By: Scott Way
An innovative collaboration between SŌLACE Boats and Volvo Penta is set to change the centre console market.
The all-new SŌLACE 415CS was unveiled at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show last week, and the centre console paired with Volvo Penta twin diesel Aquamatic DPI inboards is a major departure from the conventional wisdom. Not only are centre consoles typically rigged with outboard power, but the 415CS also utilizes an open stern design unlike anything on the market.
Those attributes pair well with the 415's other standout feature -- its range. Twin 5.5 litre 440 hp diesel inboards offer 500 miles of range on a 444 gallon (2000 litre) tank, which translates to a roughly 50% increase in range and 42% less fuel consumption compared to a triple outboard configuration.
The impetus to defy standard thinking came initially from Volvo Penta, who approached SŌLACE Boats president Todd Albrecht with the idea to configure their diesel inboards with a high performance centre console. SŌLACE's design and engineering capability made them an obvious choice, but before delving into the R&D, Albrecht first analyzed the existing market. BoatBlurb spoke with Albrecht to get his take on the project and how the design process came together.
For Albrecht, the starting point was understanding what's driving the current market. "The conversation is always 'more engines, more horsepower.' Subsequently, if you're going to hang more engines with more horsepower, you'll need more fuel. (Volvo Penta) looked at it in the context of their green initiative and asked, 'why aren't people talking more about efficiency?' I think everybody has that in their head, or on the tip of their tongue, but nobody is talking about it. And it's that perceived image of 'quad engines is cool.' So this was an opportunity to ask, what is a realistic expectation in a customer's mind? Is it top end speed? Or is it cruise? We felt we could achieve the same cruising speeds as the outboards we're seeing, but in theory get 40% better efficiency. Once we actually built the boat and splashed it, we found that to be the case. So we're getting 40-42 mph, we're getting a mile and a quarter per gallon. The only sacrifice is we're getting 51-52 mph top end versus with twin 600 outboards you'd be getting 62 mph, and with quad 400 outboards you'll see 72 mph on the top end. But our customer base is not a younger customer base, they're not in their 30's or 40's, they've been there, done that. They don't feel the need to go that fast anymore. They know how limited the opportunities are to achieve those speeds in most real world boating conditions, but they can truly do a 40-42 mph cruise that hangs with any quad outboard boat out there."
In order to convert the concept into a successful working hull, a redesign of SŌLACE's centre console layout was required. Naturally, that created new obstacles to overcome.
"The biggest unknown was it's a step-bottom boat. You typically don't see inboard boats having a twin-step running surface. With traditional V-bottom boats the running surface goes all the way to the transom. Let's take a Grady-White for example, and that's not picking on anyone, it's a known and well respected hull design. They run the bottom of their boat all the way to the transom and hang their motors deep in order to keep the propeller in proper relation to the running surface. Whereas, with the more performance boats, ourselves included, everybody has gone to a setback transom, meaning the running surface of the hull ends two or two and a half feet ahead of where the engines are mounted. There's actually a set back, or a step up, at the transom area allowing you to mount the outboards higher and still have the water come off the running surface and up over the propellers. So this was an opportunity to say, 'what if we put these Aquamatic drives on a setback transom?' Meaning, we would mount them at the exact same height as you'd mount a traditional outboard, which is going to give you a shallower draught than a traditional transom. So combining the step-bottom boat and the higher mounting of a setback transom, I wouldn't say it posed challenges, but it required things to be overcome that hadn't been done before. Everything came together, and it's performing just as it would if it was an outboard boat. But we also have the efficiency and the torque of diesel inboards."
The early results speak for themselves. The 415CS was a hit at Fort Lauderdale, and expectations are high as the boat goes into production in the first quarter of 2022. Even more, SŌLACE 's ability to combine their step-hull design with inboard engines created some unexpected improvements, most notably the ability to use an even smaller fuel tank than expected.
"For the guys seeking the quad outboards, in order to give them the range they're looking for, you have to increase the fuel capacity, meaning that they are sacrificing storage capacity on the boat. You give up a forward storage hatch, or you give up storage on either side of the console where the saddle tanks would be added, so you're giving up something to bring that extra fuel to give you the range. On this diesel package, we actually had a standard tank, a 525 gallon tank, and moved down to a 444 gallon tank. So we actually increased the storage while giving them a bigger range."
As for the Volvo Aquamatic DPI inboards, other standout features include a standard 5-year warranty, joystick driving with silent shift, and Volvo's latest electronic vessel control system. Other perks include Volvo Penta interceptors with active ride control, automatic trim and list system, and a full suite of Garmin electronics including a multi-function display with Garmin's latest 360 Surround View camera system.
The expected market for the 415CS is serving as a tender for larger yachts, but there will be interest from offshore boaters looking for increased range and capability. As a tender, the diesel engines will have appeal by allowing the 415CS to refuel directly from its mothership's tanks. For offshore fishermen or divers, the boat's range will have appeal by offering the capability to reach new fishing grounds or explore diving sites that were previously unreachable. The 415CS is also outfitted with practical options like a complete superstructure for weather protection, a dive door with integrated stairs, built-in air conditioning, and a cabin with an enclosed shower and head. It also boasts seating for up to 16 passengers and 40 gallon (180 litre) freshwater capacity. The unobstructed rear deck also provides significantly more functional space for fishing, dining, swimming, and lounging, or as an ideal platform for a davit and dinghy.
For Albrecht, “We wanted to solve some commonly seen missed opportunities within the center console market like increased versatility with the transom, extended range, less fueling time at the dock, quieter cruise, improved maneuverability, and more.” Early indications are that the 415CS will deliver on all fronts.