With an innovative engine setup, lots of luxuries, and fun performance attributes, the Azimut 77S proves the future is now.
This is a boat so nice I tested her twice. Well, maybe it wasn’t quite like that. She’s good, certainly—hey, just look at her—but she uses some pretty progressive propulsion technology, and unfortunately the first time out she couldn’t quite deliver in the performance department. So the boat went back for a prop change, and then I went back to see if that made any difference. It did. Big smiles all-round.
This is the risk boatbuilders and designers run when they try new things. There is nothing else out there quite like Azimut’s new 77S, but it’s not just the snubbed stem that is new, or those radical window shapes and her muscular, almost military profile. It’s the power plant: three 900-horsepower, six-cylinder diesels coupled to Volvo’s low-drag, computerized IPS drives. This is not a boat for the faint-hearted. And yet she cossets and comforts with a cool and beautifully executed interior that not only offers the highest levels of luxury, but impressive space and volume.
Let’s start with the machinery. Why three powerplants? Azimut’s engineers argue that in terms of fuel consumption, three can be more economical than two for the same power output. That’s actually true (see “Better Boat: Two Legs Good, Three Legs Better?”). Also, they suggest, three engines are no heavier than a twin installation. That’s not actually true, but it’s closer than you might think.
But in any case, the real reason for such a complex installation has less to do with the engines than it does the space they take up: IPS drives can be set well aft in the hull, leaving more space for accommodations—and the only way to get 2,700 horsepower from Volvo’s IPS system is to fit three 900s. You can see the result down below: The 77S might have a sporty, slender hull with a 20-degree midships deadrise, but she’s a four-cabin, four-head yacht, plus crew’s accommodation, and the amidship master suite feels as roomy as a broad-beam flying-bridge cruiser’s. Two twin-berth guest cabins and a VIP are less spacious, but well proportioned. There is also excellent headroom all through the lower deck of 6 feet 6 inches and pretty good stowage volumes too, particularly in the two larger suites, where the big beds hinge upwards on gas struts.
The galley is down below too, which leaves the main deck clear for an impressive saloon and dining area, with just a single helm seat to maximize the space for guests. The windows are huge, and with the sunroof and cockpit doors open the overall effect is superb. There is also a comfortable seating area on the foredeck, complete with bimini, while the flying bridge, though short, offers extra outdoor relaxation space as well as the best place from which to drive this spectacular machine.
For our first sea trial on the 77S’s debut at the recent Cannes boat show, engine rpm and boat speed were well below what they should have been. The engineers blamed the propellers, so a couple of weeks later we were invited to the Azimut center in Savona to try the boat again, this time fitted with larger-diameter, finer-pitch Q4 props instead of the original Q5s.
It felt like a different boat. In both handling and performance the 77S sparkled, reaching the correct rpm, topping out at 32 knots, and providing the kind of rewarding drive that puts a broad smile on the face of the helmsman. It heeled dramatically and turned on a dime, while the steering was light and helm response instant. No doubt the prop change had an effect, but we were also running a much lighter vessel: with no tenders onboard this time, fewer people, and a whole lot less fuel and water onboard, the weight difference was about 6,500 pounds, which is nothing to sneeze at.
To get the best out of this sporting hull and its powerful machinery it seems you need to run it light. We also found that turning off the stabilizers helps the boat handle like a real thoroughbred. This begs the question, does a boat like this really need stabilizers? Not underway, that’s for sure: it’s much more fun to drive with the gyros switched off.
Perhaps there is nothing else out there quite like the 77S because Azimut set itself such a tough challenge: to produce a luxurious, well-appointed and spacious cruising yacht with the look and feel of a sportsboat. It’s a brief that doesn’t so much involve compromises as it does tearing up all previous preconceptions, and starting on a clean sheet.
But it works: She’s not especially fast, but the 77S handles well, has a smooth-riding deep-V hull, and will cruise all day at 30 knots. And she’s big and beautiful inside and out.
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Noteworthy Options: Seakeeper gyro stabilizers; automatic bimini on bow; painted hull; Volvo Penta Platinum package (includes joystick, autopilot, automatic trim, docking station, dynamic positioning). Prices upon request.
Two Legs Good, Three Legs Better?
There’s no doubt that three smaller engines on IPS drives allow for a shorter engine room, which benefits the lower-deck accommodation. No argument there. But the 77S’s engine room certainly feels small: three engines, two gensets, and the intrusion of the tender garage take up virtually all of the available space.
But what about weight and fuel consumption? It seems counterintuitive that for the same horsepower, three engines can be lighter and use less fuel than two, but Azimut and Volvo Penta say it’s not as clear-cut as we might think. Let’s compare a twin installation of MAN V12s (combined output 2,720 horsepower) with the triple IPS D13s in the 77S (2,700 horsepower).
Including gearboxes, the two MANs weigh 9,775 pounds. The three Volvos, complete with gearboxes and drives, weigh 15,212 pounds. Quite a difference, but it doesn’t take into account the weight of the running gear on the shaft-drive installation: shafts, P-brackets, props, and rudders. These vary from model to model, so an exact comparison is impossible, but they’re pretty heavy. And with heavier engines, like MTU V8s or V10s, the gap narrows even more.
In terms of fuel consumption, it’s an easier comparison: the two MANs use a combined total of 138.9 gph at WOT, against the three D13s’ 134 gph. At a cruising speed of 2,000 rpm, or just over 25 knots, the 77S was burning 121.8 gph during our trial, while MAN’s data sheets suggest that at 2,000 rpm, two MAN V12s would be using 126.8 gph while producing slightly more combined horsepower.
The advantages of the triple IPS engine installation are clear enough down in the accommodations, but in terms of speed and fuel consumption there is hardly a compelling case. On the other hand, all such discussions are entirely academic, because there are no power options on the Azimut 77S.
Generators: 2/28-kW Kohlers, Warranty: entire yacht 12 months, material and workmanship, 5 years hull and structural
Conditions During Boat Test
Air temperature: 75°F; water temperature: 73°F; humidity: 48%; seas: 1'; wind: 5-7 knots
Load During Boat Test
525 gal. fuel, 100 gal. water, 6 persons, 100 lb. gear.
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 3/900-hp Volvo D13-IPS 1200s
This article originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.