by Dom Wiseman

Deciding on which boat to buy is often not an exact science. Many decisions are based a little on price, partly on research, plenty on your needs and even more on heart, or feel. Deciding between one brand and the next can often the hardest decision of all. Each brand has its appeal, and some features or aspects that don’t suit your needs or wants, so narrowing down your selection to one boat can be extremely difficult. If you starting adding the advice of friends the decision can become even more clouded.

Image then how hard it is to decide when you have two boats made by the same manufacturer, in the same style and both, therefore, equally well built.

Each one has a certain appeal and narrowing down that important decision to one boat is quite difficult.

We recently experienced such a conundrum when testing the Riviera 4800SY and 5400SY Sports Yachts side by side on Sydney Harbour. Sure there’s the obvious size difference, and therefore a price discrepancy but these two boats virtually look the same and for the most part will be used in pretty much the same way. They both have great blue water credentials and offer single level living with an emphasis on entertaining and luxury.

Essentially, one is a bigger brother to the other. But do they have the same feel? Sometimes you take an instant liking to the younger brother with his brash in your face nature. Other times it’s the older brother, more thoughtful and sensible.

We took the Riviera 4800SY and 5400SY out for a day on Sydney Harbour to see which one grabbed our attention.

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Riviera 4800 Sports Yacht 1

Entertaining Space

On board, both the Riviera 4800SY and 5400Sy exude a confidence in their design with quality finishes, a sporty style and single level living that suits our Aussie lifestyle down to the ground. The rear cockpit on both boats is functional and stylishly finished. Both have a rear swim platform, perfect for getting in and out of the water during summer with a walkway either side up into the cockpit. The 4800SY we tested had a plain fibreglass finish while on the 5400SYit was teak lined giving it a more expensive and sophisticated feel. Both can be finished either way. The walkway on both is wide enough to make entering and exiting this area an easy operation .

Both cockpits are an entertainers delight with a barbeque located in the rear hatch that is accessed via the swim platform. They also have a bench style lounge across the transom, wet bar to port and an ‘L’ shaped lounge against the rear saloon window. But this is also an area where the additional length and beam of the 5400SY is very obvious. The lounges are longer and the floor space significantly bigger.

Stepping inside into the saloon of the Riviera 4800SY and 5400SY you are greeted by very different layouts. The 4800SY has a galley pushed to port with the lounge to starboard while the 5400SY has a much bigger galley, that opens out to the cockpit via a lifting stainless framed window that turns the area into a servery, on the starboard side. The 4800SY has access to the cockpit from the galley through a sliding door. The extra length of the 5400SY also enables two lounges, with one directly opposite the centrally located helm position, to be fitted in the 5400SY saloon.

On this front, simply for ease of entertaining, the 5400SY gets the nod in my mind. I especially love the direct access to the cockpit from the galley and the extra freedom the length allows in internal space. It also means that a host can be in the galley preparing food and not miss any of the action out the back and let’s face it, the other half often has the casting vote.

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Riviera 4800 Sports Yacht 9Accommodation

Again both the Riviera 4800SY and 54900SY have high quality finishes throughout the accommodation with the 5400SY capable of offering a three berth layout versus the 4800SY’s two bedrooms. Getting to the accommodation below decks on the 4800SY is via a central stairwell providing straight forward access to the master suite located at the bow. I like this direct access. Locating the master suite here does restrict the space available yet it is still roomy enough and has an ensuite. The downstairs lounge is a bit of wasted space to me and could be better used. Personally I am not a big fan of these downstairs lounges as I wonder why anyone would want to sit down here at all. The second cabin contains three single beds and is located against the engine compartment bulkhead. It’s a straight forward design with good access and the day head also has good direct access.

The 5400SY features a spacious master located amidships that runs the full beam of the boat. It is accessed via a twin staircase that isn’t quite a spiral but you get the idea. The space in this room is generous as you’d expect. The second bedroom is located in the bow with the third, which is a twin bunk affair at best, against the port side. You can elect to have a lounge here instead, but, why would you? It’s a little bit of a maze down here (well maybe not quite) but it does involve a few twists and turns.

Given most of these boats will be used by families or retirees, I like the direct access of the 4800SY here while the spaciousness of the 5400SY master is exquisite once you’re in the room.

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Riviera 4800 Sports Yacht 12

Helm

The helm position on the Riviera 4800SY and 5400Sy differ quite significantly. On the 4800SY it is located on the port side ahead of the galley and includes two individual electrically-adjustable helm chairs. It’s a comfortable space to drive with easy access to the controls and onboard functions. The 5400SY helm is centrally located and features a single chair surrounded to the right by a half wall of the stairs leading to the bedrooms. I don’t like the fact I can reach the throttle while walking past to the stairs but it’s a minor issue. Being centrally located it provides the better view and with the lounge opposite the skipper can still interact with his guests while the boat is underway.

The helm on the 4800SY still provides a good vantage point while underway but I definitely preferred the more central position. The twin helm chairs mean you can have company while driving and you also have a lounge opposite against the starboard side though in between you have the thoroughfare to the stairwell.

Below decks

Both the Riviera 4800SY and 5400SY have large engine rooms that are well-designed, offering plenty of space to move around the engines for servicing and checks. Both boats also have a tender garage that is accessed via the hydraulically-operated transom. The 4800SY can squeeze in a 2.7m tender while the 5400SY will house a bigger 3.3 metre inflatable.

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Riviera 4800 Sport Yacht Running 01On the Water

This is where it gets interesting with the Riviera 4800SY and 5400SY providing very different driving experiences. Both have fantastic manoeuvrability thanks to the IPS Joystick control and both have external docking stations ensuring parking at the marina is simple so both are equal in that regard.

Twin Volvo Penta D8 IPS 800s with IPS15 drives power the 4800SY while the 5400SY has bigger twin Volvo Penta D11 IPS 800s with IPS12. With this sort of power differentiation you would expect a different driving experience. And it is, but I believe it has more to do with the different size and weight rather than the engines.

The 4800SY leaps onto the plane and feels a whole lot sportier than its bigger sibling and , for me, is much more fun to drive. It feels more like a car than a boat is how best to explain the feeling. The 5400SY is larger, heavier and therefore rises steadily up onto the plane and keeps going at a surefooted pace as opposed to the all out performance feel of the 4800SY. The 5000 plus kilogram weight difference is obvious with the 5400SY rising up and over swells and cutting through chop with merely a bump. On the other hand the 4800SY feels a little lighter and more effected by the conditions. It still cuts through the chop nicely but it is ever so slightly more noticeable.

Both the Riviera 4800SY and 5400SY were exquisite to drive but for me, I found the 4800SY with its sportier nature immensely more enjoyable to drive around Sydney Harbour.

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Riviera 4800 Sports Yacht 6Overview

While similar, each boat has its own personality. The 4800SY is considerably cheaper but at this end of the market you’re probably worried about more than that.

The 4800SY is a boat that has all the niceties of a modern design, great finish and luxuries, but not exactly spacious, five-star accommodation. It is also well set up for entertaining and is a fun boat to drive with a real sporty performance.

On the other hand, the 5400SY is a more grand boat that would be an absolute joy to entertain on or go long-distance cruising. It is also set up for those who have big families or just like entertaining lots of friends on the water.

For me, I would most likely use a boat locally with the occasion trip farther afield, so the my decision is based around that paradigm. I can live with slightly less space in the 4800SY and prefer the layout internally over its larger brother. While a full beam berth would be great, all I’ll be doing is sleeping there so I’m not looking for opulence being more of a practical kind of guy. Most importantly, I find the 4800SY delightful to drive. It’s brash, fun, sporty and isn’t that why we go boating to begin with.

Put simply It feels more me. In the immortal words of Dennis Denuto of the Australian classic, The Castle, “It’s the vibe of the thing.”

Head to Head

Riviera 5400 SY
Price: $1,629, 000 (as tested)
Construction: GRP Fiberglass
Length Overall: 17.29m
Beam: 4.88m
Draft: 1.28m
Dry Weight: 21,700kgs
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta IPS 800s with IPS12 drives
Fuel Capacity: 3000 litres
Water: 800 litres,
Riviera 4400 SY
Price: $1,279,520 (as tested)
Construction: GRP Fiberglass
Length Overall: 15.23m
Beam: 4.61m
Draft: 1.18m
Dry Weight: 15,725kgs
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta IPS 800s with IPS15 drives
Fuel Capacity: 2000 litres
Water: 400 litres

 

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