Sydney has a thing for Riviera boats. They are tied to marinas from Pittwater to Port Hacking, with the yard notching up its 5000th build last year, and no other cruiser is as common at our anchorages. Built in Australia for local waterways, the boats team utility with cachet in a none-too-ostentatious way. You don't hear of any breaking and, when there is a service issue, the dealer network will help you on your way. Even on a public holiday.
The latest Riviera 50 Enclosed Flybridge builds on this foundation, while breaking new ground. The moulds were created at the Kha Shing boat yard in Taiwan, while a full-sized mock-up of the interior was displayed at the Coomera factory. This way, Riviera could walk would-be customers through the boat and garner their feedback before finalising it.
The 50 is also the first model produced under the eye of Riviera's new owner, Rodney Longhurst, son of Dreamworld developer John Longhurst. Rodney bought Riviera in March last year, allowing it to officially exit receivership. In May this year he announced the family had bought the real estate and plant. A vote of confidence in Australian boat building and the brand.
Former chief executive Wes Moxey returned to his management role immediately. Moxey had worked for Riviera for 26 years and had just created a new brand called Belize in Taiwan. Riviera acquired Belize and its interior designer, Italian-born Giorgia Drudi, helped craft the more European, exportable and worldly interior on the new 50.
A 50-footer is considered the ideal-sized cruiser these days. It's not too big for a couple to command, not too thirsty and big enough to accommodate the extended family at holiday time.
But in a departure from tradition, the 50 is pod-driven. Our demonstrator, boat No. 1, had a pair of modest Cummins 600hp QSC8.3 engines coupled to Zeus pod drives for 27 knots top speed. There's a small half keel, something Moxey advocates for directional stability and to reduce drift and swing rates, and a de rigueur joystick docking device or three.
Our 50 had a lot of optional kit to position it squarely in the luxury cruising class. Key items ranged from teak decks and outdoor barbecue centre to washer/dryer and dishwasher, clever foldout second saloon table to electric sunroof in the bridge, soft furnishing upgrade, electronics suite and underwater lights. You will still need tender and crane, and a watermaker, left to customer choice.
While Riviera offers a lot of optional kit so buyers can build their own bespoke boat, the 50 has some stand-out standard design features. The internal stairs create a safe transition to the flybridge, while new twin swing-out transom doors and rails on the swim platform extend the cockpit's important sport and leisure space.
There's integrated seating under the awning, icemaker and long-term drinks refrigeration and an open-plan aft galley.
A large forward dinette and the optional second breakfast/office/kids' table bolster the seating. And there's a pop-up flat screen TV.
While a lot is made of full-beam staterooms in pod-driven boats, Riviera has made a decision to offer three comfortable cabins instead of one opulent one at the expense of the others. The portside master has an island double bed and en suite. The excellent starboard cabin boasts adult-length single beds and more hull glazing. The VIP in the bow gets an island queen bed and door to the second communal bathroom. Together, it's been conceived for multigenerational living and, with a convertible dinette, the 50 could sleep eight in great comfort.
At sea, the 50 turned off the wheel with agility and alacrity. Future boats will be offered with Volvo Penta's IPS800s or 900s, which use a lower-revving 10.8-litre engine and bigger pods and props for more purchase. Expect 30 knot-plus speeds and probably improved cruising economy. Either way, the 50 is a fitting new member to the extended Riviera family. Such luxury comes with a price tag of $1.619 million from R Marine Sydney.