Engineered to Impress
It’s not only where the Bavaria 450 Coupe was built that sets it apart, but it sure helps.
If you’re trying in vain to place the name Bavaria Yachts you’re not alone. The company’s only been selling powerboats in the United States since 2014. But it’s been a major force in European boatbuilding since 1978, when it began building sailboats, and even more so since 2000 when it launched its first powerboat. Just how big a force? To date Bavaria has launched roughly 34,000 sailboats and 6,500 powerboats.
Given the fact that Bavaria’s new to the U.S. market, you’re probably wondering how it fits into our crowded powerboat universe. In short, what makes it sufficiently different to warrant your attention?
One big reason surely is the fact that this is a German builder, which alone makes it unique in the U.S. market. That provenance also allows the company to use the vaunted German reputation for exceptional engineering as a major selling point. It’s a connection that Bavaria Yachts U.S. insists is more than just ad hype.
Is it really? I was dubious until I viewed a video posted online that offered a look at how Bavaria builds boats. I learned that the sole factory—purportedly the world’s largest single boat-manufacturing facility—is highly automated, much more so than any other plant I’ve seen. Indeed, it looks like more of an automobile plant than a boatbuilding facility. The benefits of automation, says Bavaria, are a reduction in labor costs that it can pass on to its customers, and scrupulous quality control; as they do with cars, robotics reduce, if not eliminate, variations from unit to unit and allow for tolerances that result in the exceptional fit and finish that I noted on the 450 Coupe I tested.
Factory-direct distribution, which reduces overhead and costs, is another difference. There are no Bavaria dealers in the United States, just four distributors, in Connecticut, Maryland, Florida, and California, which allow it to service most of this country’s major boating areas. They’re backed by a network of widely dispersed, contracted service centers that ensure a timely response to customer demand.
And perhaps most important, the boats themselves are different. There are two lines: the Virtess 420, available as a coupe or a fly, and the five models in the Sport range, 300, 330, 360, 400, and 450. All are powered by either Volvo Penta diesel stern drives or diesel IPS. What’s particularly interesting about the 450 Sport is that it comes in three flavors. The Open is your basic sport cruiser, to which the HT version adds a hardtop but no bulkhead between the saloon and cockpit. My test boat was a Coupe, which includes an aft bulkhead that isolates the saloon from the aft sunpad and swim platform. Before deciding which version is right for you, know that all come with a giant sunroof, so exposure to the elements need not be a concern.
For me, the Coupe is the ideal choice for those who boat where the weather can be dicey. Its controlled interior environment means you can extend the boating season without any tradeoff in comfort. But in exchange your only access to the aft sunning area and swim platform is through a single starboard door. If you boat mostly in Florida or Southern California, you’ll probably find the HT more to your liking; it has the hardtop but without the aft bulkhead, which means you’ll have to give up the luxury of an air-conditioned saloon-helm area. If you just can’t get enough sun, the hardtop-less Open is your boat.
All three versions have the same giant aft sunpad, which lies atop an equally large lazarette/stowage compartment. Inside there’s room to spare for fenders, lines, watersports gear, unruly children—you name it. There’s also enough room for a small RIB or PWC, although an aft lip will make extracting either of them a Herculean task. However, a non-RIB inflatable could live comfortably here, and in any case the swim platform—your choice of fixed or hydraulic—is large enough to accommodate either.
The sole of this lazarette can be removed easily to provide access to the after part of the engine room for major work. For daily checks and minor jobs there’s a starboard deck hatch next to the sunpad. It was a bit of a squeeze getting below, and I’m only 5-foot-10. But once you’re below things open up nicely, especially forward, allowing you to reach anything you need easily. But if you’re large, arthritic, or just plain lazy, that entrance may deter you from those daily pretrip checks.
The 450’s interior layout also offers choices: either two or three staterooms, each with two large heads. My boat had the two-cabin version, which to my mind makes it a perfect two-couple boat. The cabins are of roughly equal size and comfort, although the after one has two separate berths lying athwartships and a bit less headroom due to the intrusion of the bridge deck. Both are en suite with the aft head being in a single port-side compartment and forward’s being split, with the shower to starboard and toilet and vanity to port.
The three-cabin 450 seems to be aimed at families as it offers two identical two-berth cabins aft served by a head that has been carved out of the galley area separating them from the forepeak stateroom, which is unchanged. European buyers often choose the three-cabin version as it provides a sleeping area for crew.
Europeans also must make due with a less powerful standard propulsion package—twin Volvo Penta 370 stern drives—while U.S. buyers get IPS600s as standard equipment, which on our boat generated a top speed of 31 knots. The ride was solid, even running into 3-footers at WOT. Partial credit for this goes to Bavaria’s hull-reinforcement system, a separate foam-cored FRP grid that is chemically bonded to the hull instead of conventional fore-and-aft stringers.
While the 450 enjoys a fine turn of speed she is no sportboat. Despite a beam of 14 feet 6 inches and relatively high vertical center of gravity, she handled the seas well and benefitted from the sharp helm response common to IPS. Her aft deadrise of 17 degrees at the transom helped the boat produce decent fuel efficiency—it peaked at 3000 rpm where a fuel-consumption rate of 31 gph worked out to just under 0.8 nautical miles per gallon.
That relatively high center of gravity stems from the 450’s unusually generous interior volume. Headroom is consistently 7 feet, and internal dimensions like those of the enclosed showers reflect the fact that Germans, like Americans, are a stout lot. But while the 450’s VCG didn’t reveal itself in any tenderness, her running attitude is sufficiently bow-high that you’ll want to run with about half-tab. Even so, I found forward sightlines somewhat restricted at lower planing speeds, a characteristic that thankfully disappeared as hull speed increased, to the point that at 3000 rpm, lines of sight were perfectly fine.
Up until this point I’ve resisted the temptation to compare the 450 to a German automobile but the Teutonic influence is too strong. My host likened our test boat to a Mercedes C Class but I lean more towards the Mercedes GLS SUV—a big comfortable cruiser with every amenity. Either way, the connection is there. How else to explain why seven of the first eight U.S. owners also own German automobiles?
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Noteworthy Options: Autopilot w/ joystick ($9,408); Garmin 4-kW radar ($3,794); hydraulic swim platform ($27,860); upgrade saloon upholstery ($3,010)
Generator: 12-kW Fischer Panda, Warranty: 2 years bow to stern
Conditions During Boat Test
Air temperature: 77°F; humidity 80%; seas: 2-3'; wind: 10 knots
Load During Boat Test
269 gal. fuel, 108 gal. water, 2 persons, 100 lb. gear.
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/435-hp Volvo Penta IPS600s
- Transmission/Ratio: Volvo Penta; 1.82:1 gear ratio
- Props: Volvo Penta T3
- Price as Tested: $823,979
This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.