If you’re thinking of moving up to a larger family cruiser, you’re sure to have a lot of questions regarding everything from anxiety about maneuvering around the docks to overall comfort and enjoyment for your friends and family. A recent sea trial aboard the new Beneteau Gran Turismo 45 illustrated how the world’s largest boatbuilder is anticipating boat owners’ questions and responding with family-friendly features that answer most every need.
The GT 45 is at the top of Beneteau’s express cruiser lineup. With primary styling from Andreani Design, and with naval architecture by Beneteau Power Boats, in collaboration with Micad, the renowned Italian naval design office known for its fusion of styling and engineering, this new express cruiser is innovative and elegant.
The stern of an express cruiser isn’t typically feature-rich, but the GT45’s hydraulic-lift swim platform is wide and deep, making boarding, and reboarding by swimmers and divers, easier, and it is equipped with davits for easy launching and retrieval of a dinghy. There is a garage behind the lifting transom, complete with rollers and a winch, perfect for storing a 7-1/2-foot tender with room left over for SUPs and other water toys. A locker lid on the transom rises to reveal an outdoor grill and food prep center, taking the grilling function out from under the hardtop where family and guests can relax. The garage structure is topped off with a massive sun pad large enough for two adults.
Traditionally, express cruisers were wide open to the sun, with a Bimini for protection from the sun’s rays or rain. As hardtops began to appear, many kept the aft end of the boat open to the great outdoors. More recently, completely enclosed sun decks, usually canvas and isinglass, gave boating families a chance to seal out the weather and open up when conditions improved. To better this tradition, the Beneteau GT 45 makes a great compromise—a full glass aft bulkhead to keep air conditioning or forced air heat swirling around a large U-shaped bench and table abaft the twin helm bench seat. But it’s not a fixed, static solution, and that’s all because of the buttons.
When you want fresh air and sunshine, a push of a button in the aft port bulkhead raises the large glass pane to starboard and locks it in place overhead. Press another button at the helm and watch as a massive overhead hatch—which can be equipped with a glass insert along its forward edge for better illumination of the bridge deck—recedes into a space beneath the hardtop. The fresh air and natural light flowing through the sundeck is voluminous, joining the flow provided by manual sliding panels in larger-than-usual side windows that allow you to look down at, not simply out at, the water all around.
As you might expect, with so much emphasis on glass on all sides, visibility from the helm is exceptional. A flip-up bolster and an angle-adjustable sport steering wheel make sitting or standing equally comfortable. And it is at the helm that this Beneteau excels, giving owners not only the joystick control that helps them back up, slide sideways, or angle away from docks, but also a bow thruster with a separate side-to-side control to better counter cross winds. Because the distance between the bow thruster and the IPS drives is considerable, a gusty day can have significant leverage on the bow, which is more easily overcome with a dedicated forward thruster. Maneuvering with a bow thruster in shallow waters also helps keep the water strainers clean.
A gently curved portside staircase, illuminated by overhead glass panels beneath the forward windscreen and large hull-side windows, leads to the accommodation deck. There, you’ll find a two-cabin, two-head layout with a central living area that includes a portside galley and a starboard side, U-shaped dinette. Gray walnut and white lacquer are the predominant visual themes, along with plenty of dedicated spot lighting. Fit and finish are clean and precise, perhaps the best Beneteau has ever produced. The forward stateroom has twin berths, perfect for kids, that can swing together scissor-like to form a double berth for a couple. There are two hanging lockers and there is handy companionway access to the portside day head and its shower compartment.
The master stateroom is amidships, and it features a centerline fore-and-aft berth flanked by a desk to port and a bench seat to starboard. Here again, large hull-side windows add illumination to what might otherwise be a dark space. Owners have private access to an ensuite head compartment equipped with a separate shower.
Running the GT 45 is immense fun. It comes up on plane in less than 10 seconds and carves turns the way aircraft bank into a final approach. The twin Volvo Penta IPS 600 drivetrains provide the kind of precision handling at speed or at idle around the docks, for which they are renowned. Our test boat was Hull No. 2, the first in the U.S., and it achieved 33 knots at WOT with nearly a full load of fuel. Best operating speed was 22.5 knots at 3000 rpm, producing a fuel burn of 23.2 gallons per hour for 1 nautical mile per gallon, and a range of 207 nautical miles (with a 10 percent fuel reserve).
All things considered, moving up to a larger boat is a thrilling prospect for many boat owners. It’s good to know that Beneteau has configured the new Gran Turismo 45 with features that will answer shoppers’ questions with aplomb and style.
Displ.: 24,782 lbs.
Fuel: 238 gals.
Water: 106 gals.
Power: (2) 440-hp Volvo Penta IPS 600
Price (as tested): $941,000
This article was originally published in the October 2021 issue.