Riviera's 515 SUV, launched at the Riviera Festival of Boating in May, fits right into a very sweet spot in the market - it's not too big, not too small and has the right layout arrangement and performance to suit most people looking for a boat of this style and size.
My sea trial took place on the waters of the Gold Coast and, while the sea state was moderate, with just a long steep swell, there was enough to get a good feel for the hull's handling. In the head or following sea, the 515 was viceless and easy to drive. There was very little bow-up attitude as I pushed the throttles to get the boat onto the plane and maximum speed was achieved very quickly.
This is a 50ft boat with a huge amount of volume, yet it doesn't feel imposing. It's a boat that offers precise response with the Volvo Penta IPS pod drives and is comfortable to drive.
Although a production boat, the 515 SUV comes with some flexibility to change the master stateroom to forward or aft and, with it, the bathroom/en suite arrangement. If the forward cabin is chosen as the master suite, the starboard-side day head can be separated so it's only accessible from the forward cabin. The port bathroom then becomes the joint bathroom and day head.
The portside master in our boat had a central queen-size bed with night stands on either side, loads of storage lockers and drawers, plenty of head height and huge side ports.
Riviera has certainly not skimped on the space in the en suite, with a very large shower stall and full-length Corian-topped vanity. There is terrific headroom, storage above and below the vanity and a raised ceramic bowl. The sole is covered with a high-wearing synthetic timber-look material and all the timber cabinetry is finished in matt varnish.
The forward cabin is very traditional, with a raised central island berth, storage in all available spaces and generous hull windows. While the third cabin in a boat of this size is often a bit of a compromise, not so in the 515 SUV, with two full-size single berths in a generously proportioned cabin. Storage is provided in hanging lockers and drawers and there's an extra-large side window with separate opening porthole.
I was impressed with the well-lit ambience as you walk down to the cabins, courtesy of the open lightwell above. The interior throughout is bright, with American oak timbers offset with darker teak accents and soft-tone fabrics. I was very impressed with the quality of the timberwork, right down to the timber grain matching and the preciseness of the gaps.
When I first stepped into the saloon, I felt I could spend all day there. It's very inviting and, like the rest of the 515 SUV, is light and bright. The Webasto overhead sliding sunroof hatches and the low-profile large windows play a central role in complementing the overall mood as well as allowing uninterrupted water views - seated at the twin Navigator helm chairs, you can see from the bow to the transom.
On the starboard side forward is a pop-up TV and entertainment centre. An ingenious three-seater lounge hides a centre table that is discreetly hidden within the lounge and can be set by moving the middle lounge base out. That becomes an ottoman (complete with inner storage) for additional seating at the convertible dinette table to port at the large L-shaped settee.
The generous U-shaped galley offers everything a chef would require, including a convection microwave oven and double-burner hot plate with pop-up fiddles, and a bank of drawer refrigeration and freezers. Ample storage is provided in drawers and lockers above and below the Corian benchtop. Under the starboard-side bench is a handy set of drawers, with dedicated slots for glasses and wine or spirit bottles.
The large gas-assisted awning window at the rear of the galley really enhances the connection between the galley and the cockpit and when the glass sliding door is also opened, the entire rear bulkhead of the 515 SUV is unrestricted. Riviera has made use of the space above the galley by way of a neat lockable rod storage locker that will handle up to five rods.
The 515 SUV's cockpit will unquestionably be a popular social area - not that fishermen have been forgotten, though. The boat comes with four sidedeck rodholders and deep coaming toe kicks, while the full-width aft boarding deck serves as the perfect fishing platform. A deep bin in the walk-around transom console can house an optional catch bin or a livebait tank with filter and glass front.
The cockpit seating features a portside lounge with a fridge and insulated bin located just behind, with optional table and loose chairs. There are storage lockers under the wide side coamings and in a very spacious self-draining, moulded lazarette integrated into the cockpit floor. A module to starboard houses a sink and icemaker.
Good sun and weather protection is provided by the cabin top overhang and the optional cockpit awning with side clears, while transom doors either side of the cockpit provide easy access to the boarding platform. An optional ADC rise-and-fall platform can extend the boarding platform's length.
The Riviera 515 SUV has three engine package options: twin Cummins Zeus pod drives at 600hp each engine, Volvo Penta IPS800 rated at 626hp, or the Volvo Penta IPS950 at 725hp per engine. Our test craft was running a pair of Volvo Penta IPS800s that gave a top speed of 32 knots (59km/h) and I would expect the IPS950 would run the boat around the 35 knot (64.8km/h) mark.
In the engine room, a well-conceived layout in a space boasting full headroom and a gelcoat finish permits easy access to the engines and componentry.
When Riviera launched the first of the SUV series at the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show in 2012 it knew it had a winner and, with the 22nd 445 SUV sold at the recent Riviera Festival of Boating, Riviera admits that sales have broken all expectations.
"The success of the SUV has been remarkable and now, with the 565 and the 515 in the SUV range, I am more confident than ever that we are going to continue to improve on that early success of the SUV range," said Stephen Milne, Riviera's Director of Brand and Communications.
Very European in appeal and with nothing compromised for space, the new 515 SUV is destined for success. If you are looking for a great family cruiser or a boat for two couples that's easy to handle, offers great outdoor living, as well as huge interior and accommodation areas, then the 515 SUV should be on your shopping list. I know it's on mine!
Specifications: Riviera 515 SUV
Displacement (dry): 23,000kg
Fuel capacity: 3000lt
Water capacity: 750lt
Power: Volvo Penta IPS800 626hp; twin 600hp Cummins Zeus pod drives; twin 725hp Volvo Penta IPS950
Price from: $1,435,000
Price as tested: $1,597,532
For more information, contact: Riviera Australia, tel: (07) 5502 5555 or: rivieraaustralia.com.au.