For all intents and purposes

The concept of the SUV has been extended to the ocean, writes David Lockwood.

The concept of the SUV has been extended to the ocean, writes David Lockwood.

Not content with supplanting the iconic station wagon, the SUV has muscled its way into the inner sanctum of pleasure boaters. At least that is the intention of Riviera and its new sports utility vessel, which teams rugged good looks with interior comfort and off-road agility.

But it's not all new. The 445 SUV shares the same hull as the 43 Flybridge sister ship. Of course, platform sharing is something many manufacturers are doing these days - Ford's popular Territory SUV is based on its Falcon sedan.

Indoors, the 445 SUV makes a big impression. The urban chic comes courtesy of Giorgia Drudi, a young interior designer who has worked with leading Italian yard Ferretti.

Italian indoor-outdoor fabrics are used throughout, with light straw-coloured cockpit upholstery, burnished orange accents and a metallic tungsten helm covering. All the boat's cushion covers are easily machine washable, we're told.

The fabrics complement the light oak joinery and two-pack kitchen cupboards for a contemporary, apartment-like look. Dark oak flooring and other textures such as leather and suede add to the palette. Of course, you can pare things back should you prefer.

Importantly, the sense of utility for which Riviera is coveted has been retained. In fact, extra effort has been expended catering for fickle boat buyers who demand more of everything.

The layout features some unique features compared with the 43 Flybridge. The saloon has been reworked, with the galley back aft and an unconventional port-side forward helm.

Most Australian boats have the helm on the starboard side but, as the returning chief executive of Riviera, Wes Moxey, points out, you pass approaching boats port to port, so it actually makes sense from a navigational perspective.

Accommodation is the same as the 43 Flybridge, that is to say, a two-cabin, two-bathroom layout, each with separate shower stalls.

The obligatory island queen-size bed is forward and flanked by new extended port lights that direct more light into the cabin and create an almost surreal backdrop.

The aft cabin is also a highlight. While headroom exists only around the cabin for pulling on your clobber, there are three adult-sized single beds and more large areas of glazing. With opening port lights, you also gain natural ventilation.

Another smart inclusion on the demonstrator was the optional sliding bunk that lets you create a double. Owners will find less noise back here on windy nights compared with their forward cabin.

Clearly, the saloon is geared to indoor-outdoor entertaining. An opening awning window adds to the amenity, allowing you to serve guests in the cockpit from the generous portside galley that features Blum soft-close drawers and European appliances.

The enlarged dinette opposite, with pop-up television, can be upgraded as a convertible berth to take the 445 SUV's sleeping to seven.

There's no shortage of outdoor venues, such is the boat's deck space. A handy aft-facing lounge overlooks the cockpit, which is big enough to host a party. An ice maker and top-loading freezer is built in.

Our demonstrator had an extended fixed rear awning for shade, optional built-in barbecue and optional sun pad on the foredeck. Scanning the options list reveals potential for creating a serious fishing boat.

With blue-water boating in mind, we cast the lines and sallied forth to Cabbage Tree Bay, a marine reserve where you can't fish, before trailblazing back along North Head and returning to the harbour.

The twin Volvo Penta IPS 600s (445-horsepower engines) gave a top speed of 32.5 knots and a smooth cruise of 26-27 knots at 3120 rpm. This is almost three knots faster than the 43 Flybridge with the same hull and engines but spinning smaller T2 propellers and carrying more fuel and weight.

But it's the ability to do a bit of everything that should make the new 445 SUV a crowd-pleaser. It looks like an especially good boat for swinging on the anchor at Store Beach on a Sunday, holidaying up the Hawkesbury and exploring the road less-travelled.

The loaded 445 SUV was selling for $915,000.

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