Some cruising powerboats prioritise inboard accommodation to the point where they are little more than floating hotel rooms (see best flybridge cruisers for some examples of more luxury), while some open boats minimise the features list to the point where they are little more than pared back race craft. A proper express cruiser is something altogether more impressive.

At its best, it is a boat that can take you at high speeds across vast tracts of seascape with luxury, control and soft-riding comfort. It can offer you breakfast in foreign marinas, provide you with a sophisticated venue for cocktail parties and bestow the shelter of a luxuriously appointed bed whenever you decide you’ve clocked up enough miles. Of course, this tends to mean they are relatively large, relatively narrow-beamed and relatively high-powered – all of which are at odds with the manic modern drive for a world built from low-carbon couscous. But for the true powerboating aficionado, happiness is not about plump, blunt-headed people carriers. It’s about fast, imperious GTs of the sea – in other words, boats exactly like these...

Frauscher 1017 GT

It’s difficult not to love Frauscher. Designed and built in landlocked Austria, they take heavy design influence from Italian sportscars to generate boats that strip away all superfluous peripherals in pursuit of something that feels more sculpted and organic - and yet they’re about much more than just looks.

Frauscher 1017 GT: Express cruisers

Frauscher 1017 GT took top prize at the 2014 motorboat awards for best performance boat...

Here in the form of the flagship 1017, you get a “gentleman’s racer” that can handle a pair of 430hp engines, seat eight people, sleep two and take you to speeds well in excess of 50 knots. It features the same trademark vertical stem we have seen before from Frauscherboats, alongside the radically beautiful stainless anchor, the piano-gloss granite colourways and the deep-cut hull steps for extra pace and efficiency. The fact that this boat won top prize in the ‘Performance Boat’ category at the UK’s 2014 Motorboat Awards only adds weight to your natural sense that this is an express cruiser you would dearly love to own. You could of course opt for the open-decked Lido version of the 1017, but this sumptuous £300,000 plaything definitely has the edge. Search all Frauscher boats for sale.

Windy SR52

Windy is famous for its agile, soft-riding, sports cruisers – so when it introduced a special edition, overtly sporting 52-footer in 2010, people got excited.

Windy SR52: Express cruisers

Windy SR52: Glossy topsides, teak and jet-black styling make this a favourite as a superyacht tender, but with a useful 480NM range, why stop there?

Known as the Dubois SR52 Blackbird, this jet-black 16-metre super tender uses a triple IPS 600 installation to bring you an easy 40-knot cruise, allied to a top end of around 46 knots, plus outstanding balance and seakeeping prowess. As the work not just of Windy Boats but also of Hans Jorgen Johnsen and famous designer Ed Dubois, it uses vacuum-injection moulding to produce a lighter, stronger, more efficient hull. You also get a useful range of up to 480 nautical miles, plus a trio of individual racing chairs at the helm that illustrates just how important the driving experience is to this package. In addition to the double berth and separate heads, you also get lots of crimson seating and lounging areas up top, plus the kind of high-gloss topsides and luxurious teak decking that will make this a winner for the superyacht market - but for its quality, handling, pace and exclusivity, it deserves a place as a standalone entry on any Express Cruiser shortlist. Search all Windy boats for sale.

Goldfish 50 Ocean

As cabin-equipped boats go, the Goldfish 50 is rigorously committed to the demands of dynamic excellence.

Goldfish 50 Ocean: Express cruisers

Goldfish 50 Ocean: With a choice of either 50-knot or up to 100-knot configurations, this is a beast of a power cruiser.

Designed and built by a renowned commercial and endurance boat specialist, the 50 Ocean is designed to “take you in comfort to any destination”. The interior is usefully open plan, which means that (in the finest traditions of the express cruiser) you can use it as an open day boat, a two-cabin weekender or a fast and resilient chase boat. And while the fine entry keeps things soft, it’s also an uncommonly efficient hull. Even with standard diesel engines on Z-drives, this is a 50-knot boat, but with surface drives and high-performance engines, it is also designed to push on towards a rip-roaring 100 knots – and offer a range in excess of 500 nautical miles. For me, the angular design of that foredeck is confrontational rather than elegant, but there’s no doubting that the Goldfish 50 is a monstrous piece of work and a very serious contender. Search for Goldfish boats for sale.

Hunton XRS37

This 60-knot gentleman’s missile has been around for a long while now and yet with subtle tweaks to the established platform, it is still a must-drive boat.

Hunton XRS37: Express cruisers

Hunton XRS37: Soon to be eclipsed by a new Hunton flagship, the EQ52, this XRS37 is ferociously fast, if a little basic below decks.

The combined 860hp from those high-output, big-block 8.2-litre engines translates into huge, gratifying surges of thrust and while her helm responses are very quick-witted, she is also peculiarly easy to drive fast. Push the Hunton on through the chop and those slippery aft planing surfaces charge through a seascape that is uncompromisingly sliced apart by the ferocious forward quarters of that race-derived hull. Certainly, at £350,000, it’s expensive and the cabin remains quite limited, but it remains one of the most enjoyable ways ever devised by man to go at great pace in beguiling comfort over huge distances - and still look sophisticated at your destination. The launch of a long overdue new flagship (the much vaunted EQ52) might finally eclipse the 37 but for now, it remains a surefire winner. Search all Hunton boats for sale.

Supermarine Swordfish 36 MkII

Introduced in April 2005, Supermarine’s Swordfish 36 is a modern take on the famously capable endurance boats of the old Fairey stable – boats like the Swordsman, Huntress and Spearfish.

Supermarine Swordfish: Express Cruisers

Supermarine Swordfish: a sophisticated, retro gentleman's cruiser with excellent offshore capability.

Given that Alan Burnard (formerly chief designer of Fairey Marine) was employed in the design of the hull lines, engineering and propeller, that comes as little surprise. However, the styling has also benefitted from the input of Ken Freivokh and the result is a beautiful retro cruiser that combines remarkable offshore ability with all the gentlemanly sophistication you could want. With a soft-riding deep-V hull and pronounced bow flare, the Swordfish is of course not the fastest boat in the world but with impeccable build, heritage and hull design, it is as complete a boat at this length as any adventurer’s long-distance, four-season, express cruiser could be. Search all Supermarine motoryachts for sale.

Written by: Alex Smith
Alex Smith is a journalist, copywriter and magazine editor with a long history in boating and a happy addiction to the water. He’s worked on boats, lived on boats, bought boats, sold boats and – when he’s not actually on board a boat – he can generally be found in his Folkestone office, tapping away at the computer and gazing out to sea.