- It’s this blend of routine family compliance and snarling apocalyptic ferocity that makes the M5 such a charming paradox.
- … as a radically rapid family runabout for the skipper who wants the pliability of a knockabout hull alongside the undiluted thrill of hard-edged grunt, the M5 is not a boat to be ignored.
- Despite the serenity and comfort of the suspension-equipped sports seat, the potency of the helming experience is every bit as savage as the stats suggest.
- It’s also good to see that the realities of its robust and practical build have not been concealed with paintwork, cushions and linings.
- … the M5 wears its construction very proudly.
Alex Smith tests a superpowered speed machine from Finnish tinny specialists Buster.Buster Magnum M5
Buster are a big deal in Europe’s northernmost reaches. In fact, among the complex rock-strewn shallows and sprawling archipelagos of the Nordic countries, this Finnish aluminium boatbuilder has been the most popular brand of motor boat for a very long time. Part of the reason for that is, of course, the inherent strength, resilience and simplicity of aluminium – but another key factor has been Buster’s very sage and focused approach to the introduction of new models …
Take the new Magnum M5, for instance. At 23 feet in length and with Yamaha’s Herculean F350 on the transom, it is not just the biggest boat in the fleet but also by far the most powerful. However, Buster have already manufactured more than 4,000 Magnum models over the years, so while this fifth-generation model is designed to operate as the undisputed flagship, there are three other Magnum variants still going strong. In addition to the basic Magnum (which is rated to 225hp), you can get the more heavily built Magnum Pro (which is rated to 250hp) and the sporty 300hp SuperMagnum. It is plain, then, that like most new Buster boats, the M5 is not so much a radical departure as a thematic development of an established success story.
And the fleet itself is equally well targeted. Despite a span of just 10 feet between the entry-level 13ft Mini and the flagship 23ft Magnum, there are no fewer than nine hull lengths on offer. Most of these have been around for a long time and almost all are available in two or three variants to suit the needs of the user. What we’re looking for in the lairy-looking M5, therefore, is not just a boat with a vast wedge of grunt, but one that belies its uncompromising posture with a predictable, well-sorted and user-friendly experience.
Fresh features for the fifth generation
Step on board and it is good to see that the aluminium hull is matched by an aluminium deck and consoles for low weight, big strength and easy everyday care. It’s also good to see that the realities of its robust and practical build have not been concealed with paintwork, cushions and linings. On the contrary, the M5 wears its construction very proudly. For me, as a fan of aluminium boats, the pronounced visibility of the welding contours at the joins between the plates has the same gratifying aesthetic as exposed steel girders in an industrial building. It’s not refined or sophisticated, but it looks and feels very right on a boat from an aluminium specialist like Buster.
In terms of its layout, the M5 is set up like a deep-set bowrider, with a traditional aft bench, a pair of helm seats and a large bow space accessed through the centre of the folding screen. However, if this deck design is quite formulaic, the standard package is very much that of a boat with high-end aspirations. Among the most outstanding features are a tall, tempered glass screen with twin wipers; an adjustable leather steering wheel; suspension-equipped X-Craft helm seats; and a partition between the consoles to improve cockpit shelter. You also get lockable stowage, a Fusion audio system, LED deck lighting and a ‘Buster Hotspot WiFi 4G’ pod so you can enjoy unbroken Internet access on a day out. The ladders, guard rails, cleats and handles are all built from stainless steel, and you also get anchor lockers fore and aft, plus a water sports bracket over the engine well for a spot of summer skiing.
Remarkably, the trim tabs also come as standard on the M5, and so too does the joystick-style control switch, which is easily the most intuitive example of its type I have seen. In place of a pair of rocker switches and a couple of vertical LED displays, you get a simple knob on a clear and self-explanatory baseplate. Twist it left to drop the left side; right to drop the right side; and up to drop the nose. It’s far less likely to draw your eyes away from the water, and in combination with the intimidating presence of that 350hp outboard it’s another indication of the lofty position this boat occupies in the Buster fleet.
However, despite the base boat costing around 30% more than the rest of the Magnum models, some of the finish here is not as cleanly resolved as I would expect. In the inside of the port console, for instance, there is a gap between the edge of the forward aluminium plate and the internal edge of the coaming, which means water ingress into this space is a distinct likelihood. The wiring is also quite erratically arranged, with poorly routed runs over metal edges and a lack of general uniformity, tidiness and care. And where the lateral embarkation steps in the bow are attached to the forward face of this port compartment, the sharp tips of the (wholly inappropriate) self-tapping screws project unapologetically into the storage space. This is plainly no good for longevity, for wandering wires, for luggage, or for careless hands in search of fenders or bags. Of course, after a couple of decades testing leisure boats, I’ve given up expecting the wholesale use of heat-shrunk connectors, dedicated trunking, clear labels and through-bolted components – but it would be good to see greater evidence of pride in the finer details of a flagship boat from such an experienced builder.
Performance versus practicality
Despite the serenity and comfort of the suspension-equipped sports seat, the potency of the helming experience is every bit as savage as the stats suggest. You hit the plane in about 1.5 seconds and (thanks to the efficient hull, stiff build, low weight and generous power) you find yourself passing 50 knots in a little over 8 seconds. With relatively shallow hull angles, you do of course need to give it the helming respect it deserves, but driven sensitively it brings with it enough of the user-friendliness exhibited by Buster’s more mainstream models to qualify as a realistic family boat …
Set your cruising speed at 35 knots and with 4000rpm on the clock and a fuel flow of 57 litres per hour you will see a usable range of around 140 nautical miles. That’s perfectly decent for an open dayboat, but it does need to be seen in its proper perspective. After all, with the same 250-litre fuel tank, the Magnum Pro with an F150 on the transom would be more than a third cheaper to buy and significantly cheaper to run, and would enjoy a far superior range of around 240 nautical miles. That would, however, be at the direct expense of that thrilling throttle response, so if you want to tweak the practicalities of the M5 without sacrificing the performance, then how about investigating Mercury’s Verado 350 instead?
By saving around 60kg on Yamaha’s big-block F350, the Verado would help the wary skipper tame that nose with greater confidence. And if you didn’t want to go as far as to substitute a 5.3-litre V8 for a 2.6-litre straight six (a tragic wrench for any serious petrolhead), then how about opting for the middle ground with Yamaha’s F300? In this power bracket it might tread on the toes of the SuperMagnum, but at around 100kg less in weight and £8,000 less in price than the F350, Yamaha’s excellent 4.2-litre V6 unit looks like a near perfect partner for the M5.
Whichever engine you pick, just make sure you spare a thought for those on the aft bench – because while the X-Craft impact mitigation seats are a pleasure, the transom positions are not so relaxing. Despite a deep cockpit for extra security and lateral cushions to protect your ribs from the bimini stanchions, the M5’s firm ride and rampant pace mean that in order to soften the impacts transmitted through that aluminium seat base, the aft cushions need to be much deeper and more forgiving than those with which the standard model is equipped.
As a robust aluminium dayboat, the Magnum M5 is essentially a workhorse – and yet as Buster’s range-topping performance model, it has also been blessed with the pickup and handling agility of a race boat. It’s this blend of routine family compliance and snarling apocalyptic ferocity that makes the M5 such a charming paradox. True, it’s a bit of a toad to look at, it lacks the careful finish of some other models in the fleet and it costs a sizable chunk more than a standard Magnum. It’s also true that most of us will find a better return on our investment from the smaller F300 or the cheaper SuperMagnum or Magnum Pro. But as a radically rapid family runabout for the skipper who wants the pliability of a knockabout hull alongside the undiluted thrill of hard-edged grunt, the M5 is not a boat to be ignored.
- Great acceleration
- Agile handling
- Intuitive tab switch
- Practical all-aluminium build
- Deep, well-sheltered helm
- Questionable looks
- Imperfect finish
- Hard-riding aft bench
- The lower-powered Busters make more sense
- LOA: 7.14m
- Beam: 2.42m
- Weight: 1080kg
- Max. fuel: 250 litres
- Max. people: 8
- Power: 250–350 hp
- Engine: Yamaha F350
- Price with F350: WAITING FOR UK PRICE
Notable standard features
- Adjustable leather steering wheel
- Tempered glass screen
- Twin windscreen wipers
- Door between consoles
- Lockable stowage
- Fusion audio system
- LED deck lighting
- Cushion set
- Water sports bracket
- Trim tabs with joystick control
- Integrated canvas garage
- Buster Hotspot WiFi 4G
- X-Craft suspension seats
- Anchor and mooring rope lockers
- Swim platform with ladder
- Stainless steel railings, cleats and handles
- Detachable light mast
- 12V power outlet
- Auxiliary engine bracket
- Transducer mounting
- Wakeboard rack
- 45-litre bow seat box
- Starboard fridge
- NAVI 12 Package (Garmin touch screen chartplotter and compass)
- NAVI 12 Plus Package (as 12 Package plus echo sounder)
- CANVAS Package
Howard Marine Sales