Rio Yachts 56 GranturismoBy Kevin Koenig
Photography by Robert Holland
Unlike Any Other
The Rio Yachts 56 Granturismo is a highly customizable express cruiser with more than a few tricks up her sleeve.
As I sat in the saloon of the Rio Yachts 56 Granturismo giving Rio president and CEO Marc-Udo Broich the third degree about the boat, the first launch in Rio’s newly internationalized line, I noticed something strange. Straight ahead of me to port of the helm was a bowl of fruit. And not just any fruit; only two kinds. Oranges, and perhaps the most traditionally voodoo-rific item you could possibly bring onboard a boat—bananas. Odd I thought to myself, as Broich waxed philosophic on the needs of his customers and his boat’s spot in the marketplace. But tuning back in to the conversation at hand, and looking around the singularly open saloon, it dawned on me. This is not a boat or a company that will be held back by the rickety assumptions of tradition. Rio, it seems, does things a little bit differently.
The 56 Granturismo is notable, first and foremost, for her high level of customizability—a level rarely seen with this size and type of vessel. Broich will work with potential owners on just about any aspect of the boat they’d like, outside of the hullform and a few structural components. That means woods, leathers, and fabrics, which might not be all that out of the ordinary, but it also means number of staterooms, the location of the galley (up or down), propulsion options, cabinet height, cushion firmness, you name it. Broich likes to say, “Show us what the interior of your home looks like, and we can build your boat to match.” That is unusual, and I’d guess highly palatable to the kind of customer this boat will attract.
What I mean by that is the Rio 56—with her luxe interior and dart-like profile—practically begs to be owned by an individualist with a certain flair for the dramatic. The owner of the boat I tested is a world-renowned “architect to the stars” whose claim to fame is designing houses for the rich and famous. He lives on beachfront property in Cabo San Lucas and is addicted to spearfishing. He was along for the ride on test day, and I’d describe him as a man with presence. He’s not the kind of guy you come across everyday. Nor is his boat.
When I first stepped onboard the 56, I was by myself, and I literally said wow out loud. The saloon—designed by the aforementioned architect—is just that striking, replete with ebony wood and a good portion of the 4,000 pounds of precision-cut granite onboard. It’s also essentially encased in glass, 360 degrees around, and overhung by an electrically actuated, beam-to-beam, glass sunroof. With that sunroof slid back, and the door between the cockpit and saloon popped open, one is tempted to ask the question: Is this an open boat that you can close, or a closed boat that you can open?
The breezy feel continues below, where a wide stairway, coupled with a glass bulkhead between the helm and the galley, makes the galley feel as though it’s on the main level even though it’s not. One could easily tend to a pan of sizzling scallops on the accommodations level while carrying on a conversation with a fellow passenger lounging in the saloon, or even in the cockpit if he felt like raising his voice a bit.
An amidships master had a king-size berth athwartship and as much stowage as you could need. And that makes sense since this boat was designed for liveaboard functionality. Rio expects its customers will take this boat to, say, the Bahamas and stay for a week onboard. Relatively large hullside windows lend the cabin an airy ambiance and also offer a connection to the sea, as you’re quite low in the water here. This deck is also notable for the amount of layouts it can house; essentially anything you can dream up. Another asset I noticed first in the master, and then throughout the boat, is an enormous amount of attention paid to fit and finish. For example, the leatherwork throughout the boat is all double stitched. That’s a detail you’re more likely to see on a megayacht than a midsized express cruiser. When I mentioned it to Broich he happily quipped, “I dare anyone to show me where we skimped on one thing on this boat. Everything is the highest quality here.”
Another customizable aspect of the 56 is the engines. Rio is prepared to set her up with just about any configuration your little heart desires. My test boat had twin 715-horsepower Cummins diesels with Zeus pod drives, which the owner prefers because of their deft maneuverability. (And since he’s in Mexico’s deeper water, he has little concern for bumping a pod on the bottom.) However Broich thinks the boat would also be well suited to more traditional MAN shafts, which he favors for their ease of maintenance. The engine room on the 56 is easily accessed through the cockpit sole, which raises hydraulically from beam to beam to reveal a clean, orderly, and fully bonded space with a 23-kW Kohler generator and 72,000-BTU air-conditioning system. A thoughtful feature is a plexiglass peekaboo window in the sole that offers a ready glimpse at the bilges.
The helm of the Rio 56 obviously benefits from all the aforementioned glass in the saloon. Perhaps more than any other enclosed boat I’ve ever tested, the sightlines are truly unimpeded. The helm’s also got twin 15-inch Garmin touchscreens and a Cummins joystick. At slow speeds, that joystick made the Rio an absolute pleasure to maneuver. It was exceptionally responsive and yet is imbued with enough power to move the boat forward at a damn-near rollicking 7 knots—a shot of power you might one day be thankful for if you’re caught in an unanticipated current while docking near a passel of expensive yachts, or heck, a bulkhead. Better still, when activated the joystick’s Skyhook system pinned the 56 in place even in a not-insignificant current off Palm Harbor Marina. I’d imagine having such a sweetly dialed-in system onboard would be an absolute blessing while waiting for a particularly lazy drawbridge to open.
Speaking of which, there was a timing issue with a drawbridge that prevented us from venturing into the ocean that day, but in the ICW the 56 topped out at a zesty little top-end speed of 34.2 knots. This isn’t a muscle boat by any means, and she’s not meant to be driven like one. A 25-knot cruise speed feels just about right for this vessel. But that’s not to imply she isn’t solidly built. In fact I suspect she could actually take quite a pounding. Her vinylester resin-infused hull supported by handlaid stringers felt quite solid as I crashed her through her own wake at close to top speed. That’s in part because all of her bulkeads, even non-structural ones, are bolted and glassed, which lends her a notably “tight” feel.
Both at cruise speeds and at WOT the boat carved easily, eagerly really, through S-turns in the channel, and hardover she turned tight circles that were just over a boat length. Agility like that is what makes boats of this type fun to own and drive.
So it’s nice to see that, from a performance aspect, the Rio 56 performs like you might expect a high-end express cruiser to perform. Because so much else about the boat is unexpected. And that’s exactly what sets her apart from the field. For Rio Yachts, being different works. Tradition—and bananas—be damned.
This article originally appeared in the July 2014 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.