The sweat beading across my brow just after sunrise could have been caused by the unusually warm September temperatures in Cannes, France, combined with humidity averaging somewhere around tropical rainforest. And then there was the lack of regular cardio-based exercise to consider. But I believe that the 54 feet of pupil-popping, chic Italian styling and heart-thumping performance that sat before me quayside might have been a contributing factor. Hello, Pershing 5X.

Pershing’s founders have always put a premium on performance, even naming the company after a missile. What’s not to like about a vessel whose moniker comes from a projectile that can travel at over Mach 8 (6,089 mph)? Now, there won’t be a chorus of sonic booms when you put the throttles to the pins with the Pershing 5X, but you will definitely feel the wind in your hair and a blast of exhilaration. What’s interesting about the Pershing 5X is that for the first time in the company’s 30-plus-year history, owners can choose between two propulsion setups. Until this express cruiser, the builder was all surface-drive propulsion, all the time. But the Pershing 5X has an IPS pod-drive option.

Pershing Yachts, Pershing 5X
LOA: 54'2", Max Beam: 14'4"Alberto Cocchi

In fact, our test 5X (Hull No. 1) was outfitted with Volvo Penta IPS900 diesels (725 hp apiece) matched to pod drives. The result was a 35-knot top end and a 30-knot cruise speed. Some IPS extras for the 5X included a joystick, a dynamic positioning system and an Interceptor auto-trim-tab setup.

Marco Plicchi, Pershing’s product manager, says the 5X is targeted toward younger owners — and IPS offers a smaller learning curve versus surface drives. “We’ve found a new market,” he adds.

Pershing has always put a premium on performance, even naming the company after a missile. What’s not to like about a vessel whose moniker comes from a ­projectile that can travel at over mach 8 (6,089 mph)?

Pershing says about 50 percent of its builds are going out with IPS, while the other 50 percent are being outfitted with 1,000 hp Caterpillar 12.9 diesels matched to Top System 75X surface drives. The builder says the Cats and surface drives should push the top end to about 45 knots, with a 41-knot cruise speed.

Plicchi added that while the 5X is seen as an introductory model for yachtsmen new to the brand, a couple of 5X hulls are also going to owners with larger Pershing yachts who are using the smaller one as a tender or day boat.

Pershing Yachts, Pershing 5X
The Pershing 5X can be outfitted with 725 hp Volvo Penta IPS900 diesels coupled to pod drives or with 1,000 hp Cat diesels paired with surface drives.Alberto Cocchi

Going Big: Pershing 140

The Pershing 5X’s pod-drive option and reduced ­boat-handling learning curve should bring new owners into the brand. And for longtime Pershing aficionados seeking to step up, the builder has the 140 with a sports-car-inspired grille. Scheduled to launch in 2018, this superyacht will take over the flagship position from the Pershing 115. The 140 will be built of light alloy and is offered with three MTU engine options: twin (12V or 16V) MTU 4000 M93Ls or quad MTU 2600 M94s. The M93Ls should offer a good range of speed, reportedly 24 to 33 knots.

Estimated top end with the M94s? Try 38 knots.

Pershing Yachts, Pershing 5X
Forward thinking: Owners can add a guardrail to the hydraulic swim platform on three sides to make an enclosed saltwater pool.Alberto Cocchi

Whether owners choose IPS or surface drives for the 5X, one thing that remains the same is Pershing’s low-profile and aggressive styling. Achieving that look is not easy in a smaller model with less waterline to accentuate and lengthen the yacht’s lines. Using trademark styling such as down-angled wings and raked windows running aft from the superstructure, along with raked hull-side windows, the 5X seems to lean forward, like a sprinter in the set position on the starting blocks.

In addition to having an athletic appearance, the 5X is supported by a solid build, starting with a vacuum-infused fiberglass hull. Balsa coring is used below the waterline, and PVC foam coring is used above to provide added strength and rigidity without excessive weight. The 5X has a 55,115-pound fully loaded displacement. (Its dry weight is 46,076 pounds.)

Pershing Yachts, Pershing 5X
From its open layout to its sleek lines and fine interior appointments, the Pershing 5X is a tasteful blend of design, performance and luxury.Alberto Cocchi

But how do you build hulls for two models with such different propulsion systems? To switch between the 5X’s pod-drive and surface-drive versions, the builder places an insert into the hull mold to accommodate either the O-rings and pod drives or the traditional Cat diesels and Top System surface drives. The builder says construction time in either configuration is around three months.

Pershing Yachts, Pershing 5X
A stateroom on board the Pershing 5X.Alberto Cocchi

Another cunning bit of design includes a salon table that can be raised, folded out and then rotated to accommodate four to six people for dinner. Seating for a couple more guests is on a chaise longue across from the helm station.

For alfresco relaxation, there are opposing settees facing fore and aft in the cockpit, as well as a sun pad atop the tender garage. There’s also a foredeck sun pad. Waist-high rails provide safe transit from the cockpit to the foredeck. Suffice it to say, there is plenty of room for friends and family.

Those guests will get hungry. Hull No. 1 has a galley down with a two-burner Siemens electric cooktop, an oven and a refrigerator. Under the stairs leading belowdecks is space for a freezer or a washing machine.

Pershing Yachts, Pershing 5X
Fold up two windows along the salon’s aft bulkhead, push in the salon door and open the roof, and the Pershing 5X is wide open from helm to cockpit.Courtesy Pershing
Fulvio De Simoni, Design, Yacht

Design Driven

Fulvio De Simoni has had a hand in designing Pershing’s yachts since the company’s launch in 1985. The builder’s goal was to create high- ­performance craft with motoryacht comfort. Mission accomplished.Courtesy Fulvio De Simoni Yacht Design

The Pershing 5X also offers a variation on a theme that I saw several years ago in La Spezia, Italy, on board a Pershing 90. With the push of a few buttons, the 90’s salon doors came together and then disappeared belowdecks, turning the otherwise enclosed express cruiser into a 90-foot open boat. On the Pershing 5X, a glass window folds up along the aft bulkhead, splitting the cockpit seating facing aft with the U-shaped salon seating. In addition, the cockpit door, which comes up to about waist height, folds in toward the salon. Above is another glass window that folds up. When everything is tucked away, the boat is open from the starboard-side helm seat to the cockpit sun pad. And if you retract what Pershing calls the “panorama” glass roof, the yacht offers the openness of a center console with upscale amenities. It’s quite a bit of clever engineering.

There is also a dinette to port here for owners who want an informal dining area. The dinette space can be used for a third guest stateroom with bunks. In the latter layout, this stateroom shares a head with the forepeak VIP (which has a step-up berth). The VIP is bright with natural light from an overhead hatch and hull-side windows. In a third layout scenario, the dinette area becomes a crew cabin with its own head and shower, and with a separate entrance. On a yacht this size, most U.S. owners will be owner-operators and opt for the dinette or the third stateroom for the kids.

No matter the layout, the full-beam master with en suite head has an athwartships berth. There’s room for a breakfast nook across from the foot of the bed, with views out the hull-side windows. As we ran Hull No. 1 back into the Gulf of Napoule, my early morning beads of sweat evaporated into the ether thanks to the refreshing breeze created by 35 knots of high-performing express cruiser. But the blast of exhilaration that the Pershing 5X offers echoed inside me like an everlasting sonic boom.

Tender Away: Williams 280

Whether you are running in from a mooring for dinner ashore or heading to a secluded beach for quality family time and some shell hunting, a tender is more than a water toy. It’s your at-sea SUV. To that end, Pershing constructed the 5X to handle a Williams 280 Minijet tender. This craft measures 9 feet 2 inches LOA and seats as many as four people. With its 45 hp BRP Rotax 900 ACE engine, the 280 reportedly hits speeds of up to 31 knots.

To simplify launch and retrieval of the Minijet 280, the 5X’s transom garage hinges up, and the teak swim platform drops down about 2 feet and into the water.