World’s Coolest Boats: XSMG XSR 48 – The ultimate diesel superboat

Each month we pick out an iconic boat that can lay claim to the title of world’s coolest boat. This month, we take a closer look at the XSMG XSR 48

“A Bugatti Veyron for the water” was how the XSR 48 was billed, and “the world’s fastest production diesel boat”. A tall order for a small British company without the cachet of Bugatti or the resources of the Volkswagen Audi Group.

After three years in gestation with only a prototype to show for 100,000 hours and £8 million in development costs, we had begun to wonder whether this much-hyped superboat would ever see the sea. And then suddenly in November 2008 there we were, in a small RIB on Southampton Water, watching the duck-billed bow of a 50ft powerboat bear down on us at well over 60 knots.

The dream was real.

Fast boats had been done before of course, but they were nearly all stripped-out racing machines with thirsty petrol engines that needed constant fettling. The idea with the XSR 48 was to create something genuinely desirable, aesthetically and practically. And it did look utterly beguiling.

Article continues below…

Recommended videos for you

Constructed from carbon-fibre, low, sleek, narrow and finished in a customised choice of metallic paint, it was clear that this was no ordinary go-fast boat. A button on the key fob switched off the alarm and raised the transom gate.

Inside, there was a double berth in the cabin, a separate heads complete with a lightweight carbon-fibre toilet, a DVD player and a wine cooler. In the wheelhouse, the dashboard was finished in turned aluminium like a vintage car and the seats were upholstered in cream leather that matched the owner’s Bentley.

But that wasn’t the most interesting fact about those seats. Made by Ullman Seats, all were on fully adjustable shock-absorbing suspension that could be fine tuned to the occupant’s weight and all were fitted with full racing harnesses. They cost £10,000 each, and there were five of them. Which brings us neatly back to the actual purpose of this vessel, which was to go very, very fast indeed.

The XSR 48’s throttles and dashboard resemble a jet aeroplane’s

Central to that performance were a pair of 11.3-litre twin turbo Isotta Fraschini diesel engines producing a combined 1,600hp – about 50% more than a Veyron! Starting them was suitably dramatic – a pair of red switches in the overhead to reset the electrics, then engage the port and starboard run controls. Finally, a pair of appropriately dramatic big red starter buttons brought those motors thundering to life.

Out on the water, a couple more switches at 45 knots engaged second gear, and then it was good to go. The second bank of turbochargers kicked in at 2,000rpm and it went again! We saw 65 knots on test, and with some additional propeller tweaking it went on to top 70 knots, giving it the looks, performance and, at £1.3 million, cost, of an aquatic Bugatti Veyron. Mission accomplished.

XSMG XSR 48 specifications

Year: 2008 LOA: 48ft 0in (14.6m)
Beam: 10ft 0in (3.1m)
Power: Twin Isotta Fraschini 800hp diesel engines
Speed: 65 knots
Price when new: £1.3 million

To submit your suggestion for the world’s coolest boat, head over to the MBY forum.


Latest videos