The Azimut 55S shows that forward-looking design can help prove the old saw that good things come in threes.
By Alan Harper
Three engines in a 55-footer might seem excessive, but Azimut has its reasons. The shipyard points out that three IPS 600s are lighter than two IPS 800s or 900s—although of course there is the extra drag of the third leg to think about. And fuel consumption with three 600s is also slightly better than two 800s.
Interesting—but the real reason for the triple installation is surely that the 600s are three feet shorter than the bigger motors. That’s three feet of extra volume right where it matters—across the widest part of the hull.
IPS drives made other choices inevitable. The engines have to be mounted right astern, so the crew cabin is in the bow and the VIP cabin farther aft than usual, in a wider and roomier part of the hull. So the VIP has the feel of a midships suite, with substantial hull windows, a ful-size bed and 6 feet 5 inches of headroom. On the starboard side, sharing the dayhead with the VIP, there is a twin-berth guest cabin.
In the master cabin the extra hull volume has really been put to work: an L-shaped suite with a big head and shower compartment, and a sleeping area that spans the full beam of the hull. The big bed is set on the diagonal, while there is a useful two-seat dinette by the window and plenty of stowage volume.
On the main deck some smart design also helps to maximize the size. There is no step between cockpit and saloon, the cockpit door is divided into slideaway sections, and an infill seat joins up the two areas. A sunroof opens up to the sky and the port-side deck cleverly continues straight down to the aft steps, while the cockpit is fitted with an electric sunshade. The convertible saloon sofa is smart and space-saving. The galley reveals itself from a sideboard, and stowage appears in unexpected places.
This boat is about as high-tech as production yachts get, with her computerized IPS pod-drive system, a super-light, carbon-fiber superstructure and deck, and carbon also used to reinforce the 16-degree deadrise hull.
Those three engines are squashed in with the generator, air conditioner, calorifier, electrics, hydraulics, hot exhausts, and turbochargers, closely overlaid—very closely—by the tray molding that supports the tender. Basic servicing components are near enough to the surface, but anything else presents an access problem.
Helm sightlines are excellent, and the dash layout is busy but workable, and coolly surmounted by three tachometers. Up onto plane from a standing start took less than 15 seconds, with peak velocity clocking in 20 seconds later. We didn’t manage Azimut’s claimed 36-knot top speed for the 55S, but cruising speeds from around 22 to 30 knots are a comfortable and practical prospect. The 55S has a significantly smaller fuel capacity than many of her twin-engine competitors, which is reflected in our calculated range figures.
She proved lively and responsive to the helm, and quiet in the saloon with the roof and doors closed. That clever sofa comes into its own underway, providing an extra forward-facing seat with great views all round.
Azimut Yachts, 631-424-2710; www.azimutyachts.com