We take a quick spin in the fast, versatile and pleasantly affordable Beneteau Flyer 8 Sundeck
Though the engaging showroom sparkle of Beneteau’s current Flyer line may imply otherwise, the Flyer has been around in one form or another since the 1980s.
It’s a name woven deep into the Beneteau narrative, but it wasn’t until 2013, on the 30th anniversary of the product line, that it was treated to the simplified, user-friendly structure we see today. In terms of the current fleet, that structure now involves four hull sizes from 5.5m to 8.8m in length.
Each is available as either a Spacedeck or a Sundeck variant – the former optimised for the mixed recreation of family day boaters with open deck space from bow to stern; and the latter incorporating a raised, cushion-lined bow deck with dedicated weekending accommodation underneath.
Merits of the Sundeck
The cockpit on this 27-foot Sundeck model features dining for as many as eight people, courtesy of two lateral folding benches, a pair of rotating helm seats and a convertible aft bench. Even rigged like that, there’s plenty of spare deck space to make your way around the boat; and the aft bench itself is also quite a neat piece of design.
It can be hinged down and extended out over the swim platform to generate a decent sun pad, and the space beneath its starboard side is left open, enabling you to slide any loose gear into the space without having to lift any lids or access any closed compartments.
Step down below decks and the modern grey fabrics, angular cushions, swept panoramic hull windows and pale wood linings lend a refreshing sense of cleanliness and clarity.
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The physical dimensions down here are perfectly serviceable for those keen to take advantage of the Flyer 8 as a weekender, but the vertical space management does make it difficult to strike a balance between day and night. On the one hand, the seat bases are too close to the deck head for a six-footer to sit up straight; and on the other hand the bed is too low for it to encompass the full breadth of the bow’s tapering V.
Headroom of just 5ft (1.53m) in the starboard heads compartment and 5ft 5in (1.66m) at the port worktop also illustrate how clipped and trim the lower spaces are. And yet when you head back up top, the benefits of this can immediately be seen – in the Flyer 8’s raked, sporting lines, in its flat, easily navigable foredeck, in its minimal windage and in the way it backs up its lovely aesthetics with the promise of genuine sporting ability.
Authentic sporting fun
While this cabin-equipped weekender puts a great deal of emphasis on sporting prowess, the engine choice here is interesting. The top-rated Suzuki DF350 weighs about a third of a tonne and emits the kind of raw, unpasteurised exhaust note that harks back to a different age. Put the throttle down and, even with four men on board and nearly 300kg of fuel, the performance is similarly piquant.
We find ourselves hitting 40 knots in just 15 seconds and pushing on to a top end of 43 knots. In fact, at one point, with the bow lifting high, the last few inches of the planing surface flirting with the chop and 6,100rpm eliciting warning beeps from the dash, we get within touching distance of the 45-knot mark.
While some people will relish that kind of wild flamboyance, it’s not a set-up that invites much carefree abandon at the helm. On the contrary, you need to keep the outboard leg tucked in, almost to its deepest point, to prevent the bow getting light and flighty so, for my money, most people would do well to spec a slower boat with less transom weight, a lower cost and more forgiving handling.
For instance, you could save around 30kg and £5,500 with the four-litre V6 DF300 or nearly 100kg and £12,000 with the 2.9-litre, four-cylinder DF200. But for my money, the DF250 looks like the best bet. Despite its transom-friendly weight (275kg), its wallet-friendly price (£22,259) and the promise of gentler running costs, it will still furnish you with sufficient poke to tow a skier, to enjoy the drive and to hammer along at the best part of 40 knots, whenever the mood takes you.
The Flyer 8 Sundeck is a capable and great looking Med-style package. With its limited lower deck space and its imposing engine, the test boat plainly prioritises sunny sport over committed weekending, but if that leaves you cold, the beauty of this product range is that there’s always another Flyer option that can get closer to the mark.
For better accommodation, look to the four-berth Flyer 8.8 Sundeck. For a more active and versatile day boat experience, consider the Flyer 8 Spacedeck; for a reduced financial commitment and easy trail boating recreation, cast your eye over the Flyer 6.6; and for a two-man weekending companion, simply spec the test boat with a more sensible DF250 instead.
LOA: 26ft 7in (8.1m)
Beam: 8ft 2in (2.5m)
Engine options: Single 200–350hp outboard
Test engine: Suzuki 350hp
Top speed on test: 44.8 knots
Fuel consumption at 20 knots: 38.6 L/H
Displacement (light): 2.05 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 350 litres
Price from: £68,947 (inc VAT)
Price as tested: £101,556.36 (inc VAT)