Fairline Targa 53 Gran Turismo review

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The Fairline Targa 53 Gran Turismo could be the boat to revive the Oundle yard's fortunes. How does it fair on trial? Jack Haines finds out

The Fairline Targa 53 Gran Turismo has arrived at a rather difficult time in the company’s history.

A new owner and temporary job cuts are grabbing the headlines but, for now, we are going to focus on the newest boat in the Fairline range that was introduced to the world at the Southampton Boat Show.

So what do we have here? The 53 is loosely based on the outgoing Targa 50, but with just enough changes to qualify it as a whole new model.

The 50 will be discontinued meaning boat owners now jump from the 48 to the 53 and then on to the (sportscruiser) flagship 62.

Fairline freely admits that it made little sense to splurge funding on new tooling and moulds to create the 53, so the 50 was used as the framework to create the new model but the difference on board is huge.

The first thing you notice is how much sweeter the 53’s proportions are – the 50 was a towering beast that loomed over the pontoon.

Design director Andrew Pope tells me that reducing the height of the boat was a primary focus throughout the design process.

It’s done the trick, the lines are much sleeker and the visual height is greatly reduced. The sparkly, light blue hull wrap looks fantastic in the early morning sunlight too.

Of course you can’t just reduce height without compromises, and Andrew explains that the midships master cabin is one place where the design team had to concede some headroom – you can only stand around the foot of the bed.

The 50 was unique in that the master suite was located in the bow so a lack of headroom was never an issue.

The flipside was that guests were in matching twins amidships, whereas the 53 has a spacious ensuite VIP in the bow and a third twin cabin with proper side by side beds on the port side.

There is some headroom intrusion in the master cabin but the finish is excellent

There is some headroom intrusion in the master cabin but the finish is excellent

To try and scrape back some of that headroom there is a big step in the middle of the 53’s saloon that might have been better split into two smaller steps.

There are two different interior layouts on the 53, the one you see on our test boat, which is destined for the States, with the galley tucked below decks, or the alternative with the galley on the main deck and an extra bathroom and utility area in the void down below.

Life on deck

The layout of the 50’s cockpit was a point of contention – some liked it, some found it an odd waste of space with the centrally located seating giving you great access down either side to the bathing platform but guests had to perch without backrests during alfresco meals.

The 53’s layout is more uniform with a walkway to port leading to the wet-bar and a generous wrap of seating to starboard where everyone gets a backrest.

Aft is a sunpad, which looks like it sits atop a tender garage but is in fact space for a single berth crew cabin (mainly aimed at the Far East market) or storage space if you’re an owner/operator.

The tender is dealt with on a hi-lo bathing platform now that the slightly gimmicky Tender Launch System has dropped off the options list.

Large step in the saloon needs attention

Large step in the saloon needs attention

Fairline has adjusted the engine options on the 53 so you still get the base D11 675hp from Volvo but the Caterpillar option has been ousted in favour of the D11 725hp and there is also a 710hp Cummins on the way that isn’t yet on the UK price list as the necessary testing hasn’t taken place.

Our boat had the largest 725s in the engineroom, giving what the yard cautiously rates as 32 knots on the website.

On trial, with test kit on board, seven crew, safety stores and full fluids, we topped out at 34 knots on a two-way run – pretty good going.

There wasn’t enough time to get comprehensive fuel figures but at 1,900rpm at 27 knots the boat was burning 170lph and delivering a range of just over 300 miles with a conservative 20% reserve.

And, if our brief run out is anything to go by, those 300 miles will be suitably relaxing thanks to well contained sound levels, especially with the cockpit doors shut.

It was a calm morning but Southampton’s shipping traffic created sporadic chop for us to give the hull a bit of a test, yet none of this managed to unsettle the boat in the slightest.

Fun back in Fairline

In stark contrast to the boat’s refined fast cruising nature, the 53 is an absolute hoot to chuck around.

The steering is truly wonderful, so light and direct you could be forgiven for thinking she was running on sterndrives rather than shafts.

It’s no fluke. Fairline wants to be known for making driver’s boats again rather than ‘floating caravans’ and the engaging helm is a great start.

The D11 725s are mighty power plants and provide torquey grunt from low down the rev range right to the top.

The 53 is an extremely quiet boat to cruise fast on

The 53 is an extremely quiet boat to cruise fast on

You sit very high at the 53’s helm, which is brilliant for the view forward over the bow and means it’s very easy to stand and pop your head through the sunroof, though when I sat back in the chair the top of the windscreen was directly in my line of sight, meaning I had to lean forward to see.

And because the helm is higher than the saloon’s side windows it pays to have a good look around before you initiate a tight turn.

The steering wheel is in board of the navigator seat so the skipper will have to move to let people in and out but the more central location of the helm does improve the view forward.

We wrap up the sea trial by guiding the boat into her show berth, which means me negotiating the notoriously nasty pontoon bridge before squeezing £1 million of Fairline’s new baby into her show berth with the team that painstakingly crafted and built her peering over my shoulder.

Thankfully the twin shafts and Sleipner’s superb variable speed bow and stern thrusters ease the pressure and we pirouette into the berth in a way that proves pods are not the be all and end all.

Dep ed Jack at the helm of the Targa 53GT

Dep ed Jack at the helm of the Targa 53GT

To say the Targa 53 is make or break boat for Fairline would be overly dramatic, but after a period of relative instability this boat needs to do well.

The initial signs are thoroughly encouraging with significantly improved aesthetics, muscular performance and entertaining handling.

And even with bits 
of trim missing and no cockpit cushions in place it was clear to see that the Fairline of old was shining through in terms 
of perceived quality, detailing and the use of materials.

We will reserve full judgment until 
we complete our full test but, for 
now, it looks like Fairline is back in the game.

Contact See Fairline website for dealers.

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Pros

  • Sleeker styling
  • Sportier profile
  • Thumping performance
  • Quality back where it should be
  • Two layout options

Cons

  • Large step in the saloon
  • Restricted headroom in the master
  • Interior styling won't be for everyone

Price as reviewed:

£1,080,000 for inc UK VAT

Verdict

We only had a brief run on the Targa 53 and, no matter what you think of the styling or certain interior compromises, it is an undeniably talented machine out on the water. The driving experience is back in line with Fairlines of old and that is pleasing to see. We will reserve final judgement for the full test.

Details

Length: 55ft 1in (16.92m)
Beam: 14ft 10in (5.52m)
Top speed: 34 knots
Cruise speed: 18-30 knots
Test engines: Volvo Penta D11 724hp
Price from: £779,040 inc UK VAT

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