The Bavaria 400HT is an impressive family-orientated sports cruiser designed to marry performance and practicality. Greg Copp gives his verdict …
In my opinion, a sports cruiser is all about the driving experience first and accommodation second. However, with Bavaria’s 400HT you get a great balance of both – and at two-thirds the price of a comparable British boat. Critics will argue that you get what you pay for, but every time I drive a Bavaria I begin to understand why this company has not suffered the fiscal issues that have plagued UK yards. This boat comes in no less than four options: an open boat, HT with sliding sunroof, HT with canvas roof and a coupé version with aft patio doors.
Our test boat had the biggest engine option of twin 400hp Volvo D6s on DPH sterndrives – a perfect match to the boat’s 9-tonne displacement (dry). The alternatives are 260hp and 300hp Volvo D4s. Though £27,000 cheaper, they are not really an ideal choice for a 40ft sports cruiser, and when you drive a D6-powered boat you will not want anything else. Like many modern designs, the 400HT is a beamy boat, but she carries her size well. With over 1500ft/lb of torque from twin 400hp D6s, the 400HT, in no uncertain terms, is a quick boat. The moment you push the throttles forward the boat shrinks – you get the feel of a lighter boat – and in moments that manic rush takes over as the GPS reading heads quickly into the high 30s.
Bavaria’s J&J-designed hulls are renowned for their sturdy build and responsive seakeeping, and the 400HT is no exception. Our photographer, relentless in his quest for the perfect picture, kept beckoning me closer while wanting me to weave beam on to the photo boat. This was not really a problem for the 400HT, as with a twist of the wheel and a shove of the throttles she sped away from the closing photo boat. Running directly in the confused wake astern she showed little tendency to shake her head and held her course through the ridges of angry water.
Pushing further out into the Solent off Calshot, the sea developed a bit more chop, and running flat out at a nudge past 40 knots the 400HT came into its element. As our trim readings showed, once you hit 30 knots the hull’s attitude starts to improve with a trim angle of 2.5 degrees. Push her up to 34 knots or more and you get an impressive trim angle of 1.5 degrees. The hull’s sharp forefoot really starts doing its job and the flare on the bow keeps most of the spray away from the windscreen. I found that running diagonally through the wake of the photo boat was, to a point, comfier the faster you went. Any 40ft boat with a 4-metre beam will have some issues with hitting a ridge of water at 30-plus knots, but the 400HT is relatively quiet about it. I did not get the impression that the galley fittings were suffering, and none of its contents ended up on the cabin floor as can often be the case. Throughout, the leg trim was kept at midway, which is pretty much the boat’s optimum setting at all speeds.
My feelings on the helm are slightly mixed, though the overall impression was good. It lacks an old-school chart table, but on the plus side the 12″ chartplotter is easily accessed from the helm seat. If you are to speed on the numerous features that Garmin endorse their electronics with then to a point this is not much of a problem. All the primary instruments, like the tachometers, voltmeters and leg trim indicators, are arranged logically to port and starboard in two easily distinguished clusters. The all-too-essential cup holders are placed easily in reach of the helmsman and navigator. I found the best position is to stand on the foot platform leaning back into the seat with the seat bolster up. This gives good visibility over the bow and does not limit your line of sight under the roof, which was the case when I stood vertically. Being seated is fine for those longer cruises, but at 6ft I could not see the bow. The throttles and wheel fall comfortably to hand whatever your stance. This boat had the optional joystick control, which at £9,500 one could question the need for, considering that for a very reasonable £3,200 this boat also had a bow thruster.
The forward seating will happily take four – two on each side with the far port-side seat converting to a single sunbed. The middle port seat has a neat feature in that it can reverse to provide a seat around the port-side table. Opposite to starboard sits a wet bar housing an optional fridge and sink. From a social perspective, the larger cockpit seating area around a larger teak table is likely to be the main social focal point of the cockpit. It looks out directly over a big bathing platform and converts to a double sun pad courtesy of a drop-down table and infill. Side deck access is not the all-too-often case of clinging limpet-like to the coachroof. Each 9″ side deck enjoys enclosed teak steps, followed by 2″-deep toe rails and not too sporty but practical guard rails, which are tall enough to come to hand without stooping. If you really feel the need, there are also coachroof handrails.
The steep descent below leaves you in no doubt about the abundance of headroom above you, and this ballroom-like effect is enhanced by the boat’s beam. The galley sensibly has a big fridge, hob, overhead microwave and an adequate but not hugely abundant amount of storage. Bavaria deal with this by placing no less than three under-deck storage lockers along the keel line, all with smooth internal mouldings.
Many of those smaller but essential details have also not been overlooked. As I found from driving the boat, the sink counter top infills are heavy enough and every door catch is strong enough to stay put when things get lively. Likewise, the cabin doors have strong magnetic retaining catches. The large heads compartment has undoubtedly taken some room from the galley, but for good reason. You get a large separate shower/toilet compartment as well as a sink/utility area with a built-in counter top wash basket and plenty of storage for towels and sundries.
Both sleeping cabins lack en suite access, but neither is lacking in space. The forward master cabin has plenty of standing headroom in front of its long double hexagonal bed and plenty of headroom above the bed itself. The hexagonal shape of the bed fills in otherwise unused space at the forward end of the cabin, giving you more bed space into the bargain. Storage is through two hanging lockers either side of the door and an under-bed drawer. The mid cabin is a strong contender for the forward cabin. Inevitably it lacks headroom in comparison, but it actually sports three berths – two side by side and a sofa bed across the feet. The side-by-side berths are wide and long enough for the biggest adults, and the space between can be infilled for a gigantic double if need be. Storage is in both lockers and drawers, but the only standing headroom is in the doorway.
My views on the engine bay are slightly mixed. True to form, Bavaria have given the engines plenty of space, but getting in is a bit flawed. I say ‘a bit flawed’ because unlike many boats, access is through a hatch that is easily and quickly opened at the aft end of the cockpit. However, the steps lead vertically down between the engines. The space between the engines is not a squeeze, but the vertical descent means you have to carefully watch your footing and not step on the raw-water intake hose at the bottom or you will end up standing in the bilge at the bottom of the steps. This could be remedied by altering the angle of the steps and putting in a footboard at the bottom to stop you immersing your new deck shoes in bilge water. If you want to get around the engines to the large cavities that exist outboard of them it is a bit of a squeeze if the boat, like this one, has the optional larger 950-litre fuel tank. This also limits the space available for checking the belts, but filters, dipsticks and raw-water strainers are easily accessed. The absence of battery boxes was unusual, though something that could be easily remedied.
The 400HT is a great boat to drive with what is no doubt an efficient, sea-friendly and tough hull. It offers plenty of accommodation, and unlike some of its competitors does not do this at the expense of the driving experience. It is practical and safe and has been designed with the family in mind, and due to its versatile hardtop design is just at home in UK waters as it is in warmer climates. It should be said that behind the scenes it lacks some of the finesse of the big British builders. However, at £302,000, fully fitted with all the optional extras as the test boat was, it has few rivals.
Options & Upgrades
This boat has a long list of options, many of which like the bow thruster, though good value, should really be included in the price. The sliding GRP sunroof is actually an extra at £3,900 if you do not want the standard canvas sunroof, and the touch screen plotter is another £1,300 over a conventional push-button plotter. The fuel tank upgrade from 720 to 950 litres is wise but will cost you £1,350. One thing you can certainly discard is paying £520 for warps and fenders. All this said, it is a great-value boat – you just need to accept that from the start it is really a 300K boat.
What We Thought
- Genuine 40-knot performance
- Responsive handling and good seakeeping
- Solid build
- Good helm ergonomics
- Spacious accommodation
- Safe deck access
- Large bathing platform
- Noise levels as a result of no engine room soundproofing (in fairness this can be rectified)
- Steep descent into engine bay
- Lack of battery boxes in engine bay
Speed, Noise & Trim
- RPM Speed (knots) Trim (degrees) Sound level in cockpit with roof shut (decibels)
- 2200 20 4.5 89
- 2320 22 4.0 91
- 2440 24 4.0 91
- 2560 26 4.0 92
- 2760 28 3.0 92
- 2850 30 2.5 93
- 2950 32 2.5 95
- 3060 34 1.5 95
- 3220 36 1.5 95
- 3340 38 1.5 95
- 3560 40 1.5 95
- Maximum top speed: 40.75 knots (two-way average with three crew, 50% fuel and 100% water) with wind conditions F3.
- LOA: 12.21m
- Beam: 3.99m
- Displacement: 8.9 tonnes (light)
- Fuel capacity: 720 litres or 950 litres (optional larger tank)
- Water capacity: 250 litres
- RCD category: B for 12
- Engine options: Twin 260/300hp Volvo D4s or twin 400hp D6s both with DPH sterndrives
As Tested: £302,788 (inc. VAT)
Clipper Marine: https://www.clippermarine.co.uk/