 5.4 seconds to plane. This is in a boat with a test weight of over 18,000 lbs. (8,181 kgs.) and a 12'2" (3.71 m) beam. The Gran Turismo 38 was getting on plane within a second of a 4,000 lb. (1,814 kgs.) sportboat with an 8'6" (2.59 m) beam!
20 mph came and went in 7.6 seconds, and we accelerated through 30 mph in 12.3 seconds. Again, all of this performance is just a shade off the marks set by average sportboats. If the driver wants to pull wakeboarders behind this boat, they'll have the time of their lives! (To see a demonstration of this remarkable design, see BoatTEST.com's video on the Beneteau Air Step...)
Running back and forth across wakes showed a marked improvement in the way the 38 penetrates waves compared to others in class. We tended to slice through the waves until reaching the center of the hull, and then continued in a slightly elevated angle catching air underneath. Coming around across our wake just had us gently bouncing over the waves and continuing on course with none of that aggravating back and forth in the heel angle that one would normally expect on a deep-V with a sharp keel. After crossing, a big wake re-entry was gentle and uncharacteristically smooth. Both with contacting the wave, and coming back down, I was braced for the hull to pound, but it never came. The entire action was smooth and gentle.
Turns were another area where this boat handled differently -- and more sprightly -- than most conventional express cruisers. At full speed, I cranked the wheel hard over and we simply entered a 5-degree bank and nearly pivoted around with no grab or slide. It seemed as if the combination of the sterndrives aft and the Air Step together moved the stern around with unusual alacrity. To get a better idea of what I am talking about, be sure to pay close attention in the performance video where we show the GT 38 turning and one will see what I mean. Steering is very responsive with 2-1/2 turns from lock-to-lock so if the driver tends to operate in an area, as I do, that is inevitably plagued with pot buoys then they'll find comfort in the quick handling characteristics of the Gran Turismo 38.
Sterndrive Power for Performance
The second aspect of the boat leading to optimum performance is the fact that it is driven not by conventional inboard drives or even pods, but rather by sterndrive lower units. Because the drives are so far aft and the Volvo Penta Duoprop drives are horizontal to the surface of the water, the standard D4 300-hp diesels can deliver efficient propulsion to the 16,464-lb. (7,470-kg.), dry, boat. Bear in mind that Beneteau's objective is not to produce the fastest boat possible, which would mean putting in high-horsepower fuel-guzzling engines, but rather to power the boat in such a way that it can have a good turn of speed at best cruise where most people run their boats most of the time, and be fuel-efficient.With an empty weight of 16,199 lbs. (7,348 kgs.), full fuel, and 3 people onboard, we had a test weight of just over 18,000 lbs. (8,181 kgs.). With the twin 300-hp Volvo Penta D4 diesel engines turning DP outdrives, we reached a top speed of 34.7 kts at 3500 rpm. At that speed we were burning 39.7 gph for a range of 181 nautical miles with a 10% reserve. Best cruise came in at 3000 rpm and 28.7 kts, where we had a 21.3 gph fuel burn and a range of 208 nautical miles with a 10% reserve. When we compare the GT 38 to other boats in class with both gas and diesel engines we find that the GT 38 compares favorably with both and in some cases, actually goes faster than similar boats with larger gas engines.
In virtually every case we checked, the GT 38 out-performed other diesel-powered boats in class with comparable power.
The swim platform measures 4'6'' x 9'x 6'' (1.37 m x 2.90 m). Our test boat had the optional passerelle installed. Just below was a camera feeding into the helm display. Access to the cockpit is via a small step to the starboard.
The side decks were quite easy to access thanks to two steps from the cockpit and a very conveniently located handrail mounted to the aft end of the hardtop. There are no rails along the hardtop, but there is a molded-in groove that serves the purpose of keeping one secure in conjunction with the 25" (63.5 cm) high side rails.
At the bow, is a large sun pad that measures 6' (1.8 m). There are no rails to the sides but there are drink holders. Non-skid covers the entire deck. At the bow, a Lewmar windlass is concealed under a hatch. There's an opening to the side of the windlass that allows the boater to reach in and deal with any tangles that may occur in the rode. A remote control for the windlass is mounted in this opening, but it's quite a long reach in. I had to kneel on the deck, and swing my arm far down to reach it, which due to the non-skid was a bit uncomfortable for my knees since I was wearing shorts. I'd rather see foot controls installed on the foredeck.
The cockpit certainly isn't lacking seating on the 38. Large U-shaped seating is to port with a wood table in the center. The table folds to provide more room and exposes a grab handle in this position. Opened up, it is large enough for dining at the settee or the lounger to starboard. The table is a high-low so it easily converts into a sun lounge and an option is available to electrically actuate raising and lowering the table. The table is mounted to a hatch leading to the engine compartment. The aft facing lounger is immediately to starboard and is fixed in the chaise position. Ahead and to port is an entertainment center with a sink as standard. Our test boat was equipped with the optional grill and cockpit refrigerator, and I wouldn't want my 38 equipped any other way.
The helm is elevated 9" (22.9 cm) off the bridge deck in order to create extra headroom below in the mid-cabin. Standing next to the helm I have good visibility through the large forward windshield, but standing behind the helm I'm looking at the sunroof frame. At cruise the bow was roughly 5-degrees high which improved forward visibility, so this is the time to be standing behind the helm. Otherwise take a seat. If the boater does choose to stand, they'll notice a departure from most Euro-designed boats in that there is 6' 3" (1.9 m) of standing headroom behind the helm with the sunroof in the closed position.
Our test boat had the optional Simrad display which was dwarfed by the space in the panel. Up to a 15" (38 cm) display will fit if desired but the Simrad is the only model currently offered by Beneteau. However, this is an option and one is free to install whatever they'd like. An autopilot and radar are also offered as optional, and since I cruise in all sorts of weather, I'd consider both on my 38.
As we proceed down below, I notice that Beneteau did a great job of adding natural light to the cabin with a massive piece of smoked glass just ahead of the helm console. At left of the companionway is the ship's electrical panel and stereo with a leather wrapped stainless grab handle. Immediately I noticed that there's plenty of storage in the salon, including a shelf behind the settee for quickly tossing items in, like a good book. There's an L-shaped settee with a high-low table, an option calls for making the table electrically actuated.
Across from the dinette is the galley with the usual cast of appliances. A gas stove is connected to a hookup in the cockpit and the microwave and fridge are concealed behind cabinets above and below. A single basin sink is next to a counter that nicely accommodates a drying dish rack as it is beveled and drains into the sink.
There's a wet head just abaft the galley with natural light above, and an opening portlight to the side adds ventilation.
At the forward end of the salon is a privacy door, not just a curtain, to the forward stateroom. One thing that continually impresses me about Beneteau is the simple fact that I never have to look for a light switch. Just as in one's house, all switches are right inside the doorway, so the boater will never have to search in a dark cabin for a way to turn the lights on, and they are all "hot-wired" so they won't have to search for the breaker in the dark either. Why this simple concept escapes so many builders is a mystery to me.
The forward berth is an island queen accessible only from the front. Two elongated hullside windows and two opening portlights add natural light and ventilation, and there's also an overhead hatch for light, ventilation and egress. I noted the usual cast of storage compartments with one additional… a drawer recessed into the step to starboard.
Abaft the salon/galley is another stateroom behind a privacy door, this time with twin berths convertible to a queen. I noted good standing headroom but if the boater sits on the berth to the right, which is the portside, then watch one's head. The deck above comes down at this point and I knocked my noggin, but if it happens to someone, relax… it only happens once. As this cabin is geared more towards two people, there's increased storage space in the form of shelves in cabinets under the portlights.
The Beneteau GT 38 is certainly a slick-looking yacht, with lots of innovative features that we like: the extended hardtop, the big on-deck dinette, the centerline helm and large mid-ship cabin made possible by the sterndrive engines and the centerline helm. When we compare the 38’s basic specs with other boats in class we find that her beam of 12’2’’ (3.71 m) is in the middle of the pack, and her displacement of 16,464 lbs. (7,470 kgs.) is on the low side of the middle range. Her max headroom of 6’4’’ (1.92 m) is a bit less than American-built boats and both her water and fuel tankage are the lowest in class.This is not unusual as European boats typically have smaller tanks. Consumers should keep in mind that diesel-powered boats have greater range than gas-powered boats and that lugging around unneeded fuel burns extra fuel needlessly. The GT 38 should cruise in the high 20-knot range for about 10 hours with 10% reserve.
Test Result Highlights
- Top speed for the Beneteau Gran Turismo 38 (2012-) is 39.9 mph (64.2 kph), burning 29.7 gallons per hour (gph) or 112.41 liters per hour (lph).
- Best cruise for the Beneteau Gran Turismo 38 (2012-) is 33.0 mph (53.1 kph), and the boat gets 1.5 miles per gallon (mpg) or 0.64 kilometers per liter (kpl), giving the boat a cruising range of 239 miles (384.63 kilometers).
- Tested power is 2 x 300-hp Volvo Penta D4.
Standard and Optional Features
|Outlet: 12-Volt Acc||Standard|
Boats More Than 30 Feet
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