Riviera 3000 Offshore Review

Issue: October 1999
Manufacturer: Riviera

It had been promised for some time, and since its designers had taken a different approach to the design and powering of a sports cruiser, there was a considerable air of anticipation and expectation in the release at Sanctuary Cove Boat Show, of the Riviera 3000 Offshore.

In a market that is dominated by twin-berth, petrol sterndrive powered imports, Riviera dared to be a little different. 

Firstly, it is twin-diesel inboard-powered, and that alone will raise a keen interest from those who are not happy with the potential higher maintenance costs of sterndrive legs over shaft drive. Secondly there is the open cabin layout – no transverse aft cabin – providing comfortable overnighting facilities for a couple (three if absolutely essential) and concentrating space and facilities on the open cockpit rather than below decks.

These two features stand the Riviera quite apart from the majority of the market and have opened up a whole new can of worms in the debate as to how buyers of these mid-sized sports cruisers really use their boat and its facilities. No matter the answer, there is now a very viable alternative. It might not answer the wants of family boat users, but it certainly has a lot going for it in terms of space and facilities for those whose lifestyle rotates around day boat use and entertaining.

Sports cruisers are largely a day or weekending boat, and Riviera have therefore planned a craft that dedicates so much space and facilities to where they believe they are needed and most largely used – in the cockpit! With its massive 3.49-metre beam, the Riviera 3000 is able to offer a cockpit that has space to move with the associated cooking facilities above deck rather than tucked down in the saloon. Though the saloon galley is equipped with the usual preparation bench space, storage cupboards, sink and refrigerator, there are no cooking facilities below.

Instead, a portable stainless steel barbecue is stored in the locker in the rear of the main cockpit lounge, and when needed, this unit is lifted out, fitted into recessed sockets in the aft quarter side deck, bringing the only cooking facilities up and out into the open air, for the outdoors lifestyle that this boat was designed to deliver.

Supplementing the gas-fired barbecue, there is a moulded GRP sink with hot and cold water and heaps of storage space in a moulded unit tucked in aft of the helm station, and the test boat had a second fridge also installed in this area. This cockpit fridge is an option and given the outdoors and entertaining lifestyle this boat was designed to evoke, then this cockpit fridge would be better as standard, rather than the one in the galley below.

Then, however, I see most buyers taking the Riv with the second fridge anyway so maybe two should be the standard offering. Similarly, the double leaf swim ladder built into the rear boarding platform and the cockpit table that sits nicely in place for the main lounge area, are both options, and like the second refrigerator, I see these items being not only an essential part of the lifestyle but also part of most shopping lists.

The stainless steel targa arch and framed bimini top as fitted to the test boat, constitute just one of a number of ways that shelter can be provided for the helm and lounge area of the cockpit. The stock boat comes free of any cockpit shelter or targa arch but buyers have a selection from a number of options. There is the very basic folding stainless steel-framed and soft bimini top, which, while looking much like a large runabout answer, does offer the ability to open the entire cockpit free of shade if the time and conditions are right. Of a more permanent or fixed nature are the fibreglass targa arch and top, or the customised stainless arch and bimini as per the test boat, which I quite favoured.

Whichever style suits your needs or meets your eye, with its large spacious cockpit and such a concentration of activity being generated above decks, it is absolutely essential that some form of shade or shelter be provided to at least the forward cockpit area. I prefer the fixed top simply because of its convenience and the ease in fixing or removing clears when wet or cold weather protection are needed. Below decks, the saloon is one open sleeping, eating and lounge space with a compact and nicely finished and fitted-out bathroom tucked off to the starboard side immediately at the base of the stairs.

Sleeping accommodation is primarily very comfortable for a couple via the generous island berth that is so dominant the moment you go below decks. The brochure says the boat will sleep three and I guess that third is via the lounge to the port side, but I image that would only be done when absolutely really necessary. This boat, after all, really does concentrate on the fact that sports cruisers are by and large used primarily for day use and entertaining and that the most overnighting or weekend living is done with a couple – not a crowd.

Hence the single double berth, the simple galley and the lounge/dinette. There is a generous amount of storage and hanging space provided throughout the boat. While the mattress on the double berth can be lifted to expose a cavernous storage bin under the berth, the luxury of a pair of air-assisted rams that can be found on a few of the imports would be a help here if the most use is to be made of this space to store large, bulky or hard to lift items. Similarly, the dinette needs a little fine tuning. On the test boat you just couldn’t get your legs in under the table – the gap between table edge and lounge cushion being so tight that even a child may have had difficulty. This won’t be hard to rectify, but I was surprised to see this fault appearing on what was about the third or fourth boat off the production line.

As I said earlier, this boat has been long awaited by the boating fraternity. Unlike all the imports as well as the few locally built sports cruisers where petrol-powered sterndrives are prevalent, the Riviera 3000 only offers inboard diesel engines with direct shaft drives. With a pair of 200hp Volvo TAMD 41 diesel inboards, the Riviera does not have the spirited and sprinting performance of many of the petrol sterndrive-powered imported sports cruisers, but it is a respectably performing boat nonetheless. In fact, if you seriously look at just how fast or just how hard you need to, or in fact do, push your boat, in most instances a cruise of 20 to 25 knots is all that is largely used. In rough windy conditions or running offshore, this is rarely more than you would use – if you considered the comfort of your guests, and at 20 to 25 knots the diesel engines are running at their most economical.

The Riv 3000 will do this and do it comfortably. All right, you might want more and if you do then go for one of the petrol sterndriven models, or order a Riv with the more powerful 260 EDCs due for release sometime early next year. But looking at the test boat’s performance in the 3000 to 3500rpm range, the twin 200hp engines are very acceptable. The maximum recommended rpm for these engines is 3800 so it has been well trimmed and propped pulling just over this with full fuel and three of us on board. Add a half dozen or so more people, a few supplies and the usual boat stock and the rpm should drop down around or just under the 3800rpm max and you will still have a 25 to 27 knot plus diesel-powered sports cruiser.

With a very healthy beam for its 9.4-metre length, this is one of the most stable mid-sized sports cruisers around. There’s not much chance of having a good night’s sleep disturbed as the boat tosses too unexpectedly from the wash of a passing boat, and the barbecue setup over the side deck is going to be OK while cooking at anchor. The wide beam also produces a very steady and level ride and the hull doesn’t bank excessively even in the hardest of turns. The hull appears to push the wash low and wide and there is very little change of spray being blown back over the aft of the cockpit.

Though powered by what might be called small engines in sports boat terms, the diesel-powered Riviera does generate extremely smooth, comfortable and respectable cruising performance. The boat is easy to drive and very responsive in manoeuvring in and around the marina berth, and the helm console is not only impressive in its presentation and finish, it sets out the range of instruments and electronics in such a manner that they are quick and easy to monitor and close at hand.

Words by David Toyer.