Black Forest Blue Sea
Made for the way Americans like to use their boats, the Bavaria 420 Coupe brings German engineering to on-the-water fun.
Teutonic. It’s a precise word.
It’s not a smushy, wimpy word. It’s crisp and disciplined. Tew-Ton-Ik.
It is, to many connoisseurs in the world, a synonym for engineering excellence, for design perfection, for the very symmetry of automotive superiority.
When word got out that the new Bavaria Virtess 420 Coupe was actually built in Bavaria, the news rippled through the cognoscenti universe. It’s no surprise that the first viewers of the Bavaria 420 arrived in their BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes, Porsches, and Audis.
They already knew and understood the word. Teutonic. What they saw—the Bavaria Virtess 420 Coupe—did not disappoint. For once, a company motto is honest: Engineered To Enjoy.
But if you’re thinking the 420 Coupe is assembled by elves somewhere in the Black Forest, think again. The Bavaria production line is arguably the most advanced in the world, and the company was the first to use robots and full automation for precise control in the largest boatbuilding plant in Europe.
If you’re a sailor, Bavaria is a name you know well. The company, started in 1978, has built some 33,000 sailboats thus far and, if you’re a European powerboater, you also know the name, since more than 6,300 Bavaria motoryachts now ply those waterways.
North Americans are becoming familiar with Bavaria as well, through several outlets that not only offer factory-direct pricing, but also full parts and service.
And, for those on this side of The Pond who have been frustrated by some overseas builders, every Bavaria yacht carries a two-year bow-to-stern warranty that includes everything from the engines to the microwave, drawer handles to the windlass. In addition, every boat headed stateside is “Americanized” from the electrical system to the size of the air-conditioning units.
The 420 Coupe starts with a slippery hull from Italian designer Marco Casali, who also penned a pleasant profile accented by large windows surrounding the saloon and in the cabins. Build quality is world class, with Corecell foam sandwich construction and strictly metered vacuum resin infusion for maximum strength and minimum weight. A couple of nice touches I noticed: First, under every fitting (such as a cleat), an aluminum plate provides solid backing. Second, the bilge is finished to a high level and I give points for the company’s tidiness in areas that are unseen.
I was also impressed by the way that bulkheads and stringers fit perfectly into place before being bonded. This is a direct result of the company’s computer-driven precision that eliminates the wider gaps found on some boats.
When boarding, you’ll want to stand in the cockpit for a few minutes to understand how cleverly it was designed. The DuraDeck teak sole and moving furniture is an upgrade included in the U.S. version, and it allows you to configure the cockpit seating and table into several arrangements easily. And I’m not talking about loose furniture that will be tossed about when underway; each structure is securely attached to a track. Slide things around and you have an open cockpit right to the swim platform, or you can create a dining area with a table for alfresco meals, or you can even produce aft-facing seating. Slick.
The saloon is open, thanks to the extra-wide sliding doors between it and the cockpit, and it’s all on one level with no step to trip you. In fact, it’s so open and flat that, if you were so inclined and had moved the cockpit furniture aside, you could run from the helm through the saloon across the cockpit and swim platform for a mega-cannonball.
At first glance the saloon seems surprisingly ordinary: dinette to starboard, galley counter to port, helm forward. But beauty is in the details. Two hassocks reside under the table but, before you think your dinner guests have to crouch uncomfortably on stools, the hassocks morph into chairs with backs when needed. Other times, leave them as hassocks to prop your feet up while watching the pop-up TV. And a flat area just forward of the galley turns into a serving tray to carry your croissants and coffee for brunch in the cockpit.
Something else you won’t notice immediately in the saloon, at least until someone pushes a button, is the huge overhead sunroof that, with the big side windows, gives the openness of a runabout.
It might be hard to grasp, but the 420 is a three-stateroom, two-head 42-footer. But before you think that some of the cabins are teensy, I can assure you that I’d put my mother-in-law in either of the guest cabins without a qualm. Well, without too much of a qualm.
Forward, the master stateroom has an island walk-around berth, a 4-drawer bureau, and two large hanging lockers the gentler sex is sure to appreciate. By the way, you can tuck a washer/dryer under the stairs for weekending. The master has a pleasantly large private head to starboard with a full-size stall shower that sports a seat.
The port guest cabin is next to the dayhead, while guests in the starboard cabin have to nip across the lower foyer but, once there, they’ll have a spacious head with another large stall shower. Both cabins are configured with twin berths, and both can have filler cushions to turn them into berths about queen-size. But here’s the important point: both guest cabins have full standing headroom so you can pull on your trousers without having to scrunch over.
This is the 420 Coupe, so it has a single helm station, and it’s laid out ergonomically for skipper and a companion. Standard equipment includes a full Garmin package installed at the factory, including an 18-mile HD radar, touchscreen chartplotter, autopilot, and GPS, all controlled via a 12-inch Garmin multifunction display. Just to its left is the proprietary Bavaria systems monitor, a touchscreen that controls everything from pumps to lights.
Aft, the swim platform is brilliant. It lowers at an angle with stairs appearing automatically, so you can use it as a beach for swimming or as a lift for an up-to-11-foot-long console RIB tender.
Bavaria buyers have a choice of two types of propulsion packages, both from Volvo Penta. Our test boat had the optional IPS600 pod drives (IPS500s are standard) which, with the standard joystick and Side-Power bow thruster, turned sliding into our tight slip with a crosswind from a white-knuckle event into child’s play. If you’re a traditionalist, you can also opt for Volvo Penta stern drives, but for manuverability, the pods would be my choice.
Generating Buzz...Very Quietly
Like Bavaria, the name Fischer Panda may not be overly familiar to North American powerboaters, although the company’s generators are found on an ever-growing number of cruising sailboats. Also like Bavaria, Fischer Panda is a German company, which began producing extremely quiet generators in 1986. The company has worked closely over the years with the BMW Marine Division and, as a result, many of the Formula One Grand Prix teams equip their transporters and maintenance vehicles with Fischer Panda gensets.
Fischer Panda’s motto is “The Most Powerful Generators You’ll Never Hear” and the near-silence you encounter in the company’s products is due to water-cooling the stator windings (the magnetic rotor has no windings, brushes, or diodes), an approach that’s unlike most gensets where both stator and rotor are air-cooled. In addition to its quiet operation, Bavaria Yachts chose the Fischer Panda for the 420 Coupe because it is very compact and has a small footprint in the engine room, as well as a 50-percent savings in weight, which is critical in small boats for performance.
To support a growing U.S. market, Fischer Panda has a stateside office with full parts and service in Ft. Lauderdale. www.fischerpanda.com
Our test boat had the upgraded 12.5-kW Fischer Panda genset, which is standard on the U.S. boats. Not only do we use more electricity over here, we also like our cabins cold, so the air-conditioning system I mentioned earlier is also bumped up to 55,000 BTU to put frost on the windows in midsummer Miami.
Above the cockpit, molded into the hardtop, is a sunpad, and another sunner is on the bow, which has excellent nonskid surfaces.
Underway, we had a truly perfect day for testing: It was nasty with a capital N. Twenty knots from the north was blowing against the Gulf Stream, and the result was what the weathercaster said were four-to-sixes. Like most weathermen, he was wrong: these were sixes with Grand Canyons between them.
But the 420 Coupe ate it up and asked for seconds. We slammed and pounded through several free-falls, but I was impressed that the boat didn’t squeak, creak ,or whimper. It seemed clear that the 420 could take more than its occupants, and we voted for a return to flat water.
One thing I learned is the 420 is light on the helm and responsive on the throttle. Just a nudge of the combined 870 horses of the pod drives, and the 420 would take off hair-on-fire.
In calmer 2- to 3-foot seas, we topped out at 35.7 knots with half fuel, three people aboard, and full water, so this was a real-world test. But here’s the best thing: With the hammer down, we were sucking just 44 gallons per hour, which shouldn’t put you on a first-name basis with the fuel-dock attendant. Back off to 21 knots, which still eats up the miles comfortably, and you’ll get the magical one nautical mile per gallon that lots of owners brag about.
OK, time for full disclosure. I’ve owned more than a few classic Porsches and the Bavaria Virtess 420 Coupe reminded me of each of them. Advanced design, impeccably built, fast and nimble—I loved the 420 Coupe. It made me remember one word that summarized both the Bavaria and the Porsches: Teutonic.
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Noteworthy Options: 2/Volvo Penta IPS600s incl. joystick; DuraDeck on cockpit and swim platform; hydraulic swim platform; electronics package (prices upon request).
Warranty: 2 years bow-to-stern hull and systems
Conditions During Boat Test
Air temperature: 80°F; humidity: 70%; seas: 2-3'
Load During Boat Test
165 gal. fuel, 108 gal. water, 3 persons.
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/435-hp Volvo Penta IPS600s
- Transmission/Ratio: Volvo Penta, 1.70:1 gear ratio
- Props: Volvo Penta P2 propset
- Price as Tested: $729,900
This article originally appeared in the July 2015 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.