Apreamare 16m Offshore Express

The Italian builder breaks new ground with this capable cruiser.

Apreamare launched its first modern build more than a decade ago in Italy, but the brand is not yet a stateside household name. The builder, part of the Italy-based Ferretti Group, is working hard to change that with its new 16m Offshore Express.

With this 53-footer, the flagship in the company's line of boats 25 to 53 feet, Apreamare took full advantage of the interior volume her shape affords.

Her rounded stern is an evolution of double-ended fishing boats, but I wouldn't fault anyone for associating the rounded after section, slightly more pronounced on the smaller models, with an antique claw-foot bathtub. I imagine Apreamare's original architect luxuriated in such a tub and penned this design, one that beckons those who seek relaxation.

The 16m's radius design looks good, with aerodynamics that encourage exhaust fumes to slide away from her hull. Though her profile is rounded, a solidly constructed planing hull is below the waterline. The level transom has a fixed tab that creates lift and stability. The tab begins at the hull's radius and squares at the transom stem.

My time behind the wheel on hull number two was enjoyable. Powerful diesels, a weighty displacement and bowthruster made maneuvering painless, especially in close quarters. The 16m required minimal tab to level her off. BCI hydraulic steering offered optimum steering-wheel resistance, providing a genuine feel for the rudders. Her responsiveness, as well as her speed, is deceiving.

The pilothouse and accommodations are voluminous thanks to efficient space management, an 18-foot beam and high overheads (7 feet in the saloon). These characteristics gave me an inaccurate impression the boat is cumbersome under way. Actually, she cruises adeptly in the mid-20-knot range, and her wake is taut. Her sweet spot is around 2100 rpm at 24.5 knots. The manufacturer reports a top end of 30 knots; I reached only 26.5 knots. Since commissioning on this boat was in progress, I believe that when dialed in, she'll reach that mark.

Though her fixed hardtop might slightly restrict otherwise great lines of sight for taller helmsmen, the pilothouse is comfortable. Rexroth electronic controls are outboard of the wheel, and resistance in the controls' arms is perfect; they stay where you put them and are not so soft a simple touch results in wide-open throttle. Moving in and out of gear is not a guessing game; rather, a resounding click and indent secure your selection.

Electronics displays and system gauges are clustered on half the angled flat surface, leaving room for a single large display. The horizontal surface has room for a few smaller displays among the rocker and lever switches. Apreamare's product manager, Dan Henderson, is considering moving the engine displays to this horizontal surface for better visibility.

Natural ventilation is provided by a sunroof, rear sliding doors and sliding glass panels on either side of the house.

If this were my boat, the air-conditioned pilothouse would serve as headquarters. The two air-conditioning units on our test boat did an adequate job, but according to Henderson, air conditioners on future boats will be more powerful and re-plumbed to better cool the area.

The space's cherry joinery and teak overhead are of a quality one would expect from a high-end Italian builder. It was difficult to decipher any seams in the woodwork. The teak sole is pleasant to bare feet, even in summer heat.

More guests than you'd care to invite may sprawl about the numerous settees. The only thing missing, Henderson pointed out, was a set of cup holders; they certainly would be helpful.

The companionway to the accommodations below is open. I would choose to include the optional teak door for the privacy it affords.

Apreamare builds semi-custom yachts, and owners have a choice when it comes to décor. Our test boat had soft-blue upholstery with matching Corian counters-a perfect, muted complement to the exacting cherry woodwork.

All doors are within full frames, which are raised slightly from the sole. Henderson and I decided that the slight risk of tripping on these small projections is far out-distanced by the secure fit of the doors and the additional sound attenuation they provide.

The Express' master cabin is forward. The adjoining head is constructed with radius edges using a combination of white Corian and cherry. A unique dry-head arrangement from Tecma will be a real asset in rough seas or if the boat sits for any length of time.

Stowage, including a secure cabinet for valuables, is plentiful. The locker in the guest stateroom of our test boat, however, would not accommodate hanging clothes. Also, you'd need an assist from the Houston Rockets' Yao Ming to reach the compartment high above the galley. Apreamare is fine-tuning these areas.

This boat offers so much topside space it would be a shame to confine yourself indoors. The swim platform is almost 6 feet long, with a hydraulic passerelle, hydraulic five-rung ladder and space for a PWC or tender. Moving forward is easy on the wide, single-level side decks. Forward sunpad cushions are set below a raised forward lip to prevent lift-off by wind. They slope forward, too, so water should not puddle. Radius edges eliminate hangs. The mahogany cap is wide enough to allow relatively easy maintenance. Diesel fills are under neat teak hatches.

The lazarette, though already large enough for a washer and dryer, would be even more spacious if you opted to eliminate the nicely finished crew quarters and bulkhead separating the spaces, leaving room for a work area and freezer. In my opinion, this is a must.

The engineroom houses twin 800 hp Caterpillar engines, a 16kW Mase generator (our test boat had the optional 16kW Northern Lights generator), watermaker and 4,000-pound Marine-Air chilled-water air-conditioning unit. A raised shelf holds assorted compressors, filters and pumps. Their elevated position should make servicing these items easy. All wire runs are neat, and many have protective coverings. Plumbing is insulated. Headroom here is more than 5 feet.

Apreamare has built the 16m with great styling and impressive cruising capabilities. All she needs now is a warm, American welcome.

Contact: Ferretti Group USA, (800) 695-5096; www.apreamare.com; sales@hinckleyyachts.com; www.ferrettigroupusa.com.