With incredible volume, space and storage, Bénéteau have pulled off the bargain of a lifetime. But do you pay the price in terms of performance and refinement?
Few powerboat owners can be unaware of Bénéteau’s key selling point: even taking into account the sneaky ‘essentials’ that find their way onto Bénéteau’s extras lists, you still get a whole lot of boat for your buck with the Beneteau Monte Carlo 47.
Wandering around their voluminous Monte Carlo 47, it feels as though the French builders are trying to set a new value-for-money record.
Pitched against its similar-sized, similar-priced sportscruiser brethren, it seems to dwarf its rivals in almost every single area down below.
But how? Other craft in this arena have taken advantage of IPS propulsion, shifting the usual amidships engineroom to the back of the boat.
The Monte Carlo 47’s 14ft 3in (4.33m) beam is not excessive. And though at 48ft 7in (14.80m) it’s a little longer than its name suggests, that’s no different to most boats. So what conjuring trick have Bénéteau pulled?
It’s simple, really – they built upwards. Standing on the dock alongside the Beneteau Monte Carlo 47, it feels every bit as imposing as a flybridge boat even though it’s a sportscruiser.
The midships spring cleat is well above head height – an uncomfortable stretch for a shortie like me. You can guess that this provides exceptional headroom, but that’s only one of many benefits.
This height also allows Bénéteau to have a triple-layer aft end comprising engineroom, tender garage and a seating area – a particularly deep, comfy and well protected seating area at that.
Other, sleeker IPS sportscruisers around 47ft have to make do with a sunbed cushion over the garage, or a seating area but no garage.
Height also translates into floor space, because the floors can be raised. At the pointy end especially, the higher they go, the more width is available in the hull.
This is most noticeable in the forward cabin, which has roughly double the floor space around the foot of the bed compared with most of the competition.
Moving around in here was easy, even with two people in oilskins carting bulky camera gear around.
In the owner’s full-beam cabin amidships, there’s so much headroom that you only need to stoop when you cross the cabin, and then only down to 5ft 3in (1.60m) as you traverse the foot of the large double berth.
Most of the critical measurements – berth lengths and headroom – hover within a few inches of 6ft 7in (2.00m).
Levels of stowage in the two cabins and their ensuite heads are up, too. Not so much because the Beneteau Monte Carlo 47 has more than the usual collection of lockers and wardrobes, but more because they’re almost all that bit deeper and larger than the norm.
In the spacious galley and the convertible dinette opposite, it’s the same story.
Bénéteau offer either a convertible dinette or a third cabin option for this space. Beds are a personal thing; some like them soft, others like firm mattresses. Personally, I found sleeping on board MBY’s Monte Carlo 37 to be very comfortable.
The Monte Carlo 47’s beds are made of the same foam, and should be better still, with the additional springy wooden supporting slats beneath letting the mattresses breathe more easily.
There are sportscruisers that match the Beneteau Monte Carlo 47 in places.
For instance, the Sessa C46 has a similarly spacious owner’s cabin, and the luxurious owner’s cabin on the Absolute 47 isn’t far behind.
All told though, there’s far more boat here than you would expect.
You need to step up to Jeanneau’s voluminous Prestige 50 S2 before you find similar levels of space, storage and headroom.
But even if you compare the three-cabin version of Jeanneau’s flagship sportscruiser with the tri-cabin Monte Carlo 47, the Bénéteau has more cabin space overall because its palatial aft cabin doesn’t get chopped in half, as it does on the 50 S2.
This class-best volume has the potential to make the Beneteau Monte Carlo 47 a fine long-term cruising boat for two or three couples.
Bénéteau’s quest for maximum below-decks stowage has had a negative effect in two areas.
When you shuffle across the engineroom in front of the engines to carry out the daily service checks, there’s only a 14in (355mm) gap here – a tight squeeze, but Bénéteau are confident they can increase it to 16in (400mm) on future boats.
That still seems unnecessarily stingy to me, given the extravagance of cabin space further forward.
And while the tender garage provides oodles of long-term deck stowage, there’s not much immediate day-to-day cockpit stowage for a boat this big.
Bénéteau are considering adding two moulded lockers under the aft-deck seating.
So how does the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ work here, with Bénéteau seemingly offering more boat for less money?
Even with the recent seismic shift in the exchange rates, a UK buyer can pick up the base Monte Carlo 47 for around £453,000 – about the same price as a Sunseeker Portofino 47, and a little less than an Absolute 47, which are both noticeably less voluminous boats.
The answer is that the internal fit-out of the Beneteau Monte Carlo 47 is built using a fundamentally different technique. I call it ‘plywood mortice and tenon’.
Nigh on every bit of furniture is fabricated from a pile of CNC-cut plywood parts, faced with the appropriate laminate, assembled off the boat, then dropped into predetermined location points on board.
The ‘mortice and tenon’ refers to the locating mechanism – the protruding lugs and their corresponding slots – which hold the pieces together.
The upside is that this is extremely cost-effective for a high-volume boatbuilder to build furniture like this. The downside is that the basic assembly method often remains visible.
And without overlaying more luxurious linings such as wood veneers or fabrics, or hand finishing the various components, it is difficult to achieve the same level of fit and finish that can be found on a boat from Sunseeker, Sessa or Absolute.
Also, with such tight spending control keeping the price in check, there’s little room for philanthropic luxuries.
So don’t expect to find the myriad refinements that you see on board, say, a modern Fairline, such as electric windows, versatile folding tables, lights with dimmer switches, overhead handrails, moulded engineroom liners, teak edging pieces on deck, extra moulded lockers along the foredeck, and so on. The notable exception to this is in the roomy galley.
Bénéteau have splashed out on a range of large stainless baskets, similar to the ones in domestic kitchens. This makes the storage inside the deep lockers far easier.
There’s a snazzy unit on clever runners, which makes the normally dead space in the corner of the galley locker entirely accessible.
There’s so much spare floor space between the galley and the dinette opposite that it might even be possible to fit a small island unit, complete with useful handrails.
Rarely have we been able to test a boat so thoroughly. Our first test took place on Bénéteau’s pre-production prototype Monte Carlo 47 in Marseilles in March, the day before a Force 8 mistral blew away any chance of worthwhile speed trials.
Still, I did have the chance to drive around in a sloppy 5ft (1.5m) sea and a Force 5 the day before.
The second test took place in April, in St Gilles Croix de Vie on Bénéteau’s first proper production Monte Carlo 47.
This boat, number three, was far better finished in every department than the disappointing standard of the prototype.
This test was much more demanding, threading our way through horrible, confused and closely spaced seas around 2.5m high, whipped up by that morning’s Force 6-8.
Finally, the following day’s weather allowed us to carry out a full set of speed trials in a relatively calm Force 4 and a 2ft chop.
Like all IPS boats and sterndrive boats too, the Beneteau Monte Carlo 47 has a livelier ride than its shaftdrive brethren.
However, the boat never felt twitchy, hurtling around in the messy seas, despite the fact that its IPS600 drives exert no more grip on the water than the identical drives on a far smaller and lighter IPS boat such as Sessa’s C43.
Despite its height and its obvious windage, it doesn’t seem affected by wind-induced lean any more than its sleeker rivals.
For an IPS boat, it rides well. The climb onto the plane is a gentle one, and the view out from the hardtop for the helmsman and crew is excellent at any speed.
Left to its own devices, the Beneteau Monte Carlo 47 didn’t produce the smoothest rough-weather ride I’ve ever experienced on a 47ft sportscruiser – that honour goes to a shaftdrive Portofino 47.
However, the trim tabs made a big difference on the Beneteau Monte Carlo 47, and with the bow pushed down, the ride was on a par with most of the other 19 IPS sportscruisers I’ve driven – in fact, it was better than average.
In IPS terms, the Beneteau Monte Carlo 47 produces an easy-going experience. It does turn more quickly than most shaftdrive sportscruisers, but not that much faster than the most agile.
Around the marina, yet again its height and windage didn’t seem to affect its handling.
In joystick mode, it can be controlled and positioned just as precisely as any other IPS boat, even with a breeze to contend with.
And it’s also a doddle to manoeuvre the Beneteau Monte Carlo 47 without the joystick, by vectoring the legs and driving it like a big sterndrive boat.
How you feel about the Monte Carlo 47’s performance depends on your point of view. I reckon that achieving around 1.0mpg (at almost any cruising speed) is impressive for a voluminous boat like this propelled by a pair of tiddly 435hp diesels. There again, in absolute terms, 31.4 knots just isn’t that fast.
Stir in the real-world cruising burdens of a tender and other gear in the garage, a dirty bottom, and a boat full of stores for six adults, and you’ll be pleased to reach 30 knots. Whether that’s enough, only you can decide.
Beneteau Monte Carlo 47 verdict
With some boats, it takes an eternity to weigh up the various pros and cons against the merits and handicaps of the competition.
But the chances are that you can make up your mind about Bénéteau’s new Monte Carlo 47 in the blink of an eye.
That’s because the French boatbuilding giants have pursued their unwavering focus – value for money – just as intensely on this £453,000 boat as they have on the superb little £41,000 Flyer 750.
So, the trade is a simple one. For your £453,000, Bénéteau will give you the most sportscruiser you can possibly get for your money, a boat that calls itself a 47, but which really deserves to stand amongst the ranks of the 50-footers.
In return, you have to accept that you cannot have Lexus limousine levels of refinement and over-the-top detailing at Nissan Primera prices.
To get this much boat for your money, you have to forgo the slick sophistication that you find on a Sunseeker or a Sessa, and the extra layer of detailing that you pay for when you buy a Fairline.
There are a few minor issues to ponder: the lack of immediate deck stowage, for instance, and the unnecessarily cramped engineroom.
The most notable is the Beneteau Monte Carlo 47’s disparate mix of speed and economy. Its twin 435hp engines are not going to push it much past 30 knots in real-world cruising trim, so this is no speedster.
However, despite that great bulk, thanks to the efficiencies of IPS the Monte Carlo 47 will be cheaper to run than most 50ft shaftdrive boats with its near 1.0mpg economy. Which brings us neatly back to value for money again.
First published in the June 2009 issue of MBY.
- Impressive storage for 47-footer
- Voluminous owner’s cabin
- Convertible dinette or third cabin
- Good headroom and berth sizes
- Roomy, well-planned galley
- Helmsman and crew’s view out
- Powered aft awning (optional)
- Super-comfy beds
- Unnecessarily cramped engineroom
- Limited immediate deck stowage
- So-so sportscruiser performance
Price from: €445,000 ex tax & delivery - (approx £453,000 inc UK VAT) (twin 435hp)
Price as tested: €508,920 ex tax & delivery - (approx £518,000 inc UK VAT) (twin 435hp)
Overall length: 48ft 7in (14.80m)
Beam: 14ft 3in (4.33m)
Displacement: 13.8 tonnes light, 15.5 tonnes loaded; (loaded = light + 100% fuel & water)
Draught: 2ft 9in (0.85m)
Air draught: 15ft 5in (4.70m)
Fuel capacity: 286 imp gal (1,300 litres)
Water capacity: 141 imp gal (640 litres)
Cruising: 25.2 knots, 226miles @ 3,000rpm
Flat out: 31.4 knots, 194 miles @ 3,500rpm
RCD category: B for 12 people
Designers: Bénéteau & P. Andreani