by Captain Steve
I've tested a lot of boats in this class, and because of that I've come to expect some characteristics with each boat. However, when operating this Gran Turismo 44, things were a bit different than expected, and for the better. For example, when heading towards a 2' (.6 m) wake, instead of backing off the power and taking the wave nice and gently, I kept the power on and braced for an impact. Only that impact never came. The 44 carved right through with ease and gave a pleasant re-entry. Approaching the wave from the backside, showed that the 44 really tracks well with no tendency to stuff the bow, or wander off course. Beam seas were even better. While I expected a rolling, and therefore nauseating (for the guests anyway) to encounter, the 44 tended to stay fairly level and maintain both lateral and longitudinal stability quite well. All this tells of a boat that has great cruising qualities that you and your guests will truly appreciate when heading off to the horizon. And this boat was certainly made for doing just that. So let's take a look at how far you can go and how long it will take to get there.
Our Beneteau Gran Turismo 44 had a LOA of 44' 2" (13.46 m), a beam of 13' (3.96 m), and draws only 3' 5" (1.04 m) of water. With an empty weight of 22,430 lbs. (10,174 kg), full fuel and three people onboard, we had a test weight of 22,311 lbs. (10,120 kg). With a pair of 370-hp Volvo Penta D6 diesels powering our test boat, we reached a top speed of 33 kts at 3450 rpm. At that speed we were burning 39.9 gph (151 lph) for a range of 158 nm. Best cruise was found at 3000 rpm and 27.2 kts. There we had a fuel burn of 27 gph (102.28 lph) for a range of 192 nm. (If you want to see how many miles you can get per gallon, just click on the "Test Report" tab at the top of this page.)Even more impressive was the acceleration. I measured a time to plane of only 5.9 seconds and we reached 30 mph in just 14 seconds. Of course, all this has a lot to do with the Air Step hull.
Air Step is a patented hull design from Beneteau that injects air under the running surface to reduce friction. We've seen this before with stepped hulls, but unlike a stepped hull, Air Step introduces the air from above the waterline, and injects it on the centerline of the bottom a little more than halfway back from the bow. As the boat moves forward a vacuum is pulled, thus drawing air under the hull. That air breaks up the "stickiness" of laminar flow along the bottom and results in faster speeds and less work for the engine. During our tests for the Gran Turismo 44 we encountered no bad habits due to this Air Step. For example, the Air Step hull does not exhibit the tendency to skip, or fall off the turn, and the Gran Turismo 44 stays much more in control without bleeding off speed, even in a hard turn that would slow most boats down. I've already touched on how well the Gran Turismo 44 penetrates waves, but there is also a noticeable difference in how she responds to the waves. Where others in class will be porpoising and bouncing all, the Gran Turismo 44 seems to remain much more stable and manageable.
Beneteau's version of the express cruiser offers an entertainment venue that allows for bringing a lot of people onboard in style. The aft cockpit is essentially a living area that eliminates the need for going below for anything short of a visit to the head. A large U-shaped settee, capable of seating 6 comfortably, lies to port with a table that is expandable for dining and raises and lowers depending on how you wish to use it. Fully lowered it serves as a base for sunpad cushions. Underneath, on our test boat, were two 4-person life rafts. An optional entertainment center lies to starboard with a sink, grill, and either a refrigerator or icemaker.
A fixed sunpad lies just aft, and beneath is a tender garage capable of holding an 8' (2.4 m) RIB with the outboard still attached. I've seen similar garages in larger boats that require you to remove the outboard for the boat to fit in the garage. The tender is hauled into place with a winch, and rollers flip-out from the swim platform allowing the tender to roll aboard without dragging and harming the teak deck. At the floor of the garage is an access door for the engine compartment.
I liked the helm layout as it had a 12" (30.5 cm) widescreen nav display in the center surrounded by a cluster of analog gauges for both engines, including my favorite, the rudder (outdrive) angle indicator. Engine and sterndrive joystick controls were mounted on a panel to the right and both fell right to my hand quite naturally. Abaft of the controls was a covered compartment housing the fuel and engine shutoffs.
To port is a double-wide observer's seat, and there is access to walk around it. This is a nice feature as your guests will have a comfortable center-mounted seat to enjoy the ride from, and you have another two sets of eyes watching the water.
Visibility was slightly limited at the sides because of the overhead coming down quite low, and because of the thick windshield mullions to the sides. I had to do a bit of head bobbing to ensure that no small boats were in the blind spots. To be fair, I was doing a lot of maneuvering so there was plenty of opportunity for other boats to wander into the area unseen. Normal cruising will not be this way but it's still important to note the few areas of concern regarding visibility. Opening windows to the two sides of the helm deck were a blessing on our hot test day.
The hardtop is standard, and anyone familiar with my reports knows how I feel about hardtops (I love them) and the benefit of having the windshields come all the way up (no distortion from plastic windows). I measured 6' 4" (1.92 m) of headroom in the cockpit. A button on the helm panel opens the massive sunroof allowing you to not only enjoy the fresh air, but to disperse any concerns about greenhouse effect from the copious amounts of glass surrounding you. The 8,000 BTU air conditioning is optional.
One of the unique design features of the Gran Turismo 44 is the amount of glass in the companionway that allows so much light to enter the salon below. All of this is behind the windshield which means that the sunpad on the foredeck is not blocking light from hatches to the salon below. It's a design feature I like very much and I wouldn't be surprised to see if this Beneteau method gets copied on American express boats in the near future. Once below, the area is open and brightly lit. A galley lies to port with 6' 7" (2.0 m) of headroom, and more storage than I've seen on larger boats. Beneteau provides a double basin sink, two burner stove, and surprisingly, a large 218 L refrigerator. The salon to starboard has an L-shaped seat that holds five, and converts to a berth as needed.
Two private staterooms lie to both ends of the salon. Forward is the VIP with the same high headroom from the salon continuing into this room. Two hull side windows provide light along with the overhead hatch, and at the aft end of the windows are opening portlights. An ensuite head has two entrances allowing it to be used as a day head. The master is full beam and has an overhead with varying geometry with the highest section being over a lounger to port. This couch makes a wonderful place to both start and end the day with a great view from just above the surface of the water. The headroom drops at the foot of the berth so be prepared to duck to access the starboard side. The master features a private ensuite head with separate shower stall.
The Beneteau Group is pretty good as putting together options as packages and there are two packages for the Gran Turismo 44. First up is the
consisting of the sterndrive joystick, the aft garage launching ramp and winch, a foredeck sunpad, and a 42 L cockpit refrigerator. The
adds the following to the Dynamic package… a 22" (55.9 cm) flatscreen in the salon, a cockpit grill, a 12" (30.5 cm) widescreen nav display at the helm, Volvo Penta's EVC display, and a depth gauge with water temp.Additional options to consider are the combined electronics pack with a VHF, 4 kW radar, and autopilot. If you leave off the joystick, then a bow thruster would be a nice addition. Of course if you cruise in warmer climates, a genset and air conditioning should be considered. Beneteau did a great job mixing cruising with comfortable amenities and wrapping it all up in a boat that has superior handling characteristics to any other in class, in my opinion. This was a boat that became more enjoyable the longer I spent onboard. I can only imagine how enjoyable this boat would be when spending the weekend onboard, especially if I get to spend the nights in the master stateroom with that great view from the couch.
Test Result Highlights
- Top speed for the Beneteau Gran Turismo 44 (2012-) is 37.9 mph (61 kph), burning 39.89 gallons per hour (gph) or 150.98 liters per hour (lph).
- Best cruise for the Beneteau Gran Turismo 44 (2012-) is 31.3 mph (50.4 kph), and the boat gets 1.16 miles per gallon (mpg) or 0.49 kilometers per liter (kpl), giving the boat a cruising range of 221 miles (355.67 kilometers).
- Tested power is 2 x 370-hp Volvo Penta D6.
Standard and Optional Features
Boats More Than 30 Feet
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