Could this sophisticated but practical new flagship cruiser become the standard bearer for the Finnish yard’s fleet of the future? Alex Smith finds out with a test drive
As I perch on our support boat among the pristine waterways of Finland’s Nauvo region, watching Aquador’s new 35 AQ at play, it’s tough not to be struck by the experience. With its long, deep-cut hull contours carving at the water, its steel trim catching the light and its tinted pilothouse frown adding a healthy measure of masculine bravado, the physical impact of this boat is not to be underestimated.
It offers a striking fusion of potency and sophistication; like a four-season offshore workhorse after a top-to-toe makeover from a superyacht specialist. And while some may find its stylistic forwardness a touch confrontational, there’s no doubt it’s a vital part of what makes this new boat relevant.
After all, the established Aquador fleet is quite traditional Nordic fare – all muted fabrics and off-white fibreglass with curvy topside swellings and compact portholes. Certainly, the hulls are all thoroughly proven and the build, like the layouts and finish, have achieved a considerable fan base. But the innate modesty of these established designs was becoming an issue for the brand.
That’s why Aquador enlisted the services of Norwegian designer, Espen Thorup, a man with an award-winning track record on the company’s Bella and Flipper lines. His brief was to create not just a new Aquador flagship but a modern and high-calibre cruiser that might establish a blueprint for the rest of the fleet to follow.
Step on board and it’s evident that glass plays a more prominent role than ever before. Gone are the tightly framed windows and in their place come plunging glass panels, a large sunroof, a starboard skipper’s door and a four-part aft sliding patio door to separate the saloon from the cockpit.
Up at the helm, the single-piece windscreen is also impressive. It’s built from convex, double-curved glass and fixed to a tough steel frame, with an integrated anti-fog heating film to keep your view clear. It’s quick, silent and easy to use and represents a major upgrade over the more commonplace air vents.
However, the 35 AQ’s finest trick is the way the internal and external dining areas can be seamlessly linked together by sliding the cockpit doors to starboard to create a single large dining space for eight people.
This thoughtful and effective design extends throughout the boat. You see it in the square-cut, low-profile cushions; in the silver cuboid wall lamps; in the clean-cut whitewashed Nordic woods; in the LED downlighting; in the fibreglass overhangs that push aft over the cockpit for quick-rig shade; in the hinged, ram-assisted fender baskets; and in the cockpit, where the backrest of the aft bench has been angled inwards at both ends, creating a pair of corner seats.
The scale and versatility of the upper deck spaces means the lower deck is left free for cabin space. The forward master offers a large, permanent double bed with four useful storage paces to supplement the twin cupboards.
Sliding doors throughout the lower deck help maximise space, and all the bulkheads have been upholstered to deaden the noise and improve insulation. With the big overhead hatch and the deep lateral windows it feels as though 25% of the primary cabin is built from glass, giving panoramic views even when lying in bed.
However, while the forward cabin and starboard heads are perfectly serviceable, the guest cabin is a particular highlight. It takes full advantage of the Aquador’s 3.49m beam to offer a king-size bed with windows at the head and foot, plus a changing area with cupboard, bench and all the light and headroom you could want. In short, the 35 AQ is an authentic cruising companion that could happily cater for weeks rather than days away.
On the water
While the 35 AQ undoubtedly looks and feels very modern, it also moves with a light-footed dexterity rare in a four-berth cruiser of this scale.
Despite an initial 2.5 seconds of turbo lag, we’re hitting 30 knots from a standstill in just 15 seconds; and when you throw it into a hard turn at pace, there’s plenty of heel, lots of grip and impressive retention of pace. The impact of windage is also notably modest, with little need for manipulation of the trim tabs.
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In fact, the natural trim of this boat takes much of the decision-making process out of your hands. For instance, trimmed out to 30% with 23 knots and 3,300rpm on the dials, the pace actually increases to 25 knots when you trim back in, even though the revs drop as expected. It suggests that all this boat really needs to run flat and fast is water flow over its hull.
In a big following sea, you might need a more forceful hand to power the bow free of the troughs but, for the most part, the Aquador is a boat that takes care of itself; a boat you can point and shoot with the same indelicate attitude to wheel and throttle as a dodgem driver.
With its handling agility, its running refinement, its easy access to the side deck, its joystick control and its novice-friendly hull dynamics, there’s no doubt that this is an easy boat to drive – and yet, the helm position is not without its flaws.
Standing at the wheel, propped up against the elevated bolster, the leading edge of the sunroof digs you into the back of the neck; and when you sit down, those taller than 5ft 10in will find that the chunky roof frame inhibits the view to starboard.
Even so, with four men on board, a full fuel tank and a messy wind-stoked chop, 36 knots is simple to achieve; and if you peg her back to between 22 and 32 knots, you can expect a useful range of around 190nm and a rare degree of refinement.
Whether the sunroof is open or closed, noise levels are around six to eight decibels lower than most comparable craft, but I would still be inclined to save weight, money and fuel by replacing the twin 260hp TDI V6s with the single 400.
Aquador’s new flagship is full of merit. True, the elevated helm position compromises visibility, but this is a refined, great looking and remarkably agile cruising boat, full of forward-thinking, user-friendly design solutions. As a flag bearer for the future fleet, Aquador couldn’t have asked for more.
Top speed: 35.7 knots
Length: 33ft 8in (10.28m)
Beam: 11ft 5in (3.49m)
Fuel capacity: 132 gallons (599 litres)
Water capacity: 38.1 gallons (173 litres)
RCD classification: B for 12 people
Engine options: Single 400hp Volvo D6 or twin 260hp Mercury TDi V6s
Price from: €328,000 (inc. VAT)