Pershing 56

The luxurious new Pershing 56 closes in on perfection-at a very fast rate.

Pershing 56

FOREVER YOUNG: No need to give up those sports-car thrills just because the family is along.

The time when you have to give up the sports car and move to a more pedestrian form of transport is a defining moment in a man's life. This is the season when pregnant ladies and/or kids arrive on the scene and when the harsh suspension and lack of creature comforts give way to the space requirements and shock-absorbing features of the family car. The moment can bring some joy for many, of course; but secretly there will be regret about the passing of youth. Not surprisingly, the same rite of passage occurs with boats. There comes a day when that rough, exhilarating ride has to give way to something that may lack excitement but which suits the needs of the family.

Well, the new Pershing 56 changes all that. With this superb boat you can put off any downward-defining moments forever. Here is a boat that will accommodate family life and all its requirements, yet still offer the exciting boating that you knew in your youth. Here is a boat that allows you to have your cake and eat it, a performance craft that retains the passion for which Italian designers and builders are famous, but one that also offers a level of luxury and comfort that no family could argue with.

The night before I went out on a sea trial in this new Pershing, the boat had been on display in the shipyard at one of Pershing's now-famous launch parties. The next morning she tasted seawater for the first time-not the best circumstances for a test run. Yet I came back from the sea trail exhilarated beyond belief; the boat had just gotten better and better. Afterward, I came ashore and went straight up to Tilli Antonelli, the boss of Pershing and said, "That is the best boat you have ever built. It is superb.

So why is the 56 so good? Well, the top speed of 50 knots helps. That magic 50 is a speed reserved for only a very few production boats that have this scale of luxury. But the real reason is that Pershing and designer Fulvio de Simone have gone back to basics with this design. They did not try to be clever and "invent something new; rather, they have combined classic fast-boat styling, an elegant interior and superb performance. It's a simple-sounding formula, but getting it right is never easy.

For accommodation there is the normal arrangement of double cabins forward and aft, with a twin cabin tucked in on the starboard side. This tends to bunch things up a bit, and an alternative two-cabin version is likely to be the one offered in the U.S. market. This would allow a full-width master stateroom amidships with a large bathroom and a comfortable VIP cabin forward.

The lower saloon features an L-settee around a dining table with the galley opposite; the galley can be closed off with a sliding translucent door. The master cabin of the three-cabin version has a similar door to close off the bathroom from the main cabin. There is a crew cabin tucked in just forward of the engine room, with access under the cockpit settee, but this is likely to disappear on the U.S. version. This boat is handily sized for a couple to operate on their own.

Upstairs, the cockpit saloon will be the focus of most of the action. There is good seating at the helm with the social area immediately behind it. The table can be opened up for dining; opposite on the port side is a wet bar and an electric barbecue. I am not sure about this location for the barbecue, as it is well under the hard top, but the right breeze blowing through from the open sunroof should blow away the cooking fumes.

The rear of the cockpit is filled with a large sunbed; I was glad to see a safety rail across its aft end. A hatch under this bed gives access to the engine compartment, while the whole transom lifts under hydraulic power to reveal the practical garage for the tender. Below is the teak-covered swim platform.

What I love about the 56 is the very clean external lines. The designers have managed to cut down anything that interferes with the smooth flow from forward to aft. Gone are the vertical windows of old; the long horizontal windows of the 56 merge into the broad dark-colored contrast stripe that reduces the visual impact of this deep hull. It is all very restrained, yet powerful; even the mooring fittings are hidden away. Nothing intrudes upon the graceful lines-the overall effect of the 56 reminds you of a panther ready to pounce.

And does this boat pounce. With twin diesels from MAN, each one producing 1,360 hp, there is an immediate response to the throttles. The boat positively leaps onto the plane and then there is no holding it back. The horizon beckons and any association with the Pershing missile suddenly seems very appropriate. This is your ultimate luxury rocket ship.

Much of this superb performance can be attributed to the Arneson Surface Drives and the Rolla propellers. Using Arnesons will always add at least 5 knots onto the top speed and these new Rolla four-bladed propellers certainly seem to do their part, producing a smooth flow of power right up to top speed. During the speed trials, the GPS went up over 48 knots, but this was with nearly full fuel and water and-did we mention the 56 draws a crowd?-with 10 people on board. In lighter form there is no reason why the speed should not top 50 knots (and we did see the GPS on this mark on one run downwind).

As for handling and coping with waves, the 56 has an excellent soft-riding hull. The spray rails are quite narrow and the chines merge into the hull at the bow so the slamming is greatly reduced. We did not get a great deal of sea on the trials, but when we hit the wash of other boats, the 56 just powered through without disturbing its equilibrium. In harbor the power is well tamed and the bow thrusters make parking easy and controlled.

There are a few irritations about the boat. It would be nice to see some handholds around the cockpit and at the helm so that people can move around or sit safely at high speed. The stylish gate that closes off the companionway leading down to the passerelle is much too low and would hardly stop a fly let alone a person who happened to lose his balance. Visibility from the helm disappears in a sharp turn as the boat heels over, but there is a solution to that: Simply open the sunroof and look out through the opening.

These niggles can, and I am sure, will be cured and then this will be a boat that is close to perfect. Of course, perfection has its price and the Pershing 56 does not come cheap, but then quality never does. What matters is that she keeps the sports-car driver happy while allowing everyone else to enjoy the ride. I've placed the Pershing 56 at the top of my wish list, with my only caveat being that it may be replaced when Pershing introduces its 115, with a gas turbine engine, later this year. In the meantime, this 56 is a boat that creates a defining moment in fast-boat design, if not in your life.

Contact: MarineMax, (888) 71-YACHT; www.marinemaxyachts.com.