Riviera 40 Flybridge Convertible Review

Issue: September 2000
Manufacturer: Riviera 

In the 20 years since it was founded, Riviera has grown from a company producing five boats a year to an internationally recognised luxury cruiser manufacturer with the capacity to produce over 350 craft annually. Around 70% of production is exported to more than 22 countries, and in coming years the company’s capacity will be tested by demand for not only Riviera and Mariner but Wellcraft and Carver models that it builds for the US.

Of course a world-wide audience demands a world-class product, and it might be said that Riviera’s styling theme, set in the early 90s, was becoming somewhat conservative. With the new 40 Flybridge Convertible, however, they are back at the cutting edge. This boat will no doubt herald a complete model revamp and change of image over the next few years for the company.

Such is the international success and recognition that Riviera enjoys that the first six 40’s built headed overseas before they could be shown and tested by dealers. Boat number 7 only stayed because of the Australian boat show circuit that began with Sanctuary Cove.

While the 40 presents a fresh image for Riviera, there are lines and styling cues that obviously had been tried and tested with the two new Mariner models from the same factory. The Riviera was enthusiastically accepted by the boating public at Sanctuary Cove, and it seems there are many buyers willing to pay the $500,000-plus price tag. The 40 on show – and that used for our test – cost $580,000. For this you get an electronics package comprising Raytheon 620 Plotter/GPS, L750 Fishfinder, ST6000 pilot, winch counter, TV antenna, TV/video. Also 16,000BTU split air-conditioning, an icemaker, washing machine, and an additional refrigerator on the flybridge. Completing the package is a flybridge hardtop along with a Riviera/NV Design custom decor.

The interior package option that Riviera offer through their consultants NV Design enables the buyer to get a level of personalisation and customisation rarely seen in a mass produced and extensively moulded product. It reflects the owner’s tastes and needs, giving the boat a distinctive edge over the mainstream look-alike sports-convertibles.

The test boat drew a mixed response at Sanctuary Cove Boat Show, with the darker tonings, specifically the green upholstery, not being to everyone’s liking. It’s all a matter of taste and I’ll go on record as saying I thought the test boat was refreshingly exciting and also showed commonsense in having darker colours -the leather isn’t going to show marks as easily as the more popular off-whites and creams.

As for the dark super-grey tint on the windows, I’ve often wondered why it has taken so long for a local cruiser manufacturer to look at this option as a means of repelling heat and controlling inside temperatures. It will certainly reduce the workload for the AC system. The grey sheen can give the sky a foreboding stormy appearance when you look out from the saloon (when this is not the case) but it seems of little relevance given the energy and comfort savings that a UV-rated glass has to offer.

Decor aside, the interior layout and attention to fitout detail is superb and shows that Riviera are putting into practice the experiences that they have gained from a demanding international market place.

The saloon fitout is centred primarily on on-board living and entertaining, and not just for the short term. The saloon entertainment centre is extensive, lounge and dining facilities extremely comfortable, while the roman blinds add something a little different to the usual Venetian or folding Verosol blinds. The galley is fully equipped, including a dishwasher, two-door refrigerator, exhaust fan, microwave/convection oven, an enormous amount of storage capacity and a tasteful mix of concealed and overhead lighting. The major option offered in the saloon is the lower helm station.

The boat sleeps five in its standard form, seven when the dinette is converted. The owner’s cabin in the bow has a neat island double berth, while the second cabin off to the starboard side will sleep three adults in single berths. The third berth is a roll-out bunk that enables access to the optional clothes washer. A single bathroom shares access off the common companionway and the stateroom for’ard. This bathroom features a large enclosed shower with its seat and standing space, and a neatly moulded vanity that sits alongside the head.

Externally, the lines are clean and crisp. Riviera is quick to point out that this boat is neither American nor European in style, but rather distinctively Australian. And that’s probably justification alone for the heavily tinted saloon windows.

From the outside, these dark windows contrast vividly with the white mouldings. Giving the boat a more powerful appearance, the hull’s sheerline is nicely raked while the flybridge and engine room ventilation both meld nicely into the overall appearance.

With so much happening elsewhere on this exciting new model it’s easy to overlook some of the usual Riviera niceties. The cleverly planned helm station, for instance, has been further enhanced with the use of coloured mouldings to reduce the glare usually experienced with the common all-white moulded consoles.

Cockpit access to the engineroom is retained, as is the moulded refrigeration/freezer/storage unit against the saloon bulkhead, along with the moulded cockpit linings and storage boxes. Everything is easily cleaned and there are no sharp edges or projections that are likely to snag a rope or clothing.

The 40 is rated for power up to a maximum of twin 535hp diesels, while the standard package comprises 2 x 430hp Cummins. Unlike many base engine options, this one is an excellent marriage. Smooth and quiet in their operation, the Cummins produce ample power when needed and gain an immediate response from the hull. At sea these engines give the Riv 40 a stamp of authority. The skipper has under his control a boat that’s extremely responsive and surefooted, setting it up perfectly for long, fast offshore trips.

And when I say fast, this boat will do just that. At 2600rpm it will reach almost 30 knots, and at 2400 it sprints along at a brisk 26 knots. Whether hopping from one port to the next, or running to a distant fishing canyon, the Riviera 40 will do it with style. This, it seems, is just one reason why the overseas market has taken to the Australian designed craft.

Yes the Riviera 40 has been eagerly awaited, and it has lived up to expectations. Forty footers are getting dearer with each new model release, but then it’s not just the effect of inflation; there is a lot more going into the base package. There is a quality and touch of personalisation now that had been lost to the market many years ago as moulding and mass production took control of design and development.

Story by David Toyer