With sporty and fast performance boats, the Slovenian Elan yard has shown that it can follow modern trends as much as it can set them. Elan’s boats often polarised the market with their design. The company was among the first production builders that incorporated wide sterns, twin rudders and hard chines in all their models.
For the Impression cruising line, the bustling firm in the Slovenian countryside has taken a different tack by betting on the tried and true. Instead of rolling out new wares, Elan decided to give the existing Impression models a facelift. It started in 2010 with the Impression 444, which in essence was a re-issue of the six-year-old Impression 434 but with a new stern section and a fresh interior.
Now Elan continues with the Impression 394, which is the updated 384, albeit with more radical and extensive changes. The fast and seakindly hull shape by Rob Humphreys remained, but was modified. The new boat measures 11.48 metres, which is 43 centimetres more than its predecessor while the beam remained the same, hence the proportions are a bit more stretched.
More space for more comfort
Deck and cockpit were completely overhauled. The Elan Impression 394 now has two steering wheels, just as the trend dictates. The stern has a steeper drop than on the 385 and includes a foldout swim platform that doubles as a boarding platform when moored stern-to.
These measures opened up more space in the cockpit, especially for the helmsman, who now enjoys better visibility while driving the boat and comfortably sitting on the coaming. This is a vast improvement over the predecessor, which was ergonomically challenged in that respect.
The cockpit table can be folded up and is stowed under the cockpit floor when not in use. The solid folding mechanism adds to the table’s stability, but it takes two to operate since both ends have to be lifted simultaneously. With the table stowed, there now is a clear passage through the cockpit between the wheels. The only impediment is the mounting position of the backstay’s two bridle wires, which could easily snag bags that are slung over the shoulder when boarding over the swimming platform.
True to the upgrade-only philosophy, the rig of the Elan Impression 394 remained unchanged from the previous model. The 135 per cent roller furling genoa continues to be the standard headsail. The shrouds are attached inboards, close to the deckhouse. Alternatives like a self-tending jib that are popular in northern Europe are not available since neither the layout nor the structure of the deck are suitable. For sail options Elan offers gennaker, spinnaker and vertical roller furling for the main.
An upgraded main with full battens did the test boat a great deal of good. In about 10 knots of wind the boat quickly develops decent power and demonstrates considerable speed potential. Acceleration and end speed are well above the expectations for a cruising boat of this size that is on the heavy side with eight tons of displacement. The Impression 394 trucks along at 6.2 knots at wind angles of 45 degrees.
The premium Lewmar steering is very direct and precise with a rudder that bites immediately. However, the desired helm pressure is practically absent, even when varying the mainsail trim, hence the wheel feels a bit mushy.
More light, pretty contrasts
For the area below deck, Elan has mainly focused on upgraded looks by using light oak veneer and dark walnut as color contrast for the fiddles and edges; it’sa very classy choice that is aesthetically pleasant. Teak for the interior is an available option. The furniture is more straightforward with more straight edges than on the previous model, which makes it appear lighter, too. Overall, this new interior comes across as very pleasant, warm, and inviting. Especially the saloon lives up to modern standards for living in comfort while feeling at ease. Large portlights and deck hatches create a bright ambiance and the standing headroom of 2.06 metres in the center of the saloon is far above average.
The standard layout and the available variations of the Elan Impression 394 remain unchanged from the 384. There’s a rather unusual solution in the fore cabin with an asymmetrical double berth installed to port. While this arrangement might not be ideal under way since there is no lee cloth for safety, it is also quite functional at rest as it leaves enough space on the side. The berth is comfortable enough for two and has plenty of leg- and footroom. For a mere €2,388 extra, Elan offers a more common fore cabin layout with a V-Berth on center line and an additional head. There are also different choices for the aft cabin(s): instead of a second stateroom aft, the boat can be equipped with a large walk-in lazarette. In this case, the remaining aft cabin is a bit larger, with a double berth that is 38 centimeters wider, which makes it nearly king-size. The head is larger too, with a separate shower compartment.
For the adequately equipped base version one will have to plunk down €142,195. That is just and fair, even though it puts Elan near the upper end of the price range in this category. However, the additional cost is mainly justified by the high build quality. Elan is sticking with the traditional methods that include vacuum resin infusion for the hull and vinylester resins on the outer layers, which should protect against osmosis. The interior shows the Slovenians’ competent workmanship and their great attention to detail.
High quality, little development
With the Impression 394, Elan proves that even large builders can keep their offering up to date and attractive without permanently rolling out new models. But there is no question that neither concept nor appearance offer anything revolutionary. Rather, the Elan scores bonus points with high volume, lots of comfort and safety. And these are values that are important to cruisers.
This story originally appeared in YACHT magazine, and is republished here by permission. Translated by Dieter Loibner.