Axopar 45 Cross Top review: the world’s coolest day boat?

Fast but safe. Open but sheltered. Spacious but cruise-friendly. Is there anything the Axopar 45 Cross Top can’t do?

You could easily argue that Axopar has been instrumental in forcing boat builders across a whole range of sectors to try that bit harder with their deck layouts. So spoiled have we become since the advent of this stellar brand back in 2006 that it’s no longer enough for a seat to be a seat, a bulkhead to be a bulkhead or a bulwark to be a bulwark.

We want a great deal more than that and increasingly, we tend to get it. So how does Axopar stay ahead of the game? How does it create fresh advantages that enable it to retain its position as the chief mover in the ultra-competitive adventure segment? Well the fact of the matter is that, with a boat like the flagship Axopar 45, it has more to do with targeted tweaks than wholesale reinvention.

After all, we’ve already seen a very successful pair of 45s in the form of the Sun Top open boat and the Cross Cabin pilothouse variant – so what about taking the Cross Top concept from the entry-level 25 and recreating it for the flagship?

What about a sheltered but flexible open boating platform that delivers the best of both worlds?

That is exactly what the new Axopar 45 Cross Top is all about. But before we get into that, we have a job to do. The Cannes Yachting Festival is a frantic testing venue and time is short so we need to get straight out on the water for a play.

Such are the running manners of this boat that you can cruise at anything from 10 to 42 knots, with a flat comfy running attitude and a very generous range

Flat, fast & frugal

Sexy though the Axopar 45 Cross Top looks, the first and clearest character trait to make itself evident is user-friendliness. With the wraparound glass of the Cross Top structure, plus the independent overhead sunroofs, both shelter and visibility at the helm are first rate.

The ergonomics are also as close to perfect as you could want, and your access to the bow, to the stern, to cleats and to tying-off points makes solo helming a breeze. In short, Axopar might be known for its capacity to open up a closed structure but its capacity to shelter an open one looks equally advanced. And as we get up to speed, the sheer practicality gets even better…

Tracking, for instance, is dead straight. You simply point and go and, whether you’re running at speed or creeping along a channel at six knots, progress is absolutely rock steady. And the transition to plane is just as comfortable.

You can accommodate six people facing forward in the lee of the screen

At eight, ten, 12 or 14 knots – speeds that would generally cause a planing boat to bog down behind its own hump, point its nose skyward and burn fuel for fun – our progress is astonishingly flat and linear. That enables us to pick pretty much any cruising speed we like, from four to 34 knots, without incurring obscured visibility, compromised steerage or unduly inflated fuel costs.

Certainly, these happy traits enable you to ease along at very moderate speeds in great comfort but this boat does seem to enjoy a bit of pace. With those deep-cut hull steps doing their thing, 33 knots proves every bit as efficient as 23; and 36 knots is just as frugal as ten. Handling is also a conspicuous treat. There’s instant heel the moment you put the wheel over and that’s securely arrested with plenty of stability as the chines come into play.

There’s oceans of progressive and predictable grip from the hull and the same could be said for the props, which hang on a treat, almost irrespective of your behaviour (or misbehaviour) at the helm.

Though protection is first rate, ease of movement and open boating sensations are still very much part of the package

As for the top end, well with three people on board, a tank full of fuel and a pair of sizeable sea kayaks on the rooftop, we’re still hitting in excess of 48 knots, while still delivering the agility of a small boat and the composure of a big one.

You could of course ignore all this and opt for twin 450s instead of the test boat’s triple 300s, but in terms of grip, balance, economy and poke, the test boat feels nigh-on perfect exactly as it is.

Ergonomics at the helm are nigh-on perfect

Clever deck layouts

Now that we’ve satisfied ourselves that it performs as it should, it’s time to turn our attention to the cockpit – and that’s broadly split in two. Behind the triple helm seats is a central dinette and wet bar; and further aft is an optional U-shaped dinette.

Both sections use drop-down tables and infills so you can turn them into huge sunbathing zones; and both use clever wraparound seating, which makes a tremendous difference to the functionality of the place.

It means that, in addition to facing inward toward the other guests, you can also face outboard toward the seats provided by the fold-down bulwark benches on either side. It makes this region of the boat supremely sociable, enabling every one of your 16 guests to find a comfy and connected spot without the slightest ‘seat envy’ and without in any way obstructing the deck space.

Further forward, the bow is identical to that of the Cross Cabin. There’s a permanent transverse skylight ahead of the screen, plus a cushioned lounging section, raised up on top of a pair of gullwing doors.

Whether you’re clocking 20 knots or 48, the Axopar’s combination of accurate handling and big-boat composure makes for a really novice-friendly drive

They lift, with all the drama and bravado of Lamborghini Countach doors, so you can get in and out of the forward cabin or simply bathe the space in fresh air and natural light. And ahead of that, there’s still space for a very spacious and relaxed mini lounge for four, with an optional table and a traditional Nordic step-through forepeak.

The intelligence of the features on this boat is also very tough to ignore. For instance, there are four fridges integrated into the central dinette, plus another refrigerated chest built into the aft one.

While the test boat’s aft deck is configured with a superb stern dinette, Axopar’s trademark aft cabin is also an option

There’s also a neat little wet bar built into the starboard fender locker, complete with an electric griddle. There’s masses of quick-access storage inside and beneath the seats, as well as a colossal locker under the aft deck and a huge T Top (with a pair of sunroofs) that will happily accommodate your bikes, boards and kayaks. And then there’s the main transverse wet bar, which features a cushioned lining built into its leading edge, creating three excellent forward-facing leaning posts, tucked in behind the helm seats with full shelter from the wraparound screen.

But in spite of all this impeccable day boating practicality, it’s good to see that the cruisers among us are not forgotten, and given Axopar’s starring role in the creation of the Adventure Boat as a formally recognised category, that’s very important.

You can ramp up the practicality of the bow cabin with Axopar’s new Cruising Concept

While the test boat comes with a handy two-berth bow cabin, which would do fine for weekending, you can ramp that up in a couple of key ways. You can trade the huge aft underdeck storage cavity for a convertible aft cabin with a private heads, comfy lounge seating and panoramic views over the transom.

And you can augment the main cabin forward with Axopar’s new Cruising Concept, which basically enables you to replace the convertible bed with a permanent double berth and the port bench with extra storage. And there you have it – a truly spectacular day boat that also has the option of two private ensuite doubles, a sheltered helm for up to six, excellent driving dynamics, the reassurance of multiple engines and a class-leading 270-mile range.

Axopar 45 Cross Top specifications

LOA: 45ft 8in (13.91m)
BEAM: 13ft 6in (4.11m) DRAFT: 3ft 11in (1.20m)
FUEL CAPACITY: 1,390 litres
ENGINES: Triple Mercury 300hp 4.6L V8 outboard engines
RCD: B12/C16

Price as reviewed:

£515,784.00 As tested ex. VAT


The 45 Cross Cabin is one of those boats that works so well in so many regards that you want to do more than simply buy it. You want to become close personal friends with the design team. You want to buy them expensive wine and become godparents to their kids. You want them to understand how deeply you value what they’ve done to put a smile on your face. True, you have to spec this boat up to see it at its very best, and the struts for the optional starboard wet bar lid feel a bit rudimentary. But if that’s the worst we can discover on a sporting 45ft do-it-all dayboat as complex and versatile as this, it’s fair to say it’s a job exceptionally well done.

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