Jeanneau Leader 46 review

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The Jeanneau Leader 46 offers a variety of engine and drive options, two deck layouts and two or three cabins. Jack Haines puts it to the test

We meet the Jeanneau Leader 46 at Jeanneau’s press sea trial event in what should be the idyllic testing spot of the Port of Cannes.

The weather clearly hadn’t got the memo, though, as 40-knot plus wind gusts howled across the pontoons and brought with it a froth-topped chop that would properly inspect the 46’s seakeeping credentials.

The 46 is available with either IPS600 (435hp per side) or sterndrives where you can have either twin Volvo Penta D6 370s or 400s.

Jeanneau had generously brought along both an IPS and sterndrive version of the boat but it was the pod-drive version that we headed out with first.

Jeanneau Leader 46

The sunpad in the cockpit of the deck saloon version covnerts into a dinette

Heading downwind it didn’t take long to get the 46 up to a quick and comfortable 25-knot cruise, the hull skipping gamely through the crests as the best planing hulls should do when the sea is at their back.

Inching the throttles to the stops brought more speed (around 33 knots) but no complaints from the hull as we barreled through the white horses.

The IPS setup, though lacking the fine-tuning of leg trim that the sterndrives give you, maintained a perfect running attitude and, though it wasn’t possible to stand and drive with the GRP sunroof shut the seated position is so comfortable it doesn’t really matter.

The helm design is classy and clear and the ergonomics generally excellent but putting the trim tab controls directly forward of the throttles makes it very difficult to adjust the tabs without knocking the throttles when you’re in rough weather.

Though the 370hp sterndrives are slower at the top end, when it comes to handling it’s no contest. The legs are far quicker to react and a lot more engaging than the rather sedate and flat-feeling pods.

The pods feel more planted but if you want to steer around the sea (and enjoy doing so, like me) then it has to be the sterndrives.

Jeanneau Leader 46

Upper saloon can be closed off from the elements in seconds

The good news is that whichever drive choice you opt for the upwind ride is incredibly impressive. To be able to make good progress through the horrible chop on test at around 20 knots gives you confidence that you could safely and comfortably get the family home from a lunch spot if it blows up.

As well as having a choice of powertrains there is also a decision to make between an open or enclosed deck layout.

Again, Jeanneau had supplied both for us to sample with the sterndrive boat exhibiting the more traditional open layout and the IPS one fitted with cockpit doors to create a sheltered deck saloon.

Jeanneau Leader 46

Lower dinette can be replaced with a bunk bed cabin

As is usually the case with sportscruisers that give you these options it is the open version that is the sweeter looking of the two with the sportiest profile where as the one with doors looks more ungainly it is the more usable boat if you wish to go boating all year round.

Though the deck saloon version’s cockpit is naturally much smaller than that of the open boat, Jeanneau has been smart and incorporated an intimate dinette with two benches opposite each other, which can be transformed into a sunpad that is free of the shelter of the hardtop.

The outdoor living space is bolstered further by an optional wet-bar and grill that can be incorporated into the transom unit.

Below decks

Below decks there is the option to have two or three cabins depending on whether you want more sleeping space or a dinette below decks.

Of course this decision could be affected by your choice of deck layout because if you have the open version you are likely to want a dinette below in case the weather is really miserable. This isn’t such an issue on the deck saloon version.

Jeanneau Leader 46

Interesting bathroom layout in the master cabin

Whatever happens the owner is treated to a fabulous full-beam master cabin with an unusual layout that sees the ensuite aligned down the port side with a sink in the middle, toilet cubicle aft and shower forward.

The clever door system means you can either shut off the entire area from the cabin or use the doors individually to shut off the separate toilet and shower rooms.

The VIP cabin shares its bathroom with the third cabin but it is fitted with scissor-action berths as standard.

Jeanneau Leader 46 layout drawingThese were early boats but it was still a little disappointing to see some shoddy finishing behind the scenes and basic issues like exposed screws on show in the engineroom.

Hopefully Jeanneau can rectify these issues beacuse even though the Leader represents relatively good value for money you still expect more for a product with this price tag.

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Pros

  • IPS or sterndrives
  • Open or deck saloon layouts
  • Two or three cabins
  • Clever master cabin layout
  • Solid hull

Cons

  • Cockpit doors don't do the looks any favours
  • Some questionable finishing in places

Price as reviewed:

£275,866 for ex VAT

Verdict

Though a production model the Jeanneau Leader 46 gives plenty of license to tweak the layout and drive options depending on how you plan to use the boat. Competition is stiff but with solid sea keeping and the usual eye on value for money the Leader 46 makes a good account of itself.

Details

Length: 46ft 10in (14.3m)
Beam: 13ft 5in (4.1m)
Displacement: 10.6 tonnes
Draught: 3ft 7in (1.1m)
Fuel capacity: 198 imp gals (900 litres)
Water capacity: 88 imp gal (400 litres)
RCD Category: B (for 12 people)
Engines: Volvo Penta IPS600
Top speed: 34 knots