Sunseeker Portofino 53 Sport Cruiser review

Sunseeker Portofino 53

Issue: October/November 2005

Sunseeker motoryachts began trickling onto the Aussie market in 1998. But since then, that trickle has turned into a flood. Today, more than 80 eager buyers have signed on the dotted line and purchased one of these impressive craft from the Aussie importers.

This English-boat builder has made a concerted push into the Australian motoryacht marketplace despite fluctuating monetary swings because the market here continues to grow at an astonishing rate.

Over the years, the Modern Boating team has tested many of the 25 models in Sunseeker's extensive range and visited its factories in England. And while we can attest to the build-quality of these vessels, there are a few other import factors about Sunseekers that combine to make them top-selling motoryachts.

That old saying the proof is in the pudding rings true here, because Sunseeker has nailed hull performances with suitable engine combinations on all its models. And the Portofino 53 sport cruiser is no exception.

The Portofino 53 is powered by twin Volvo D12 16 715hp diesel shaftdrives, spinning FP props in tunnels. These quiet-running and fuel-efficient engines propel this more than 20,000kg boat (at full load) effortlessly along at a comfortable cruise speed of 24 knots and top-out at 32.1 knots pulling 2300rpm. Maximum speed with half load is quoted at 34 knots.

Pushing the electronic throttles fully forward evokes an instant response from the engines and steadily lifts the hull out of the hole. Then the turbochargers kick in to add that push you back in your seat acceleration. Knock the revs back to around 1650rpm and she'll cruise at a comfortable 18 knots allowing her 2000lt fuel load to achieve a cruising range of around 300 nautical miles.

Like all Sunseekers, this cruiser displays runabout-like handling from a hull with an overall length 55' 9". The silky-smooth feel of her helm is a testament to the precise tolerances these vessels are constructed to. Turn the steering wheel a few centimetres and you can see the bow moving a few centimetres in that direction. Now that's what we call direct steering.

Then, because the props are situated in tunnels, they maintain a clean bite on the water, so even during hard turns the hull displays no tendency to tail slip and throws the boat around like a ski boat, albeit one with a larger turning circle.

Being a twin-screw boat she's quite capable of spinning within her own length with one engine in forward and the other in reverse, so manoeuvring around the marina is simple, with a bit of practice, that is. But the addition of the standard bow thruster is going to aid all skippers enormously when berthing.

The Portofino 53 also features Sunseeker's extremely aggressive chine design. She carries her wide, down-turned chines well forward, which, even before you employ the trim tabs, controls lateral stability (at rest and underway) and throws water and spray down and away form the hull for a dry ride. Her 20,000kg displacement also aids the ride, because the sharp bow slices through swells cleanly without banging. 

The sleeping arrangements on the 53 allow eight people to overnight (if the optional convertible lounge is fitted) in luxurious comfort. The forward owner's stateroom features its own en-suite, while the two guest cabins share the day head. 

While both bathrooms are quite spacious and fully featured, larger owners and guests may find it's a bit squeezy when standing in the Perspex shower enclosure. 

There are twin bunks in the starboard cabin, while the slightly larger port stateroom features a six foot-plus ceiling and a full-sized double bed. All the staterooms feature cedar-lined wardrobes, so your clothes will always smell fresh and moths will never be a problem.

With a price tag of $1.95m, the Portofino 53 represents excellent value for money, because that cost includes everything: full electronics, genset, reverse-cycle air-conditioning, even a multi-purpose Expresso coffee maker, washing machine and 2 at-screen televisions in all cabins and the saloon.

Her ride and handle are one of the best in her class and the workmanship used during her construction is obvious wherever you look.

With a sleeping capacity of up to eight adults, this boat has everything to please anyone in the market for a bloody big 53-footer.

For further information and dealer locations telephone Sunseeker Australia on (08) 9231 5909.

According to the team at Sunseeker, the Portofino 53 is a luxurious sports cruiser that combines wide cruising potential with impressive top speeds.

Available in open, or covered cockpit versions, with a choice of both engine and shaftdrive options, she is exceptional manoeuvrable, highly efficient and economical to run.

Her large open cockpit is complimented by a spacious aft sun pad, a garage for the tender and there is also a comfortable interior with a wide range of fi tting options.

The Sunseeker Portofino 53 was powered by twin Volvo D12 16 715hp diesel shaftdrives, spinning FP props in tunnels. Two CAT C12 16 710hp diesel engines are optional.

In calm conditions wide of Sydney Heads the Sunseeker Portofino 53 recorded the following speed-to-rpm figures: 9.9 knots @ 1200 rpm, 18 knots @ 1650 rpm, 23.3 knots @ 1800 rpm, 27 knots @ 2000 rpm, 30 knots @ 2200 rpm, 32.1 knots @ 2300 rpm, 34 knots @ WOT

LOA: 55'9"
BEAM: 15' 1"
WEIGHT: 19,300kg (At half load)
ENGINES: Twin Volvo D12 16 715hp diesels
FUEL: 2000lt
PRICE: $1.9m

+ Hull to engine coupling. Complete boating package
? Shower cubicles

Words & Photos by Ian Macrae