The Family Way
Tiara’s C53 Coupe is new and improved, but only where it counts.
Tiara Yachts is, in many ways, the last of a dying breed: a privately owned, independent boatbuilder that can trace its heritage in an unbroken line back to the man who started it. On February 2, 1974, Leon Slikkers founded S2 Yachts, his second boat company. He had sold his first, SlickCraft, to AMF in September 1969, and as part of the purchase agreement, Slikkers agreed not to produce any powerboats for five years. Thus the first S2s were sailboats, but powerboats soon followed; in 1976 the company introduced the first Tiara. So depending on whether you calculate it from the founding of S2 or of Tiara, this builder has been in business for 40 or 42 years. Either way, it’s an accomplishment that few competitors can challenge.
But it’s not just the length of time that S2 has been building boats that makes it rare, it’s the unbroken chain of management. Almost from the beginning, Leon’s four sons were in the business, and they remain so today, as do many of their children. And although Tom is president and CEO of S2 Yachts, Leon, now chairman at age 88, remains active and deeply involved. In August, the company unveiled its newest boat, the C53 Coupe, at an event near its factory in Holland, Michigan, and while Leon wasn’t one of the presenters, his presence in the room was palpable, and when he did offer a comment, everyone paid rapt attention.
In a world where the ownership of companies is as interchangeable as the titles in a Monopoly game, such continuity is both admirable and noteworthy. But what does it really have to do with the new C53? Actually, quite a lot. Under the stewardship of the Slikkers family, Tiara has always been one of the industry’s most conservative builders. Change comes slowly in Holland, Michigan, and it’s never embraced just for its own sake. Trace the lineage of the Tiara line all the way back to ’76 and you’ll see a clear and constant evolution, with no detours to accommodate the fads of the day. As Tom Slikkers said during the introduction of the 53, “We change something only when we can clearly see how it benefits our customers.”
And so if you compare the 53 with the boat it replaces, the 50 Coupe, you’ll see a lot of similarities. But there are differences as well, and they have clearly been designed to make a good boat even better. The exterior profiles of the 50 and 53 are so similar as to be virtually identical. But to my eye, the 53 seems lower and sleeker, an impression I credit to the extra 3 feet, most of which is in the aft third of the boat. A large sunroof is still standard, and the cockpit overhang provides shade for those seated on either of the two forward cockpit seats, while leaving occupants of the curved transom seat in full sun. This area can also be shaded by the optional cockpit shade, a new design that replaces the old telescoping arms with a scissors mechanism that’s both more stable and quieter at cruising speeds.
But the biggest change is the additional LOA. It’s important to note that 30 inches of that has been added to the running surface, yielding a number of benefits. One is simplification of the supporting structure for the optional hydraulic swim platform: The 50’s matrix of metal beams is no longer necessary, reducing both weight and mechanical complexity. Lengthening the running surface has also created additional space in the engine room for an optional Seakeeper 9 gyro, which the company expects to be a popular option.
Inside, the changes are again incremental but significant. The interior “social zone” is larger and includes a new, L-shaped lounge on the port side. Its forward seat can face fore or aft, allowing its two occupants to enjoy the view forward underway, or aft when it’s time to dine. The table it faces is also new: It raises and lowers electrically, and rotates 90 degrees to create more dining space without compromising the centerline walkway.
This lounge faces a starboard couch, behind which is a 40-inch retracting TV and beneath which are the main AC/DC electrical panels. Although accessing them requires you to lift both the seat bottom and a separate protective panel that prevents water intrusion, the controls here so rarely need attention that the extra effort will likely be unnoticed by the 53’s owner. Electrical controls that need regular attention are now clustered in a “power-up station” that’s aft, hidden inside a galley cabinet but within easy reach as soon as you step aboard. Here you’ll find remote battery switches, shore power/generator controls, and main breakers—just the things you need to access when you board or leave the boat.
Belowdecks, two layouts are offered. The standard one features a full-beam, midship master and forepeak VIP and two heads, the master’s en suite, plus an “atrium” to port that could double as a small office or stowage area. In the optional three-stateroom layout, this atrium becomes a bunkroom.
One other point of commonality among Tiaras has been performance, and that continues with the C53. Power options are unchanged from the 50: Ostensibly the standard engine package is twin 625-horsepower Volvo Penta IPS800s, but Tiara expects the vast majority of 53s to go out with the 725-horsepower IPS950s. You may recall that this 10.8-liter in-line six has both a mechanical supercharger and exhaust-driven turbocharger, the former to provide added torque at low speeds. Combined with the additional waterline length, the IPS950s make this boat surprisingly quick. We recorded a top speed of 34 knots, but more impressive were the great, virtually constant fuel efficiencies we saw from 1500 rpm all the way to WOT, allowing the helmsman great flexibility in choosing a cruising speed.
Of course the C in C53 stands for Coupe, a genre that Tiara now considers its core—both 44 and 39 coupes are already on the scene. And that points out one area where this builder is anything but conservative: product development. According to Tom Slikkers, during the next model year, Tiara will introduce a new boat every 120 days, another benchmark that few builders can match. And you can bet that every one of those designs won’t go into production until it gets Leon’s stamp of approval. That’s the way it’s always been at Tiara.
Noteworthy Options: Seakeeper 9 gyro ($116,045); Nautical Structures swim platform ($67,050); Makefast electric aft sunshade ($20,045)
Generator: 13.5-kW Onan, Warranty: 5 years on hull and deck, 2 years on accessories
Conditions During Boat Test
Air temperature: 79ºF; humidity 77%; seas: 2-3'; wind: 10 knots.
Load During Boat Test
650 gal. fuel, 150 gal. water, 5 persons, 200 lb. gear.
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/725-hp Volvo Penta IPS950s
- Transmission/Ratio: IPS, 1.70:1 gear ratio
- Props: Volvo Penta P4 propset
- Price as Tested: $1,995,228
This article originally appeared in the December 2016 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.