Brabus 500 Shadow
A few years back I was walking along the quay of the Cannes boat show and saw a lightly trafficked booth for a Finnish company with a name I’d never heard of before: Axopar. I introduced myself to founder, Jan-Erik Viitala, and peppered him with a few questions about this new brand. He mentioned that his boats were in a slip with access to the Bay of Cannes. He asked if I was interested in testing one and seeing what this fledgling builder was really about.
Our ride that day was the Axopar 36 Sport Cabin, and it was a true sports car of the sea. At the time I wrote in my notebook: “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.”
Gallery: Brabus 500 Shadow
Of course, they didn’t need me to tell them that. Each year that passed, as more and more Axopars were released, the company’s profile skyrocketed. And, luckily for us, a new tradition of Axopar testing had begun. The following year Capt. Bill Pike tested the Brabus 800 Shadow. I watched with envy as he fully embraced this driving machine—he was damn near giddy.
This year I would get my revenge as I climbed aboard the smaller Brabus 500 Shadow. Built from the design of the Axopar 28, there are a number of notable upgrades worthy of the Brabus name. For starters, the big one is that the Brabus has 100 more hp than its Axopar counterpart—power for the 500 is twin 250-hp Mercury racing engines (hence the 500 moniker). The builder also implemented carbon fiber everywhere you look and touch. The total weight savings is only around 230 pounds but combine that with an extra 100-hp and a rocket-ship hull and it all adds up to one wild ride.
Besides the jet black and rich red leather color scheme, the amenities are the same as the Axopar 28. It has a head forward, plenty of storage hidden everywhere and a nice convertible sunpad/lounge forward.
Want to know what this boat is really about though? Like Jan-Erik suggested years earlier: Take her for a spin.
Video produced by John V. Turner
Once free from the congestion of the show, with open water ahead, I fire-walled the throttles. In just a trio of seconds the boat was up on plane, a couple seconds after that we were well on our way to a top speed of 53 knots.
At speed I could really appreciate how much effort the builder put into the design of the wheel. Seriously auto inspired, the central hub was fixed, allowing you to adjust everything from trim to stereo volume with just your thumb. The ability to adjust various settings while keeping both hands on the wheel and eyes on the water ahead was a smart, functional touch.
Up until this point of the Cannes show, I have to admit I was dragging a bit. A series of bad flights had me jet lagged as I relied on a steady diet of cappuccinos and espressos to get me through the myriad events and press conferences. It was at this moment, carving sharp turns in the complete comfort and security that only a grippy hull can offer did I finally shake my funk. I was more awake, no, make that more alive, than I had been in a while.
Brabus 500 Shadow Specifications:
Fuel: 74 gal.
Power: 2/250-hp Mercury Racing outboards
Cruise Speed: 38 knots
Top Speed: 53 knots