Boat Review: V85-S Princess

It's 6.15am, the sky is London grey, you can barely see the cleats through the piccaninny dawn. Ferries sporting fairy lights crisscross the harbour filled with throngs of bleary-eyed commuters, who pile even more enthusiastically across Sydney's iconic bridge and make like lemmings for the faux mahogany desks. At water-level, we take in the extraordinary dawn from leather helm and lounge chairs as 96,000btus of tropical-strength chilled-water air-conditioning keep us toasty aboard. The underfloor heating beneath the black-amethyst marble bathroom floors doesn't go unnoticed either. Of course, cold feet aren't conducive to high-end pleasureboating.

We have cameras trained and communications - this boat has quite some as evidenced by the twin Tracvision domes - at the ready, but Mother Nature delays daybreak. Some more defrosting ensues before the sun breaks through the leaden skies and illuminates the impressive Princess V85-S. This is the first run of the boat in Australia and we're onboard to report our findings. But the flagship of the British boatyard's V-Class series has been in the limelight before. We are driving boat #31 of the V85 that first made a splash in 2009. Its since been revamped and rebadged with an "S" after sexier windows and a sleeker flybridge were added in keeping with the sporty V-Class image and would-be owner expectations.

Of course, the V85-S also debuted at the Sydney International Boat Show, arriving just a few weeks before the collective doors were swung open. Less than a week later, Trade-a-Boat was ferreting through the luxe interior and playing boy racer at the helm. If nothing else, the quality of the fit and finish bares testimony to where Princess is heading these days - to building bigger and better boats - while the vee-drives mean shaft-alignment isn't a prerequisite before your shipped boat is right to go.

At which point I am going to cue to Princess's new M-Class and impending 32M and 40M motoryachts being built as we speak, using resin-infusion techniques, at its new South Yard facility just a short distance along the waterfront from the Princess HQ at Plymouth. My research reveals the 32M is scheduled to be launched later this year, while the first 40M, a tri-deck motoryacht, is heading to a British businessman and former Princess owner next year. See what we mean about the shift to bigger boats?

Meantime, the V85-S makes no less of an impression, especially as the boat seen here was bundled with, wait for it, the new third-generation 2000 Series MTUs. These M93 V16 common rail diesel engines generating 2450hp per side are sometimes fitted to boats as big as 30m (they come as triples with waterjets in Jamie Packer's boat Zed). And sometime later, somewhere well clear of the peak-hour traffic and now-frantic Sydney ferry fleet, we see 37kts on the speedo as the six-blade Veem props whirr away and the triple sequential turbos whistle dixie.

This is flying for a 60-tonne-plus ship or, rather, superyacht. But I'm afraid I, too, have now jumped the gun. Reel back. 

Like all good luxury superyachts, the V85-S appeals at sedate displacement speeds as much as it does when you're not sparing the horses. Either way, the bits you don't see go a long way to making this boat and, in the fullness of time, propping up resale value. What I'm getting at is that Princess Yachts Australia recognises that boats like this will probably come with paid crew, perhaps be used as corporate entertainers, and might eventually be shipped back overseas.

To this end, our V85-S was built to MCA (Maritime Coastguard Agency) Category 2 for small commercial vessels up to 24m (load line length) carrying up to 12 people and operating within 60nm from a safe haven. As such, only minor changes are needed to put this boat into NSW or other Australian state survey. For the well-heeled would-be owners shopping in this $8-million-plus league, tax minimisation counts for plenty.

The factory mods for MCA include changes to the hatches, side doors, below-deck apertures and skin fittings, lighting, fire alarm system, bilge pumps, plumbing, engine starting, batteries, ground tackle, freeboard (via deck rails) and more. And if the boat weren't to this standard, the galley wouldn't need to be enclosed. But as the V85-S isn't really an owner-driver proposition and is destined to be operated by just a skipper and hostess but preferably three paid hands. So we're not too concerned about cooking in the galley.

At 84ft length overall excluding pulpit, and with a 20ft7in beam, the V85-S has vast deck areas to explore. We came aboard via the (submersible) swimplatform and its blaring blue underwater lights, noting the twin aft garages in which you can carry a Williams jet-power RIB and a waterbike as well as watertoys, before arriving in the big cockpit which caters for 12 for lunch around a teak table under an extended electric awning.

There's a generous sunpad upholstered in neat Movida fabric over the aforesaid transom garage and a sensational bar for whipping up cocktails. A stainless steel teppenyaki plate is built-in, so happy hour will be made doubly so as tasty morsels do the rounds on platters returning with nothing more than empty bamboo skewers, oyster shells and prawn tails.

After following the walkaround decks or bulwarks, backed by nice high rails, you arrive at the second (fore)deck lifestyle station. The forward sunpad has a teak-slatted backrest so you can sit and watch the world float by, plus a recessed lounge that would be the pick of the perches when the boat is being driven from the flying bridge. Storage for fenders and lines is close at hand, while the windlass is hydraulic and swinging an 80kg Aussie-made Ultra Anchor on 100m of chain. You're not going anywhere.

Intentionally low profile so as not to spoil the V-Class's svelte lines, the optional flybridge fitout flaunts a raceboat feel that hints at what's to come when you unleash the MTUs. Triple helm chairs front the dash, the sports wheel is linked to power-assisted hydraulic steering, and there are repeater electronics for serious offshore cruising on the good days. With a U-shaped lounge, fridge and sink, you can whet your whistle as you zoom along the coast. 

The crew cast the lines from the electric aft capstans and Princess Australia principal, Alan Paterson, tweaked the hydraulic bow and sternthrusters at the portside cockpit docking station. Easy as that, we crab away from Rushcutter's Bay for our dawn sortie. The MTUs jump - or rather mesh smoothly - to attention before we disengage them, saunter inside to the accommodating saloon and cocoon, and regain control at the lower helm. This seamless, single-level, indoor/outdoor transition is a key feature of the V-Class.

Low white-leather lounges for up to 10 trace the saloon floor and introduce the contemporary interior décor of light-oak joinery and darker wenge flooring, granite galley and marble bathroom counter tops. Such are the views and elevation that you remain well connected with the water even on the low lounges. The triple opening saloon door and sunroof add to that effect, while a separate dining table with white-leather chairs for eight lets you entertain at night. A dedicated wetbar with icemaker, fridge and glassware drawers will sate owners and a starboardside watertight door leads back to the deck for a quick captain's exit.

Sight lines are terrific when driving indoors and, thanks to a signature deep-vee hull with tunnels that we suppose if from Princess's preferred pen Bernard Olesinksi, the V85-S runs level but dry. The pantograph wipers weren't called for, but the big spread of Furuno nav gear came in handy. The new MTU command centre is another nice bit of gear for engine monitoring, and there's a nearby CAN-bus system that takes care of the house electrical requirements. In this league, it should be noted, generators tend to be left running 24/7. Hence the lack of LED lights. Make your own power and use it is the tenet.

Access to the engineroom is via a starboardside door also leading to the crew quarters or via an aft escape hatch or below the garage (in case of craning out an engine). Full headroom and checkerplate flooring contribute to the serviceability, as do twin sets of fuel filters for each engine, an oil pump, big clear sea strainers, and a Delta T ventilation system with washable membranes.

There are 100amp and 180amp chargers, an inverter for the AV systems (six televisions in all and Bose to all the cabins), and a Cablemaster Shorepower lead with single-phase 63amp connection. All the plumbing and wiring is labelled and Princess Australia engages Andy Clayton, ex-Princess in the UK, to service its boats in-house. There's been a big investment here and customers are reacting favourably, we hear.

Twin 27 and upgraded 17.5kW Onan generators with water/gas separators and opposing outlets will be handy during raft-ups, since you can run the boat from just one unit. These share pride of place in the heavily insulated, watertight engineroom with the giant V16 MTUs with PTO fitted for the hydraulics. The 6000lt of fuel are carried in a tank under the floor of the owner's cabin roughly amidships, while the 1205lt of water is likely supplemented by a desal in future.

The galley-down design on the V85-S is even more isolated with the optional enclosure in keeping with survey requirements. But no matter, the hostess is the one charged with preparing grub. Pub-style fridges, big sinks with Insinkerator, Miele appliances and granite counters will cater for a crowd. Down the companionway, following a classy leather-wrapped rail, you'll find the washer/dryer for cleaning up the tablecloth afterwards. A second freezer lives nearby.

When you take into account the impressive separate aft crew cabin ahead of the engineroom, which doubles as a buffer for the owner's stateroom, the V85-S can sleep eight guests plus its three paid hands. The latter's private digs are spread between two cabins and a decent bathroom. Guests, on the other hand, get to choose from opposing cabins each with single berths and the spacious VIP double in the bow.

Jewellery boxes, designer lamps, textured wallpaper, metallic-thread bedspreads and leather trim are among the highlights, while mosaic tiles in each cabin's en suite add to the sensory experience. Opening portlights and separate air-con controllers are no less welcome, but in respect of luxury lodgings the owner's digs win hands down.

The full-beam stateroom has king-sized bed flanked by quadruple portlights that open for fresh air, a breakfast table with tub chairs, and vanity or desk. Behind the bedhead are the walk-in wardrobe and double marble vanity in doubly roomy en suite. Which brings us back to the heated bathroom floor. We've turned full circle. The generators are barely audible and it's time for our drive of the cool $1 million worth of MTU engines alone.

Facts & Figures

We began with the dawn photo shoot in the not-so-calms of Sydney Harbour. But with a gale warning forecast, and the Princess M78 sister ship with stabilisers as our camera platform, we couldn't resist an offshore sea trial latter in the day. While the big V85-S took some time to wind-up in the harbour, it really hit its straps offshore after the sequential triple turbochargers on the MTUs had time to wind up.

Underwater exhausts add to the onboard pleasure at cruise of 26kts at just 1785rpm for 480lt/h. Pull back to 24kts at 1760rpm and you see 430lt/h, while Moet-cruise clip of 10kts at 885rpm cost just 60lt/h. Diesel, that is, and nigh a drop spilt. As touched on, 37kts is the top speed and it's truly exhilarating driving such a powerful boat with snappy handling like this. If you need to ask about litres per hour, she's not for you.

Since our test, the big Princess V85-S dashed from Sydney to the Gold Coast at 25 to 26kts all the way, we're told, the big MTUs burning 500lt/h for a range nearing 300nm. That means a fuel stop in Coffs Harbour was needed, but such is the level of comfort offshore you will need to stop and pinch yourself before setting foot back aboard and warming those toes.

$8,653,809 at the time of writing with twin upgraded MTU Series 2000 M93 V16 diesel engines, MCA (Maritime Coastguard Agency) Category 2 factory build, and a boatload of options and upgrades.

Upgraded engines, upgraded second generator, MCA Cat 2 build standard, hydraulic sternthruster, additional docking station, light oak interior with wenge saloon and galley floors, flybridge layout with full control console, enclosed galley, washer/dryer and freezer, galley and bathroom marble and granite fitouts, stainless steel boarding ladder, dinghy chocks on bathing platform, electric sun awning, underwater lights, underfloor bathroom heating, full AV systems and Bose throughout, complete electronics from Furuno, satphone and comms, crockery and cutlery kits, bedding and bathware, spares and delivery.


MATERIAL: Handlaid GRP and enhanced performance gelcoat
TYPE: Modified deep-vee monohull with prop pockets
BEAM: 6.27m
DRAFT: 1.81m
WEIGHT: 60 tonnes (base engines and dry)

BERTHS: 8 + 3 crew quarters
FUEL: 6000lt
WATER: 1205lt

MAKE/MODEL: 2 x MTU Series 2000 M93 V16
TYPE: Electronic common rail triple turbo V16 diesel
RATED HP: 2450 (each)
WEIGHT: 4010kg (dry)
DRIVES (TYPE/MAKE/RATIO): Vee drives / ZF / 2.52:1 transmission
PROPS: Six blade Veem

Princess Australia,
Suite 3, The Boardwalk,
1 Rialto Quay Drive,
Hope Island, Qld, 4212
Phone: (07) 5514 1900
Before we donned the imaginary captain's uniform or rustled up some canapés from the kitchen, we played the part of VIP guest on the Princess V85-S. This is an onerous task that entails traipsing about the teak decks, testing plush lounges and heading below to check on our digs and freshen up. Later, we disrobed from our Louis Vuitton linen suit - Princess is part of the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy Group these days - and donned the blue overalls for an engineering check. Then to finish the day, we dressed in the white uniform sporting lapels and got behind the wheel. Thing is, however you see it, as paid hands or Princess owners, the V85-S impresses even at $8,653,809 as tested. A rarefied world, indeed.