by Dom Wiseman

Europeans make nice things. We all know the big automotive brands like Mercedes and BMW and if you are talking fashion it is hard to go past Louis Vuitton. The French are also pretty good at building boats. Jeanneau has been building production yachts and powerboats for much longer than most and they have acquired an enormous amount of knowledge and skill along the way. The Prestige 500 Flybridge we tested is one of 300 to come out of the Jeanneau factory and you only need to look at the design, finish and functionality to appreciate how good they are at their craft.
While you may think production means everyday, the Prestige 500 Flybridge is anything but. For a 50-footer it has tonnes of room and a class leading master suite that fills the entire beam of the boat. It is also strategically positioned to be away from the rest of the cabins providing space as well as peace and quiet. It is this type of innovation that makes Jeanneau stand out from the crowd.

WHAT YOU GET
Let’s start with entertainment, as this is probably what you’ll be most interested in doing while anchored in your favourite bay. The flybridge is the hostesses dream location. It provides an uninterrupted view of the surrounding landscape and has space in spades. The helm area is on the port side and features a double seat. All the controls, including IPS joystick and a single Simrad multi-function display, are here.

Immediately behind the helm is a double fridge, cook top and small food prep area that provides enough space to ensure you don’t need to leave unless you’re calling the other guests up for some light refreshments.
This design creates plenty of space to the right for a sun lounge comfortably accommodates two or three people. There is a second small fridge behind the lounge, which morphs into an ‘L’ shaped lounge that surrounds a sturdy timber table with brightly polished stainless legs, at the rear of the flybridge that is covered by a large bimini.
A teak stairway, that can be covered to prevent any regrettable accidents if guests are enjoying the hospitality too much, takes you down to the main deck. At the base of the stairs you will find another vast entertaining area with a large ‘U’ shaped lounge, again in light beige upholstery and an adjustable teak table. The flybridge provides some sun cover, while the owner has added an electric extendable shade to provide extra comfort. To make docking easier Jeanneau has fitted an IPS joystick control in the starboard corner of the cockpit providing the skipper with a full view of the side of the vessel. Two steps take you up to the walkway to the bow and the forward sunlounge, again a massive beast of a thing that would accommodate several guests. The walkway is nice and wide making the walk to the front a safe and easy one.
Prestige 500 2
Prestige 500 9If the weather is inclement, the main saloon, more spacious than many of Sydney’s more desirable units, features single level living and includes a helms station in the front starboard corner and a pop up television to the left next to the stairway leading to the guest rooms. Behind all that is the full-width lounge area with splendid white leather couches while the galley or kitchen and a small storage cupboard opposite sit at the rear of the saloon. The kitchen has all the modern appliances you could need including a cook top, fridge/freezer, microwave, dishwasher and rather craftily, a double sink with infill. It even features a small breakfast bar set up. There is also plenty of storage with cupboards overhead, below the bench and above the fridge/freezer. In fact there is storage just about everywhere you look.
The entire saloon is bathed in light and has opening windows forward on both sides. The floor to ceiling sliding door creates a warm welcoming space that can be opened up if you prefer not to use air-conditioning. Access to the main bedroom sits between the lounge and the aforementioned rear storage/credenza and is via a small staircase opening up to reveal a large full width bedroom. This is a design that really sets the Prestige 500 apart from its competitors. The bedroom, despite being below decks is bathed in light from two large in-hull windows with opening port holes on either side. A large bed takes centre stage with hanging room on the left and, incredibly, a writing desk and two seats. There is more storage on the starboard side as you enter the room. A large television screen sits on the wall ahead of the bed. The beautifully finished ensuite includes a separate toilet and shower with full retractable shower screen. The design in here is classy and really shows what is possible in a 50-footer if you have the skill and processes to pull it off.
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Prestige 500 8The guest cabins, located at the bow of the boat include a single double room and a smaller cabin with two bunks, both with access to a shared toilet. It’s a tight squeeze in the third bedroom but if you’re only sleeping there it should be more than ample for overnight and even extended stays. Overall you could stay on the Prestige 500 for months on end (I would be prepared to conduct a long term test to verify this with a three-month stay on the boat while cruising around the Whitsunday Islands).
Which brings me to the next ingenious and class leading element of the Prestige 500, a fully operational tender garage located under the rear lounge on the main deck. Hydraulically operated, the entire system lifts up to reveal a tender garage big enough for an average sized inflatable. There are options here too. Should you decide you don’t want this as part of your purchase the space can be used for additional storage or as a crew or teenage cabin/retreat. If it were mine, and sadly, it’s not, I’d opt for the garage so as to have somewhere for a small fishing platform.
The only issue I have at the rear of the boat is the height of the rear swim platform which sits a good two feet clear of the water. It’s a minor issue and could be fixed with the addition of a hydraulic transom which will both extend this area and allow you to lower it into the water. I’ve seen this system on many boats and it creates and fantastic area for watersport activities and will not impede the use of the tender garage.

POWER
The Prestige 500 is powered by twin Volvo IPS 600 engines with joystick control. The joystick control, implemented some years ago makes maneuvering the boat exceptionally easy.
The IPS system, which was first introduced in 2005, consist of a Volvo Penta engine connected to a pod component that includes the gears, propellers and leg. A steering unit sits atop the pod itself and uses fly-by-wire controls to steer the boat by moving the leg of the pod.
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Prestige 500 19In this case, the IPS 600 engines are built on an in-line six cylinder platform producing 435hp with a maximum rpm of 3500. This makes them extremely efficient, in fact more efficient than conventional shaft driven boats while providing better handling and maneuverability. It also reduces noise and vibration when initially accelerating.
While the forward facing props may seem strange, this system is firmly entrenched in the larger motor cruiser segment due to the steering and performance advantages over shaft drives.
Onboard power is supplied by an Onan generator.

ON THE WATER
Despite the large size of this boat, the performance is all you would expect from a builder with this level of experience. The steering is precise and the boat really beds into the corner and tracks predictably as you turn but it is the power delivery that impressed most.
Pushing the throttle forward you could feel how effortlessly the boat rose onto the plane and stayed there. While it is capable of a top speed of close to 30 knots, there would be no need to ever drive that fast lest it was an emergency. At a cruising speed the boat felt comfortable and handled impeccably, although we had near perfect conditions. Despite the benign conditions you could feel that she’d be as safe as betting on rising Sydney property prices in rough conditions.
When it comes time to dock, the IPS joystick control and bow thruster make this process a breeze as experienced by Boatadvice cameraman Glen Sullivan, who stood at the helm and helped our skipper and the importer of Jeanneau powerboats, Matt Willett of MW Marine dock the 50-footer at the Spit in middle harbor, by holding the boat in place with the controls while Matt was busy on the ropes.

OVERVIEW
After spending a day on this boat and daydreaming about cruising the Whitsundays, I would have to say it’s my type of vessel. The design internally and externally is brilliant and difficult to fault, the price is right and it has class leading design features not seen on equivalent boats in this category.
The European design compliments our outdoorsy Australian lifestyle, offering the best of both worlds and while many may balk at buying a production run cruiser like a Jeanneau, I see this only as an advantage. The experience gained when you produce boats suitable for cruising all over the world has to be a plus and should be factor in deciding what type of boat to buy.
Name another boat builder that can say they’ve designed, built and tested all the design options and through that process carefully moulded the best parts of all the boats they’ve built previously into the latest model to hit our shores.
Prestige 500 1POSITIVES
Innovative design
Price
Ease of use

NEGATIVES
High swim platform

NUMBERS THAT MATTER
Price: $1,300,000 (as tested)
Construction: Fiberglass
Length Overall: 15.2m
Beam: 4.5m
Draft: 0.56m
Dry Weight: 19,862kgs
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta IPS 600
Fuel Capacity: 1300 litres
Water: 100 litres