The Jeanneau Leader 46 offers a variety of engine and drive options, two deck layouts and two or three cabins. Jack Haines puts it to the test
The weather clearly hadn’t got the memo, though, as 40-knot plus wind gusts howled across the pontoons and brought with it a froth-topped chop that would properly inspect the 46’s seakeeping credentials.
The 46 is available with either IPS600 (435hp per side) or sterndrives where you can have either twin Volvo Penta D6 370s or 400s.
Jeanneau had generously brought along both an IPS and sterndrive version of the boat but it was the pod-drive version that we headed out with first.
Heading downwind it didn’t take long to get the 46 up to a quick and comfortable 25-knot cruise, the hull skipping gamely through the crests as the best planing hulls should do when the sea is at their back.
Inching the throttles to the stops brought more speed (around 33 knots) but no complaints from the hull as we barreled through the white horses.
The IPS setup, though lacking the fine-tuning of leg trim that the sterndrives give you, maintained a perfect running attitude and, though it wasn’t possible to stand and drive with the GRP sunroof shut the seated position is so comfortable it doesn’t really matter.
The helm design is classy and clear and the ergonomics generally excellent but putting the trim tab controls directly forward of the throttles makes it very difficult to adjust the tabs without knocking the throttles when you’re in rough weather.
Though the 370hp sterndrives are slower at the top end, when it comes to handling it’s no contest. The legs are far quicker to react and a lot more engaging than the rather sedate and flat-feeling pods.
The pods feel more planted but if you want to steer around the sea (and enjoy doing so, like me) then it has to be the sterndrives.
The good news is that whichever drive choice you opt for the upwind ride is incredibly impressive. To be able to make good progress through the horrible chop on test at around 20 knots gives you confidence that you could safely and comfortably get the family home from a lunch spot if it blows up.
As well as having a choice of powertrains there is also a decision to make between an open or enclosed deck layout.
Again, Jeanneau had supplied both for us to sample with the sterndrive boat exhibiting the more traditional open layout and the IPS one fitted with cockpit doors to create a sheltered deck saloon.
As is usually the case with sportscruisers that give you these options it is the open version that is the sweeter looking of the two with the sportiest profile where as the one with doors looks more ungainly it is the more usable boat if you wish to go boating all year round.
Though the deck saloon version’s cockpit is naturally much smaller than that of the open boat, Jeanneau has been smart and incorporated an intimate dinette with two benches opposite each other, which can be transformed into a sunpad that is free of the shelter of the hardtop.
The outdoor living space is bolstered further by an optional wet-bar and grill that can be incorporated into the transom unit.