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Beneteau GT40 – Two words, one powerful acronym, and a hell of a boat!

by John Curnow on 26 Apr 2017
The view most will see of the GT40 when underway... - Beneteau GT40 John Curnow
So yes, it is all so very apt with Beneteau’s super sleek Gran Turismo 40. Now it is also true that it’s made even more so because it was Italian designers Nuvolari and Lenard that gave the vessel her smart looks to match the words from their language. However, reigning supreme over it all is that the craft stays true to the original premise of what the term actually means.

Way back in automotive’s yesteryear, GT meant the car was an express. Specifically, a trans-continental express. The GT was capable of sportscar-esque performance, but did so with supreme grace, style and comfort, as it despatched of long distances very smartly, with its occupants barely noticing the passage of time. It started in the 50’s with names like Bentley, Maserati and Ferrari all in on it.



By the 60’s, a tractor builder named Lamborghini was making them too, and in the 70’s even a relatively young upstart called BMW was hand building their take on the category. Quite possibly the Queen of them all was the legendary Ferrari 365 GTB/4 (Daytona), which very much had the acronym of our story in her name. Her Pininfarina lines are not only as memorable today as they were then, but such is the lust after them even now, that splendid examples command multi-million dollar price tags, when they come up for sale.

The parallels with our boat are more than distinct; long bonnet, stunning looks, attention to aesthetic details, and brutal performance. OK. It’s settled, it’s definitely all still very pertinent to our Beneteau. Now the Ferrari had a 4.4 litre V12 for an achievable and usable top speed of 280km/h. Yet it is not that long ago that a maritime version of this category would have had a pair of worked 454’s with Bravo, or surface-piercing drives hanging off the transom.



For sure the through-transom exhausts looked and sounded utterly amazing, but in today’s world, our Beneteau Gran Turismo 40 has Diesel muscle to curb the voracious thirst of the pushrod V8s. Importantly, her Volvo Penta D6-370’s with stern (or Z) drives and contra-rotating five-blade screws not only use way less fuel, but are also far more user friendly! Oh yeah, they are also a lot quieter…

Ever since I saw the Gran Turismo 40 sitting in the pond at last year’s Sydney International Boat Show, I just wanted to have a go. Recently, the team at Flagstaff Marine afforded me that very opportunity - grazie mille!

You get a lot of boat from the starting point of AU$575k, and ours was more like $640k. There’s a hydraulic submersible swim platform, electric windows and sunroof (automotive term used on purpose), huge sunbed on the foredeck, massive dining table for 10-12 easily, which also doubles as another sunbed, banquette seating along the sides, BBQ, commanding centre helm station with usable and pertinent electronics, electric anchor windlass, great galley, island berth for the Owner’s Stateroom and a full beam twin in the second cabin, which is under the pilot’s seat.



Whether on deck or below, you do completely get the sense that the word that fits in best is ‘plush’. There is also good headroom at 1.9m and upwards, so despite the overall colour theme being dark, I never felt cramped. The other item of note is fit and finish, which are of the good to exceptional category, and whilst you may not spot them first up, you can always instantly tell when they are AWOL.

Yet a boat like this is always going to be measured in performance terms. Just like the Ferrari, she sports twin cams, but that is exactly where the comparison ends. In place of the car’s six twin-choke Webers, the 5.5l inline sixes have common rail injection, four valves per cylinder, turbocharging and after-coolers.



She will do a real-world 38.3 knots (wet) @3500RPM. She can get up to full pace from standstill well inside the length of Garden Island on Sydney Harbour (bit over 14 seconds), deals with small chop easily, and with only a small amount of jarring. Naturally this is inherent in all planing hulls, but the air-step version used by Beneteau not only rides well, it ensures you can cruise effortlessly at 24 knots. Large chines also mean that spray is pushed well away, so I never copped anything through the huge cavity above my head that is the glorious opening hardtop.

It does mean you will need a hat, for the sun does come in and the sight angles over the windscreen bar mean that you will spend a lot of time standing whilst driving at any real pace, and you will want to drive! This is not a bad thing on a busy waterway, however. During my test I felt like I had to have a stopwatch running to account for the timing to the next turn, as I was so busy looking for traffic. She is bow up five degrees at cruising speed, and this reduces significantly at full ‘noise’.



All in all it is a very, very pleasurable experience and the boat also turns in well and straightens again without any harsh cavitation. The 877Nm (x2) of torque that is on from 2000RPM, and then only really tails off at 3000RPM, also means you never lose any punch either, as the Volvos propel and manoeuvre the 10800kg mass effortlessly (she is just eight metric tonnes, light). No doubt the work with glass matt over the balsa core producing a light, yet strong sandwich has helped to keep this number more than respectable.

They do say that she is designed to cruise at 28, yet I found that 24 knots (2500RPM) was far more like a gentle canter, with a magnificent ride from the Air Step® 2 hull, and you could feel your head moving forward ever-so-gently over each swell line. There is no difference in the vessel’s range between the two speeds however, which stands at 170nm, with reserve. Do note that this is the lowest possible cruising mark, for at 22 she is already falling back into her hole. There is also the lesser D4-300 option, which limits top speed to 34 knots, but is $20k cheaper.



Now the comparison between consumption reveals that there is precious little in it, save for a 10 or so nautical mile better effective cruising range with the smaller powerplants at certain speeds. Given you’ll never get past about 170nm with either configuration, the point does seem to be a little moot to me. So to my mind, and if you can, stump up for the big donks, for their utterly brutal and totally captivating torque ‘curve’ is so worth it!

At 24 knots with the D6s you burn 3.04l per nm for an effective range of 172nm with 20% reserve. At 28 it is 83.l/h combined, which is 2.96l/nm for a total of 174nm, and at 38 it is just 158.3l/h for 4.13l/nm and 126nm range. In terms of litres per hour, I was constantly rechecking that this was combined, for the petrol equivalents would be the same, only difference is that it would be per side, not overall!



You might think that who would worry about the extra four knots, even if it is outrageously fun, but I was not altogether surprised to find that the D4s did not offer any mind blowing differential at the bowser. Clearly at the initial funds transfer for sure, but the telling tale was the outright comparison. The D4s do 2.92l/nm @24 knots, 3.04l/nm @28 and 3.43l/nm all out at 34 knots. Importantly, if you are intending to go quickly, the larger 12 iron ladies do just 3.24l/nm for 34 knots, and so you think to yourself, QED.

Now just as with cars, the numbers don’t necessarily reflect actual items. Gran Turismo 40 is really 41’7’’ LOA, and then you also have a set of options to review. In our case you have everything from TVs to cushions, sunshades to covers, autopilot to Wi-Fi access, and gensets to aircon. In the end, it means that you’ll get as much pleasure from personalising your craft, as you will from using it, which is especially so if you are behind the helm.



Ultimately there is little wonder there is such an automotive reference with a boat that looks like this, travels like this, and is named the way that it is. Given one of the designers has the famed Nuvolari Surname, well, it just seems entirely apt indeed.

The team at Flagstaff Marine will be delighted to show you the Beneteau Gran Turismo 40, or any of the other sail and powerboats from the powerhouse French brand. Call 02 9327 2088, or see http://vicsail.sydney/our-brands/beneteau-power-boats, and make a time to see for yourself at either Rushcutters Bay or Pittwater.









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