Bridge? or No Bridge?
A sea trial of the Absolute 56 STY reveals why this Italian build may offer the best of both worlds.
My word how things have changed. In the last decade or so we have seen the line between the sexy sport cruiser and the functional flying-bridge cruiser blur inexorably. The Absolute 56 STY is almost the ultimate culmination of this burgeoning trend because it actually began life as a flying-bridge boat, the spacious 56 Fly. But Absolute has replaced the top deck with a sunroof to produce a sportster, which gets the same level of accommodation and plush upper saloon as a flying bridge cruiser. If you think flying-bridge boats are a little too cumbersome, but like the look of their comfortable interiors, then now you can have your cake and eat it too.
Better Boat: IPS Evolution
Since it first came out (sans joystick at the time) Volvo Penta IPS (Inboard Propulsion System) has come a long way. Nowadays there are more than 10,000 IPS units installed in more than 250 different boat models around the world. And as the technology has grown more popular (now ranging from IPS 350 up to IPS 1200 for boats up to 100 feet), so too has the technology’s sophistication. Now, all IPS systems meet EPA Tier 3 emissions requirements, and Volvo has added features such as low-speed mode (for trolling), Dynamic Positioning, Active Corrosion Protection, an autopilot function, and let’s not forget the game changer—joystick control. Volvo is also now offering IPS with an Interceptor System (IS) option, designed to automatically reduce inboard heel in turns. (The Interceptor System was not installed on our Absolute 56, but models 60 feet and larger have it.) Volvo claims that the latest IPS units found on recreational boats offer a 20-percent-higher top speed, reduce fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent, and reduce noise by 50 percent when compared to straight-shaft propulsion packages.
— Christopher White
Being an Absolute it comes as no surprise that the 56 STY is powered by a selection of Volvo Penta IPS setups (for more on IPS see “Better Boat: IPS Evolution,”). Our test boat had two 600-horsepower IPS 800s, the middle option, with twin and triple IPS 600s also on the menu. The triple version adds only 105 horsepower more than our IPS 800s offered and you’re going to have one more lump to climb around in the engine room, as well as the associated servicing costs. So for me the IPS 800 is a good match for the 56 STY, performing efficiently and quietly with what feels like minimum effort. Before you know it you’re purring along at 30 knots and making very comfortable progress. At 25 knots the engines sound as if they’re miles away, not just beyond the main-bulkhead doors and, apart from when you drop the revs right down. It’s actually one of the boat’s most economical cruising speeds, delivering a 250-mile-plus range.
Thankfully, the helm station and driving position are both well designed. I especially like the helm chair, which looks good enough to grace the lobby of a high-end hotel and also cantilevers neatly into a standing bolster. Although there are a few exposed screw heads here and there, the styling of the helm is actually very smart. The only distraction is the squeaking and rattling coming from the Webasto sunroof and some parts of the furniture, especially when the wave heights increase. However, the builder fine-tuned the joinery and adjusted the lever on the hatch to silence these issues on future hulls. The mock carbon-fiber fascia looks a lot better than it sounds and the Mercedes Benz-style air vents add a touch of class. The view out through the two-piece windscreen is clear and Absolute has managed to avoid overly thick supports in the center and on either side, which are usually a byproduct of the single piece of glass.
Glass, incidentally, plays a big part in the 56 STY’s appeal. Indeed, compared to its flying bridge sibling the boat has a much brighter saloon. This is partly due to the gigantic side windows—something the flying-bridge boat also gets, of course—but the STY additionally gets the boost of four big panels of glass in the sunroof so even when it’s shut you’re still treated to bucket loads of natural light. The effect is wonderful and makes the entire area feel even more spacious.
The galley-aft layout is a bit of an Absolute calling card and I still think it works brilliantly—even more so on a boat where it means the galley is equidistant between the two main living spaces. It’s a good galley, too, with an array of stowage spaces including eye-level lockers and a domestic-size fridge/freezer.
The cockpit doors slide outboard leaving a nice wide aperture between indoors and outdoors and the totally flat threshold means you have unencumbered access between the two. Thus, the aft end of the saloon and the cockpit meld into one large entertaining and living space—delightful.
The cockpit, your only external living space, works nicely. The table there is fixed, and a little on the small side (it could do with folding leaves), but there is plenty of space for guests to move around and sit in comfort. The backrests of the transom seating also cleverly flip and extend to make the sunpad even larger.
Despite the galley being a step or two away, Absolute has still included a compact wet bar in the cockpit. It’s not essential, given its proximity to the main galley, but I’d rather have it than not and it means you have very easy access to the barbecue grill for alfresco feasts.
Belowdecks is where you reap the most benefit, compared to the boat’s predecessor, the 55 STY. In nearly every way the 56 is the same as the former model but Absolute has extended the hull by just over 10 inches, which has improved two things significantly. One is the amount of space in the crew cabin, and the other is the floor space in the master stateroom. And it’s done the trick because the owner’s suite is exceptionally spacious, with an abundance of floor space at the end of the berth and on both of its sides. When two people are moving around a cabin they can feel pinched—not so on the 56. Another virtue of the master is all the natural light that bursts in via the triple hull windows and single opening port in either side. The sliding door to the spacious en suite is a clever space-saving idea too, especially since the the two heads onboard being just off the little entrance lobby to the cabin where room may be tight. Indeed, the master serves its primary purpose with ease while also providing some real extra living space.
Guests will be just as happy as the boat’s owner, though, because the VIP feels almost as spacious as the master and gets its own set of hull windows. Floor space is generous as well, and the walkways on either side of the berth are wide for easy access.
The 56 STY is a very comfortable boat to be onboard. As a floating entertaining space she works very well whether you’re relaxing outside, watching a movie in the comfortable saloon, or heading to your cabin for some rest. She’s not the most fearsome sea boat that’s ever taken to the water, but she performs well and offers something individual in the face of more mainstream competition. The sport cruiser has indeed come a long way, and Absolute is making the most of it.
Noteworthy Options: Hydraulic passarelle ($23,123); crew cabin installation ($18,363); hydraulic bathing platform ($26,388).
Generator: 20-kW Kohler
Conditions During Boat Test
Air temperature: 69.8°F; seas: flat
Load During Boat Test
112 gal. fuel, 0 gal. water, 6 persons.
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/600-hp Volvo Penta IPS 800s
- Transmission/Ratio: Volvo Penta IPS 800
- Price as Tested: $1,976,400
This article originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.