The Italian Solaris 47 is intended to meet both sides of the performance-cruiser equation – and reward the discerning sailor.
- Excellent helm station
- Good ride
- Spacious entertaining and living areas
- Contemporary styling
- A fast cruiser that's easy to handle
- Lovely open feel to main deck
Beneteau’s latest Sports Cruiser, the GT 40, makes quite a stylish statement. Combining sweeping curves with a steeply raked, one-piece windscreen and funky angular windows, she looks fast even at rest.
The Gran Turismo’s GRP hull is infused with vinylester resin, while the decks and superstructure are balsa-cored composite to keep weight down. Featuring Beneteau’s Generation II Air Step hull, the GT 40 is good for 35 knots and cruises happily at 25-30 knots with twin Volvo Penta D4 300hp diesels and duo-prop sternlegs.
Wide open spaces
The teak-soled bridge-deck area is open at the rear with steps on the port side leading down to an expansive, electrically-operated, submersible swim platform. There’s no cockpit as such – or it’s all one large cockpit, depending on how you look at it – and the whole aft deck is one level.
This layout works particularly well, with a natural flow between the ‘wet’ area with a BBQ and optional bait station on the swim platform and the ‘dry’ area under the the hardtop and canvas awning extension. On the starboard side moulded steps afford access from the platform to the side decks and bows and there’s side deck access on the other side from the aft deck.
The GT 40 is provided with side and rear drop covers. When they’re fitted, the aft deck is cosy and warm, diesel heating easily banishing a chilly morning on review day. With drop covers removed, the aft deck feels wonderfully open and fresh, especially when the vast sliding roof panel is open to the sky. Electric side windows also roll down.
The bridge deck entertaining area is naturally social with seating for up to 11 people and the option to turn most of it into a large sun lounger (or extra sleeping accommodation). It features a central wet bar with a 12v Isotherm fridge on the port side and dedicated space for a cooler under the settee on the starboard side.
Double hatches in the sole lift to access the D4 Volvos, PVC fuel tanks, mechanical and electrical systems, with plenty of stowage space left over for bulky items, including an inflatable tender and outboard. Beneteau hasn’t skimped on sound suppression, so the boat is quiet underway.
The sun lounger theme is continued on the foredeck where removable squabs cover virtually the whole deck. They’re fitted with adjustable backrests for added comfort. A stainless-steel Ultra anchor and an all-chain rode take care of anchor duties and there’s a wrap-around bow rail for security on the fore and side decks.
Somewhat unusually, the GT 40 helm position is on the boat’s centerline. The stylish, modular helm console is designed so that everything falls easily to hand. There’s space on the dash for a single large-screen MFD, in this case a 12-inch Simrad unit with radar, GPS-chart-plotter and sonar, switch panels either side, a centrally-mounted compass, electronic throttle and shift controls, trim tabs, auto-pilot, Volvo electronic gauges, bowthruster controls and a joystick for low-speed, close-quarters maneuvering.
Volvo Penta’s joystick steering was developed for IPS but is now available for sterndrives as well. It works very well, making berthing the GT 40 a breeze, especially with the extra help of the bow thruster.
This particular vessel is quite highly specced. She’s a syndicated boat with many factory options ticked, but the base vessel is $699,000, which sounds pretty decent for a 42-footer. With a length overall of 12.67m she’s too big for a 12m marina berth, but the Beneteau’s large volume hull offers a mix of comfortable accommodation and great indoor-outdoor flow with more usable living space than many equivalent vessels.
Below decks is a well-appointed galley with a spacious seating and dining area that connects with the bridge deck via wide companionway steps. Curved glass panels, one of them sliding for easier access to the steps, and opening port holes flood the cabin with light. A tinted glass door shuts off the below decks from outside and the vessel’s main switch panel is on the wall in the companionway.
It’s a light and pleasant place to be, with colour-coordinated upholstery and cushions, textured easy-clean moulded surfaces and oak veneer paneling, doors and floor. The kitchen cabinets are painted in a warm creamy-yellow, which contrasts nicely with green cushions and the vessel’s lighter-colored upholstery and walls. The drop-down table converts the settee to another double berth
There’s drawer storage in the under-bench galley units, which also accommodate a fridge and a rubbish bin, with room for crockery in the overhead units, one of which fits a microwave. More space behind the counter tops keeps large benchtop items secure, in this case a Nespresso coffee machine. Cooking is gas, on two burners, or use the rail-mounted BBQ on the swim platform. A deck galley is a Beneteau option.
The GT 40 is a two-cabin vessel with the master in the bows and the second cabin tucked up under the bridge deck sole forward of the engine room.
The bow cabin features a queen-sized island berth with storage underneath. The cabin is simply decorated, its white moulded surfaces contrasting nicely with dark walnut veneers. Light blue accents work well. An opening skylight with night and insect screens complements the cabin’s long, narrow side windows.
The second cabin occupies the vessel’s full beam. It has two fore and aft single berths, or by adding infills it can be configured as a large double. There’s reasonable storage for clothing and gear, and while the moulded ceiling is low, it doesn’t feel cramped. Beneteau has cleverly provided standing headroom down the middle of the cabin, so it’s easy to dress. The bathroom is shared. It’s a decent size, but there’s no separate shower box.
Air Step hull
The Beneteau GT 40 sports the second generation of the company’s ‘Air Step’ hull design. Stepped, angled channels in the hull direct air underneath the rear section of the vessel where it’s trapped against the hull, forming a cushion of air. This not only softens the ride, claims Beneteau, it also reduces friction on the hull, resulting in fuel consumption and performance benefits.
The boat certainly gets along nicely. It’s very responsive and feels quite sporty. Top speed is 35 knots and it cruises at 25-30 knots. Beneteau reckons Air Step 2 has given the boat and extra knot and a half at the top end, with better acceleration as well. It feels like you could cruise all day at 25 knots: it’s reasonably quiet and there’s very little buffeting on the main deck even when the rook and windows are open. Noise has been well-suppressed. Fuel consumption at 25 knots showed as 35 litres per hour per engine.
I really like the helm position, which offers excellent vision in all directions. The raked windscreen with its single wiper is vast. With the roof open, the screen still directs the slipstream over your head, even if standing up to drive. Both seats have fold-away bolsters for thigh support when standing and are adjustable fore and aft.
This is an easy vessel to helm. It’s the first in New Zealand with Volvo Penta’s IPS joystick control mated to sterndrives. Drive it in conventional fashion using the electronic throttle and shift and it behaves like any other sterndrive vessel, which to all intents and purposes means it’s like driving an outboard powered trailer boat, only bigger. But engage the joystick controller, which is only possible at low speed, and you are treated to a whole new level of manouevring finesse. And there is a bowthruster as well!
Trim tabs level the boat nicely and an automatic mode takes any guesswork out of trim adjustment. The vessel adds cruise control to supplement the autopilot, so sitting in the helm seat can be quite relaxing.
Value and performance
The Beneteau GT 40 has a lovely open feel, especially the cockpit-bridge deck area. It would be a great boat for summer, but easy-to-fit cockpit drop-covers and diesel heating mean it will be cosy in winter as well. The sleeping arrangements are flexible and the boat is well equipped for Kiwi-style boating, whether taking day trips or longer cruises.
A sporty character, sharp handling and stress-free joystick docking, matched with Euro styling and a versatile layout, should give the Beneteau Gran Turismo 40 broad appeal.