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Maritimo 2023 S-Series LEADERBOARD

Did I like the Beneteau Gran Turismo 32?

by John Curnow, Global Editor, Powerboat.World 12 Jun 2023 18:15 PDT
Give me the wheel! Beneteau Gran Turismo 32 © John Curnow

One word? Captivating. Yes. That's the word to use to describe my relationship with this boat, and here are some additional 1650 words following to elaborate on that.

Now I wasn’t the only one either… There were three of us independents on board for the day of our test, and we all sang a fairly similar tune. So clearly the hymn sheet had been passed around. Must have had a title like ‘All hail the Queen’…

Anyway, it is fair to say that when I passed the helm over, the next guy ended up being a bit of a Captain Araldite. Can’t say I blame him either, for if I had not been taking pics, there is a good chance I would have been accused of the exact same thing myself. Let’s just pause there. Isn’t this THE very essence of it all? Do we need to go further?

Having pondered that, it is time to crack on. Space and amenity are the very first things you see and feel, with fitment and finish above par for a boat in this class. It’s nod of the head type stuff, and everyone going, yes, yes, yes, yes. The next element sort of creeps up on you a bit. It is ride, turn in, drivability, sure-footedness, and stability, all the while remembering it is just a 32-footer. The final piece is the most important, was decidedly there, if not so much elusive at first, and it is downright surprising - a lot of fun. A lot.

So what is it? Let’s break it all down as to why the Beneteau Gran Turismo 32 is so much fun?

Now there was undoubtedly a bit of memory lane for me too, as the Beneteau GT32 had a lot of hallmarks of my family’s Fjord 30 from back in the 70s, only with an incredible amount of extra amenity added in.

How so? Well the fixed hardtop with electric sunroof is awesome and so required in a lot of climates all around the globe. Gone are the skinny side decks, and instead you don’t need to negotiate the often-perilous pathway for’ard, but just walk through from the main deck via a door and opening windscreen. If you’re a sun lover there is ample lounging available, and it can be covered by removable awning if you so choose.

Yet it is that full beam main deck that deserves all the accolades really. It is bigger than many a 40-footer, and the aft deck in this stern drive variant with the 2730mm wide and 1800mm (4.9m2) extended swim platform is so much down the current superyacht cascading flow towards water level as to be both hilarious and incredible, all at the same time!

If you’re 70m LOA, then Beneteau’s GT32 can be your ‘Mini Me’ tender. Better yet, just place it on your shadow boat and get on with the partying.

Seriously though, anybody worth their salt in this business is all about making sure the right people get on the right boats, as it makes it better for everyone involved. As I turned the wheel, admired the scenery through the expansive glass pilothouse (as it were), and adjusted trim after countless launchings from scratch, I got to contemplating this very point.

At something in the order of AUD600,000, where do we place the GT32? It is efficient with the twin Diesels, spacious as we’ve mentioned, including the twin cabin, single head layout, comes with grill, stove, sink and refrigeration everywhere it would seem, comfortable and relaxing, and most importantly, I get to use that fun word once again.

Now there are longer, second-hand sports cruisers out there at maybe half the price. They will have had their 20th birthday (or more), and without anywhere near the amenity, it is just not apples with apples. Anyway, I must have voiced my thoughts out loud, for one of the other, very experienced crew just said to me, “Once the family gets on board the Gran Turismo 32 it will be game over!” Bingo. Thank you Dorothy Dix.

So that takes care of the heart stuff, but what about the head? Service and maintenance are entwined with time and age in boating. i.e. They get decidedly more expensive as they age. Also, older vessels are narrower like a 727 versus an A330, and the level of accommodation is reflected in this, as too whether it is inline shaft or sterndrive, and remember, a lot of older boats will be petrol driven. 150-200lph is way, way, way different to 60-90lph combined (i.e. both donks).

So that’s fuel (never to be overlooked), and ride/stability with beam meaning you won’t rock about too much in the anchorage whilst you’re enjoying all that space you just bought with your GT32. Equally, the newer generations of sterndrive legs (also often referred to as Z-Drive) such as the Bravo 3’s fitted to our boat are way better than the early ones in terms of componentry and maintenance (the original ones were designed for freshwater lakes), and also offer better steerage at slower speeds than outboards.

Equally, sterndrive means vital deck space is returned to you, and improves the ride characteristics immeasurably with the weight for’ard of the transom, not hanging way out aft. Being contra-rotating dual screws ensures there can be no torque steer, either, and in terms of docking you may not have prop walk, but you do have bite, and in conjunction with the bowthruster it is dead easy.

Anyway, enough with the frivolity thank you!

Our vessel had the MerCruiser twin 230hp V6s, and there are optional 260hp V6s on offer too. You’ll find 30 knots WOT when lightship with the base motors, and it equates under the 80% rule to a 24-knot cruise, which you’ll have to do, as the Airstep® hull loves being here or above that mark. It is like a nice aerated flat white. Not too fluffy like a cappuccino, just right.

Personally, if you can opt in for it, then go the higher output TDIs. It is not so much about the extra two knots at WOT, as it is the fact you’ll cruise more effortlessly at a slightly higher 25 to 26, bring the 5800kg (dry) up on the plane better (which starts from just over 12 knots), and the extra tonne you’re going to place on board when all the guests arrive and sit well aft won’t bother you. Trust me. They’ll want to come too, for one trip is enough to have the word spread, as we have said numerous times here already. BTW, the consumption between the two is pretty much line ball at 60-70lph at cruise for a 230nm range, which is what you’ll want to do, and the others will want to grab the wheel to experience for themselves…

I could not wait to get offshore of the Gold Coast where there was a very mild Sou’easterly swell line of probably nearly a metre, with perhaps a 30cm Nor’east wave from the benign breeze. We came out of the notorious seaway at about 19 to ensure we could assess the conditions correctly, which was comfortable, but once out I was off at 28 with a bit of bow up, but not as much as inshore, to let her get the air underneath.

It was definitely here that the notion of being sea kindly was planted and sealed. As we approached the shark nets it was time to assess turn in, and there was some loss of pace (down to about 18), but the dry glass was testament to a well thought out hull. That undeniable aspect of fun followed immediately, so I went back the other way. Also have to say that the optional Zipwake interceptors are a must. They did not interfere with the turning, yet did an awesome job with list when back inside the Broadwater. Tick that box on your order. Say no more.

Doing all the turn ins and fly bys past the Lomac Turismo 660 RIB that was our photography boat was a hoot, and also highlighted that you must have the legs totally down for accelerating out of the hole. This is crucial and do not attempt it in any other fashion.

Whilst I remember, it is four turns from port to starboard, so when manoeuvring make sure you check this beforehand, because as it is not joystick and electric, there is no centring function. The rudder indicator is important here, and this includes when launching, as well, so use it. Also deploy the ‘Docking’ button on the clutches to soften the blow when the gears engage. Don’t want to spill the passengers’ drinks and all…

Seeing as we’ve gone from at pace to quayside, this GT32 backs down, all right, I tell you. Remembering that she is open, she’ll do four knots astern no problem, and be dry. The only time you might see a bit of water approach the wet bar behind the helmer is if you back off the gas from speed to idle in one fair swoop.

Probably now is also a good time to talk about how well it steers at both idle and at pace. This adds to agility and also fun, and you find yourself making the comment ‘this is a great little package’ with a very impressive hull delivering a great ride and sense of competency.

For a little boat, as it were, there's a lot to love. And importantly there's a lot of boat on offer, which we've been talking about. So by and large, it's a bit of a win. It is true that this hull is deployed across other parts of the Beneteau Group, but it is only with this specific boat that you get all of these things in the one place. It’s brilliant, and I am not the only one who thinks so.

So don’t say no. Say yes! Just like everybody else I have come across who has been on board the Beneteau Gran Turismo 32 sterndrive.

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