I’m at the helm of the Tiara 50 Coupe, a substantial vessel, powering southwest against a steady march of Lake Michigan rollers three to five feet high. The hull bridges most of the waves without spray on the windshield; our cruising speed is a steady 24 knots. The murmur of conversation in the saloon and the hum of diesels below the deck aft remind me that all is relatively quiet aboard this craft. Now and then, the hull launches higher off a wave and we land with more authority.
Ker-pow! The hull hits a wall of water, shakes it off, and keeps on trucking. I remind myself I’m controlling a $1.5-million dollar yacht with sparkling staterooms and en suite heads down below. I listen…but nothing’s banging, shaking, rattling or rolling around.
Ker-blam! I remind myself this prototype Coupe 50 has been in the water one week and a parade of journalists and dealers has been putting it through its paces. Tiara Yachts obviously has the confidence to put a group of critics aboard to run the new model in the real-world conditions that owners will soon face.
Ker-thud! I glance down at the array of systems information on the dashboard’s two large display screens. I shift my head slightly to see around a curved object located between the dash and me. I remind myself that this boat has a good-looking steering wheel, and that I haven’t touched it yet.
Just ahead of my armrest, my right hand rests easily on a joystick, tilting it to change course in small increments, locking each correction into the Garmin autopilot as the boat turns. I realize I’ve been using the joystick to steer the Tiara 50 Coupe for less than half an hour and already it’s becoming second nature.
I’d seen the expansive Tiara building facility in Holland, Michigan, the previous day, and been introduced to examples of the company’s resin-infusion build technique, its use of balsa core, and of structural foam and glass stringers. I’d peeked under the 50’s hull mold reinforced for two pod drives. In the paint booth, I’d seen the second 50 hull to come out of that mold; Tiara’s sweeping trademark sheerline was exactly what I expected, but not its blue hullsides. Owners clearly can choose the colors they find most pleasing to the eye.
Nearby, ready to join up with that blue hull, I saw the new design’s composite-built hard top, which Tiara describes as “levitating”. Sitting on the floor of the factory, it was not yet airborne—just a large, shiny, curvaceous piece of fiberglass—but once in place, as I saw the next morning at the dock on Lake Macatawa, I had to agree that the hard top sets the tone for the new design, reflecting the thinking that’s gone into this. Not only does it have curves when most Tiaras have had relatively flat tops, but it also stretches far aft and has space underneath for a topsides galley.
Before we left the docks, I took a good look around the boat. In one sense, Tiara’s designers have made a clear move to a more current design bearing similarities to boats seen in recent years at European boat shows. Not only do the lines of the coupe hard top reflect this, but also one can see the choices made from the bow, where they've dispensed with the pulpit to create cleaner lines, to the stern, where they've added a stowage area over a large optional Nautical Structures stern platform, which can be raised and lowered to hold, launch, and retrieve a dinghy.
Within, the galley is aft, on the same level as the aft cockpit, which creates space below for two large staterooms, a VIP in the bow, and a full-beam master amidships with excellent standing headroom to port. Contemporary upholstery and wall coverings are used in the staterooms, which create an environment that has a higher-end feel, and the emphasis on light, through extensive use of glass in overheads, hull ports, and on all sides in the salon, is notable. Not that Tiara models haven’t trended in this direction in the past, but the 50 takes these themes to new levels.
Yet when I stand on the bow, I also note that the guardrails are higher and beefier than they have to be. When I close a door down below, I hear the clunk of a latch that looks a grade heavier than absolutely necessary. Aft, the lockers and stowage compartments open at the top for quick retrieval of dock lines and fenders. And standing or sitting at the helm, I turn 360 degrees and realize I have unusually good sight lines, including the transom corners of the boat. In its desire to modernize, Tiara does not appear to have left behind its knowledge of what’s important to owners driving through waves or making tricky landings.
That brings me back to the helm station, where I should point out that the Volvo Glass Cockpit, which integrates the joystick steering with Garmin autopilot and chart/instrument displays, is only an option. But if you’re serious about buying this boat, I’d urge you to take a test drive first. You’ll end up spending some money on your instrumentation, regardless, and I think you’ll want this once you try it.
The combination of the Volvo-Penta’s IPS joystick, its digital electronic controls for shift and throttle, and the Glass Cockpit integration with Garmin’s autopilot and other instruments, didn't completely define the 50 Coupe for me—but I have to admit it came close. My experience at the helm suddenly seemed to measure up to my daily on-land experience of computer controls and touch screens. It was a refreshing and unexpected “aha” moment.
The joystick operates in two modes. When maneuvering at low speeds, a small tilt or twist provides a decisive response. When running at higher speeds, the joystick movements provide much smaller, more incremental course changes, building in a good safety factor.
My only discomfort with the system was when driving downwind with large following seas; I wanted to keep one hand on the throttles and the other on the joystick, and doing that required reaching my left hand across my body. I may be old-school in always wanting to keep a hand on each, but I was acutely aware of the fact that we had nine people aboard and while I was secure in the captain’s seat, they might not be holding on tight. If we hit a wave too hard and slewed off course, I didn’t want someone thrown off balance unexpectedly.
|Fuel capacity||654 gal.|
|Water capacity||200 gal.|
But then I reminded myself that I could just slow down, always a good move when you’re feeling a little edgy. But suppose I needed to keep to a schedule? There was a very simple alternative—I could just put my left hand back on the wheel and steer with that instead. Yet having made my connection with the joystick in cruise mode, I suppose I just didn't want to let it go.
Our performance numbers for the morning, with the throttle nearly wide open, were 33.5 knots at 2450 rpm. We were running with the waves and I could've pressed it harder, but it didn't seem quite right in those conditions. It may be that with more experience on the boat, I’d have been quite happy to bump it up a little higher. I’d inspected the tidy, fully insulated engine room earlier and found that it had a surprising amount of maneuvering space given that its primary occupants were a pair of Volvo-Penta D11 diesels linked to a pair of 950 IPS II pod drives farther aft.
|Test conditions: 1 to 2 foot rolling seas, winds 5 knots, 4 POBPerformance figures provided courtesy of Tiara Yachts.|
|Power||Twin 725-hp Volvo Penta D11 IPSII 950 pod drive diesels|
For Tiara Yachts’ fans, the new 50 Coupe may represent a significant advance by the company into modern technology and modern styling. Some may find the change too aggressive, but I think the company has achieved a promising blend, and I would be surprised if this model and those that follow, from 36 to 60 feet, don’t also win plenty of converts from among the ranks of boat owners who might not have seen themselves with a Tiara previously.
Other Choices: Another new express cruiser in this size range is the Sea Ray 510 Sundancer, which can run with Mercruiser/Cummins Zeus pods (or V-drive inboards) instead of Volvo IPS. The Cruisers Cantius 48 (which comes rigged with IPS) is a slightly smaller potential candidate.
Watch our Video First Look: Tiara 50 Coupe
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