A long-awaited test of the Axopar 37 SC proves that this Finnish-built beast can turn on a dime—and give you change back.
A wave of applause reverberated through the convention hall as a curtain cover was yanked and the angular Axopar 37 Sport Cabin was revealed. The applause was warranted; the new model from the Finnish builder carefully blended an aggressive look with an inviting cabin, a must-have for a center console of this size today.
After doing a couple laps aboard through a thicket of show-goers clamoring to snap photos, I realized that the only problem with this boat on land was … well, it’s a boat on land. Like a sports car in a showroom, you can drool over it for only so long; it’s the test drive that really hooks you.
With my hand rested on the throttle of the 37, my mind wandered from the gray German winter outside the Düsseldorf show to the clear waters off Florida. I knew then that I was going to find a way to test this new debut as soon as possible.
I would get my chance, but not in U.S. waters. Instead, I met the boat again, about eight months later, during the Cannes Yachting Festival this past September. There, I was able to conduct an on-water test in the decidedly more exotic Bay of Cannes.
If the 37 is any indication, Axopar is ready to bring sales of its boats to the next level. The company builds a range of craft from 24 to 37-feet long, atop three hull designs, in a variety of deck and house layouts. All of the models and the 37 stay true to the company philosophy of efficiency and performance. By using stepped hulls and twin outboards, Axopar provides respectable speeds at a reasonable price.
The 37’s cockpit seems Florida-ready, with plenty of space for entertaining—especially if you opt for the full galley/fridge combo.
Forward of the helm, the main cabin features a queen berth, toilet, privacy curtain, a compact galley, and my favorite touch, a small bench seat where you can go to escape your company without having to lay in the bed. The cabin doesn’t offer standup headroom, but I’d call it a comfortable crouch height.
The salon makes the most of the space with an L-shaped sofa and dining table. There’s an option for an aft cabin, which is something I would certainly consider since it has plenty of headroom, along with appropriately sized windows and ports for fresh air. It’s likely intended for kids, but I wouldn’t feel guilty having a couple friends stay there for a night.
The wind was wispy as golden morning light gleamed off what should have been the calm water of the bay. It turned out that we weren’t the only ones itching for a boat test; dozens of motoryachts crisscrossed the water with prospective buyers aboard. The armada of new models churned the water into a confused mess. The conditions were perfect for testing what Axpoar claims is a high-performance craft.
Gallery: Axopar 37 SC
“Now this, this is more like it,” I offered founder Jan-Erik Viitala, as we slipped our lines and made our way to open water. While idling to the harbor, we passed a proverbial Who’s Who of stunning new yachts. I felt a little dirty admiring all the gleaming motoryachts around us while on a sea trial, but looking out, I noticed how many people were noticing the 37 in return. Its gray hull, black hardtop, and low-profile design easily caught the eyes of the passengers on other boats. And as in Düsseldorf, there was a contigent of onlookers snapping photos of the boat.
I sat in the passenger seat recording RPM and fuel-burn readings as Viitala worked the throttles. Viitala took no issue spurring all the horses from the twin 350-horsepower Mercury Verados.
The boat cut through seas well, thanks to a knife-sharp bow; but a tissue-paper-light displacement of 8,300 pounds meant that, at times, the boat was launched airborne. I was thankful I’ve never had a cavity; the hull handled the slamming more than a filling ever could.
After scribbling the test data down it was finally my turn at the helm. The throttle was exceptionally responsive and the boat easily leapt onto plane when we hit 13 knots (at 2500 RPM). I noticed there was almost no bow rise when I first powered the boat up. Maybe I was too aggressive with the throttle, I thought. I pulled the boat back to neutral and tried bringing her up to speed much slower and verified that the 37 in fact only lifts its nose a few degrees when powering onto plane, which compliments boat’s nearly 360 degrees sightlines. This level of visibility is especially helpful when ducking and dodging much larger motoryachts.
I quickly discovered that, true to Viitala’s claim, the 37 is indeed a performance boat. But when I say performance I’m not just referring to the 45-knot top end. A lot of boats can go 45 knots with 700 horsepower on the back. I’m talking about its ability to make sharp turns with confidence (no hull slipping here), the ability to track like an arrow, and do it all with modest fuel burn. This is no accident; Axopar built the brand around its deep-V (20-degree deadrise at the transom) stepped hull. The hull and the boat’s center of gravity, boasted Viitala, is such that, “you can’t get spray on the windshield unless you really do something wrong.”
Challenge accepted. After becoming familiar with handling and the responsiveness of the wheel I realized I was no longer testing the boat but driving, simply because it was fun and I wanted to see if Viitala’s claim held water. I worked the wheel and chased down multiple boat wakes but couldn’t conjure a speck of spray.
“She handles more like a RIB or a PWC,” said Viitala knowingly.
After finally conceding the helm I jumped from the 37 to an Axopar 24 Sport, taking with me Digital Editor John Turner, who shot photos and video. Viitala must have gotten antsy watching me drive for so long because when he got back behind the helm he whipped up the engines and pulled the boat in tight circles reminiscent of a NASCAR driver doing burnouts before heading to Victory Lane. Indeed, the boat’s ability to cut corners and turns is only inhibited by the bravery of the driver.
Still, that darn windshield stayed dry.
Axopar has been building boats for four years now, and in that time has gained a growing following in Europe with 500 boats built to date and an order book of 515 boats for 2017. The company is looking to make a bigger splash in the U.S. market in the near future with a large presence on the Florida show circuit.
Despite these strong showings Axopar still has their work cut out for them; the center console market is a competitive market that has rejected other Euro-style day boats and center consoles in the past. Two factors that will surely help Axopar’s cause are value and price point. Fully equipped, the 37 Sport Cabin retails for $250,000 (plus shipping).
My only advice for the Finnish builder would be to take as many people out for test drives as possible, because once you take this sports car out of the showroom, I suspect that you too will become an Axopar believer.
Axopar 37 SC - Final Boat Test Numbers:
Speeds are two-way averages measured via Garmin display. GPH estimates taken via Mercury monitoring system. Range based on 90% of advertised fuel capacity.
Draft: 2'9" (engines up)
Displ.: 8,300 lb.
Fuel: 192 gal.
Water: 26 gal.
Test Power: 2/350-hp Mercury Verado outboards
Optional Power: 2/225-hp to 2/350-hp Mercury outboards
Base Price: $250,000 (plus shipping)