31 May, 2015
Unprecedented level of luxury
From its sublimely smooth 30 knots ride quality to its incredible on-deck sophistication and interior luxury, the Princess 43 is the finest entry-level flybridge on the market today
I’ll let you in to a (not very) secret – the Princess 43, isn’t. 43 feet I mean. Despite being a direct replacement for the Princess 42, and in spite of the nomenclature, a quick peek at the specification sheet reveals the truth about this space ship, the LOA is a remarkable 47ft 6in. Which neatly answers the question on the lips of everyone that knew and loved the 42 (and there are plenty of them, with over three hundred built over its ten year tenure). Namely, how has so much extra space been created? And it is a fair question because it is everywhere! The master cabin forward has noticeably more floor space and headroom. The en suite now sports a proper separate shower cubicle rather than the rotating screen of old. And there’s another one in the day heads, itself en suite to a guest cabin that feels a size bigger and features the option of beds that slide together at the touch of a button. Move back through the boat and it quickly becomes clear that this surfeit of space isn’t at the expense of the rest of the accommodation.
The half level galley – one step up from the lower level, two down from the saloon, keeping it separate yet social – has expanded into a u-shape, finding space for a dish washer under the cooker and a useful washer/dryer beneath the steps. The saloon itself mirrors the 42 with a big comfortable curve of sofa behind the raised double helm and a two seater opposite twixt galley and drinks cabinet. The saloon table neither folds nor drops, but despite appearances it is free-standing, so you can move it about (or swap it with the base of the smaller sofa, cunningly sized to nestle into the larger one creating an occasional double). The overriding impression is one of quiet class and quality. Lit by the latest flush fit LED lighting, the beautifully finished wood is available in Seritina Cherry or Light Oak as standard, both with high gloss or satin finishes, or upgrade to American Walnut or Rovere Oak at extra cost. Fabrics are soft and silky to the touch, and backlighting of areas like the drinks locker add an extra dimension.
It feels an expensive luxury motor yacht – the advantage of buying a boat at the bottom of a range that sweeps past 100 feet and shows no sign of slowing – every inch a Princess. It seems churlish to criticize, but it wouldn’t be a boat test if I didn’t so I’ll point to the lack of dimmers: you get full beam or nothing. And whilst a few hand holds about the interior might spoil the penthouse ambience, ultimately this is still a boat. A complete lack of fiddles to flat surfaces means that anything you put down is likely to have an urgent appointment with the floor should excessive passing wash toss the boat too violently too – damn you gravity! In the teak soled cockpit you now get two transom gates, the seating curling round a large table atop a thick stainless steel base- fabulous for dining and folding in half should you just want to relax.
There’s an even bigger alfresco eating area up top on the flybridge, where the aft end is given over completely to a large table while the forward end sports a double helm with forward facing L-shaped seating area adjacent that infills to a sunpad. It’s a far better solution than the sideways C-shape forward and sunpad aft of the 42 which really lacked forward facing crew seating. It is, then, a Princess 42 turned up to eleven – the ultimate evolution. Bigger, more intelligently configured, better laid out and with a commensurate lift in quality and ambience. It’s a similar story out on the water. The 42 was always a great sea boat – the new 43 however is simply brilliant. Co-incidentally, both times I’ve trialled the new 43 have been on the tail end of recent storms, the malevolent slate grey seas off Plymouth churned into a boiling maelstrom of confused swell and rolling waves. In these conditions the 43 really proves its pedigree.
While many recent models from other manufacturers sacrifice sea-keeping at the altar of accommodation, the Princess proves that (interior handholds aside) this is still a boat first and foremost, putting its head down and shouldering through the turbulent seas with an impassive softly damped big yacht ride that belies its size. Careful with the trim tabs though, it doesn’t want a lot of bow down. Too much tab results in a frankly spectacular bout of wave piercing. Great fun, but hurling far more solid water at the windscreens than the large pantograph wipers can cope with, so unless you intend to fly by instruments, wind up the tabs and let it find its own balance. In fact, the only areas of this supersized Princess 42 left untouched are the engines. The largest Volvo Penta D6 motors are the same 435hp each as its predecessor, the larger D9 motors unavailable, perhaps due to being almost double the weight of the smaller D6. As a result, where a twin D6-435 equipped 42 would nudge 30 knots, the 43 is all out of options at 28. And whilst the resultant cruising speed in the mid twenties is perfectly adequate, for some owners ‘adequate’ is simply not part of their vocabulary.
For 2015 models, Princess now has the answer. Cummins QSB 6.7-550 engines are a full 1.2 litre larger capacity than the Volvo D6 motors, power – as their name suggests – up by over 100hp. These are the engines to make the 43 fly. Peaking briefly at 31 knots on test, these motors should restore the genuine 30 knots reach of the 42. But it’s further down the rev range that these brand new British engines excel. That extra capacity results in effortless grunt, punting the boat quickly onto the plane and adding an extra layer of control in big seas, allowing the helmsman to keep the speed down yet power the boat forcefully over the biggest swells. Whilst the standard twin Volvo Penta D6-435 option will prove perfectly adequate for many owners, the small premium (about 6%) for these new Cummins diesels will ensure that the performance of the Princess 43 matches the comprehensive lift that has been wrought over the 42.