Test: Southern XP676

By: Norman Holtzhausen, Photography by: Norman Holtzhausen


Southern XP676 Southern XP676
Southern XP676 Southern XP676
Southern XP676 Southern XP676
Southern XP676 Southern XP676
Southern XP676 The sturdy bowrail and shining bumper come standard, as do the capstan and stainless bollard Southern XP676
Southern XP676 Southern XP676
Southern XP676 Southern XP676
Southern XP676 Southern XP676
Southern XP676 Southern XP676
Southern XP676 Southern XP676

The choice between GRP and alloy is not so clear-cut as it once was. now, builders such as Southern Boats are crafting unashamed luxury on heavy duty hulls.

As its name implies, Southern Boats is based down the far end of New Zealand, in Mosgiel, near Dunedin. The company prides itself on quality workmanship, a fact underscored by even a cursory glance at the finish on its handcrafted alloy boats. Features such as highly-polished rubbing strakes around the gunwales prove this team is turning out some of the finest boats available in New Zealand, or indeed anywhere.

So we jumped at the opportunity to trial a Southern XP 676 recently. This is the company's second smallest model, but one which nevertheless offers a full cabin for overnighting and a generous hardtop to keep the elements at bay.

IMG_1847The review boat featured a gleaming white hull and cabin, offset by fire engine red graphics. The huge bow rail was painted black, while that gleaming rubbing strake shone to match the stainless fairlead. Plenty of alternate paint options are available, as every boat is customised to suit its new owner's preference. Hanging off the back, the charcoal grey Yamaha F200G four-stroke oozed promise.

The Ride

Hopping onboard it's easy to forget this is an aluminium boat, with every conceivable surface painted or carpeted. No raw alloy anywhere, and the GRP cabin top and curved dashboard soften the angles that are typical of welded boats.

The forward cabin is fitted with extra thick squabs, covered in a luxurious suede fabric, while the cabin sides, floor and roof are all thickly carpeted in grey marine carpet. Infills convert two singles to a generous double bunk, while a shaped insert has provision for fitting an electric toilet.
A large hatch opens to the foredeck where a Maxwell winch takes the hard work out of anchoring.

A further clever touch is the stainless bollard set just off-centre, where it won't interfere with operations while deploying the anchor. The bollard features a split post with locking pin, enabling a mooring line to easily be locked in place. There's also a non-slip neoprene pad installed at the bow, plus a sturdy bowrail to create a safe and workable area when anchoring, or even fishing from the pointy end.

IMG_2024Inside the helm station, both skipper and passenger are seated in comfort on luxurious pedestals. The forward-facing swivel seats are fully upholstered in black, and fully adjustable fore and aft, while the lower rearward-facing seats are bench style, lifting up to reveal a large dry locker beneath. The review boat did not have footrests installed, since the retailer normally fits these to suit the owner's preference. The only criticism we had for the passenger position was the lack of something to hold onto while seated, although an extra grab handle would easily solve this.

The doorway to the forward cabin has an integrated sliding door which can be closed and locked for privacy. The helm station is angled forwards to face the skipper squarely, avoiding the problems of glare that many sloping dashboards suffer from. A Raymarine chart plotter and fish finder was fitted, together with a Raymarine VHF. The control for the Lenco trim-tabs and the Yamaha digital engine gauges completes the instrumentation, while a switch panel controls the accessories.

The hardtop roof is GRP and is joined to the boat through a massive curved windscreen. The side windows slide back to provide plenty of airflow if required, and a wiper is installed on the skipper's side. Grabrails on the sides and back of the hardtop provide plenty of spots to hold on when moving around the boat, and half a dozen rod holders in a rocket launcher keep the gear well out of the way.

The floor of the cockpit is covered in a removable marine carpet – easy on bare feet. The wide parcel shelves under the gunwales are all fully carpeted, and the gunwales are generously wide, with foam pads that encourage their use as seats while fishing. More rod holders are fitted into the gunwales.

The Engine

The transom has a step-through on the skipper's side; a sensible option since it allows the skipper to watch anyone climbing back onto the boarding platform. A drop-in door can be fitted here to keep out big seas or when backing down on fish, and the centre of the transom holds the starting and house batteries in their own locker. Twin storage lockers over the batteries are available for fishing tackle or gear.

IMG_2015On the port side is a plumbed livebait tank with viewing window and pump, while a deckwash is tucked under the gunwale on the starboard side. On the review boat we also had a massive stainless baitboard with six additional rod holders. Other options are available.

The XP676 features a Portofino stern, with a very wide boarding platform covered in more non-slip neoprene pads. There is plenty of width to step around the motor, and the trim tabs are tucked tightly under the stern. A wide T-style diving ladder is pretty much the only uncoated aluminium in evidence anywhere on the boat, and a subtle reminder that you're not riding in a GRP boat!

The Yamaha F200G four-stroke hanging off the stern makes it clear that this is a serious offshore machine, and indeed, many of the unseen features of the boat are similarly rugged. The hull bottom is 5mm thick, while a keel wear strip provides additional support at the critical point of contact along the keel. The 200lt underfloor fuel tank holds more fuel than you could conceivably get through, even on an extended a day trip.

After a thorough look around it was time to put this white beast to the test, and we slipped the Southern XP676 off its custom alloy trailer. These trailers are made by the same factory that constructs the hulls, and offer considerably lower weight than a steel trailer, while being rust free. Standard Trojan components make maintenance of the moving parts easy, while an integral walkway down the center keeps feet dry when retrieving. Stylish alloy wheels are standard equipment.

Once the boat was on the water, we started the whisper-quiet Yamaha, and despite this refined outboard, it was immediately apparent that the Southern team had done an exceptional job soundproofing. There was almost no rumble through the hull from the motor and as we headed out, the hull remained virtually vibration and noise free.

The hydraulic steering was light and smooth, with just the right amount of positive feedback. The digital shift control plus the SDS (Shift Dampener System) propeller on the Yamaha has totally eliminated any "clunk" as the motor goes in and out of gear, while providing superlight throttle control. At low speeds there is so little noise we sometimes had to check the gauges to confirm the motor was actually running.

The Verdict

Once clear of the inner harbor we were able to open the taps and throw the XP676 around. Conditions were perfect for fishing or a spot of waterskiing but not ideal for a boat review – glassy smooth water and no chop. Nevertheless we did our best to create some wake, which the 20˚ deep-vee hull easily cut through.

It soon became apparent this was a modest southern girl who was reluctant to reveal her undersides as we tried every trick in the book to make the XP676 jump for the photos. But we had only mixed success, despite throwing the boat across every wake we could churn up. What this does demonstrate is the XP676's ability to carve rough water with ease, cutting through swell and chop effortlessly. We pushed the boat to well over 30kts and still had power to spare.

IMG_1812Of course every hull is a compromise, and a deeply angled deadrise usually results in a degree of instability at rest. However the XP676 sits on a broad beam of 2.45m which tends to counter this, and we found no lack of stability. Despite several adults clambering over the side she proved solid and stable. The trim tabs weren't needed in the perfect conditions of our test day, and I wondered when they ever would.

Doing a reversing test was interesting. Most boat designs have the outboard very close to the deepest part of the hull, but the XP676's Portofino rump provides additional space between the propeller and stern. This translates to considerably better steering in reverse, with the water flow from the prop less influenced by the blunt stern. Very fine backing control was therefore possible, whereas many boats tend to wallow in reverse.

All too soon we had the boat back at the boat ramp and onto the alloy trailer. Despite its size, the towing weight of the package is comfortably less than two tonnes, meaning brakes are not needed for most reasonably sized tow vehicles. All up, Southern Boats has produced a finely-crafted rig that arguably equals the best luxury GRP designs. Performance is very good and the ride is quiet and comfortable. If you want the ruggedness of an aluminium hull but prefer to steer clear of that tinnie look, the Southern XP676 may just be the boat for you.

Highs

  • The finish, man, the finish!
  • The stunning polished rubbing strake

Lows

  • Lack of handholds for passenger position

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