BOAT REVIEW Highfield Patrol 600

August 2021 Trailer Boat Reviews
Words by Norman Holtzhausen, Photography and video by Roger Mills.
OUR RATING
4 STARS
Performance
Economy
Handling
Value
Build Quality
Specification
MODEL DETAILS
MODEL Highfield Patrol 600
DESIGNER Swift Boats
BUILDER Highfield Boats
CONSTRUCTION Aluminium hull, PVC tubes
PRICE AS TESTED $POA
SPECIFICATIONS
LOA 6M
BEAM 2.48M
ENGINE Suzuki DF140hp
FUEL CAPACITY 140L
Weight on Trailer 1100 kg
Max Horsepower 150hp
Passenger Capacity 14 people
DEADRISE 26 degrees
HIGHLIGHTS
  • Space
  • Well constructed
  • Suzuki fly-by-wire controls
OBSERVATIONS
  • Offset console helps movement in the bow area
  • Very easy to manoeuvre

Until recently the Highfield brand of aluminium-hulled RIBs has been relatively unknown in New Zealand. And yet they are probably the world’s leading manufacturer of RIBs and tenders, having delivered over 27,000 boats in just 10 years since the company’s formation.


The boats are now sold through a worldwide dealer network into 45 countries. Tracing its lineage back to the Australian line of Swift boats, Highfield is now a joint French-Chinese-owned company with a dedicated factory in China. It has the benefit of Australian design and technology, European management and Chinese manufacturing.
Here in New Zealand Highfield boats are distributed by Aakron Express, a company with a portfolio that in addition to boats also spans trailers (of all types) and outboard engines. So it’s well-placed to provide a complete end-to-end solution for the prospective trailer boat owner and have its own network of 19 dealers from Dunedin to Kerikeri.

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The new Highfield Patrol 600 is a solidly-built aluminium-hulled RIB with large PVC tubes. Adding to its appeal, it is one of the first boats in the country to be fitted with Suzuki’s new drive-by-wire electronic controls. Launched by Suzuki late in 2020, this technology was a world-first in the mid-range outboard market.
The technology’s already well-established at the top end of the market, with most outboard brands offering a digital solution for their 200hp and larger models. But Suzuki is the first manufacturer to make digital throttle-and-shift controls available further down its line of four-stroke DF115BG and DF140BG models. The Patrol 600 is fitted with the 140hp – and it makes for a stunning combination.
The review boat’s semi-military style grey and black colour scheme is a very popular option at the moment. A super deep V profile with a 26o deadrise offers maximum ride comfort from the solidly-built from 5083 aluminium hull.
Although every hull design is a compromise, a RIB like this has the best of both worlds with the wide tubes providing stability at rest to counter the tenderness of the deep V. And yet at speed those tubes are clear of the water, providing a fast, comfortable and efficient ride as she lifts onto her planing strakes.


At 6m LOA, the Patrol 600 sits in the middle of the Highfield range (it extends to an 8.2m model). Still, the wide 2.48m beam (near maximum street legal without special towing considerations), makes for a very roomy boat. Another trick Highfield has implemented is to offset the centre console slightly to starboard, creating an easy walkway between the forward area and the stern. Other seating configurations are also available.
I couldn’t fault the design or workmanship of the hull. The welding is exceptional and the powder-coated finish is flawless, and very hard-wearing. Lifting points are a standard feature in this model, since one of its target markets is as a tender for a larger vessel. A super-robust rollbar is fitted in the stern – it does double duty as a mount for the VHF antenna and navigation lights, and also becomes a sturdy towing point for water toys or skiers.
The helm’s well-placed midway down the hull. RIBs sometimes have the weight positioned too far aft, causing safety issues if the bow rises too quickly under hard acceleration. The Patrol 600 has no such problem, and even with only two occupants seated in the rear half of the boat the weight distribution was spot on. The double helm seat is, like most items on this boat, well thought out and multi-purpose. A windscreen provides shelter for the skipper and passenger while seated, and a T-top is available as an option.
A stainless footrest under the seat swings up, providing a space for a chilly bin to slide in – it’s held securely in place when that bracket is swung down again. A sturdy grab rail all along the sides of the centre console ensures safety when moving past the console, and the seat squab swings up to act as a back support when standing at the helm.
The front cockpit provides further seating in a double bow seat with a storage locker underneath. The latches for this are covered in sturdy rubber – a great shin-saving idea. A forward-facing seat on the console swings up to reveal another large storage area as well as provide access to the back of the helm.


The anchor locker right in the bow also forms a wide and stable step, along with another flat pad over the bowsprit on the top of the tubes. Together these provide a set of steps for getting on/off the bow, such as onto a wharf or another boat. All walking surfaces – as well as the deck area – are covered with a brushed foam teak finish covering that is non-slip even when wet. It’s also comfortable on bare feet.


Tubes are divided into six separate sealed sections – they’re offer a wide and comfortable seat. There are grab ropes and protective pads all the way along both sides. A heavy-duty rubbing strake along the widest point outside the boat protects the tubes from damage when coming alongside a wharf or another boat. This boat has Mehler Valmex PVC tubes but Hypalon is also an option.
Some features are less visible, such as the 140-litre underfloor fuel tank and Maxtek hydraulic steering system. Being an open boat, water in the cockpit can be an issue but there are two systems for dealing with this. Normally the cockpit drains into the bilge where a large-capacity automatic bilge pump gets rid of it. In rough conditions there are plugs next to each drain to close these up, and the scuppers are then opened to allow the cockpit to self-drain through the transom.
Instrumentation on this boat is reasonably basic – it’s destined to serve as a superyacht tender. A Lowrance Elite FS 7 provides chartplotter and fishfinder functions, with a Suzuki digital display for the engine. A digital switching system is installed into the dash, and everything is touch-control. A VHF and stereo complete the dash installation.

Drive time
With digital controls starting the engine is a push-button affair – the Suzuki DF140 murmured into life. Handling was light and easy, and once we were clear of the inner harbour we nudged the digital throttle forward. Happily, the throttle remained firmly wherever we positioned it, with no tendency to move even during vigorous wake-jumping.
The digital controls also protect against user error – it’s not possible to slam the engine from forward into reverse – the electronics handle the transitions without causing damage. Low-speed manoeuvring is particularly pleasing – repeatedly switching between forward and reverse is instant and smooth.


With just two people on board a speed of close to 40 knots came up quickly, pretty good for a 6m boat with just 140 horses. The hull is rated for up to 150hp, although I’d say even the smaller 115hp Suzuki will be more than adequate. The effects of that deep V hull with the planing strakes were immediately obviously – the hull flies along smoothly. The big pontoons kept the spray out the boat, keeping us dry.
Tights turns were also easy and comfortable, with the pontoons coming into play to grab and helped to haul the boat around sharply with very little side-slip. I also explored a bit of driving in reverse and could see when the scupper drain valve feature could be useful. And through all of this that wonderfully light shift and throttle was an absolute pleasure.


Again, with that very light engine control bringing her back to the boat ramp and onto the trailer was easy. Despite being to light to use it provides positive feedback, there is no doubt whether the engine is in gear or neutral.
Overall, the Highfield Patrol 600 is a fine example of a 6m RIB. A roomy interior, fantastic ride quality, ample power and easy controls. The powder-coated aluminium hull is very tough, and with slightly upspec’d electronics she would be a fantastic fishing, diving or general family boat.
As tested, she is a robust tender for her new owner, rated to carry up the 14 people or a similar weight of supplies for her mothership/>

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