Despite its bold exterior, Carver’s sleek 43 Coupe possesses a lot of the qualities that first attracted legions of brand loyalists.
Maneuvering our way back to the dock after wringing out Carver’s new C43, we passed slip after slip in which were moored Carvers of various type and vintage. Nothing unusual in that as over the last couple of decades this brand has proven to be one of the most perennially popular. What did strike me however was the contrast between my sleek, stylish test boat and those big, tall, boxy Carvers.
I wondered, what would the owners of those boats think of this one? Would they be attracted to this very different, very sporty, coupe? Or would they consider it a denial of everything they had always liked about the brand?
Fair question, since those older Carvers, while for the most part never considered stylish, had the reputation of packing more living space into a given LOA than any other brand. A boat like the 35 Mariner, for example, may well have elicited guffaws and unkind comparisons of her profile to that of a steam iron (I actually overhead this once), but it and all of the Mariners were arguably without parallel when it came to providing the most boat for the money. Indeed, back in the early aughts you could have purchased a brand-new, fully equipped 35 Mariner for $180,000, a mere pittance by today’s standards.
The C43 Coupe is a different animal altogether—so much so you can hardly imagine that both boats came out of the same factory in Pulaski, Wisconsin. And while they surely did, these are not sisterships. For more than the past couple of years Carver has remade not only its image but it’s very boatbuilding philosophy.
One big reason for this is Marquis. The high-end brand that Carver boldly launched more than a decade ago has been an unqualified success that for a while led the company to ignore its bread-and-butter Carver line. When it became obvious that building the same old low-cost cruisers wasn’t going to cut it in today’s market, Carver decided to rethink the whole cruising concept. The result was an abandonment of low-priced nautical people movers in favor of a line of what were essentially less-expensive mini Marquis boats.
There was another aspect to the new Carver strategy, made real by the C43. In recognizing that boaters’ tastes were changing, Carver realized the trends now favored boats that were truly turnkey, that you could step aboard, flip a few switches, throw off the lines, and go. They also recognized that they wanted a boat that blurred the boundaries between indoor and outdoor spaces, allowing everyone onboard to be part of the activity, whether that was at the helm, in the galley, or in the cockpit. To address all of these changes, Carver first created the C37 Coupe and now the C43 Coupe. For those with more conventional tastes, Carver still offers the C34 and C40 Command Bridges (see our test of the C34 here).
The LOAs of the two coupes may be different but the philosophy behind them is the same. Neither boat has a stitch of canvas, and both have a single-level deck from helm to cockpit with big aft doors that open up all the way to create one continuous entertaining area. Lots of glass and a standard sunroof with integral shade and screen enhances the feeling that you’re always near the outside even when you’re under cover. The only time you need go below is to sleep or use the head.
But despite an obvious resemblance, the C37 and C43 are different siblings. Both have two staterooms, but the 43’s are larger, especially the starboard guest stateroom, which has direct access to a second head that the C37 lacks.
On the main deck the saloon and cockpit are both larger, and her galley is to port (opposite the layout of the 37) and all the way aft, ideally positioned to serve either the large U-shaped starboard dinette inside or the equally generous (and optional) cockpit table. (Both convert to beds by swapping their two tall pedestals for short ones.)
But the biggest difference is power. The C37 offers gasoline and diesel stern-drive packages from MerCruiser and Volvo Penta, while the C43 employs only V-drive diesels from Cummins. There is no gasoline option, which is something Carver traditionally included to keep the base price low and address the preferences of its Great Lakes customers. Power is more than adequate: two 380-horsepower QSB 6.7s or, as on our test boat, the 480-horsepower version of this same engine model. Either way this boat is not only a performer, she also puts up some respectable fuel efficiency numbers. A top end of 32.6 knots is no mean feat for a boat with a listed dry weight of 24,150 pounds but just as noteworthy is the relatively flat fuel consumption (0.9 mpg) from 2000 to 2500 rpm, providing the helmsman a wide choice of efficient cruising speeds.
Being a V-drive boat, the C43 does tend to run a bit bow-high, although this is moderated by the fact that the two 171-gallon fuel tanks are forward of the engines. Clearly, running angles will change according to fuel load, but in any case, it’s nothing that cannot be easily controlled by a bit of tab.
One obvious question is why V-drives and not pods. Surely cost is a factor. While engine and drive-train pricing to manufacturers is a closely guarded secret, it’s no secret that pods are expensive. A V-drive package likely reduced Carver’s overhead, and presumably the retail pricing of the C43. With a base price of $571,650, the C43 is one of the most affordable boats of her size and ilk, and even optioned out as our test boat was, she comes in less than $700,000 before negotiations.
But without pods, what of dockside maneuvering? Well, assuming you order the optional bow thruster (it’s hard to imagine not doing so) and given the C43’s comparatively modest windage, along with its 22 x 23 three-blade props and 1.64:1 reduction, it’s not a problem. You get a pretty good bite when you shift the Cummins mains into gear. No, it’s not point and shoot, although two options can provide this if you must have it: either the joystick-enabled Carver Docking System, which integrates control of the marine gears with bow and stern thrusters, or Cummins own Inboard Joystick System, which does the same thing but with Cummins-supplied components.
As do pods, V-drives free up space under the saloon sole that in a straight-inboard configuration would be occupied by engines. Some builders use this space to expand or even add a stateroom but Carver has chosen to give most of it over to stowage—a lot of stowage. The space measures 51 inches wide by 78 inches long; it’s that narrow because a single air handler occupies the starboard side. (The air-conditioning system has just one zone.) On our boat an optional wine cooler occupied the aft port corner, and you can also order a washer/dryer that resides farther forward on this side. Even with it you’ll still have a lot of space to stow things.
Of course, one of the downsides of a coupe is you don’t get those great views from an elevated bridge. I won’t try to tell you that the sightlines from the C43’s lower helm are as good as those of a bridge boat, but they’re actually not bad. One reason is the elevated helm, which enhances the view and creates additional headroom in the guest stateroom beneath. Consequently, views forward and to either side are quite good, and the view aft—the one that’s so important when you’re backing into your slip—is actually better than that on most bridge boats I’ve run, although the aft starboard corner is a bit obscured so you’ll probably want a spotter for that.
One reason for the good sightlines aft is the fact that there’s so much glass area in the saloon. But unlike some coupe-style boats, all these windows are fixed, so you’ll have to rely on that big sunroof for your fresh-air fix. The reason for this elision is no doubt cost, as most fully opening windows retract electrically. But there are port and starboard sliding-window inserts (roughly 12 inches by 16 inches) within the larger fixed windows outboard of either forward settee that freshen up things for the helmsman and copilot.
After reading that attractive base price you may not be expecting much in terms of interior furnishings. While it’s true that you won’t mistake the C43 for a Marquis, I guarantee you will see the influence of that line. Upholstery and fabrics are truly top end, and the cherry doors and trim are well crafted and nicely finished. This interior is a big step up from the Carvers of old.
Which brings us back to the owners of those older Carvers. What will they think of the C43? I think they’ll love it, and here’s why: It may be sleeker and sportier but it still can comfortably accommodate a crowd, and it’s still priced like a Carver.
And besides, it doesn’t look anything like a steam iron.
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Noteworthy options: Bow thruster; 6.0-kW Kohler genset; transom shower; electronics including Raymarine E127 MFD; windlass; waste and water monitor; radar mast; power cockpit sunshade; exterior seat covers, carpet, and table; foredeck sunpad with cover; cockpit fridge; cockpit wet bar w/ electric grill; saloon blinds; Northern Lights (Technicold) A/C; wine cooler. Prices upon request.
Warranty: 10 years on hull structure, 5 years on osmotic blistering, 2 years standard warranty
Conditions During Boat Test
Temperature: 70°F; humidity: 88%; seas: 3' chop
Load During Boat Test
205 gal. fuel, 86 gal. water, two persons, 50 lb. gear.
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/480-hp Cummins QSB 6.7 diesel V-drives
- Transmission/Ratio: ZF/Hurth 851V/1.64:1
- Props: 22x23 three-blade nibral
- Price as Tested: $697,920
This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.