Prestige 500 SBy Alan Harper
Eyes On The Prize
The Prestige 500 S is a whole lot of boat for the money, and to own her you just may have to raise your standards.
If you’re like me, you look at the data at the end of reports like this before you start reading the text. The numbers give you an instant snapshot of what the boat is, what she can do for you, and what you can do with her. That in turn helps you decide whether or not you want to invest the time in learning more.
Well, you’ve looked at the numbers, and the fact that you’ve come back to this point suggests that you do want to know more. And the first thing to tell you is that those numbers are correct. I took them down myself, on a beautiful spring day off Cannes, skimming across a flat sea in sparkling visibility that picked out the russet stone of the cliffs at Le Trayas and the snow-dappled Alpes Maritimes with equal clarity. The 500 S’s French builder had made a week of it, renting a chunk of the marina in the Vieux Port and lining up a range of Jeanneau sailboats, little Cap Camarat and Merry Fisher power craft, and—dominating the scene from one end of the pontoon—its big Prestige motoryachts. As boats came and went, journalists in the tent awaiting their turn compared notes, interrogated the technical guys and, this being France, kept themselves refueled with strong coffee and fabulous patisserie.
Those numbers have already told you that the Prestige 500 S is certainly a lot of boat for her weight. The lack of a flying bridge, her lightweight interior fit-out, smallish engines, IPS drives, and low fuel capacity mean that even fully laden she’s tipping the scales several tons lighter than most of her rivals. This all helps to give her a near-as-dammit 30-knot top speed with just 870 horsepower. A high-speed cruising range of well over 200 nautical miles, with a safe reserve, is achieved with a 340-gallon fuel capacity.
But mainly she’s a lot of boat for the money. This is an import that comes in at around half the base price of some of her European rivals. It can challenge homegrown product dollar-for-dollar, and not just when the exchange rate is working in the Euro’s favor. There’s no magic to it. Jeanneau is one of the world’s largest boatbuilders, and knows a thing or two about mass production. While the British and Italian yards play up the hand-built, bespoke aspects of their processes so as to justify the prices they have to charge in order to make a profit, with the Prestige what you see is what you get, and what you get is a much bigger boat than you thought you could afford.
What the numbers don’t tell you, because we haven’t got space for them all, is that this boat accelerated from a standing start to 25 knots in a little more than 16 seconds. She has a brand-new hull specifically designed for Volvo’s IPS drive system, and the naval architects have done a great job—it’s perfectly balanced, with no handling vices. The turning circle is not the tightest, and the ride into head seas is on the firm side, but overall this is an excellent marriage of shape and machinery from a shipyard with vast experience.
Maximizing interior volume is another key component of value-for-money yacht building. If you’re going to persuade a customer to buy bigger, then the boat has to impress both inside and out. The 500 S’s efficient right-angled layout ensures no space is wasted, and with huge areas of glass in both hull and superstructure, the interior looks and feels as spacious as it should. That large electric sunroof really opens up the main deck, with its central sofas and dining table. The galley is located aft, convenient for both the cockpit and saloon. Placing all the seating on the raised central section ensures that everyone gets a great view out of those huge saloon windows.
An unusually luxurious touch for a boat of this size is the dual access to the accommodation areas. A private companionway on the starboard side leads down to the master suite, where multiple floor levels maximize headroom. The cabin features an excellent little breakfast dinette as well as a generous double berth measuring 6 feet 6 inches by 5 feet 4 inches, with stowage provided in several drawers and cabinets, and a good-size hanging locker. There are more drawers and lockers in the head compartment, although headroom in here is limited to just 6 feet 1 inch.
A central companionway alongside the helm leads down and forward to the guest cabins. The VIP stateroom in the bow has en suite access to the guest head compartment, where the folding acrylic shower doors are fiddly, but work pretty well once you’ve got the knack. The cabin has plenty of stowage volume and sensible scissor berths, which can slide together to form a double that’s 5 feet 1 inch wide. Inserts and separate cushions convert the twin beds in the small guest cabin into a generous double (6 feet 4 inches by 5 feet 3 inches). With just the one hanging locker in here though, guests might feel they lack places to put stuff. The washer-dryer, if fitted, is cleverly concealed beneath the hinged companionway steps. The engine room might seem rather cramped, but only because there is a notably practical dinghy garage competing for space in the stern.
The quality of fit-out and some of the fittings do reflect the 500 S’s asking price. While it’s always nice to be reminded that you got a bargain, it will also be a good idea to treat the interior with care and keep on top of the boat’s maintenance schedule. Essentially, though, the 500 S is bright, roomy, and rational, with an excellent design that makes the most of the volume available.
Careful attention has also been paid to helm ergonomics. With the sunroof open you can drive comfortably either sitting or standing, with good sightlines everywhere except aft. So in places where you need to berth stern-to, the joystick control in the cockpit would be a worthwhile option. On longer trips, opening the sunroof just a couple of inches provides excellent ventilation and a cooling breeze without ruffling your coiffure.
And longer trips can be a sensible proposition for the 500 S. This is a boat that covers all the basics of family cruising: Space, practicality, and stowage volume, coupled to fun performance capabilities and a worthwhile range. If you were thinking of trading up to a 40-footer, you might want to raise your sights a little higher.
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This article originally appeared in the April 2013 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.