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Cruisers 390 Sports Coupe

Americans are notorious for buying more than they need. Whether it's cars, houses, or food, we can't resist the urge to supersize. Which is fine as long as we don't confuse desire and necessity. It's okay to want a Hummer, but don't fool yourself into believing you actually need one.

It's the same with boats. A lot of us buy more boat than we need. For example, we convince ourselves we must have two cabins because either the kids or the neighbors will want to overnight. When the kids announce they'd rather hang with their buds and the Joneses take off for their vacation house every weekend, we discover that what we really need is two berths, a really nice one for ourselves and another serviceable one for occasional guests, plus enough room for all those friends and relatives who really only want to come out for a day ride, not spend the night.

That's what makes the Cruisers 390 Sports Coupe so practical. It's comfortable for a couple but can also accommodate the occasional sleepovers and a slew of day-trippers. It's the same basic philosophy behind the company's successful 370 Express, only with some unique features that make it the first Sports Coupe.

Below, the 390 looks like a fairly typical day boat/cruiser. The master's king-size mattress is angled to conserve space and offers access to the outboard side so you can get in without climbing over your bunkmate. More important, it lets you actually make the bed. There's a privacy curtain (a solid bulkhead is optional), which when open makes below decks look expansive. The lone head, to port, is enclosed, and so is its rather large (2'2"-long) shower, a nice asset on a boat of this size. Farther aft on the same side is the galley, notable for a large upright refrigerator-freezer and nifty LG combination microwave oven-coffee maker. Above the single round sink on the forward bulkhead, a 20-inch Sole LCD TV swings out so it can be viewed from the aft couch or starboard settee, whose table is barely big enough (3'8"x1'5") for two to eat at.

That could be a problem, since you may have company. That comfortable aft couch easily converts to an equally comfortable full-size bed with just a gentle pull—even a kid can do it. As its backrest drops, it exposes a cavernous stowage compartment aft, under the bridge deck. There's more stowage in a hanging locker to starboard, and a curtain provides enough privacy to makes guests feel at home for a couple of nights but not want to move in.

So far, the 390 isn't all that different from the 370. But then you go up top and discover what makes this a Sports Coupe. You'll find seating for 12 in a variety of locations, including a single helm seat to port and aft, plus an L-shape settee that's big enough to make up for the one below. On the centerline to port of the helm is a two-person settee facing steps that lead up through an opening windshield panel and out onto the foredeck. Install the two long pedestals and small tables and slide two cushions onto the steps, and you have a four-person dinette. Install the two short pedestals and tables and the filler cushion, and you have a two-person sunpad that, unlike the aft cockpit settee, is shaded by the standard hardtop.

Or not. Manually slide back the centerline sunroof, and you can work on your tan while chatting with the helmsman—and you can do it without raising a sweat if you order the bridge air conditioning. Even if you don't, a standard integral ventilation system built into the forward edge of the hardtop ensures there'll always be a breeze. There'll always be drinks, too, thanks to the bottle locker on the aft side of this seat; if you order the optional Isotherm refrigerator/freezer drawer to starboard, they'll be cold ones.

Part of what makes the layout below work so well is that the 390 has V-drives, which place the engines all the way aft. Our boat had the top-of-the-line 480-hp Yanmar in-line sixes that are accessible on three sides (1'8" between them), the outboard side being pretty much unreachable. That's not a huge problem, as there are no regular maintenance points there, and besides, the entire cockpit sole can be removed for major work. But I suspect that those who order the 390 with 8.1-liter gasoline V-8s (Cruisers estimates that around a third of buyers will) will be looking for a small mechanic to change their spark plugs. Overall, I'd rate engine access as good, but only after you get into the engine space. To do that you have to electrically tilt the aft deck—there are electric and manual backups—but unfortunately it doesn't tilt quite high enough to make for easy entrance and exit. About 15 more degrees of lift would make a world of difference.

Those V-drives are also largely responsible for the way the 390 handles. With all that weight aft, she tends to run bow-high some of the time—particularly from about 1700 to 2300 rpm. At 200 rpm either side of that, you can control bow rise with the tabs, and above 2500, she flattens out nicely on her own; you may want to add a little tab to hasten the transition from displacement to planing mode. The helm seat has a useful step and flip-up bolster—and enough headroom that a six-plus-footer could use them to keep things in sight when the bow is up. Helm response is brisk; our boat didn't have power-assisted steering, and I didn't miss it a bit. Overall, the 390 is a sporty boat to run, and I wonder how her other versions—namely the gasoline- and IPS-powered ones--would compare with the one I tested.

I also wonder how the 390 will be accepted when she debuts at this fall's boat shows. Will her roomy, innovative layout overcome the I-gotta-have-two-cabins mindset? Personally, I'm betting that in a lot of cases it will, because truth be told, I subscribed to that prejudice myself before I saw this boat. Now? Hey, a one-cabin boat like this is not only all I'd need, it's all I'd want.

Cruisers Yachts
(920) 834-2211

This article originally appeared in the October 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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