Given that we were heading out onto Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay towards the middle of a very mild autumn, with the morning sun and brilliant blue sky providing a welcoming backdrop, you could almost imagine yourself cruising the Côte d’Azur.
It also helped that we were on a craft that would fit perfectly with any image of the iconic Mediterranean boating playground.
Beneteau is a name more commonly associated with sailboats here in Oz but, increasingly, the brand is gaining local recognition for its comprehensive range of powerboats, for which it is equally well recognised internationally.
The test boat featured is from the Gran Turismo range of sports cruisers designed by award-winning Italian studio, Nuvolari Lenard, which has penned many superyacht designs. The same studio also designed Beneteau’s larger Monte Carlo Yachts range of luxury cruisers, with many features of the bigger boats spilling over into the updated Gran Turismos.
Provided by Sundance Marine in Melbourne, the GT 40 is the result of a makeover of Beneteau’s GT 38 and is presented as a European sports cruiser that is also particularly well suited to the Australasian cruising environment.
My own experience on the day certainly supported the premise, particularly given the bright blue skies and intense sunlight streaming through the large electric sunroof.
With a light chop that increased to about a metre as the day unfolded, the conditions allowed us to sample what Beneteau calls its Air Step hull feature, which, with the launch of the GT 40, is now in its second generation. Basically, it funnels air from pick-ups about midships in the hull sides to channels under the hull. The air then spills rearward as the boat achieves planing speed, the idea being that the layer of air reduces friction with the water for increased speed and fuel efficiency, while improving handling.
It is also claimed to soften the ride in choppy and rough conditions, which I can confirm based on my own time aboard. There is very definitely a sensation that bumps are being cushioned as speed increases.
The helm responds effortlessly and, once on the plane, the GT 40 sits nice and level. Driving into the chop at speed also confirms that it is a decidedly dry boat.
The upper decks are really all about enjoying the sun and wide open spaces, beginning with the optional large submersible hydraulic swimplatform, which is wide enough to accommodate water toys or a tender.
Enhancing the outdoor appeal and entertaining potential of the twin-cabin GT 40 is the aft galley, complete with electric grill and sink. But from here on forward, it’s all about luxury, comfort and style, with the large and open cockpit area offering plenty of reclining and dining options.
Quality teak decking is used throughout the upper decks, while upholstery is both elegant and sumptuous, with stylish optional inlay accents on the test craft adding a nice touch.
The cockpit is accessed via a gated port stairway that leads up to a broad and welcoming area. The L-shaped starboard rear lounge is serviced by a foldout table that lowers to convert the area into a sunbed between meals. Opposite is a compact two-person bench seat, with another rear-facing compact bench seat in the middle of the cockpit backing onto the helm. As expected, there is plenty of under-seat stowage available. Up to 12 guests could be accommodated in comfort in the cockpit, which is serviced by a 50lt cockpit fridge.
With the aft cooker and fridge, the cockpit offers a self-contained entertaining area, with no need to go belowdecks, except for restocking.
Electric side windows, combined with the large sunroof, aid airflow and provide even more connection with the outdoors.
Primary access to the twin 300hp Volvo D4 sterndrive diesels (twin 370hp engines is an option) is via a strut-assisted hatch in the forward cockpit floor. There’s good access to most of the systems you’d want to check on regularly, including batteries and filters, although more complicated engine servicing would require lifting the whole cockpit floor. There’s also a more compact access point under the cushions in the starboard rear cockpit corner.
Performance on the day was in keeping with expectations for the engine size and hull length. In ideal conditions, the twin Volvos are capable of around 34 knots (63km/h), according to factory figures. While cruising at 16 knots/2400rpm (30km/h) the tanks empty at around 60lt/hr, which translates to a range of around 325km (175nm).
A feature of the GT 40 I was particularly impressed with is the raised helm amidships, which can be accessed either from behind via steps up from the main cockpit or by stepping up from the forward companionway to port. It accommodates three – two in the centrally located and bolstered twin helm seat and one on a swivelling seat to starboard.
The elevated position ensures excellent visibility in all directions, particularly forward through the expansive one-piece windscreen, and I’d dare any experienced skipper to find fault with the stylishly presented dash layout and controls, which are all right where they need to be.
Electronics on the test boat included a Simrad 12in primary multifunction display, plus VHF radio and in-built AIS transponder, supported by a Volvo engine monitoring display. Dual throttles fall easily to reach while a joystick control linked to the bowthruster provides fuss-free docking.
The wheel encapsulates the look and feel of the GT 40 with its Euro sportscar look and leather-wrapped rim. More leather is accounted for around the interior in the form of sleeves enclosing various grabrails around the boat.
Access forward is safe and secure courtesy of near full-length bowrails. Once up front, guests can take advantage of the generous sunpads with in-built drinkholders.
A large entrance that helps spill light into the interior provides access belowdecks. Stepping down, you enter another world entirely, beginning with the saloon/dining area to port that would accommodate two couples. Opposite is the galley and there’s enough space in between so that people can move about without rubbing each other up the wrong way.
A ceramic twin-element electric hob, small sink and 80lt fridge combine to provide good food preparation and storage facilities, while there are plenty of deep cupboards, shelving and self-closing drawers to store the necessary hardware.
Internal timber work is a tasteful combination of Alpi walnut cabinetry and laminated brown oak floors.
Forward is the owner’s cabin, dominated by a conventional island double berth surrounded by plenty of shelving and storage, all illuminated by natural light via the overhead hatch and side windows with small opening ports for fresh air.
Guests enjoy even more space in the full-beam aft cabin, although height is somewhat restricted at the rear due to the intrusion of the cockpit floor. But wherever there is standing room belowdecks, there’s more than enough of it to accommodate anyone up to 1.9m in height.
The dual berths in the rear cabin become one, courtesy of centre infill.
Freshwater capacity of just on 200lt combined with a fuel capacity of 650lt, 40lt holding tank, air-conditioning belowdecks and a quality entertainment system gives the GT 40 the ability to take on two- or three-day cruises with comfort and ease.
At $795,000, with a comprehensive options list ($577,000 for the base-spec model), the Gran Turismo 40 represents a quality package for the outlay.
Inside or out, the GT 40 is designed to maximise the great Australasian boating lifestyle.
BENETEAU GRAN TURISMO 40
Capacity: 10 persons
Fuel capacity: 650lt
Water capacity: 200lt
Power (as tested): Twin 370hp Volvos
Price from: $577,000
Price as tested: $795,000
More information: Sundance Marine, tel: 1300 55 00 89. Web: SundanceMarine.com.au.