When the chance came to take Beneteau's latest baby, the Barracuda 7, for a spin, we were keen to see what she was like on the water.
Beneteau seems to be enjoying some good times. Its current fleet comprises no fewer than 30 boats, ranging from 18 to 52 feet in length across five main product lines. At the bottom end, the 10-strong Antares line (see The boats that are set to power the Olympic Games) offers four outboard and six inboard-powered cruising craft, while at the top end, the sporty eight-strong Flyer line gives way to five Gran Turismo express cruisers and five gentlemanly long-distance Swift Trawlers (see Beneteau ST 50: a powerboat for sailors). With just two boats, the new Barracuda product range might therefore be the smallest in the fleet but because it makes breadth of application its top priority, its potential for success among modern, cost-conscious leisure boaters is arguably far greater than that of its better-established siblings.
Barracuda 7: in pursuit of versatility
The layout of the Beneteau Barracuda 7 revolves around the excellent wheelhouse. Despite the uncompromising protection of its steep screens, it feels impressively bright and expansive, with a large roof hatch, two sliding side doors and an aft window enabling you to transform this platform into something akin to an open boat. You can step out on either side (which means you don’t have to squeeze past one another at the helm) and when you take the wheel, you can either fully protect yourself from the elements or open everything up and feel genuinely in touch with the sea.
The features list on the Barracuda 7 is also very comprehensive. Down below, you get a basic cabin with a separate heads compartment and up top, in addition to twin wipers, a foot brace and a compass, you get a fridge beneath the seat and a sink beneath the navigator’s mini bench. For me, however, the roof is the highlight. Not only does it provide shelter for the occupants and external grab rails for the crew, but it also offers a sliding sunroof with built-in shades. The rooftop rails also offer a telescopic section, enabling you to extend an integrated canvas over the cockpit to protect your aft passengers from the elements - and despite the impressive functionality and the big features list, the forward narrowing of the gap between the straight roof and the rising gunwales also happens to generate a lovely profile. The topside angles look delightfully purposeful and distinctive and even from a distance, it is very easy to pick this boat out from the crowd.
The straightforward walkaround layout is further optimised with some clever space management in the large aft cockpit. Here, the main bench is placed as far back as possible - and while that means it needs to be hinged forward to lift the engine out, it generates enough space for a second aft-facing bench, creating a dining area for seven people. Rather usefully, this second bench is mounted on the aft bulkhead of the wheelhouse, so it can be hinged down, flush with the bulkhead, to open up the deck space for use as a obstruction-free fishing area.
Inevitably, the provision of a decent cabin, a separate heads compartment, a wheelhouse and a large aft cockpit means that the Barracuda 7's bow is quite small - but once again, the space is cleverly utilised. The two seats are positioned out wide in the forward corners, enabling a continuous walk-through arrangement and instead of solid in-fill cushions, a bow lounger can be constructed by means of an optional hammock-style canvas. This is stretched from port to starboard and, with the fixing of a few clips and a pair of interlocking poles, the job is done. This ingenious bit of design helps avoid wasting any of your valuable storage space and represents yet another example of how hard Beneteau has worked to make the most of the Barracuda 7’s relatively modest dimensions.
On the downside, all these features do mean that the Barracuda 7 is around 700kg heavier than some sleeker, more pared back cuddies of a similar length, so the top-end engine option (in this case a Yamaha F200 outboard) does have to work quite hard to get the boat up to pace. When you put the throttle down, you drop onto the plane in about five or six seconds before easing toward a top end of around 34 knots. That’s perfectly decent, but it doesn’t get there fast and the throttle response at most points in the range is more polite than aggressive.
Back down in the realms of cruising efficiency, an easy 20 knots at 3,700rpm will buy you a range of around 130 nautical miles and while that’s not exactly vast, neither is it surprising - because almost nothing about this boat’s dynamic performance deviates from the competent and the moderate. And I say ‘almost’ because, despite the simple ease of the experience, the ride does seem quite wet. Even in a gentle seastate, a combination of the weighty bow and the blunt stem sees a fair bit of water breaching the nose and hitting the screen – and while there’s already a lot of weight on board, there is no doubt that a little extra flare in the bow shape would have done no harm at all as regards flinging some of this spray out of the path.
The Beneteau Barracuda 7 is the coming together of a fantastic layout and a competent drive. If that’s what you want, it’s an impossible boat to dislike. Certainly, the throttle response is a touch modest and the bulbous, stubby bow is a little wet, but the Barracuda 7 remains an extremely versatile family boat and one of the cleverest do-it-all leisure platforms you are likely to see.
See a video of he Barracuda 7 here, or read a more recent review of the boat's fishing pedigree.
Beneteau Barracuda 7 specifications
Weight: 2,049 kg
Fuel tank: 200 litres
Water tank: 100 litres
Maximum power: 200 hp
Engine: Yamaha F200