We’ve been itching to drive this boat ever since we first saw it at the Southampton boat show and the Hydrolift X-26S did not dissapoint.
Hydrolift has a reputation for building extremely rapid and high quality craft, as you’d expect of a company whose CEO, Bard Eker, is a world renowned powerboat racer and designer.
However, in the past this quest for performance sometimes came at the cost of a leisure-friendly cockpit layout. The new X-Series range aims to change that by making the boats as much fun to be in when you arrive at the anchorage, as they are getting there.
The X-26S has certainly succeeded, with one of the cleverest cockpit layouts we’ve seen on any boat this size. By offsetting the helm station to starboard, the designer has created a flat, unobstructed walkway along the port side that stretches from stem to stern, giving all the safety and ease of access benefits of a walkaround model without stealing space from both sides.
This in turn allows for a narrower beam (18in slimmer than an Axopar 28) for the best possible performance and ride. Multiple storage lockers in the transom, under the seats and cockpit sole with top quality mouldings, hinges and latches keep everything you’d need dry, safe and separate.
But perhaps the cockpit’s cleverest feature is its seating. Under way both rear benches can be set up facing forward but once the anchor’s down you can add the table and rearrange them into a more sociable U-shaped dinette. Need a kip after lunch? No problem, the whole lot converts into a big double sunbed to complement the second sunpad on the bow.
And that’s before you lift the forward hatch to find a spacious cuddy cabin with a toilet, a double berth and a small single tucked under the cockpit. Admittedly, the latter has so little headroom that it’s only really fit for water ski or bag storage duties but a couple could overnight in reasonable comfort.
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There’s even a neat little wetbar with a work surface that swings out from the starboard cockpit coaming to reveal a tiny sink with a pop-up light next to it and a pull-out bin beneath. Crucially, everything on board the X-26S looks and feels beautifully engineered and built to last with chunky stainless steel fittings, storage recesses for the fenders, sturdy handrails, a fold-out bimini for the helm and three bespoke cleats down each side.
It’s clearly a boat that has been designed by boaters, not just stylists. Whether you find the end result attractive is another matter. We like its profile and edgy, purposeful lines even if the offset helm and hollowed out stem look a little odd from some angles.
Our test boat was fitted with a single 300hp Mercury Verado outboard, which felt like the ideal match. The steering is perfectly weighted with plenty of feel and well judged gearing of 4.5 turns lock to lock. Any quicker would probably be unwise as that deep-vee (24-degree) twin step hull will spin out if you apply too much lock and power at speed.
On the plus side those steps really do help the X-26S fly, clocking 54 knots with ease through a decent chop and riding so straight and level that it rarely slams, even when the hull leaps clear of the water. We would advise specifying the Zipwake trim tabs to counteract any wind or weight induced lean, especially with so much seating to starboard, as you need to keep that vee pointing down to maintain the soft ride.
Keep it on an even keel and it’s so forgiving that it’s easy to find yourself going 10 knots faster than you think. Hydrolift also offers twin 300hp engines for a claimed top speed of 70 knots!
Price as reviewed:
£110,000 inc. VAT
So is this the boat to beat the class-leading Axopar 28? Yes and no. It has the edge on pace and a more flexible cockpit layout. We’d also give it the nod on build quality but the Axopar’s extra length and beam make it feel more substantial, the helm position is better protected and the handling is more progressive (although we still rate the Cormate T27 as the most fun to drive). As ever it’s horses for courses and the very fact that you can now enjoy all of Hydrolift’s best attributes in a sociable, user-friendly package is reason enough to take a closer look.
Starting price : £101,808 (inc. VAT)
LOA: 26ft 7in (8.11m)
Beam: 8ft 0in (2.45m)
Displacement : 1,900kg (4,189 lbs)
Fuel capacity : 320 litres (70 gal)
Engines: Single or twin 250-400hp Mercury Verado outboard
Top speed on test : 54.5 knots
Cruising speed : 29.1 knots
Fuel consumption at 29 knots : 41lph
Cruising range at 29 knots : 182nm