A scaled down version of the brilliant GB60, this all-new Grand Banks GB54 teams top notch construction and detailing with extraordinary cruising ability. Is this enough to justify the price, though?
Adventure on board a boat means different things to different people. To some, venturing out of the sanctuary of the harbour to the open sea feels like a leap into the unknown, whereas others equate the word with filling the hold with tinned food, turning off their mobile phones and heading off into the deep blue abyss.
Not everyone is looking for the same type of adventure but for the majority of owners, they look to their boats for escapism and spending time aboard the Grand Banks GB54 truly feels like an escape.
Step into the saloon and the warmth of the teak is like a comforting arm around the shoulder from an old friend. It resonates highly engineered quality and is as comfortable and inviting as a fireside nook in a country pub.
Without even leaving the berth you can almost feel the stresses and strains of daily life melting away. This is a boat unlike pretty much every other 60-footer on the market, a point reinforced by its rather eye-watering starting price.
The thing is, Grand Banks isn’t merely resting on its reputation and ratcheting up the dollar signs, this is a boat that feels utterly unique both in the way it is put together and the way it cruises.
The old image of Grand Banks has been banished, it is no longer the builder of romanticised displacement trawler yachts but high-speed cruising machines powered by either IPS or good old shafts.
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It says a lot about this boat’s purpose that there is no option for a full-beam owner’s suite amidships because this is where the engines live, no matter whether you opt for the shaft drives or the pods.
The engines are in this spot because that is where they need to be to optimise weight distribution and ensure that the Grand Banks GB54 runs with a beautifully level attitude at speed.
Even if you have IPS, which traditionally sees the engines mounted much further aft in the hull, the engines and pods are separated by jackshafts to maintain even weight distribution.
Grand Banks GB54: A potent performer
Dynamically this boat is a powerhouse that feels incredibly well engineered from the moment you glide the hefty throttles out of neutral.
Such is the potency of the twin D11 725hp Volvos and their large props that there is a slow speed clutch that allows for much more gentle inputs when manoeuvring around the marina.
These 10.8-litre, 6-cylinder Volvos are meaty powerplants and they effortlessly shift the Grand Banks GB54 past displacement speed and into an easy fast cruise where that focus on weight balance is immediately apparent.
At speed the boat runs at around a five-degree angle of attitude, which means even at the lower helm the view forward is excellent.
Both helms have vertical ship-style steering wheels which belie the boat’s tenacious turning ability. The steering itself is incredibly light and takes just three turns to go from lock-to-lock, which in conjunction with the Humphree stabiliser system – which incorporates both interceptor blades and fins – means the boat has an incredibly sharp turning circle at higher speeds with very little heel at all.
The Grand Banks GB54 may not look like your typical adventure boat, but with an RCD Category A rating and a fuel capacity just shy of 3,500 litres, it has the cruising capability to tackle long passages across a wide variety of speeds.
Drop it back to 10 knots and the range soars to over 1,000nm with 20% in reserve and even flat out at 31 knots it will cover nearly 300nm before the tanks are drained.
The figures for the IPS version are even more impressive, though we should explain that all figures are factory supplied as we couldn’t get our own during the test.
With IPS950, which uses the same 725hp blocks with pod drives, the boat will cover 460nm with a 20% reserve at its efficient fast cruise of 20 knots, 409nm at 25 knots and, at an impressive top speed of 34 knots, 350nm.
This is the sort of performance that will really get you places, whether you just want to get there quickly or conserve some fuel and enjoy the journey at single-digit speeds.
These performance figures would be nothing without a hull that can make the most of the flexible cruising range, but there are no concerns in this department because this hull is an absolute peach.
She may be called a 54 but the boat is nearly 60ft long and the relatively narrow beam teamed with its naturally balanced angle of attack means it cuts through the chop with consummate ease.
A stiff afternoon breeze had coaxed a messy chop into life on the day of our test and I fed in the power just waiting for the point when the hull would start to complain, but that moment never arrived.
Even upwind at full revs and the SOG creeping past 31 knots the Grand Banks GB54 was perfectly happy to charge into the waves. I had to momentarily remind myself that I was at the helm of a Grand Banks.
Best seat in the house
There is a lot to like at the upper and lower helm stations but they both suffer from a lack of storage for small items, which is odd on such a practical and otherwise very well detailed boat.
The upper helm sits on the centreline and comes as standard with a pair of Stidd’s excellent fully adjustable seats, which swivel around so they can face the flybridge dinette.
Below there is a well upholstered helm bench that can be accessed from either side and has a split in the lift bolster so that one occupant can remain seated if the other wants to stand.
The boat’s more traditional design doesn’t include bi-folding or even sliding doors to the saloon, just a single door that can be pinned open against the wetbar in the cockpit.
However, a mix of the helm door and sliding windows both aft and either side of the saloon mean it’s very easy to get a breeze running through the boat and to communicate with crew if helming from inside when coming alongside.
Don’t assume that conventional styling means there is little room for customisation because that’s a big part of what the Grand Banks GB54 can offer.
Flexibility comes in simple forms, such as hull colours and whether to have teak caps on the bulwarks or easier to maintain painted composite, all the way up to major layout changes, including a fully enclosed flybridge similar to its larger sibling the Grand Banks GB60 – a $230,000 option.
The boat’s standard specification is very impressive (as it should be for the money) but there are still some big ticket items to select like upgraded Garmin electronics or whether to install fin or gyroscopic stabilisation.
Inside there is the choice of galley up or galley down and, if you go for the former, the option to include a third cabin on the port side.
With three cabins the owner’s suite shifts forward on the lower deck but with the two-cabin variant this becomes a VIP with the owner’s suite to starboard.
This was the layout of our test boat and, for me, this is the configuration to go for unless you regularly need to sleep six people.
It may not be full-beam but this owner’s cabin is still a lovely space soaked in natural light drawn in from the windscreen above by a large panel of frosted glass.
Storage is excellent and though both cabin and ensuite lack natural ventilation they are exquisitely fitted out and ooze home from home comfort.
Build quality on this boat is far more than just skin deep so if you do have true adventure in mind it is well equipped for it.
Engine room access is exemplary, via a large hatch in the cockpit sole with a shallow ladder running into an immaculate lazarette that has 4ft 3in of headroom and is perfectly laid out for crate storage.
Right aft you’ll find the steering system, hydraulics and stern thruster, all of which are protected by stainless steel rails, and there is easy access to the battery shut off switches.
A watertight door in the forward bulkhead grants access to the engineroom itself where there is teak – yes, teak – on the floor and two gleaming Volvo motors flanking the centrally mounted 15kW Fisher Panda generator.
Headroom rises to 5ft in here but there is so much space that it’s easy to crawl around and find a spot to perch. Inspection is easy because strainers and filters for the engines and generator are grouped together with a sight gauge for fuel levels.
Single Racor fuel filters come as standard but twin filters with crossovers to negate a blockage can be specified as an option, though it feels as though this should be standard on an expensive boat with passagemaking credentials.
Price as reviewed:
£2,550,000.00 ex. VAT
The price – nearly $3.5 million for our test boat – is extraordinary for a 60-footer but the Grand Banks GB54 is uniquely capable thanks to its balance of slow and high speed performance and the sheer quality of the engineering and construction. There is a significant price to pay for this, a price that many will not be able to justify given what else you could have sitting in your berth for this sort of money. If it’s this style of boat that appeals, however, the Grand Banks GB54 really is the best of the best.
Starting price: $2.72 million (ex. VAT)
LOA: 59ft 5in (18.1m)
Beam : 17ft 6in (5.34m)
Fuel capacity: 3,400 litres
Water capacity: 1,000 litres
Draught: 4ft 0in (1.22m)
Displacement: 23.5 tonnes
Test engines: Twin 725hp Volvo Penta D11
Top speed on test: 31 knots
Cruising speed: 20 knots
Fuel consumption: 148lph