After a harrowing nine months that began in the last quarter of 2007, Mustang Marine has bounced back from the brink of receivership with renewed vitality and new owners. The company, now owned by the South African-based Standard Bank, with former New Zealand boat builder Chris Heaton at the helm, used the 2008 Sanctuary Cove and Sydney International Boat Shows to showcase its many changes, its new direction for the brand and some new models.
The new M43 Sports Flybridge, created around the Oliver Marine flybridge that Mustang purchased from New Zealand in 2006, is one of the first boats to embody a lot of these changes – many of which are the end result of listening to and acting upon customer feedback.
The M43 is a conventional sports flybridge that gives buyers the choice of two completely different drive systems – the Cummins conventional 490hp QSC-490 or 540hp QSC-540 electronic diesel shaft drives, or the Volvo twin 435hp D6 IPS600s – with the opportunity to latch onto some layout options that result from your specific power choice.
Buyers opting for the new technology IPS system have a chance to install a three-cabin/two-bathroom layout or stick with the standard two-cabin/one-bathroom design – the latter format being the only layout available for shaft-drive engines.
The dual Volvo IPS installation is more than $50,000 dearer than the standard 490hp Cummins diesel shaft drives (or almost $60,000 more if you include a second cockpit joystick docking system), but with the IPS drives and engines installed under the aft cockpit floor, the extra space under the saloon floor has allowed designers to slip some extra space into the accommodation area.
The two layout options both retain the main double island berth in the bow. That extra space under the saloon has enabled a transverse double berth to be tucked under the saloon dinette area on the port side, while on the starboard side, the two upper and lower bunks have been pushed back under the saloon’s lounge area. Between both the second and third cabins and the main stateroom is the owner’s ensuite to port, with a main shared bathroom to starboard.
This is a compact layout, and while the bathroom and ensuite are not huge, everything’s here, including sufficient storage space to adequately accommodate six people in comfort, be it for a weekend away or a two-week family holiday.
There was criticism at the shows that the island berth in the bow is too high, but this, along with the overlap of the cabin and ensuite doors (that prevents access to the ensuite if the cabin door is open), are both easily remedied.
The below-deck décor doesn’t go over the top, but is comfortable, having obviously been built with budget, longevity, and ease of maintenance in mind. There’s a mix of high-gloss lacquered timber doors, door frames, joinery and some bulkheads, with soft linings and a smattering of back padded vinyl. In essence, the bathrooms are low maintenance – white moulded GRP with moulded (Corian lookalike) benchtops and timber for main doors and some joinery.
The single-level saloon, on the other hand, is more upmarket and, along with the flybridge, forms a focal point for the lifestyle this boat is all about. It’s an open-plan layout, with the galley set aft of the huge U-shaped lounge and dinette, and a further lounge opposite. This lends the area a spacious feel, in turn enhanced by the windows that, aside from a switch panel module in the aft starboard quarter, wrap right around the saloon and open it up to its surroundings. Highly lacquered timbers are dominant, complemented by leather lounges, carpeted floor, back padded vinyl on the ceiling and a teak/holley floor in the galley.
The U-shaped galley has a lot of benchtop space, with all the storage limited to below-bench level because of the open style of the saloon. Included is a drawer-style dishwasher, a dual element electric cooktop and a microwave convection oven, with a fridge/freezer built into the bar and entertainment console opposite.
The aft galley is well positioned to serve either to the main dinette in the saloon or out to the aft cockpit, which on top of a host of storage lockers and bins, has a chest-type fridge/freezer. An aftermarket barbeque wouldn’t be out of place here for a cruising/entertaining lifestyle.
The flybridge has the helm station with two helm chairs set aft, and affords a clear view down into the cockpit if the Mustang M43 is to be used for game fishing. Forward of the console is a huge wraparound lounge, with a wet bar to the side. With the hardtop as standard, this sole helm station is a fine place to relax and enjoy the trip in the company of the skipper.
IPS VERSUS SHAFT
According to figures provided by Mustang Marine for the dual 490hp Cummins shaft drives, and those we recorded on this review of the 435hp Volvo IPS-equipped model, there isn’t a huge difference in the on-water speed performance. It’s in the analysis of the rest of the figures that any difference emerges. The shaft drives provide just around 55km/h at 2500rpm using 176lt per hour, while the IPS returned close to 60km/h at 3500rpm using 159lt per hour.
Apart from the ease of docking and direct manoeuvrability, fuel efficiency is an area where the IPS drives appear to have it over the shaft drives. Allowing a 10 per cent safety buffer in fuel capacity, the shaft drives give a range of around 320 nautical miles at 1400rpm/20km/h, and 285 nautical miles at full throttle. The IPS, on the other hand, isn’t any different at 20km/h, but will do 350 nautical miles at full throttle.
On the basis of these figures, it seems there’s a degree of accuracy in the company’s claims that the IPS system can be up to 30 per cent more efficient in terms of fuel economy and performance. As to the claim that the IPS system is 15 per cent faster when it comes to acceleration, I didn’t have the opportunity to make a direct comparison. The claim that IPS is quieter will depend a lot on its installation, engine room insulation and exhaust systems. I can say, however, that our IPS test boat was extremely quiet and acceleration, either from rest or from a low planing speed, was both very smooth and quick.
There is always going to be debate as to the various other advantages and disadvantages of shaft drive over the IPS system, particularly those surrounding service and maintenance, but the one that’s always going to win for the IPS is the change it has made to boat manoeuvrability and the simplicity of docking.
This system has made this aspect of boating so much easier. In fact, with the hand-held remote, docking can be a simple, single-person operation. For the aging population who love their boat but are afraid to go to something a little larger and akward, the IPS system may have just broadened their options.
Much has been said and written about the IPS to date, so I won’t dwell on it other than to repeat that the M43 can easily be docked by one person. It just takes a little while to get used to this new system, and then you can put the boat where you like – even when wind and tide are posing challenges of their own.
Base price for the M43 Sports Flybridge is a tad under $700,000. Add the IPS option, air-conditioning, the three-cabin layout, Raymarine electronics, flybridge clears and an upgraded sound and entertainment system, and that price creeps up over the $800,000 mark. However, that’s still good value for a 14m hardtop flybridge cruiser that has three-cabin/two-bathroom accommodation for six, with potential to expand to 10 with saloon lounge conversions and a double infill option in the second cabin.
There are many other options available, including a host of sports fishing, décor and mechanical upgrades, but as reviewed, the Mustang M43 is a very well equipped and practical cruising boat.
So, do you go for the two-or three-cabin option? It all comes down to how you’re going to use it and what you’re going to use it for. The weekend and short-stay family boaties would have no issue with the space of the three cabins. There are adequate facilities here for a large family or a few friends to enjoy the boat without getting on top of each other.
If you’re into a lot of extended cruising, the standard two-cabin layout is more sensible. It suits the size of boat and what the rest of the boat can actively and continually support for longer periods away from port. This is the only cabin layout available with shaft-drive engines, which is still the preferred drive system for extensive cruising.
SPECIFICATIONS: MUSTANG M43 IPS SPORTS FLYBRIDGE
Length (LOA): 14.39m
Length (LOH): 13.4m
Sleep Capacity: 7-9 people
Weight: 15.7 tonne
Holding Tank: 200lt
Engines (on test): 2 × 435hp Volvo D6-IPS600
Engines (option): 2 × 490hp Cummins QSC 490 Electronic 2 × 540hp Cummins QSC 540 Electronic
Base Price: $692,700
Manufacturer: Mustang Marine Australia, (07) 5571 7255, www.mustangmarine.com.au
Test Boat: Mustang Marine Gladesville Bridge Marina, (02) 8197 9797, www.mustangmarinensw.com.au
PERFORMANCE: 2 × 435hp D6-IPS600
Rpm Km/h Rpm Km/h
600 7.7 2600 33.8
1000 11.5 2800 39.8
1500 15.6 3000 45.4
2000 19.4 3200 50.6
2200 22.5 3400 55.7
2400 28.5 3500 57.7