Purist’s choice handles like a motorbike

Sunseeker’s newest hardtop coupé – the 32nd model to bear the Predator name – faces stiff competition, not least from its year-old near-identical sportsfly twin sister. Both are fabulous. But which one to choose?

The new-for-2022 Sunseeker Predator 65 seems, on the face of it, to be a Sunseeker 65 Sport Yacht without its fabulous SkyHelm. So why bother building it?

Because, as terrific as the Sport Yacht’s supercar-style raised helm and sunpad undoubtedly are, that sportsfly option is not for everyone. Sunseeker says there is a loyal Predator following out there that wants an even purer profile.

But it’s not only about losing the visual clutter of seat backs and wind deflector from the coachroof to make those super-cool lines even more svelte.

It’s also about catering to different needs. For instance, those with young families may want an even safer, single-level environment where they can keep an eye on everyone, and those of a certain age may prefer to dispense with the extra stairs and the low-slung driving position.

What the Sunseeker Predator 65 owner gets instead of that upper deck is a huge sliding carbon fibre and glass sunroof, which means a proper open yacht vibe on the main deck when it’s open and extra light in the main saloon when not.

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An opening roof may not sound much in itself, but it delivers a very different onboard experience. When fully open, inside becomes outside. And there’s plenty of other outdoor spaces too at both ends of those flush walkaround side-decks, given this model has an LOA of just over 67ft (20.5m).

Up front there’s a large foredeck terrace, made all the better when at rest with the poled bimini protection in place. Note how it sits within the superstructure. No deck paths here. The idea is to not break the continuous black ‘eyebrow’ that sweeps forward from the coachroof, down the windshield mullions and out onto the foredeck – we get that.

And it does make the area within more contained and perhaps that little bit safer for young children – we get that too. But the flip-side is those 18in-high coamings can end up being trip hazards if you are not careful stepping over them.

The foredeck lounge with its unusual side coamings

Toy storage

The cockpit can be configured several ways, but all options retain the stern sunpad that overhangs the transom and tops off the garage. Supposedly 1.5 times wider than the present Sunseeker Predator 74’s, the tender garage can take up to a Williams 345 Sportjet as well as a couple of SUPs, Seabobs or maybe a folding electric bike or two.

If the decking option has been ticked on the options sheet, that toy cave, along with the hydraulic platform and stern steps to either side, becomes your beach club. The most popular cockpit option includes a C-shaped dinette that creates seating around three sides of the square.

Our test boat had that and it does make what can often be a dead zone on some boats so much more inviting. The only real downside to this is it means losing the ability to orbit the main deck easily. Getting from cockpit to port side deck quickly means either clambering over the furniture or going the long way round via the bathing platform or the foredeck.

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The tender garage can fit a Williams 345 and a couple of inflatable SUPs or folding bikes

The alternative is to just have a conventional transom sofa and table, plus the choice of several modules either side of the aft-deck doors. A pair of bar stools to port is the standard offering. They help transform the aft galley countertop into a small bar thanks to a drop-down electric window.

The Sunseeker Predator 65’s standard main deck layout provides an aft galley, amidships lounge and two-seat helm offset to starboard. Apart from sharing the worktop with the aft cockpit, one of the best aspects of the galley is the way the glazing runs between the counter-top and overhead cupboards.

If you are spending any time there preparing meals, you will feel more connected to the world beyond when you have that extra view of the sea. Amidships, flanked by full-height picture windows to either side, the standard lounge area combines a booth sofa and leaved table to port and a two-seat sofa to starboard.

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The galley is ideally placed to serve both the cockpit and the saloon

However, an alternative layout loses that ‘galley up’ and sees the lounge sofas to port stretch all the way back to the aft deck doors. This is made possible by the inclusion of a small galley module on the lower deck.

Our test boat had a contemporary feel throughout, majoring on dark satin-sheen eucalyptus veneers and whitened oak soles to create visual contrast. But there are various alternatives.

Sunseeker’s interiors have found a new level of detail over the past few years. You can’t help but notice this when you realise how much you’re stroking surfaces as you walk through the boat – carbon fibre, leathers, polished stainless steel. The designers call them ‘touch points’, but they’re what the rest of us soak up as luxury.

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The Predator’s huge glass and carbon fibre sunroof lets light flood in even when it’s closed

The helm ergonomics are impressive. We love the all-leather designer helm seats, which come from Italian automotive manufacturer, Aras. Views forward and to the sides don’t come much better whether seated or standing. The windscreen is vast, supposedly one of the biggest single panes Sunseeker has ever fitted.

Two Garmin touchscreen MFDs configured with Volvo Penta’s Glass Cockpit software sit in their own moulded console up above all the other gadgetry, but the real eye grabbers lie just below them in the centre of the console, a pair of small round digital displays set within moulded alcoves and highlighted with chunky stainless steel bezels.

They match the smart car-style air vents on each end of the dash panel and are a great example of what we mean by elevated detailing.

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Twin touchscreen MFDs also have a control panel within reach of the seat

Their vibrant displays show essential driver info precisely where you want it – stuff like fuel burn, speed and rudder angle. It’s a simple scroll-through menu system that works a bit like BMW’s iDrive.  You choose which two pieces of info you want to show by twisting a knob at your right elbow one way or the other.

It sits out of the way below the drop-down window and in line with other important stuff such as the joystick, the throttles and the Sleipner thruster toggles, plus the MFD switch panel – for when you don’t want to move out of your seat to operate the ‘touchscreen’ displays or, if already standing, the sea-states are less than ideal for placing your finger precisely on the glass.

Engine options

In theory there are two propulsion options – either twin Volvo Penta D13-900/IPS1200 or D13-1000/IPS1350s – but thus far none of the 20 or so Sport Yacht 65s that have been delivered have been specified with the smaller engines, and Sunseeker Predator 65 sales for the next year-plus are following suit.

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Sunseeker knows its customers don’t always dance to the same tune and predicts demand for the Predator and Sport will be 50/50

With those bigger engines, the top speed is 35 knots give or take depending on load. If one does eventually get built with the less powerful engines, expect it to top out nearer 30 knots.

With capacity for 3,500 litres of fuel aboard, the eco-range at 7.5 knots is around 875nm including a 20% reserve.  A fast cruise of 23 knots @ 2,000rpm should still give a range of around 260nm. Avoid hanging around the 12-knot to 16-knot hump, though, where the litres-per-mile numbers are least efficient.

Predators usually handle well and this Sunseeker Predator 65 is awesome. Wind the wheel hard one way or the other at 35 knots and it answers beautifully. You heel into the turns like you’re on a motorbike.

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The maximum heel angle is probably only 25-30° or so – we didn’t try to measure it – but when you’re doing the steering it feels like 45°. Great fun. The joystick incidentally is not only great for the slow stuff, but also works a treat in the cruise when you can twist it to make small heading adjustments or surprisingly rapid turns.

Interceptors provide the necessary trim input but you rarely need to adjust them manually as the Trim-Assist mode does such a good job of it. Although those sleek, sporty lines may not look like it, this is a CAT A design, so will take most coastal cruising conditions in its stride.

But as with any fast boat when the waves get tall enough – and during our test we had a stiff Force 3/4 breeze to contend with in Poole Bay – you need to be mindful that 2,000 horses will happily gallop a 38-tonne carriage like this right off the top of them.

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The hull can take it comfortably enough but your passengers won’t thank you for pushing it this hard. Access to the lower deck is via a centre-line staircase that drops down beneath the windshield. At the bottom you’re greeted by a small lobby, made to appear larger by a massive floor to deckhead mirror set at roughly 45 degrees.

It’s a neat idea, although at one point I turned to reply to a question and jumped at the proximity of my own twin!

Three or four cabins?

The standard layout comprises three ensuite cabins plus a day-head. The owner’s cabin is amidships and suitably plush for a model that is likely to weigh in at around the £3 million mark once VAT and extras have been added.

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The full-beam owner’s cabin feels suitably luxurious thanks to its size and extensive detailing

With a good-size bathroom to starboard, it has a large forward-facing bed with low cabinetry and vanity area to starboard and to port the choice of either a chaise longue or breakfast booth for two.

The latter’s table, with its gorgeously rolled edges, is another of those details that you just have to caress. And yes, those big hull windows will deliver truly breathtaking views once you have found the right anchorage.

The ensuite VIP in the bow is suitably inviting too, although of course its vistas are not quite so splendid. The twin-bed guest cabin sits between them to starboard.

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The forward VIP cabin

There are several options for the area opposite this, which comes as a utility space in standard guise. Our test boat had this adapted for bed linen storage with a washer-dryer. This is also where the cooking facilities would be in the galley down layout.

Other alternatives include a lower lounge or, more decadently, an extended owner’s cabin with the door moved forward to create an enhanced study-cum-vanity space.

We’re told European owners are more likely to opt for the latter. The final option is to specify it as a fourth single-bunk cabin, ideal for an older child. The day-head is right next door but does not include a shower.

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This area can be fitted out as an office or utility space

There’s also just enough space behind the owner’s suite for a compact optional crew cabin for one with a transverse bed and heads but no shower. Access is via a concealed hatch and ladder in the furniture to starboard of the aft-deck doors.

Owner-drivers may prefer to run with the standard dump-locker alternative here, although when it comes to reselling it’s worth bearing in mind that buyer interest in Europe is likely to be higher with a crew provision.

The one area where things can feel a little tight is in the engineroom. Space above the big Volvo D13s and IPS pods is restricted by the slope of the garage sole, a compromise most owners will be willing to make for the benefit of such a big tender garage, but a compromise nevertheless.

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The crew cabin has its own heads but no shower compartment

Sunseeker Predator 65: Our verdict

Sunseeker is not being daft offering two similar versions of the same boat. It knows its customers and knows they don’t all dance to the same tune, which is why it confidently predicts demand for the Sunseeker Predator 65 and 65 Sport Yacht will be broadly 50/50.

So which way should you go? When Jack Haines tested the Sunseeker 65 Sports Yacht last year he raved about the unique appeal of the Skyhelm’s supercar-like driving experience, describing it as the icing on the cake of a boat that has it all.

So if you’re now asking why anyone would consider buying the Predator version without that magical upper helm, I understand. I held that exact same view until I sea trialled the Sunseeker Predator 65 myself.

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Now if it were my call, I’d go the Predator route, and not because I have young children or dodgy knees but just because I prefer the purity of a true single-level hard top sportscruiser with a big sunroof that provides the feel of an open boat without the weight and hassle of an extra deck.

Whatever your preference, you can’t really lose. Either way you will be buying a comfortable and stylish home from home that can carve confidently along at 35 knots one minute and a few minutes later be lying peacefully at anchor, surrounded by water toys, turquoise shallows and broad family smiles. It’s what marketing types like to call a win-win situation.

Sunseeker Predator 65 specifications

LOA: 67ft 2in (20.50m)
Beam: 16ft 8in (5.10m)
Draught (full load): 5ft 3in (1.60m)
Displacement: 37.8 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 3,500 litres
Water capacity: 800 litres
Test engines: Twin 1,00hp Volvo Penta IPS1350
Top speed on test: 35 knots
Range: 430nm @ 10 knots / 280nm @ 20 knots
Fuel consumption: 72lph @ 10 knots / 200lph @ 20 knots
Noise: 58 d(B)A @ 10 knots / 63 d(B)A @ 20 knots
RCD category: A for 18 people
Design: Sunseeker
Starting price: £2.18 million (ex. VAT)
Price as tested: £3,070,374 (inc. VAT)

First published in the August 2022 issue of MBY.