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BOAT TESTS

Jeanneau Prestige 42S

Back in 2007, we tested the Jeanneau Prestige 42 ("The French Connection," April 2007). You might assume that the new Prestige 42S ("S" stands for "Sport Top") would simply be a slightly upgraded version of the original, but the changes are much more dramatic. The most obvious difference between the two boats is that the 42 was a flying-bridge vessel while the 42S is an express. The 42 also had a cockpit where the 42S has a tender garage. But the differences go even deeper. From a new engine package to a new interior layout, she's truly a whole new boat.

According to Michael Peters, whose firm designed the original 42, the 42S even has a new hull. The 42's prop tunnels were removed to accommodate twin 370-hp Volvo Penta IPS 500s, whose installation also shifted the center of balance considerably aft. To offset this, Peters explains, "We had to put a little bit of a wedge in the stern. But top speed seems to be better."

Indeed, the new boat is faster. I put her through her paces just outside Norwalk, Connecticut, and average top speed exceeded 42 mph; her predecessor averaged a WOT speed of just over 36 mph with twin 425-hp Cummins QSB5.9 diesel inboards under similar conditions. Acceleration has also improved. My test boat was on plane almost from the get-go and reached her top speed within 20 seconds, five seconds faster than the older model. The IPS electronic steering, with a highly responsive three-turns lock-to-lock, created snappy handling and highlighted why this vessel earns her "S" designation.

But while acceleration and handling were exceptional, I was less impressed by seakeeping to windward. Heading into the two- to three-foot chop at 3000 rpm (about 33 mph), the 42S hopped over and dropped into waves instead of cutting through them. Two likely factors were the pair of 651⁄2-gallon water and graywater tanks, both forward under the saloon sole and both empty; full tanks would have put more weight forward, bringing her bow down and improving performance. And when I throttled back to a reasonable cruising speed of 2600 rpm (around 23 mph), she coasted right through the headsea.

Heading downsea, I brought the throttles up to 3250 rpm (around 35 mph), and popped open the 6'Lx7'10"W sunroof to let in the autumn air. Only moments afterwards, the vessel crested a roller and her bow went tumbling toward the trough ahead. I readied myself for a shoulder-drenching blast of cold Atlantic—"Had I remembered to wrap my camera in a sweater?" I thought. But the 42S' flare sent water spraying clear. Not to be fooled by a fluke, I repeated the exercise a few times, powering over the top of the rollers and into the back of the next wave. Each time the seas parted into a perfectly formed deluge without a drop entering the helm area, dryness more reminiscent of a sportfisherman than an express.

Sightlines were good, although glare from the starboard helm window did impede my view no matter which heading I was on; the windshield creates no such issue thanks to a dark matte finish on the dash. The helm layout is smart, with analog gauges adding a nice retro touch. A Raymarine E120 chartplotter, ST6002 Autopilot, and 2-kW radar are all optional while this vessel's Lenco trim tabs whose controls—with light-up position indicators—are conveniently to starboard of the IPS joystick come standard. There is no helm chair; a benchseat integrated into the front of the wet bar provides seating.

Once back at the dock, I went aft to examine the new engine-room layout. It's also dramatically improved from the 42's setup, which required that you go through a hatch in the cockpit and then into a crawl space forward to access the powerplants. Yet, there are still a few quirks. The 301⁄2"x21" day hatch drops you right on top of the starboard engine; if you use the main hatch, you have to step over the genset (no fold-down step is provided) since the IPS drives prohibit access anywhere else. The layout is clean, but basic maintenance points, like the port engine dipstick, are difficult to reach. Part of the blame lies with Volvo Penta for not offering port and starboard engines (i.e., with major maintenance spots inboard). To reach dipsticks, fills, and fuel-water separators attached to their respective fuel tanks on either side, you have to scramble over the IPS drives, not easy, even for me at 5'10". Still, the engine room is a serious step in the right direction for the series, and the centerline battery bank is a nice touch.

Climbing out, the first thing I noticed was the exterior teak, which is even more plentiful than it was on the 42 (and just as attractive). Inside, Jeanneau opted for a different material: faux-wood paneling from a company called Alpi.

"We're trying to steer away from wood," said Jeanneau America president Paul Fenn, "It's expensive, it scratches, and it's hard to match [the grain]." The new material, imported from Italy, is lightweight and bears a strong resemblance to teak-and-holly. The only exposed sole on our test boat was in the galley; the rest was covered with the standard eggshell-color carpeting.

Other cost-saving elements weren't as palatable to me, like the opening ports below. Instead of opting for stainless steel or reinforced Atlantic series ports from Lewmar, Jeanneau installed the company's more affordable Standard lexan ports. The plastic valances don't match the dcor, and the plastic latches don't seem as durable as the stainless steel ones on the other models. Admittedly, their placement does meet the offshore CE certification (Category B), which only requires them to remain secure in Force 8 winds and four-meter seas, as opposed to the more stringent ocean rating (Category A). When I brought this up with Fenn, he explained Jeanneau's reasoning behind the choice: "There's always going to be heavy-duty equipment, but the company's philosophy is that there's no reason to go with something heavier and that costs more money when something else will do the trick." He pointed out that, "Part of the attractiveness of the 42S is the price."

With a MSRP of $481,329, the 42S is indeed a perfect example of how Jeanneau keeps its products affordable while still offering boats that mesh with its customers' desires. The 42S has many major improvements over the original 42, from easier engine access to better performance, making her a reasonable option for cost-conscious boaters who don't want to compromise on performance.

For more information on Jeanneau America, including contact information, click here.

SPOTLIGHT ON: Good Lighting
Boatbuilders have been trying to get rid of the cave-like feeling in saloons for ages. Eliminating the 42's flying bridge and opting for an express setup for the 42S allowed designers to open the overheads and introduce more light in a variety of ways. The sunroof retracts, the pocket-style companionway door slides to one side, and extra windows in the saloon overhead let the sun in no matter which way the vessel is facing. When you add in hull-side ports throughout the vessel, the 42S' interior becomes one of the more luminous around. And the angle on most of the windows won't let dockwalkers sneak unwanted glimpses in. — G.R.

This article originally appeared in the December 2008 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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