The third member of the Beneteau MC family up-scales the brand, but does it still work at 60 feet?
Are you an iPhone user or Blackberry? Mercedes or BMW? Rolex or Omega? Brands – they’re the standard bearer of the 21st century, particularly among premium products, tapping deep into our tribal cortex and engendering the kind of loyalty once reserved for football clubs and baseball teams. After all, to admit that the competition is better than ‘our’ brand is to admit that we were wrong – and none of us are ever wrong.
Big business understands and ruthlessly exploits this phenomenon. Those people in marketing know that if they can wrap their customer up in brand identity then they’ve got an easier sell than anyone else when its time to upgrade. If you’ve got an iPhone 5 then of course your next phone will be an iPhone 6.
But in the world of the premium product, brand elasticity only stretches so far. And it’s for that reason that a new Beneteau brand was created. The company wanted to cash in on the loyalty felt by thousands of Antares, Flyer and Gran Turismo owners and give them a conduit to a separate prestige marque that allows them to remain within the extended family. Indeed, it’s interesting to observe how Beneteau has positioned this new brand in the marketplace. Despite being built in France alongside all the other Beneteau models, there is no mention of the Monte Carlo range on its website. Instead it has its own dedicated website and totally separate marketing.
The first of this new breed was the MC5, launched at Düsseldorf Boat Show in 2013. Right from the off it was clear that Beneteau were keen to distance this marque not only from their existing model ranges, but from everything else in the fiercely competitive 50-foot flybridge sector. With its distinctive cream and teal colour scheme, bolt upright stainless-steel trimmed stem and huge circular hull windows, no-one was ever going to mistake it for a Princess or an Azimut. The MC4 followed in 2014, its ‘mini-me’ look echoing the MC5 so closely that from a distance it is impossible to set them apart, and last year the range expanded upwards with the introduction of the MC6.
As you’d expect, the appearance is pure MC.
All the styling cues, from that upright stem proudly bearing the ‘MC’ designer label to the circular hull windows and distinctive colour scheme, are present and correct. In fact, from a distance it is as hard to tell apart as the MC4 is from the 5. It’s only when you get up close that the sheer size of this voluminous 60-footer becomes apparent.
On board it’s business as usual, which equates to elegant, contemporary almost minimalist styling inside and out. Side decks from the large aft cockpit are wide, safe and easily accessed and lead to a flat teak-laid foredeck with a couple of unusual surprises. The black panel just ahead of the windscreen lifts to reveal two small panels. These operate what look like large square foredeck hatches but are in fact multi-adjustable loungers. There’s even a remote control so that you can make adjustments as you lie on them. It transforms this often wasted space into a superb spot to while away the day catching some rays, reading a good book or simply watching the world go by. Like its sister ships, the flybridge is just vast. Choose from the huge sunpad aft or relax at the dinette, ably provided for from the bar opposite. Or take the carbon fibre framed helm seat, with space for a couple of crew members to join you on the bench alongside. Our test boat has the optional flybridge bimini in black, which integrates well with the design of the boat (although the supporting legs look a little agricultural).
Inside the boat the minimalist theme continues. Beneteau have put the galley aft as per the MC5, great for catering for the saloon or cockpit and ideal for those parties that inevitably end up in the kitchen. To port,
low-level storage is complemented by large shelves cunningly designed so that anything placed on them will immediately fall off the moment the boat moves. Ahead of this is a conventional saloon and at the front is a helm position that wouldn’t look out of place on the Starship Enterprise.
The captain enjoys a massive armchair with a joystick on one arm that controls the Cummins-Zeus pod drive engines and a built in tracker ball on the other that interfaces with the 24 inch Simrad navigation screen. Your adoring fans can congregate on the adjacent bench seat as you drive the boat with your fingertips. The only oddity here is the single windscreen wiper and the slightly scratchy plastic finish around the helm console – both out of keeping with a boat of this class, and made even odder by the fact that the smaller cheaper MC5 has a pair of proper pantograph wipers and a nicer console finish.
Down below the layout follows the classic VIP double forward, twin-bedded guest cabin to starboard and full beam master cabin aft. All cabins are en suite (the third cabin by accessing the day heads) and provide plenty of storage and ample floor space. The master cabin splits the heads and shower into two separate units in each corner of the starboard side. A great idea in theory as it allows the heads to be used while someone is in the shower, but the execution is slightly lacking.
Beneteau have kept these cubicles as small as possible to maximise cabin floor space and, as a result, the wash basin is in the cabin between them. So you have to leave the toilet before you can wash your hands and you have to step out of the shower into the cabin before you can dry yourself. It’s a small point, but I’d sooner trade floor space for privacy and convenience.
Talking of trading floor space, there’s a really intriguing floor plan layout available for the Asian market. The Asian clientèle rarely sleep onboard, in fact they rarely take them out. What they use their boats for is entertaining. So, the guest cabin and forward VIP are stripped out in favour of a big dinette in the bow and a simply massive galley to starboard. The saloon is then extended aft and the upper galley banished in favour of a smaller bar area. You end up with a single cabin sixty footer – a brave choice, but the ultimate party pad!
Beneteau are offering just the one engine option for the MC6, a pair of Cummins QSC 8.3 Zeus at 600hp apiece. All the usual pod drive advantages are present and correct, vibration free running, joystick manoeuvrability and immediate response to the helm. And it is very very quiet – even at wide open throttle the sound meter didn’t pass 75dB(a) at the lower helm. One rather strange anomaly is the single turn of lock available from amidships to starboard, but two turns to port with a correspondingly sharper direction change. Given the lack of physical link ’twixt helm and pods (it’s entirely ‘fly-by-wire’) and the amount of programmable parameters available, I’m inclined to think that it’s a software glitch – someone hasn’t set the system up quite right. Five minutes with a laptop would probably sort it. Flat out gives 28 knots at a fraction over 3,000rpm, 2,750rpm equates to a brisk 24 knot cruise while throttling back to 2,500rpm eases the speed down to 18 knots.
The MC6 proves a worthy addition to the Monte Carlo family, offering an interesting and stylish alternative to the usual mainstream sixty footers without sacrificing practicality or usability in the process. And for Beneteau it adds another layer, allowing the brand faithful to stay within its burgeoning family.