You would be hard-pressed to find a more “Australian” yacht than the Riviera 525 SUV. She’s not a flashy size, but she can definitely hold a party. She’s not particularly specialized in the builder’s SUV line, which also includes a 445, a 575 and an upcoming 395, but like many Aussies I’ve met, she is capable of more than meets the eye. Indeed, this girl from Down Under might just turn your perspective upside down. The 525 SUV debuted at the Riviera Festival of Boating in 2017. That affair used to be held in head-to-head competition with the nearby Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show, one of Australia’s premier shows, a fact that hints at Riviera’s rather, shall we say, robust company ethos. The team at Riviera relishes a challenge, and its vessels seem to embody that attitude. This model is ruggedly built with a hand-laid, solid-below-the-waterline fiberglass hull that doesn’t seem so much to slice through waves as to flatten them, thanks in part to the yacht’s dry weight of 50,300 pounds. Compare that to a similarly sized 58-footer I found that displaces about 5,000 pounds less.
But that’s not to suggest the 525 is sluggish. There’s also her robust twin 725 hp Volvo Penta IPS950s, which are plenty powerful for her frame. I throttled the yacht up to 33 knots in rolling 3-foot seas off Sydney and cruised her at 28 knots (burning 59 gph) to the waters just off Bondi Beach. While surfers carved graceful bottom turns and popped floaters off the lips of the waves a few hundred yards inshore, the Riviera put on an acrobatic display of her own. The Volvo Penta joystick lets her dance front to back, side to side, and in a pirouette. Her movements are powerful yet precise, and the handling should pair well with her wide side decks, spacious bow deck (with optional sun pad) and high bow rails to make docking a cinch.
Access to the Volvo Pentas is through a hatch in the cockpit mezzanine. That space is designed for owner-operators, with direct access to the dual Racor fuel filters and every wire numbered and color-coded. The 925-gallon fuel tank is on centerline for balance underway and on the hook. There’s also a thoughtful amount of sound insulation.
One of the most pronounced features of the SUV line is cockpit roominess. The 525’s cockpit is open with no molded seating to clutter the 106-square-foot space. Mezzanine seating serves as one of the best places to be underway (outdoors but out of the wind), as well as a good place to watch any “bottom bashing” — Australian slang for fishing for dinner.
To that end, there’s in-sole fish boxes, a transom livewell, five rod holders and a built-in alloy deck plate for a fighting chair. The openness of the area, as well as the hydraulic swim platform with room for a 9-foot tender (or as one Riviera representative said, piles of paddleboards), make the cockpit well-suited to diving, snorkeling and spearfishing. Are you beginning to see why Riviera calls this boat a sport utility vehicle?
A twin-burner Kenyon grill is on the transom, which is destined to invoke a few eye-rolling shrimp-on-the-barbie gibes from some of your more original guests. For fancier cooking, there’s a galley in the salon. The galley is situated aft to serve the yacht’s interior and exterior spaces, with a flip-up window to the cockpit.
Inside to starboard, opposite the galley, is a 28-by-80-inch countertop for serving food or, as one sly-witted guest aboard my test boat assured me with a wink, drinks. The salon windows, aided by twin Webasto skylights overhead, provide excellent sightlines and good natural light. An amidships L-shaped dining settee to port faces a couch to starboard.
Below on the accommodations level, there is a choice of two layouts. The forepeak VIP on my test boat was almost identically sized to the portside master, and either could be configured as en suite with the resulting non-en-suite VIP head then becoming the day-head. Both staterooms had drawers, underberth stowage and cedar-lined hanging lockers that make this yacht amenable to longer voyages. A third stateroom to starboard had twin berths and would be ideal for kids. A Miele washer/dryer was also on this deck, further making the 525 outfitted for more than just a quick jaunt down the Intracoastal Waterway.
The Riviera 525 SUV is a versatile vessel that’s able to cruise near or far while being a platform for watersports of all stripes. She lives up to her moniker as a sport utility vehicle with a low-key layout, solid ride and build, and nimble maneuverability that should keep the boating simple, letting guests enjoy the ocean environment to the fullest. The 525 SUV is straightforward, rugged and fun, which is to say she’s all Australian.
Fun and Games
Rodney Longhurst is the owner and chairman of Riviera. Though he’s a business executive today, Longhurst is actually a qualified joiner by trade. He got his start in 1980 by helping his father, John Longhurst, who is the creator of Australia’s largest theme park, Dreamworld, in Queensland — a region that also happens to be the heart of the Australian boatbuilding industry.
The Longhursts are longtime yacht owners, including Rivieras, and by 2000, Rodney found himself thinking of boats as more than just a way to relax on his downtime. He teamed up with his friend Wes Moxey (now Riviera CEO) to open a marine service yard in the town of Coomera. By 2012, he’d upped the ante and bought Riviera.
His career evolution may seem unusual, until you realize that Longhurst simply moved from creating one form of fun to another.