If you want a flybridge cruiser that feels like a coupé, Prestige’s ingenious 680S might just be the way to go. Alex Smith reports.
It’s early in the morning – just a few minutes past sunrise – and as the Prestige 680S creams across a mirror-flat sea off the coast of southern France, it seems beyond plausibility that this is a voluminous 70-foot cruiser. It’s not that it’s moving especially fast or that it looks particularly nimble. It’s just that, from a distance, it seems to possess the profile and posture of something half the size.
This trick of the eye is at least partly down to the magic behind the ‘S’ part of the 680S. It’s basically what Prestige calls a Sport Flybridge – Sunseeker’s equivalent is a Sport Yacht, while Princess has opted for Sportbridge. Whatever the nomenclature, this relatively new genre of boat sees the flybridge positioned further aft and lower down, and aside from enabling the designers to incorporate a huge sunroof above the main deck helm, its purpose is to enable this boat to straddle the line between a traditional flybridge and a sporting coupé. It’s a device that seems to work and an air draft around 1.2 metres lower than that of the conventional 680 proves what a fundamental difference it makes.
However, there’s some clever stylistic manipulation going on here too, not least in the form of the blank, subtly silvered, mirror-style windows that reflect the sky and make the whole side of the yacht seem oddly absent. It has the effect of elongating each fibreglass structure and taking all the weight out of the profile. But while that all makes good, rational sense to me, I still find myself amazed by the collective impact of these clever design features.
Space Management Master Class
When you step on board, it’s easy to forget how streamlined this motoryacht looks, because the sense of space throughout the 680S is extraordinary. The open-plan layout with its scatterings of low-slung, freestanding furniture, allied to the pale woods and muted fabrics of the ‘grey oak’ décor, certainly help with that, but even in regions that are traditionally quite tight, like stairwells and shower rooms, the generosity of dimension is striking both in terms of footprint and head height.
In fact, even up on that sunken, hybrid-style flybridge, it’s fair to say that things feel much more fully featured than you might expect. You get a large dining area with customary wetbar, plus a pair of convertible lounging pads, one on either side of a central two-man helm. Of course, given the self-imposed size restrictions, it’s not as generously proportioned as most flybridges in this segment, but it’s attractively fitted out and it comes with a wraparound screen that (unlike the majority of its type) affords both you and the sunbathers some useful protection underway.
If you lament the modest proportions up top, just step down to the main deck and all is forgiven. Based on a two-tier arrangement to help accommodate the aft end of the upper deck without compromising headroom, it features an aft galley and dining area in the lower saloon and an expansive lounge area on the upper tier behind the two-man helm station. In the absence of massive load-bearing stanchions, the openness of the views through those long lateral windows is spectacular and, with a pair of huge L-shaped seating spaces, there are plenty of ways to recline and enjoy them. However, the primary benefit of that reduced upper deck is of course the sunroof. It’s a vast piece of equipment, capable of bathing the entire upper section in natural light and when it’s fully open, the 680S feels, to all intents and purposes, like an open boat.
It’s a wonderful place to spend time, not least because the designers have been bold enough to leave so much of the saloon space free and open – and yet if you had to pick one region of this boat that really leaves a mark on the memory it would have to be the lower deck. Motor cruiser protocol suggests that the forward space should be dedicated to a sprawling concoction of guest cabins, while the master suite should be spread out beneath the saloon floor and butted up against the engine room’s forward bulkhead. But here, that is reversed. The master suite is located in the bow, radically improving both light ingress and headroom, while minimising noise and vibration – and because the three guest suites are accessed via their own staircase on the starboard side of the lower saloon, the privacy up in the bow is also first class. Its also far quicker and more convenient to access the master cabin so directly from the saloon – a big plus for the owners.
You can pick either the four-cabin layout featured on the test boat (two doubles and two twins) or a more simplistic layout comprising three large ensuite doubles, but in all cases, the use of space is outstanding. For instance, because the mouldings for the aft stairwell inhibit vertical space on the starboard side of the full-beam guest suite, the designers have made that potential issue redundant by using the space for a dressing table. And similarly, while the day heads to port steals a little space from the port twin, that cabin compensates with a storage locker that steals a little space from the starboard twin – a deficiency, which in turn is masked with a full-length mirror, leaving you with a sense of great space and symmetry, allied to considerable confusion over how it’s all been achieved. There are similar examples of critical thinking and careful compromise all over this motoryacht and the result of all that is an extraordinary sense of space, light and casual, unhurried comfort, wherever on board you happen to find yourself.
Even so, there are a few areas of irritation and foible on the 680S. There’s a speaker above the windscreen on the main deck that is perfectly positioned to smack you in the head as you stroll past; and the Skipper’s door is positioned too far aft of the helm to be of any practical use to anyone except the saloon guests. This means that straddling the side-deck while you tickle the joystick, puff out your chest and smile imperiously at awestruck onlookers is off the cards.
More irksome still, that same door features quite an elevated frame, which caused me to stumble out into the starboard walkway, looking every bit the village idiot, on more than one occasion – and with several deck-level variations and trip hazards elsewhere on this boat that don’t appear to be strictly necessary (not least on the flybridge and at the threshold between cockpit and saloon), it’s not alone in that regard. Inevitably then, it’s not quite as easily managed as some motoryachts in this sector, but with its clear and consistent design approach, there’s no doubt that the 680S remains a very satisfying place to spend your time.
Created by J&J Design, the hull on the 680S feels perfectly matched to the twin rig of Volvo Penta’s IPS 1200s – and that’s by no means a coincidence. On the contrary, this boat has been designed specifically around those IPS powerplants and it shows. There’s no sign of the inelegant lurches and ponderous wallows endemic to the market’s more top-heavy cruisers. In the absence of any engine options to spoil her dynamics, Prestige has instead been able to take full advantage of the lower centre of gravity and reduced windage engendered by the deepset fly and bring us a helming experience characterised by the composed and proactive heels and recoveries of a thoroughly well sorted motorboat.
In addition to easy manoeuvrability in and around the harbour, she lifts flat onto the plane in around seven seconds, before pushing on to a top end approaching 30 knots in around 30 seconds. That’s not massively rapid either in terms of outright pace or throttle response, but the integrity of the boat’s balance enables very secure turns, with good maintenance of pace, very light steering adjustments and remarkable refinement. Set the throttles at 2,000rpm and you’ll enjoy one of the easiest and most civilised 23-knot cruises imaginable. Talking in hushed tones is perfectly possible and even with that vast sunroof fully open, the sheer user-friendliness of the experience in terms of noise, vibrations and ergonomics, is of an extraordinarily high order.
And if the choice of only one 30-knot engine option seems a little limited for those with a real need for speed, we must remember that the IPS1200 is currently the largest IPS unit available. To get even another knot or two would require a move to much larger and heavier shaft drive engines, and then the whole design construct of the 680S – which is founded on IPS – would be undermined because of engine weight and engineroom space and propulsive efficiency issues. Also worth noting that the positioning of the atypical athwartships fuel tanks over the 680S’s centre of gravity is, in our opinion, a key contributor to the 680’s good dynamic behaviour.
I know it’s popular in a modern market preoccupied with the cult of the bespoke to give the customer endless choice, but to my mind, it makes more sense to leverage the knowledge and expertise of the design team by telling the customer what’s best. That’s exactly what Prestige has done and the result is all the better for it.
A 70-footer with a difference
Prestige’s new 680S sidesteps the established flybridge formula in several outstanding ways. With its raked, mirror-glass finish, it looks like a sporting coupé but it comes with a flybridge, a sunroof, proper headroom throughout the main deck, a forward master suite and a ‘no-options’ commitment to dynamic balance. Certainly, its outright performance is relatively modest, but in light of its handling, its space management and its refinement underway (not to mention the infectious charm of its thought-provoking design), the 680S is one of the most satisfying three-deck 70-footers you can buy.
- Fine looks
- Thoroughly sorted driving dynamics
- Sublime forward master suite
- Huge reserves of open space
- Great all round visibility
- Superb upper saloon sunroof
- Deck-level trip-hazards
- Odd position of Skipper’s door
LOA: 21.46 m
Beam: 5.33 m
Weight: 29,800 kg
Draft: 1.58 m
Air draft: 5.0 m
Berths: 8 + 2
Cabins: 3/4 + 1 crew
Heads: 3 + 1 crew
Engines: 2 x Volvo Penta IPS 1200
Power: 2 x 900 hp
Fuel: 3,450 litres
Water: 920 litres
Top speed: 30 knots
Cruising range @ 25 knots: 350 Nm