Down Under, All Over
The Riviera 565 SUV is a rugged and versatile boat made for enjoying the bounties of Mother Nature with a few of your best mates.
A funny thing happened as I was driving the Riviera 565 SUV through the Broadwater inland waterway on Australia’s Gold Coast en route to a sea trial in the Coral Sea. While weaving through the channel, being careful not to get too close to the myriad sailboats moored right in the way of pretty much everyone, I saw a curious sight. It was a surfer paddling along on his board. He was long-haired and tan and and etched with stringy muscles common to athletes who compete not just to win a game, but to survive in the harshest of elements. We were not particularly close to land. The channel was wide and brown and reportedly filled with bull sharks. And he had at least a half-mile paddle on his little fiberglass potato chip to get out to the inlet where massive rollers broke themselves upon the jetty. And yet he progressed along his path totally content, and projecting an inward calm.
The whole scene struck me as very Australian. Throughout that vast and danger-laden continent, you find men (and women) willing to risk life and limb to test themselves against the rugged environment they call home. And they do it with a sense of camaraderie that borders on ecstatic. Perhaps it’s an outcome of Australia’s history. The very same men who now take on the roiling and ever-powerful waters surrounding the country are descendants of men who dared to take on something nearly as insurmountable—an Industrial Revolution-era British penal system. And hell, if you’re going to be shipped halfway around the world for challenging the Powers That Be, it helps to make tight friends with the guys who are along for the ride, doesn’t it?
All of which brings us to the Riviera 565 SUV. This is a boat that begs you to challenge the harsh Australian seascape, and have fun with your mates while doing it. She’s part of Riviera’s SUV line—which now includes the 445 and the new 515—and looks the part. Her lines, slightly boxy but not overly so, reminded me of a Range Rover, another rugged and versatile vehicle. And that makes sense, since the SUV line is a hybrid of sorts. One part gentleman angler, one part express cruiser, and all about having fun while out on the water, regardless of what the water is doing.
For a boat ostensibly measuring 56 feet (actually 60 feet 9 inches overall) the 565 is really pretty beastly. She’s got a beam of 16 feet 10 inches and she uses every inch of both measurements. Her accommodations level has three large cabins. The forepeak VIP stateroom on my test boat had optional twin berths installed in a V configuration since the owner likes to go fishing, and understandably his fishing buddies prefer their own space, though a larger single berth is also available. A door led to a head that shared an entryway to the hallway. The shower stall there was pleasingly large, at least for a non-American boat, though I guess Australians have been known to put on a little beer weight just like us. Another guest cabin to starboard had twin bunks and 6 feet 6 inches of headroom.
However, the star of the show was the master, two steps down and amidships. Awash in masculine, high-gloss cherry, the space featured a king-size island berth as well as a settee to port. Standard-issue would have dictated plush leather upholstery, but on our test boat the master’s furniture was covered in an optional Macro Marine fabric that’s tough to tear and easy to clean.
The saloon is another strong point on the boat. The thing that immediately caught my eye were the four forward-facing Pompanette Platinum seats. Frankly, that just seemed generous to me. Anybody who’s ever taken a long voyage in open waters knows that a forward-facing seat is paramount. It makes taking the motion of the waves easier, and because of these particular seats’ heights, they also grant the passengers a good view too.
The helm has no standard electronics setup, which gives the owner a pleasing amount of flexibility. My test boat had three Raymarine e-Series 165 touchscreens. The helm layout was ergonomic and comfortable, but, being a righty, I found it a bit awkward to have the Volvo Penta joystick to port instead of starboard (a choice, I suspect, meant to aid in backing down). However if you can walk and chew gum at the same time that shouldn’t be too hard an obstacle to overcome.
The boat’s galley is aft in the saloon, a layout tweak common to Rivieras and one I personally like, since the aft “awning” window can tilt up, so both cockpit and saloon have equal access to the chef’s creations. Two-foot-deep counters are 6 feet long to frame the cooking area and should offer all the serving and prep space you could need.
The cockpit is expansive and reminiscent of what you would see on any serious sportfish. There’s mezzanine seating for observing the action, and options for transom livewells, in-sole fishboxes, and if you like, a chair, though my test boat had a somewhat odd fiberglass box in the middle of the cockpit that concealed a grill. (Personally I’d prefer the grill in the transom, where it would take up less usable space.) A starboard-side tuna door and plenty of rodholders rounded out the area’s fishing credentials. I figure if you’re into offshore fishing you may want to forego the optional awning that covers the forward half of the cockpit, though my suspicion is the owner of my test boat would mainly be using this boat for inshore angling. One last feature I appreciated in the cockpit were the oversized scuppers that allow the area to drain quickly should you take an errant wave over the transom.
There’s a double seal around the in-sole cockpit hatch that leads to the engine room—a good idea. There the twin Volvo IPS900s (the standard set-up has since been upgraded to IPS950s) are housed in a spacious compartment with excellent access to the sea strainers, fuel filters, and 21.5-kW Cummins Onan generator. Mercifully, large, dorade-type engine vents and temperature controlled Delta T fans help ventilate the space and keep everybody cool.
As it turned out, we’d need every ounce of power those Volvos could muster. Once we exited the inlet, it became a bit more clear why our surfer friend was so determined to get out to the ocean (and perhaps why he had chosen to paddle out from the relative calm of the inlet instead of the beach). The swells were large and powerful, 8 to 10 feet, and at times higher than my head as I intermittently bullied and coaxed the 565 through the waves. She performed admirably, I must say. Her rugged, handlaid hull—solid below the waterline and Divinycell-cored above—neatly shrugged off even the largest of swells. And perhaps even better, the pods proved to make this boat very agile, both for a vessel this size and one operating in these conditions. As I turned the boat around to head downsea and back to the safety of the inlet for speed runs, the exercise got a little hairy. It’s unnerving to be broadside to a 10-foot swell as it bears down on you. However, thanks to the traction the pods offered, the boat whipped quickly out of the trough, obviating the necessity of taking a wave sideways full-on, and we surfed back into the inlet with admirable tracking, considering the circumstances.
Back in the channel the boat loped through her speed runs at a happy 25-knot cruise pace, while burning 44.9 gallons of fuel per hour, for a range of 452 miles at a fast cruise—about the same distance as it is from Ft. Lauderdale to Savannah, Georgia. Not bad for one tank of fuel.
The Riviera 565 SUV is a boat that can ably take you lots of different places, and let you do lots of different things once there. She’s designed to travel with company, and she’s designed for having fun—but maybe most importantly, she’s designed to keep everyone onboard safe—whether you’re braving the Coral Sea, or just popping down the ICW for some lunch with friends.
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Noteworthy Options: Volvo IPS joystick system ($15,650); watermaker ($21,450); hydraulic lift for swim platform ($50,031); cockpit awning ($4,376); sunpad on forward deck ($3,001).
A Little Off the Top
The Riviera 565 SUV is essentially the same boat as Riviera’s 53 Enclosed Flybridge; same hull, same layouts. The main difference, of course, is the SUV has no upper deck, a situation which is actually addition by subtraction. The two main advantages to getting rid of the upper deck involve cleaning and ergonomics. Without the extra top hamper, the SUV becomes much easier for one guy to clean once in port, and helps the boat maintain the “wash n’ wear” ethos Riviera meant for her. Also, this isn’t exactly an inexpensive vessel, and that means many owners will be a little bit older, having saved up some dough after years of peak earnings. And without that extra deck, this boat becomes much easier for, say, a septuagenarian couple to use to the fullest extent. Smart thinking on Riviera’s part.
Generator: 21.5-kW Onan, Warranty: 1 year total, 5 years on hull
Conditions During Boat Test
Air temperature: 75°F; humidity 30%; seas: flat for speed numbers, 7-10' in open water
Load During Boat Test
264 gal. fuel, 75 gal. water, 5 persons, 0 lb. gear.
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/700-hp Volvo Penta IPS950s
- Props: T3 propset
- Price as Tested: $1,793,000
This article originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.