Top of the class
Thirty knots is an easy canter for the Predator 57. I’m at the wheel, ensconced in the gentle embrace of the sumptuous diamond-quilted helm seat, the twin Volvo Penta D13-900’s combined 1,800hp quietly meting out a relentless pace as we cruise effortlessly along Dorset’s dramatic Jurassic coastline. With the saloon doors and sliding roof closed, providing a precisely climate-controlled ambience, it’s a great place to relax and consider one abiding question: exactly what is it that makes this particular model Sunseeker’s fastest-selling yacht?
Clearly performance is a given – it is a Sunseeker after all. But as the saying goes, performance is nothing without control, and the Predator has that in spades. On the day of my test drive, the aquatic topography – whipped by a brisk wind into a melee of confusing white-capped chop – is sliced and diced by the fine entry of the hull as we thunder impassively through. The crew is cosseted by the soft-planted ride, forcing spray out low and wide in dramatic white curtains that hang briefly in the air, framing my view before being lost forever in the wake.
However, that could be said for any Sunseeker in the range. No, there’s something else, and as I sweep the Predator into an easy, controlled turn I think I have it: it’s the ultimate fusion of Sunseeker’s phenomenal heritage combined with its current position as one of the world’s leading superyacht builders. Sunseeker has a back catalogue that’s the envy of any yacht builder. Incredible high-performance machines shine like diamonds in the company’s history. Take the Sunseeker XPS 34 of the mid-80s, first of the fabled ‘performance-plus’ range with a hull designed by legendary powerboat racer and naval architect Don Shead. It was built to take on the ultra-high-performance ‘cigarette’ boats built in the USA. Sunseeker expected to sell about 15, but the boat was so successful that production eventually ran to 150 Superhawks in various iterations. The performance banner was held high throughout the next two decades and Superhawks even enjoyed a major starring role in the late-90s 007 movie ‘The World Is Not Enough’.
Then there’s the running gear. Usually, customers are forced to accept whatever the manufacturer deems appropriate. Not here. Choose from Volvo Penta pod drive for the ultimate in joystick manoeuvrability, or select shaft drive for sheer simplicity (and a brace of engine choices). Or, should you have a real need for speed, you can even choose Arneson Surface Drives! Mated to a pair of 1,200hp MAN diesel engines, these raise the top speed to 45 knots – from superyacht to superboat at the tick of an option form.
High performance is in Sunseeker’s veins – it’s part of the DNA, the lifeblood – and it falls to boats such as the Predator 57 to carry that banner today. But combine that heritage with the marque’s present day superyacht credentials and you create something truly special. It starts (ironically) with the finish. Take a look at the three slim stainless-steel fillets beneath each deck cleat – there purely to stop lines chafing the highly polished gelcoat. Check out the carbon-fibre cup holders by the forward sunpad. It’s the same story inside – the woodwork is exquisite, while gaps between the ceiling panels are millimetre perfect.
But perhaps the biggest superyacht influence is in the sheer choice of fixtures and fittings available to clients. Potential Predator 57 owners have a wide selection of seat-cover materials and wood tints to consider, and a serious consideration it is. Traditional (and popular) cherry carpentry comes as standard in satin or high-gloss finishes, but you can up-spec to Black American Walnut in satin or high gloss, or to oak in ‘Quarter Sawn’ (yellow) or ‘Taboo’ (white) as further choices. And you can choose a variety of internal layouts. The full-beam master cabin in the centre of the boat and a VIP guest cabin forward, with a third guest cabin, are the hard decisions. Beyond that, you can choose a dinette opposite the galley between them, have an en suite to the third cabin or just extend the galley facilities, perhaps with a washing machine and a freezer.
But I’ve saved the most intriguing choice to last – and this isn’t one you need to select at point-of-order. A real USP in this marketplace is the frankly Transformer-like ability to convert from a deck saloon cruiser to a virtually open sportsboat. Returning to base, the sun finally breaks through, so we do exactly that. With the saloon door slid open, the entire aft bulkhead drops smoothly and silently into the floor at the touch of a button, turning the deck saloon into an open-backed wheelhouse. One further button press and the solid roof section above the helm retracts. Back at the helm, with the wind in my hair and a refined exhaust burble evident behind me, I’m not just in touch with the elements, I’m in touch with that fabulous Sunseeker heritage – my refined deck saloon coupé converted into a red-blooded high-performance driving machine in a matter of moments.
This is what the Predator 57 does so very well and this is why that order book is bulging – because it is every sub-60ftb sportscruiser you ever wanted.
RCD: B 12 persons
Length overall: 18.24m
Fuel capacity: 2,200 litres
Water capacity: 600 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta D13-900