What a difference a year makes. Spurred on by the positive consumer response to their stylish new 500 Express, which was introduced at this year's edition of the Miami International Boat Show, Cruisers Yachts' designers and engineers went back to the drawing board and applied the lessons learned to a redesign of the 400 Express-a yacht that was introduced a little over a year ago. And this was no piddling cosmetic makeover relying on new décor or graphics. The prototype for the new 400 Express for 2005 I tested was brand spanking new from the waterline up, with a crowd-pleasing new cockpit replete with useful features and an inviting interior that will appeal to those who enjoy relaxing and entertaining aboard.
Flip up the bolster on the driver's side of the fore-and-aft adjustable double helm bench, tilt the wheel to suit your comfort and control, start the engines with the keypad ignition system and you're ready to roll. The view from the helm is so good that, even if your destination is an hour away, you can probably see it from here. Twin 370 hp Yanmar V-drives on our test boat provided instant acceleration on demand and lifted us smoothly to plane. The 400 Express tracked well, handled the light chop and occasional cruiser wakes we encountered with aplomb, and turned precisely on demand.
The spacious new open-plan interior will impress even those who own larger express cruisers. Light from three large opening vertical windows, a prominent feature introduced on Cruisers' 500 Express, dramatically illuminates the interior from both sides. A spacious settee for four, which hides a FlexSteel double bed and is long enough to stretch out on for a quick nap, sits opposite an entertainment center that includes a snazzy bar area with stools, a standard 20-inch (30-inch optional) LCD television with DVD player, and a top-notch surround-sound stereo system sharp enough to pick out the fluid nuances of a Dave Koz sax solo.
Warm cherry bulkheads and cabinetry visually tie together the living and galley spaces. Karadon counter top surfaces, easily maintained wood-like floors and a useful selection of standard and optional appliances allow you to equip this galley to suit your cooking needs. After years of suffering with small refrigerators, you'll appreciate the full-size, side-by-side fridge/freezer.
Impressive in every aspect, the 400 Express for 2005 adds plenty of sizzle to the Cruisers' reputation for building yachts that perform well and please owners enough to keep them coming back for more.
Michael Verdon is frequent contributor to Yachting and a former editor of Motor Boating magazine.