- The Quicksilver Activ 855 is a well-made boat, whose finish, particularly the joinery, does not smack of compromise.
- It has achieved a good blend of living accommodation and practicality, which is all too important in this size and type of boat.
- It has a range of extras, some of which arguably should be included in the basic cost, though to be fair they are reasonably priced.
- One thing the twin-prop Bravo 3 sterndrive certainly gives you is fantastic grip on the water.
Quicksilver Activ 855 Weekend
Greg Copp tests a craft whose finish is beyond question, but queries whether its full potential as a driver’s boat is yet to be released …
The largest of Quicksilver’s cabin cruisers, the diesel stern-driven Activ 855 is a step up from the plethora of compact open sports boats for which this yard is renowned. Competing with the likes of Jeanneau and Finnmaster, to name but a few, the Activ 855 serves up a generous portion of innovative features for a boat this size. To be fair, this is not a newcomer to the market, but our test boat is one of the few sporting a 260hp diesel V6 and a twin-prop Bravo 3 sterndrive, in contrast to the various outboard models.
What strikes you immediately is the driver-focused wheelhouse design. Visibility is great, and seated or standing the helm position is spot on. The throttle and wheel are where you want them, and the instruments sit under your line of sight. Only the trim tab switch fails the functionality test by hiding behind the wheel. This, combined with windscreen wipers that leave a 15″ section of the screen untouched, are the only two elements that spoil a near-perfect set-up. I should also mention that a fold-down footboard complements the high helm seat, as does a side door leading out to a side deck enclosed by a tall bulwark and chunky guard rails. Though it has a good and reasonably priced electronics package from Simrad, the VHF radio sitting under the coachroof annoyingly tends to swing its coiled cable into your face when you least expect it.
The VW 3.0 TDI V6 diesel engine that MerCruiser use here is a great motor. It punches out 320ft/lb of torque at just 1400rpm and a whopping 400ft/lb at 2250rpm. In boating terms, this translates to fast hole shot times. Given that it has a redline of 4200rpm and a pretty flat torque curve across the spectrum, this engine ‘should’ push the Activ 855 to over 30 knots.
I say ‘should’ because the best I got on the day was a two-way average of just over 26 knots, with what can only be described as lethargic acceleration. The boat’s new owner, who was on board for the test, told us he had been advised that it was a 34-knot boat, and seemed less concerned than me. The motor was only pulling 3900rpm and it took a bit of time to reach this engine speed. This suggests two possible problems: an overcoarse prop, or fouling around the sterndrive and/or aft section of the hull. I strongly suspect the latter, as the dealer that supplied this boat is unlikely to have made such an error in their propeller calculations. The fuel consumption figures were also not what I would expect of a frugal engine in a 3.6-tonne boat, so I suspect somewhere down this boat’s short timeline it has sported a small beard.
Consequently it tended to run with a bit more bow-up attitude at full throttle, which, unless you religiously used the trim tabs to tuck the bow down, did not really help the boat’s ride into head seas. In addition, having a fair degree of height in relation to its length and displacement, this boat leans quite annoyingly into the wind. As a result, you have to use the trim tabs in earnest pretty much all of the time. Once you have come to terms with how much port and starboard tab she needs, the ride softens out, otherwise you could be in for a bit of hull slap. One thing that does affect the boat’s lateral trim is loading. I had two out of three crewmembers sitting on the windward side, which had me reaching over the top of the wheel for the trim switch to level matters out. This is fine when you are settled onto a steady course, but around the Solent this is often not the case.
This boat would have been quite different if it had been able to transmit all its power effectively into the water. There are other engine options. To Quicksilver’s credit, they offer the 855 with a wide variety of outboard engine options, right up to the mighty 400hp Mercury Verado. The 350hp Verado would be a good choice, as would twin 150hp or 200hp outboards. A twin-engine set-up would also improve the boat’s lateral trim, reducing the need to trim the boat so much in a beam sea.
One thing the twin-prop Bravo 3 sterndrive certainly gives you is fantastic grip on the water. This boat turns with remarkable sure-footed precision, with no hint that you could overcook it. I will go so far as to say that it is not just down to the propulsion system but also the hull, as there is not a hint of slip. It quite simply steers like a 2-tonne sports boat, heeling quite heavily in the process. As you power out of ever tighter turns you get a chance to savour the deep turbocharged roar that the engine emits under heavy load.
Like the many pocket cruisers that grace the market, this boat aims to pack in as many innovative features as possible and does a good job in the process. The galley is just the right size, complete with a microwave, a large sink, a two-ring gas hob and a sensible-size fridge. The seating opposite is a three-adult or two-adult/two-child affair. The forward bench seat converts – by reversing the backrest and sliding the base aft – into a double forward-facing navigator’s seat.
The bottom of the companionway steps leads to a mid cabin on the port side and a heads to starboard. The heads is well appointed with full standing headroom and a shower, but the mid cabin only has standing headroom in the doorway and a small locker, not helped by a door that opens inwards. The compensation is a long double bed running across the beam, which converts to two singles if need be.
Criticism of the mid cabin is immediately forgotten when you enter the forward cabin. Apart from enjoying plenty of natural light from two portholes and a deck hatch, it has lots of space around the bed, a full-length hanging locker and the option of a TV. The accommodation design of this boat is focused on this area, providing sleeping accommodation that will not have you hankering for a bed in the local B&B.
The cockpit provides alternative seating for four or more around its table. It also has the capacity to extend in size by sliding back the transom bench seat, which is mounted on discreet rails, increasing the size of the cockpit by about 20%. This enables you to fully access the engine bay, which would be a bit of a task if you needed to clear a raw-water strainer at sea. The forward engine hatch only lets you access the forward lazarette area of the engine bay, which effectively is space above the fuel tank. This is fine if all you want to do is drag out your inflatable tender or cast your eye over the engine. The cockpit design is innovative, but it is a case of providing extra seating along the transom at the cost of not being able to simply lift a hatch and drop down next to the engine. You will need to be disciplined in doing pre-passage checks.
Forward-deck access is straightforward thanks to the asymmetrical wheelhouse design enabling a 6″ bulwark-enclosed starboard side deck leading to a foredeck covered in effective non-slip decking. The big anchor locker housing the windlass is matched by tall, sturdy guard rails and big cleats.
The Quicksilver Activ 855 is a well-made boat, whose finish, particularly the joinery, does not smack of compromise. It has a range of extras, some of which arguably should be included in the basic cost, though to be fair they are reasonably priced. It has achieved a good blend of living accommodation and practicality, which is all too important in this size and type of boat. However, as a driver’s boat, with this engine option it would definitely benefit from automatic trim tabs, of which there are various capable systems on the market. Alternatively, if you are happy with petrol, then a good Verado will release this boat’s true potential.
Fuel Figures (MerCruiser fuel meter)
RPM Speed (knots) Fuel consumption (MPG) (suspected sterndrive fouling)
2000 6.8 3.2
2250 8.0 2.3
2500 8.9 1.8
2750 10.5 1.4
3000 13.2 1.6
3250 18.5 1.8
3500 22.5 2.3
3750 24.6 2.5
3900 (WOT) 26.1 2.1
What We Thought
- Innovative design making good use of space
- Great visibility at helm
- Good helm design and ergonomics (except trim tab switches)
- Safety on deck
- Good build quality
- Good below-decks cockpit storage
- Good heads for 29ft boat
- Fantastic grip on water
- Responsive steering
- Trim tab switch position on dash too low
- Leans into wind, requiring constant use of trim tabs to compensate
- Engine access is not a quick straightforward affair
- Windscreen wipers do not clear all of the windscreen
LOA: 8.91m (29ft 5in)
Beam: 2.98m (10ft)
Draught: 0.65m (2ft 2in)
Displacement: 3.6 tonnes with MerCruiser 260hp TDI (dry)
Power options: Petrol: 2 x 150/200hp Marina/Mercury outboards, 1 x 225/250/300/350/400hp Mercury Verado outboards and MerCruiser 300/350hp Bravo 3 sterndrives. Diesel: MerCruiser 260hp TDI 3.0 Bravo 3 sterndrive
Fuel capacity: 400 litres (90 gal)
Water capacity: 100 litres (22 gal)
RCD category: B for 10
Test engine: MerCruiser 260hp TDI 3.0 Bravo 3 sterndrive
26.1 knots – sea conditions F3, gusting F4 and worsening, with 100% fuel and 3 crew
From: £94,555 (inc. VAT) – 225hp Mercury F225 Verado
As tested: £118,000 (inc. VAT)
EP Barrus Ltd
Oxfordshire OX26 4UR