Published in: Tuesday, 10 July 2012
Features > Jeanneau Prestige 550 (Page 1/1)

Jeanneau Prestige 550

French nous with Italian flare has resulted in the Prestige 550, an elegant ultra-modern cruiser that offers enough technical wizardry to even first time owners comfortable at the helm

The Jeanneau brand has been synonymous with innovative sailing yachts since its inception 1957 but its growing motorboat range has seriously big ambitions and most of these lie in the Prestige brand, the company’s premium range. Comprised of 11 cruisers ranging from the entry level 350 to the flagship 60 model, the new 550 epitomises the modern cruiser with both technology and design very much to the fore. Throughout its 20-year history, the Prestige brand has evolved along the basis of building timeless, elegant yet seaworthy motoryachts, with 2500 sold so far. Six Prestige yachts have recently been delivered to the Asian market. Available in three distinct model lines:  Flybridge, Express, and Sport, the latest additions have been the 60S and now the new 550 Flybridge, which arrived in Cannes during March for our press visit.

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The look, created by Italians Vittorio and Camillo Garroni in conjunction with the French J&J design house, is one of shear lines that cleverly hide the voluminous interior. The 2012 launched 550 will come in both Express and Flybridge models, with the fly model out first and the Express splashing in November. Slotted nicely between the 500 and 60 models, the 550 is described by Jean-Francois de Premorel, Prestige Director of Product Development, as having more fluid lines and innovation than the 500 while continuing the single level living space ideals of its older sibling.

Getting on-board with Prestige

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The Garroni Design Group’s key philosophy of maximising sea views from the yacht’s interior has created a hull dominated by elongated windows and portlights while the overall silhouette remains elegant thanks to the raked lines and low level flybridge. Bellissimo, as they say in the Genoese design house. 

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Stepping aboard via the 15-foot hydraulic teak swim platform allows the visitor easy access to the sheltered aft deck – thanks to a hardtop flybridge canopy that extends to the transom. 

The area comprises a wide bench seat and teak table, while below the bench is the crew quarters above the pod engine drives. Sensibly, the crew area comes with a wide stern facing window and opening hatch to avoid stuffiness. The review boat also came with the optional electric passerelle, for stern-to mooring. The starboard side cabin bulkhead conceals the joystick for controlling the Zeus pod drives which worked well during our harbour manoeuvres.

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Moving forward, the 12-millimetre teak-clad decks offers plenty of grip while handholds and safety lines ensure you reach the long foredeck without spilling your gin and tonic. Here, a huge sun lounger with folding bench seat and a sun awning create a convivial spot to watch the world go by. The pulpit setup also helps relaxation thanks to a hefty vertical windlass with capstan, fairlead rollers on either side, and double cleats as well. 

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But undoubtedly the pièce de résistance is found when you climb up the stairs and are confronted by the vast acreage of the flybridge, an area that a 70-footer would do well to match, thanks to the aforementioned extended section over the stern deck. At its rear is a solid teak table surrounded by bench seating while a king-sized sunbed forward completes a fantastic area. For the skipper, the port slung steering console complements nicely the starboard steering console in the saloon. Navigation controls up here include a Raymarine E90 plotter, Cummins Smartcraft system management screen and ST 70 instruments.

Cleverly, the wide bench steering seat doubles as the bulkhead for a comprehensively fitted wet bar with barbeque plate. Simply pull up the stainless bimini and presto, it’s party time, with 360-degree views. At sea, visibility is further improved with the clear low slung windshield ensuring the skipper can view the bow without needing to stand up.

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Moving inside through the sliding doors, the saloon is divided by the galley at the rear, strategically placed to allow the chef to easily serve al fresco meals to the stern deck as well as quickly to the portside dinette area inside. The L-shaped area is fitted with four-burner cook top, oven and microwave. Alongside are front opening fridge and freezer while washing up is also well taken care of with dishwasher and double sinks.

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Adjoining the galley, the dinette offers tranquil relaxation around a solid table that unfolds to serve six. From the saloon there are clear views forward while Garroni’s strong preference for window space ensures good side and stern vision as well. The 550’s three-cabin layout guarantees plenty of privacy thanks to the master cabin having its own curved entrance hall down to its midships location, while the two guest cabins are entered from the forward corridor near the wheelhouse window. 

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A wide stairway opens up to a huge master cabin, with the king-sized bed across the boat’s centreline. Other good features in what is a pleasingly set out floor plan, is the walk-in closet which offers access to the shower room, which in turn leads through to the toilet. Adjoining the toilet is a portside bench with yet more storage. Here, perhaps there could be more, such as a vanity area, rather than just storage. 

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Over on the bed the views are lovely but with blinds down the bulkhead mounted television swings into action, while his-and-hers side tables nicely finish off the master cabin. Throughout, quality stainless fixtures and fittings do justice to what is Jeanneau’s premium brand. In the forward two cabins, you’re not exactly slumming it either, especially the forecabin, which has a queen-sized bed that can slide apart, creating two singles. Good features include a portside vanity/computer desk and ensuite bathroom. The bathroom is shared with the third bedroom, which is a functional and unadorned space, but nevertheless has enormous volume and a double bed. All cabins have strategically placed air conditioning ducts, various blinds and cloth headboard coverings which again shows a good standard of finish and detailing.

Engineering the Prestige

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The 550 uses twin 600-horsepoer Cummins MerCruiser QSC 8.3 diesels connected to Zeus 3800 pod drives, intended to reach 30 knots and cruise at 24 knots. With fuel capacity of 1,930 litres, the range is 240 nautical miles at cruising speed. The Prestige 550 hull was designed specifically for the Zeus 3800 pod drives with tunnels to house them, thus reducing draught to a shallow 1.17 metres. Apart from being tucked up in the hull, these pods have sacrificial skegs intended to break on heavy impact, reducing damage to the main drives. Engine emissions are also low thanks to the exhaust venting through the propeller hubs. The boat, nearly 59 feet length overall, is built using the latest infusion-moulded techniques, which make for a relatively rigid but light hull (17,700 kilogrammes displacement). 

Lifting the stern hatch on its gas struts and climbing down into the engine room reveals a busy but well laid out area with enough space around the motors to allow maintenance access. Good features here include low-slung fuel tanks, 11kw Onan generator easily accessed on the centreline and a deep bilge with bronzed sea cocks, also at hand.

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Extensive system controls on the Prestige 550 should easily reduce an owner’s need for full-time crew thanks to items such as the Zeus joystick controls and its Skyhook system. Skyhook includes: automatic trim control to provide the most efficient running angle, no matter what speed the boat is travelling. Advanced Autopilot is also integrated, and it provides both auto heading and waypoint tracking. Most usefully, Skyhook gives you the ability to pull up to a busy fuel dock and wait in line without having to constantly tend to your controls to hold station, or approaching a jetty by yourself without the need to tweak the helm. With the touch of a button, the Skyhook feature maintains your vessel’s position and heading, even in strong currents and windy conditions.

Casting off

On the water there were no surprises with the Prestige 550, starting from when we nudged our way out of a tight dock in Cannes with enough windage to require tweaks on the bow thruster and a sharp turn, using the pod drives to swivel at 90 degrees. Of course, this was all controlled by the joystick and with enough feel to prevent excess throttle. Climbing up to the flybridge I clicked the throttle to give single lever control of the twin Cummins and the DTS gearbox controls cleanly engaged the forward gears to speed us out the harbour.

By the way, troll mode is another feature of the DTS when not in Dock mode. Clearing the go-slow zone, I opened the throttles while glancing around – 360 degree views – and pointed the 550 to the horizon. With flat seas I had to seek my own chop so banked the Prestige into a series of figure of eights, continually crossing our own wake to seek some reaction from the hull. But there was little of that, as the 550 showed steady tracking.

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Only downside was the large turning circle – perhaps due to some adjustment required in the pod drives. Slow manoeuvring proved fantastic with the boat easily spinning in her own length with pod drives alone, rather than needing the additional Maxpower bow thruster. Similarly going astern, good manners were shown from the 550. All of which is very empowering for the novice skipper. 

Moving down to the main helm station, I cranked open the throttles and was pleasantly surprised with good views forward while noting the speeds – 25.6 knots cruising at 2500RPM using 196 L/H fuel consumption and acceptable noise levels (73dba). Even while flat out at 29.6 knots, the crew could talk without shouting (76dba in the saloon) while fuel consumption held at 242 L/H. Another quiet place at speed turned out to be the master bedroom, where I listened to the television while the big Cummins were at work – Impressive. 

Our review boat was hull number one and overall I’d say Jeanneau has got it pretty well right from the get go, and at an attractive price. The 550 combines substance and style in a design that looks great and is economical, coming in at €735,000. The brand is clearly stepping on the well-manicured toes of the semi-custom market where Italian and British luxury yacht builders hold sway.... for the moment.

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Prestige 550 – Technical Specifications

LOA: 17.92m

Hull length: 16.06m

Beam: 4.79m

Draught: 1.17m

Air draught: 5.90m

Light Displacement: 17,700 kg

Displacement Full charge: 24,100 kg

Deadrise at transom: 16°

Engines: Cummins QSC 8.3 / 2 x 600 Cv + Zeus pod

Mid-load max speed: 30kts

Cruising speed: 24kts

Fuel consumption at 30 kts: 238 L/H (official figures)

Fuel consumption at 24 kts:193 L/H (official figures)

Range at 30 kts: 190 NM

Range at 24 kts: 240 NM

Cabins: 3

Berths: 6

Fuel capacity: 1930L

Water: 800L

Holding tank capacity: 120 L

Optional generator: 11 Kw Onan

Optional air conditioning system: Med 59.000 BTU, Trop 84.000 BTU

CE Category: B-12 / C-14

Design : J & J / Garroni Design / JP Concepts / Prestige Engineering