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A Matter of Choice

Some boaters are all about choice—they want options and plenty of them. Others avoid making decisions and are happy to take what’s presented to them.

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For those of you in the first category, I have the perfect boat: the Riviera 53 Enclosed Flybridge. This boat is all about choice.

Technical Details:

Regarding power, there are twin ZF 4000 pods connected to MTUs or Caterpillars rated to 1,015 horsepower, twin Volvo Penta IPS1200s, or the setup I tested in Australia, triple IPS600s. Not only does this menu represent a gearhead’s smorgasbord, it’s also a major engineering feat considering the disparate weights and centers of balance of each option. Riviera pulled it off by using a proprietary version of CAD it terms Riviera’s “Uni-Graphics NX three-dimensional software.” The software allows designers to vary a number of parameters, including engine weight and position, and still optimize running trim and balance.


I was able to test only one permutation, the triple IPS600 version in hull number one. I am not a fan of triple- or quad-engine installations, primarily because of their added mechanical complexity. Yet I found the 53 to be one of the best-balanced boats of its size I’ve ever run. Handling was razor-sharp, and her turning radius was rewardingly tight—a couple of boat lengths at WOT. Sound levels were low, peaking at just 67 decibels at full throttle. The 53’s sharp performance is due in large part, I suspect, to experience. Riviera has a lot of it with IPS—the company has built more than 150 boats with the system. IPS installation is replicable—once you get hull number one sorted out, later boats should require no deviation from the system. Figuring out that first boat is the trick, and some builders do it better than others. The Riviera guys tell me the 53 was dialed in right out of the box, and it surely felt that way to me.

Of course, we all know that pod propulsion pushes the engines aft, freeing up space for things other than blocks of iron. On the 53, one of those is a single 925-gallon fuel tank that, combined with decent fuel efficiency, provides good range: 462 miles at about 22 knots (3000 rpm).


Another beneficiary is a full-beam amidships master with en suite facilities, a first for Riviera in this size range. Yet another first in this range is an enclosed bridge than can seat ten, and the minute I walked up the interior stairway to it I knew this would be the focal point of the boat. It has all the amenities you’d expect, such as a wet bar and ice maker/fridge, plus two you might not. One is a standard electric sunroof. (Air conditioning is also standard.) The other is another big choice: helm position. You can have it all the way forward or all the way aft. On my boat it was forward, an excellent choice for cruisers. The aft position allows the helmsman a good view into the cockpit, something that should be particularly appealing to those who choose to rig the 53 for serious fishing. The choice, after all, is yours.

  • : 59'8"
  • : 16'10"
  • : 4'10"
  • : 49,160 lb.
  • : 925 gal.
  • : 198 gal.
  • : 3/435-hp Volvo Penta IPS600s
  • : $1,793,600
  • : 2/900-hp Volvo Penta IPS1200s; MTU and CAT diesels to 1,015 hp w/ ZF 4000 pods

Forward helm, cockpit joystick, 771 lb. davit, 6/rod holders, cockpit awning, hull color, 2/Raymarine E140 MFDs, DSM depthsounder, LP-125 WAAS GPS, ST70 autopilot w/ repeater, 4/Aqualuma underwater lights.

Air temp.: 70°F; humidity: 45%; wind: 6-10 knots; seas: 2 feet; load: 450 gal. fuel, 198 gal. water, 4 persons, 100 lb. gear. Speeds are two-way averages measured w/ GPS. GPH taken via electronic display. Range 90% of advertised fuel capacity. Sound measured at helm. 65 dB(A) is normal conversation.

RPM Knots GPH Range db(A)
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