When you first lay eyes on the Brioni 44, it looks very much like a high-end motor yacht from one of Italy’s great masters - and yet this delightful looking craft is actually built in Slovenia by a boatyard that was established in 2006. Take a look for yourself in the first look video by Alex Smith.
Plainly, that means they don’t have a glittering heritage either to call upon or to sell, but what they do have is a team of established professionals handpicked from the industry for exactly this job.
When it started, the idea was simply to embrace the principles of quality and integrity and to set about designing and building “the perfect yacht”. For Brioni, that meant something that could combine reliability with performance and practical living spaces with serious seakeeping ability – and eight years on, their noble principles (and boundless ambition) have yielded some remarkable results...
Design it like you mean it...
Naturally enough, most builders try to minimise a boat’s deficiencies by factoring a modesty margin into every design compromise. For instance, you might flatten the foredeck to improve the lines and reduce the windage but not so much that you limit the headroom in the forward cabin; you might expand the master cabin for added luxury but not so much that you cramp the communal heads; and you might lavish time, money and care on the small details but not so much that you unduly inflate the price.
However, Brioni doesn’t appear to be acquainted with the idea of populist moderation. They wanted massive headroom on the main deck, so they made it happen by dropping the floor and simply accepting a radical reduction in space down below; they wanted a free-flowing saloon passage from fore to aft, so they pushed every bit of internal lounge seating to port; and they wanted unstinting quality of build and a glitteringly bespoke palette of fixtures and fittings, so they allowed the purchase price to get as fat as it chose. In short, they had the courage of their convictions, rigorously avoiding the temptation to make timorous gestures toward the crowd-pleasing middle ground – and the results are unlike anything else on the water.
Step onto the aft deck, past the huge hydraulic swim platform with its detachable bench and you find yourself in a cleanly contoured space with a central lounging unit and a set of broad, four-piece sliding doors leading into the saloon. The seating unit is as convertible as you would expect with internal space for a small tender and there are also little storage points everywhere you look, with no fewer than 44 hatches and drawers inside and another 25 littering the cockpit. However, the real trick is to be found to port. Here, a gentle tug on a handle brings an entire kitchen unit sliding serenely out from the side moulding and into the aft space. It features a cooker, a sink, a 200-litre fridge, plenty of drawer space and even a coffee machine – and in addition to being an intrinsically cool feature for the gadget fan, it entirely sidesteps the thorny issue of galley placement.
Step inside and both the space and the lofty ceiling are equally impressive, but that long run of port seating just doesn’t make any sense to me. True, you can seat five around the cockpit table, but I want saloon seating that gives me the option of looking a man in the face rather than cosying up and rubbing shoulders with him. Nonetheless, my disquiet is quickly quelled by Brioni’s evident fondness for dramatic lighting. Both here at the settee and down below around the bed, warm swathes of amber light flood the periphery of the furniture, demarcating the edge and lending each space a sense of structural clarity. It means you get to see the glow rather than the source (the light rather than the bulb) and it really is effective.
Of course, whether this approach offers up enough moments of wizardry to justify the price tag is something only you can decide. And whether you get sufficient thrill from the freethinking individuality of the concept to justify the restricted below deck arrangement is again a matter of personal preference. Certainly, from a practical perspective, there are plenty of boats around that make more sense, but you can’t deny it – the Brioni 44 has greater charm than almost any of them.
A weight of only 8,700kg is easily two or three metric tonnes lighter than most boats of this scale, so it is not difficult to believe Brioni’s claims regarding the 44’s cruising efficiency. Compared to average figures, a speed of 32 knots at 3,000rpm will apparently save you more than £4,000 (€5,000) for every 100 hours of operation. That does sound impressive but even if it’s true, a price tag of £488,000 (€600,000) suddenly makes the figure seem quite trifling. After all, the Brioni is £204,000 (€250,000) more than the base price for the rigorously effective Bavaria Sport 44 HT Highline – and at that rate, you would need to be doing 100 hours of cruising every season for half a century just to break even.
Nonetheless, price aside, the picture continues to look rosy. Noise at the helm is apparently less than 75db, while useable range is in excess of 400 nautical miles. The boat is also beautifully constructed, with vacuum infusion and carbon-fibre-reinforced vinylester resin, plus a laminate plan conceived for 1,100hp and 50 knots rather than 870hp and 42 knots. The centre of gravity (aided in no small part by that deepset main deck) is also very low and a good way forward and the helmsman enjoys great visibility, plus a dimmable dash for night nav and the proven delights of Volvo’s IPS joystick system.
Brioni 44 summary
This is a strange, handsome, expensive and beguiling boat from a very adventurous Slovenian builder. Plainly, it is not quite the “perfect yacht” it aspires to be but if you want free-hand design and courageous tangents on a craft that seems to circumvent the evolutionary formula embraced by the mainstream builders, it’s a cast-iron winner. If you prefer a boat that ticks all the boxes, then avoid muddling your mind and look away.
Brioni 44 specifications
Height above waterline: 3.2m
Dry weight: 8,700 kg
Fuel capacity: 1,500 litres
Water capacity: 800 litres
Engines: Volvo Penta IPS 600 (2×435hp)
Top Speed: 42.12 knots
Cruising speed (3,000 rpm): 32.2 knots
For more top-end luxury motoryacht reviews, see: Princess V48: Mid-Sized IPS Pod Drive Sports Cruiser or Vripack Esquire 35: seducing the small boat owner.