Mustang 3800 Royal Review

Issue: July 2003
Manufacturer: Mustang

Modern Boating has been following Mustang’s ongoing commitment to research and development, which they clearly demonstrated recently with the release of the Sports Top version of our 2003 Powerboat of the Year and Cruiser of the Year, the Mustang 4600 Mirage. Mustang’s continuing process of R&D was again evident when the Aussie-boat builder released of the new ‘Royal’ version of their well-proven 3800 model. Their efforts are perhaps even more evident in the 3800 Royal, because it’s three years since the original 3800 model was released and it shows. Plus, these days Mustang Cruisers deliver their boats complete in every detail right down to personal safety gear and anchors. 

Mustang’s Marketing Manager, Jan den Braber, still beaming like a Cheshire cat after accepting our Boat of the Year award on behalf of the company said, when you take delivery of one of our boats, the only thing it doesn’t have aboard is a free weekend to go enjoy it. This boat takes its role as a weekender for a couple very seriously, but a second couple could also join you if you wish in complete comfort for a long weekend. Having a few more people onboard is fine for day trips; but Mustang sensibly accept that a 38 footer ‘ by virtue of the amount of living space available on a boat this size ‘ is going to be extremely comfortable for two and occasionally four and that is the train of thought behind her layout.

A 7.5 KVA genset and 16000BTU reverse cycle air-conditioning come as part of the Mustang 3800 Royal package, which with a price in the low 300s equates to excellent value for money. If there’s 240V power readily available the electric barbecue behind the helm seat would probably get used frequently, but if more formal meals are on the agenda, the galley with it’s twin hotplate cook top and microwave, can more than cater for that also. The Mustang 3800’s downstairs living area follows the well established route ‘ established at least partly by the success of the original Mustang 3800 models ‘ of a bow berth with a central galley/dining area and an aft berth tucked away beneath the helm station sole. 

Which of the two berths we’d actually claim as our own if this boat were ours was one question we didn’t ponder in any depth, but we do suspect that different folk may prefer to use the aft cabin as the main cabin. Both double berths are spacious, but the bow one isn’t completely rectangular, although it loses nothing in size because of its shape. It’s also easy to step up onto, while the aft berth is set low to the floor and has a fairly low ceiling above it. This may prove more difficult to get into and out of for some people. Again, the aft berth lacks nothing in size and thanks to a pair of portholes and a big hatch, probably offers marginally better natural light and ventilation than the bow one. 

Not that this is a consideration if the air-conditioning is in use. Privacy for two couples, is taken care of by the usual curtaining to effectively create separate cabins for the two berths. But the aft berth is also tucked away behind the head/ bathroom effectively increasing privacy to some degree. The bathroom is set to starboard as you step down into the saloon, which leaves room for an extra three-seater lounge along the portside. This lounge becomes an extra bunk if a fifth adult joins the crew. Modern Boating’s test team was impressed by the choice of fabrics and fittings used throughout the 3800 Royal’s living areas. Upstairs the realities of life on the water dictate entirely practical choices in stainless steel and outdoor rated vinyls, but downstairs the blend of style and function struck us as just right. A neat balance between the two. 

Gold light fittings, Granicote bench tops and appropriately co-ordinated carpet and upholstery colouration make the decor pleasant, relaxing even, somewhere on the middle ground between opulent and utilitarian. This is what we mean when we refer to Mustang’s relentless commitment to a continual process of refinement. Mustang are proud that customer input has had much to do with the presentation of the latest ‘Royal’ version of the 3800 hull. We’d suspect that this echoes the views of experienced owners who have sophisticated tastes ‘ and get out on the water at every opportunity to enjoy their boat and their boating. Folk just like us. 

Actually living onboard and indeed living ‘with’ a boat is an experience that proves or disproves the efficiency of a design and layout. Plenty of cupboards to store everything from supplies to clothing. The bar above the refrigerator and the extra food preparation space there. And upstairs, the big moulded transom platform projecting above the sterndrive legs and the large storage locker incorporated into the transom itself. Details count too. As confessed lovers of little folk we note that the catch for the transom door is set on the outside where it’s safe from small children’s nimble fingers. Speaking of which, the hot rock barbecue wasn’t covered and should be. 

With the shade canopies in place the entire upstairs living area was well sheltered from the sun. The aft area is two steps down from the helm and then there’s another step down to the transom platform. A full set of storm covers and clears is supplied as standard with the 3800 Royal. The helm itself is set quite high where we who roam the sometimes shallow reaches of southern Moreton Bay like them to be. There’s no such thing as a depth finder capable of telling you there’s shallow water ahead as well as a high vantage point and a good pair of polarising sunglasses can. 

While at the helm we particularly liked the way the cushion of the helm seat could be folded up to allow the person at the helm to stand for an even better view while docking. In rough water this also serves as a sort of lean seat to support the back of your legs. The helm leaves nothing to be desired with a tilt-adjustable sports steering wheel controlling the boat through smooth powerassisted steering. A pair of 5.7lt Volvo GXI petrol engines that produce a total of 640hp added an extra slice of performance to our test of the Mustang 3800 Royal. These drive through a pair of ultra efficient Volvo’s Duoprop sterndrive legs. Being able to adjust fore, aft and lateral trim with both the trim buttons on the sterndrive controls and with a pair of electric hydraulic trim tabs seemed at first glance to be a bit excessive. 

Although it would probably only take one trip offshore in less than idyllic weather to convince us otherwise. In calm conditions inside the Gold Coast Seaway, we had to look at our GPS to accept that a 3200rpm cruise was in fact moving the Mustang 3800 Royal along at 25.8 knots, so quiet and unassuming was our progress. From dead slow, the G forces generated by acceleration were quite impressive. Once the hull was up and planing cleanly the boat accelerated incredibly smoothly up to a top speed of 35.9 knots at 4400rpm. Not bad for a 38 footer. It’s a responsive boat to handle to a point where our test included a 35 knot ‘U turn’ to impress the tourists on the Broadwater. Appropriately, that effort capped off this test on one of the best all-round packages we’ve seen in quite a while. 

Pricing was still being finalised at the time of going to press, but it’s anticipated that the Mustang 3800 Royal will be priced in the low 300s complete with all options mentioned in this report. 

Words by Warren Steptoe