Tiara Sovran 4000

The first boat built specifically to take Volvo's new front-facing IPS drives, the Tiara Sovran 4000 gains space and agility.

Standing on the dock before the new Tiara Sovran 4000, lost in admiration of her elegantly sculpted tumblehome, I was so engrossed in the flawless fiberglass work that I failed to notice something rather remarkable-that the engines were already running. To be precise, what I was missing was exhaust noise, engine smoke and diesel fumes-and the omission wasn't my fault, but the first of many benefits owners of this new cruising yacht will realize because of a partnership between Tiara Yachts and Volvo Penta.

More specifically, the Tiara is the first-ever new yacht specifically designed from the keel up to take advantage of the Volvo Penta Inboard Performance System (IPS). A props-facing-forward propulsion project which has been in development for several years (Yachting, January, 2005), the IPS and Tiara have been an item for the last two years. Today, at Galati Yacht Sales in Destin, Fla., Yachting, along with its sister publications Motor Boating and SaltWater Sportsman, would have the privilege to take an exclusive first look at their offspring.

Within my first minutes of driving the Tiara Sovran 4000 I could sense that the collaboration was worth the effort. Slip the Volvo Penta electronic throttles into gear, then advance them quickly, and you are rewarded with a smooth, steady acceleration that lifts the boat onto plane with virtually no bow rise-and that's without tabs. Take your hands off the wheel and the IPS units will hold the last adjustment, which can mean relief from constantly dialing in minor course corrections, as is necessary in some conditions. Whip the wheel quickly from side to side and the fly-by-wire steering translates your movement into an immediate change of direction without throwing guests and crew around in the cockpit. Crank the wheel hard over and the Sovran 4000 banks perfectly into the turn, carving a circle much smaller and quicker than a similarly sized, traditionally powered cruiser makes, and will accomplish it without the usual loss of speed or stern-sliding (typical of yachts that suffer from cavitation in turns).

To achieve these results, Tiara's designers and engineers capitalized on the lessons learned from 25 years of building high-quality open and express yachts that are universally well regarded for their handling and performance. "In terms of hull-running surface, the Sovran 4000 resembles other models in the family," says John Garland, vice president of design for Tiara. "The modified deep-V hull has a deadrise at transom close to 18 degrees, and the entry is comparably sharp. One significant interior difference is that the fuel tank is a single tank just ahead of the engine compartment instead of the split tanks found in other Sovrans with their traditional straight or V-drives. This offsets all the weight of the engines and IPS drives moved further aft, and it also helps keep the center of gravity aft. Strake width remains approximately the same, although the outer strake now runs the full length of the hull for better leverage to eliminate bow rise and add planing lift. Chine beams are wider for better stability, and the convex shape of the hullsides increases usable interior volume, which you'll see in the main cabin."

A yacht this size usually requires a typical straight-shaft drive system that pushes the engine placement well forward in the layout, but the new IPS system is so compact that it actually increases the available volume in the layout. Seizing on this bonus, Tiara's design team has created their first-ever enclosed mid-cabin in a 40-foot yacht. It's a cabin with creature comforts exceeding the typical dark, cramped mid-cabins found on some boats and the pseudo-private accommodations found in the after ends of some open-plan yachts.

A curved, sliding Plexiglas door with a separate sliding screen slips beneath the helm console. Descending the steps, I first spotted a solid teak cabin sole of handlaid planks. Dave Northrop, Tiara's vice president of sales and marketing, pointed out the optional cabinet at the forward end of the L-shaped settee to starboard, and opened the bottom locker to reveal a Splendide combo washer/dryer-an option that some owners will find essential to cruising. Headroom is roughly 6 feet, 7 inches in the main saloon; following the S-curve traffic pattern through the galley on the port side and back to the guest stateroom, I found the same excellent headroom carries into its entrance area and continues into the private wet head aft. (This comes thanks to the raised seating overhead.) The guest stateroom has twin berths with an insert to convert them to a queen-size berth, plus enough sitting headroom for this 6-foot, 3-inch-tall editor.

The master stateroom forward also has a private head, this one with a separate shower stall and seat for comfort. Like the aft head, there's an Avonite countertop with a contemporary glass bowl, basin and first-class fittings. Storage in the head is more than adequate for a week's cruise. Likewise, storage in the master stateroom includes a large and deep hanging locker with dedicated space for a removable tabletop and an upholstered hassock top. These are mounted in fittings set in the floor of the main saloon, depending on whether the activity of the moment is dining or relaxing and watching the flat-screen TV mounted on the bulkhead next to the galley. Two sets of table legs, of teak-covered stainless steel, are stored in a special compartment beneath the cabin sole. The Bose Lifestyle home entertainment system, along with the generator and shore power control panels, is mounted in the locker just below the TV, its speakers unobtrusively mounted in the bulkheads, meant to be heard but not seen. Because there is no water or fuel tank located forward, as is the case with some cruiser designs, the storage under the queen-size berth is voluminous.

Galley design often sacrifices useful ideas for solutions that reflect ease of production and assembly. This is not the case with the Sovran 4000. To begin with, the large Tundra refrigerator/freezer is installed on the centerline, with the doors facing forward to prevent contents that may have shifted underway from spilling out on the floor when the door was opened. A microwave resides behind the locker door atop the fridge. The Corian countertop is nicely finished on the edges to prevent impact injuries, and includes well-cut covers for the recessed stainless steel sinks and the two-burner ceramic top range. And there's a handy, full-length spice rack that runs behind the countertops so you can reach your curry in a hurry.

The layout in the aft cockpit is not unlike that which has succeeded in the rest of the Sovran series, with a couple of notable exceptions. Instead of a small bench in the aft cockpit flanked by two stairways to the swim platform, there's a single entrance and a large, comfortable L-shaped settee, perfect for entertaining on sun-filled afternoons or evenings at the dock. Up two molded steps on either side, the foredeck is easily accessed by walkable side decks protected by stout side rails and grab rails all along the length of the deck. There's good room available for anchor-handling duties, plus a recess on the cabin top for a forward sunpad.

The seating under the integral hardtop is raised up in the Sovran 4000 compared to other models, putting family and friends on the same eyeline as the helmsman. The panoramic view that results is highly satisfying, and likely one that will keep all feeling very much a part of the cruise. A soft drop curtain is standard across the back of the bridgedeck. For ventilation, there's a motorized opening central vent, as well as two screened and shuttered opening hatches in the hardtop. If you select the optional air-conditioning for the bridgedeck, part of the airflow is directed through vents onto the inside of the tall, sturdily-built forward windshield.

With an instrument console that's wide enough to accept a pair of optional Raymarine C120 displays and still have room left over for a tri-data display and the Volvo Penta data display, the helm is an efficiently designed center of information for the helmsman. The adjustable-angle wheel and sliding seat leave plenty of room for the helmsman who wants to stand occasionally. One of the neatest ideas on the bridgedeck is the motorized seat base set on an angle that allows the seat to rise incrementally as it moves forward, giving an even better view of the waters ahead.

There are two hatches to the engine compartment-one a day hatch that is recessed into the larger hatch that spans the aft cockpit. Both give excellent access to the engines for routine fluid checks, but when the larger hatch is raised, you get a sense of the space available around all sides of the engines and drives for maintenance or repair. Because the IPS drives perform the steering function, there are no rudder heads and lever arms to inspect or maintain. And the space formerly taken over by exhaust system components is now available because the exhaust is piped directly into the drive unit and slipped out beneath the hull. The resulting space is given over to twin water tanks, one in each aft corner; twin battery banks; compressors for the two-zone standard air-conditioning serving the interior; and a water heater. As you might expect, the engineroom is immaculately clean, and all wiring, piping and systems are installed with the utmost care-a longtime Tiara trademark.

Like all Tiara yachts, the Sovran 4000 features the best resins and fiberglass fabrics made to rigid specifications. Handlaid hulls and decks are cored for stiffness without excess weight, strengthened by composite stringer systems. Tiara backs their work with a limited five-year transferable warranty on hull, deck and cockpit, but it is their commitment to build the best yachts available that has helped the Slikkers family and all of their employees gain a reputation that is the envy of several generations of boatbuilders and owners.

The new Sovran 4000, designed for and equipped with Volvo Penta's new IPS system, offers a new perspective on what the future of cruising inboards can be. The fact that Tiara is the champion of this new future is in keeping with its four-plus decades of boatbuilding experience. Having had a chance to put the Sovran 4000 through its paces, I can honestly say that I can't wait to see what's next. n

Contact: Tiara Yachts, (866) 833-3714; www.tiarayachts.com. Volvo Penta, (757) 436-2800; www.volvopenta.com.