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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Pershing 72

The first Pershing I ever drove was the 88. She was big and fast and looked like she'd been designed by George Lucas' props department. But the thing most people remember about her was that she was silver. The only silver rockets any of us had seen before were at Kennedy Space Center.

What I remember most was the 88's handling. She might have weighed in at 135,000 pounds, but she topped out at 45 mph in a straight line and turned, even at that speed, in what felt like her own length, heeling over so hard that the view out the windows was of nothing but sea on one side and sky on the other.

Pershing followed the 88 with the 76—a more house-trained express cruiser with more emphasis on design and less on frightening the horses. That vessel was a remarkably cool creation, with an interior every bit as iconic, in its way, as the 88's startling silver paint job. There was transparent Philippe Starck furniture, for example, and a folding glass table of such baffling simplicity that you found yourself enjoying it as an object, whether or not it did its job of keeping your drink off the floor—a bit like an Alexander Calder mobile that sidesteps troublesome definitions of what art is, or isn't, simply by making you laugh.

All that seems a long time ago. It wasn't, of course, but things have been moving fast in yacht design lately. Now the mere mention of Starck's name at a boat-show press conference can inspire a collective sigh of indifference, and every second boat seems to be silver. But typical of a company that has adopted the mantle of style leader in these style-conscious times, Pershing's new 72 moves the game on to another stage.

In some ways she can be seen as a distillation of the 88 and the 76. The boat is silver, of course, and has the same emphasis on performance and handling as the 88 (and an even more impressive top speed). But the interior seems designed less to impress and more for living in than the 76's was. The 76 left us wondering, "Who buys a boat like this?" ("Fast and Flashy," February 2004). The question that the 72 inspires is rather, "What's not to like?" It's more comfortable and grown-up, with big sofas, luxurious Poltrona Frau leather upholstery and surfaces, and pleasing contrasts between light oak and dark wenge hardwood. Big windows let in lots of light. Straight edges predominate, leavened by subtle curves. It's cool and rational.

The low-level galley is especially noteworthy, tucked down forward on the starboard side, alongside the helm position. The 76 also had a low-level galley, but it was buried down aft in the crew quarters. This one works much better—it's reminiscent of the one on the Azimut 68S, but it's bigger and more spacious and hence more practical.

Another terrific design innovation is the aft sunroof. Aft? Well, yes. The cockpit overhang can be extended and retracted, providing extra sun or shade as required. From above—iand only from above—iyou can see that its curve is an exact reflection of the curve of the forward sunroof. Such is the level of refinement in this boat's design.

In a boat that is not exactly short of crowd-pleasing features, you have to look at the glass cockpit bulkhead. Then look again—it's gone. Like many a technological tour de force, it seems simple. The door slides open, and then the entire assembly seems to disappear between the two sofas (in fact, between the crew cabin and the machinery space), leaving no sign at all that it was ever there. Cockpit and saloon are one. This is something beyond cool and rational. This is more, you know, awesome.

For all its refinement and competence, however, there are one or two things about the main deck that I might change. There is a small, L-shape sofa on the port side that is not high enough to afford a good view out and not facing the right way to allow its occupants to engage properly with those in the other saloon seats. Neither does it allow them to communicate with the helmsman. It is, in a word, lost. I was left wondering what it was for.

And then there's the helm itself, which unless I'm missing something, is really quite odd. It's basically symmetrical, with the wheel and throttle levers in line and the seats to each side. If you sit, you can't reach the wheel. That's okay—on a lot of boats this size, the seats are more for watchkeeping while on autopilot than for actually helming. If you do fancy driving this boat, and you will, you have to stand up and position yourself at the wheel. But when you do, you'll find that you now can't reach the throttles, because they're between the seats and therefore directly behind you.

I'm sorry, I just don't get it. At least American-spec boats will apparently have a joystick fitted between the two seats.

Down below the 72 is offered with a choice of either two or three cabins. If space is the ultimate luxury on a boat, then the two-cabin version is the one to go for, with its private lower saloon or dining area to port. Our test boat had the roomy third cabin, with 6'8" headroom, twin berths, the optional fold-down Pullman berth, and semi-en suite access to the day head. Up forward the VIP suite has its head on the starboard side—causing something of a clash of doors in the corridor leading forward—and a big hanging locker to each side, with a central double berth.

The substantial owner's suite is down three steps aft from the central lobby, with the berth backed onto the aft bulkhead, a chaise lounge to port, and a dressing table to starboard, alongside a huge, walk-in wardrobe. The head is aft, on the starboard side and noteworthy for its sizable tiled shower compartment.

Thanks to those big hull windows, the master suite offers not only privacy and comfort, but also great views out, whether the 72 is at rest or underway. Be sure to check out the view during high-speed, full-lock turns, and watch those windows go sea green—seriously. The 72 heels so hard during madcap maneuvers that she practically puts her gunwales under. For in spite of the eccentric helm layout, she's a true driver's boat: powerful and extremely responsive.

Like all big, heavy, surface-drive machines, the 72 takes a little getting used to, of course. With the MTU engines spinning at 1750 rpm, for example, I found that speed could vary by up to 7 knots, depending on the positions of the flaps and drives, hence the two speed readings given at 1750 in the "Our Numbers" chart. But no experienced helmsman is going to find anything to complain about. I recorded a straight-line, two-way average of just over 52 mph—and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

It wasn't just the silver paint job that reminded me of the Pershing 88. Under the skin the new 72 is a direct descendent of that iconic rocket ship, with her exceptionally willing helm response, eager acceleration, and taut handling. And while the 88's hull was pretty flat-sectioned and thus relatively unforgiving in a head sea, the superior power-to-weight ratio of the smaller 72 has allowed Pershing designers to fashion a deeper-V and therefore much more seakindly underwater shape without having to compromise on either top or cruising speed or the driver's level of satisfaction.

Just as the new boat takes the 88 and improves upon her, the 72's highly refined interior develops the idea of the 76, offering equally impressive levels of detailing, good design without the gimmicks, and luxury without ostentation.

But ultimately, of course, she's a Pershing—a seductive blend of style and performance. Just surrender—you know you want to.

For more information on Pershing, including contact information, click here.

Looking for more ways to impress your guests? Show them the adjustable cockpit sunroof, hidden inside the superstructure overhang. It can be retracted, opening up more of the cockpit to the sky, or extended, to provide extra shade or shelter. If that doesn't do it, point out the bespoke cutlery and crockery stowage or maybe the Poltrona Frau leather upholstery on the helm seats and dash.—A.H.

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