Written by Arnie Hammerman
09 August 2023
For many years, I’ve watched as Riviera boats have continued to evolve, which in no small way spurred on my enthusiasm for checking out their new 46 Sports Motor Yacht.
Back in 2000, when I visited their newly opened factory in Coomera, Queensland, things were a bit different. There was no such thing as IPS, and most Riviera models sported flybridges accessed by a ladder from the cockpit.
Some great boats were built in that era, such as the extremely popular Riviera 40 Open Flybridge. But, since then, there have been countless developments that have made boating better.
Construction technology has advanced, making boats lighter and stronger. Engines now deliver cleaner power, which combined with modern hull design, provides better fuel economy.
Of course, pods and joysticks make manoeuvring easy, while sophisticated gyros keep everyone settled, even in adverse conditions. Watermakers deliver fresh water, and modern electronics help us find our way, find fish, and keep us safe.
While I admit to enjoying many of these advances, I do still like to feel like I’m on a boat. And although I appreciate air conditioning, there’s something extraordinary about driving a boat with the wind in your hair.
The new Riviera 46 Sports Motor Yacht brings back the open flybridge but also has an abundance of modern equipment and accommodation. Pleasing aesthetics suggest ocean cruising, and the open flybridge provides the ability to either cruise in climate-controlled comfort or open the clears and enjoy the fresh air.
Driving the 46 from the helm at the back of the flybridge reminds me of other great Rivieras I’ve been on. Venerable models like the 47 and 43 Open Flybridges were so popular Riviera built hundreds of them – the 46 Sports Motor Yacht has that same flybridge feel but is also different. Gone is the ladder into the cockpit, replaced by a much safer internal stairway that leads to the galley below.
The flybridge is spacious, delivering over 13 square metres of living space. As well as the two plush Pompanette adjustable helm seats, there’s a comfortable lounge ahead of the helm with a drop-down table, drink holders and stereo speakers. A great area for drinks, appetisers or lunch on the go, a wet bar and fridge at the top of the stairs add convenience.
A lounge to port with a canted back cushion is ideal for watching the water underway or curling up with a book. When not using this area for cocktailing and hanging out, you can lower the table and use the filler cushion to create a bed that’s ideal for stargazing.
Having the seating ahead of the driver ensures that whoever is at the helm can easily talk and interact with everyone while underway. This also works well for families as the helmsman can keep an eye on the kids.
Clears surround the bridge deck, providing visibility all round. The air-conditioning vents worked well on our 29°C day, but rolling up the clears to let the breeze in felt great, and driving with the air flowing through brought back all the exhilaration I remember from years ago.
My concerns about visibility forward were allayed as soon as I powered the 46 out of the inlet. The Volvo Penta D11 IPS 950s pushed us smoothly and rapidly onto plane, and even at top speed, the bow rise never exceeded 6 degrees, so you could still see over it despite the aft helm.
All controls were within easy reach, including the throttles and joystick to starboard, twin Garmin MFD displays, C-Zone, engine monitors, Muir windlass remote, stereo controls, a compass and more.
On a calm, sunny day off Palm Beach, on tight manoeuvres in both directions, the boat gently leaned into the turns. Some flybridge boats can feel a bit wobbly since you’re so high above the water, but the 46 feels solid and comfortable even when turning at speed.
With the optional D11s, the boat has a lot of power – in fact, when I throttled up from a dead stop, a forward sunpad cushion that hadn’t been clipped down flew off, pinning itself against the forward clears. We all had a good laugh as I throttled back, and we unzipped the clear and pulled the wayward cushion inside.
We hit a peak speed of 35.3 knots. At 2,250 rpm, a comfortable, fast cruise of 28 knots uses 225.2 litres per hour, delivering a range of 280 nautical miles based on 90 percent fuel. Another sweet spot was around 2,000 rpm, where we cruised at 22 knots using 189.3 litres per hour, delivering a similar range.
The performance and versatility of the 46 make her fun to drive, but beneath the nostalgic open bridge lies a boat packed with modern features. Without the encumbrance of an inside helm, the saloon is spacious with comfortable lounge seating on both sides and a sharp-looking timber dining table.
The galley is located at the centre of the action with convenient access to the saloon forward, the staircase to the flybridge, and an opening door and pop-up window that leads to the alfresco deck mezzanine. Wide solid-surface galley counters with a carved spill gutter nicely contrast with the deep stainless-steel sink and matt-finished rich walnut timbers – cherry and oak are also offered as options, as is a gloss finish.
The galley is complete with a two-burner electric cooktop, a combo convection oven/microwave, a stainless fridge/freezer and additional refrigeration, as well as a dishwasher drawer. Across from the galley under the stairs, drawers house convenient bottle storage and another fridge drawer for quick access from the mezzanine.
The mezzanine alfresco deck is a comfortable seating area between the saloon and cockpit. Protected by a hardtop, it has a large table, drink holders, stereo speakers and controls.
The aft section can be left open or enclosed with clears and climate-controlled. I like this area – it acts like a deck or porch on a house and is sure to be a popular space.
A few steps down, the cockpit is perfect for entertaining. At 5.67 square metres, there’s room to fish with rod holders and an optional bait tank. There’s an electric barbecue, wet bar, beer fridge and an ice-maker.
Twin transom doors connect the cockpit to the swim platform, which on our test boat was set up with an optional hydraulic lift capable of carrying a substantial RIB with outboard (up to 300 kilograms). The platform can be teak-clad and has a retractable swim ladder and a freshwater hot and cold shower.
Ample, protected side decks lead to an open bow lounge with a bolstered backrest, drink holders and grab handles. Just make sure you fasten down the cushions properly before you decide to gun it!
Below, accommodations are as luxurious as the main deck with well-joined timber, plush fabrics and contoured wall and ceiling panels. The master stateroom is forward with an island bed, twin cedar-lined hanging lockers, drawers, a flat-screen TV, and ensuite. A second head, accessed through the foyer, works for daytime use and serves both the additional cabins.
The cabins can be set up with side-by-side twins, or one or both can be configured as doubles. This flexibility provides the ability to comfortably accommodate two or three couples or various family combinations of kids and couples. Saloon and flybridge sleeping options are also available.
The Riviera 46 Sports Motor Yacht has much to offer and many entertaining spaces. The main saloon is climate-controlled, has privacy shades and a flat-screen TV. The covered flybridge lounge and mezzanine can be enclosed or opened to the air, and if you want to be in the sun or gaze at the stars, the cockpit and bow lounge are fully open.
The versatility of this set-up maximises space in a boat that can be easily handled by a couple. This fast and fun midsize cruiser is sure to be popular as it combines modern amenities, technology and design with the ability to open up the flybridge and feel the breeze on your face and the wind in your hair – errant cushions notwithstanding!