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56 Sunseeker Manhattan

Sunseeker Yachts

56 Sunseeker Manhattan Review

Source: Boatpoint Magazine

The Sunseeker Manhattan 56 comes from Britain, has an American moniker, and a swish new Australian specification – a winning alliance, David Lockwood reports

Today’s big-boat buyers have been conditioned to expect an inventory as long as a deckhand’s right arm, commodities and comforts that were unheard of only a few years ago, and a standard of living once the preserve of patrons of five-star hotels.

Things like a wetbar with crystal glasses, home cinema and plasma screen, air-conditioning, dashing designer fittings and Euro-inspired soft furnishings are becoming de rigueur on big boats these days. So, too, hydraulic swim platforms, electric sunroofs and push-button side windows.

The British-born Sunseeker Manhattan 56 motoryacht has all these things and something completely unexpected. The pièce de résistance isn’t some trick fitting listed on the specifications sheet. No, the thing that makes this boat special is a fantastically opulent, full-width, aft master cabin.

The owners’ cabin on this owner-driver 56-footer is akin to what big-boat buyers have come to expect on 70-footers and fully crewed superyachts. But the reason you won’t find the cabin on the specifications sheet is that Sunseeker Australia commissioned the boat this way.

The Manhattan 56 seen on these pages had a lot of exclusive details to satisfy savvy local big-boat buyers. The boat could well be renamed the Point Piper, Port Douglas or Port Phillip 56. Sunseeker is a progressive boatbuilder that distinguishes itself from other UK luxury motoryacht yards by bending to various market demands.

A giant killer, the Manhattan 56 had several other smart changes in its semi-custom interior. Both the British factory and Sunseeker Australia worked through the ideas and met at various stages during the construction process. Everything went according to plan and it works even better in real life than it does on paper.

Among the other unique touches are an open-plan saloon that creates an atrium-like effect around the internal helm and forward dinette area. The galley, usually set below saloon level, was raised to blend in with the living areas and the furniture was modified.

The boat has nice touches like three electric saloon windows for cross-flow ventilation. And practical changes like the crew quarters hiding back aft. Popular in Europe, the crew quarters were converted into a special utility room because local owners prefer to drive.

Reverse-cycle air-conditioning was upgraded to six units for tropical or Tassie climes. Another nice touch was the dedicated crockery cupboard for the Royal Doulton dinner set. The Dartington crystal, also supplied by the factory, resides in its own locker near a cocktail cabinet.

Collectively, these things make the Manhattan 56, the smallest model in Sunseeker’s motoryacht range, more like the popular Manhattan 64. The local agent admits they adopted many of the ideas for the 56 from its big brother after would-be owner feedback at various boat shows.

The 64 has been a big seller, but not everyone has $3.7 million to throw at a boat. This 56 costs more than a million less, yet it has almost as much space. And a full-width owners’ cabin.

A boat for people who prefer to live aboard, the new Manhattan’s interior flows for entertaining with the family or a large group of friends. There are currently four Manhattan 64s in Australia, but it’s my guess a lot more baby brothers will join them in the future.

I have been aboard various Sunseeker motoryachts over the years. In the early days, the boats weren’t finished to the standard I had come to expect of other UK boatbuilders. But in the last year, all that has changed.

Components such as hinges, catches, doors, taps, shower fittings and carpet on this 56 were all high-quality. The inside of lockers and the flip side of the hatches tend to be lined these days, not left as bare fibreglass. In signature Sunseeker fashion, the fibreglass mouldings are futuristic and fair.

While the interior design is the work of one Ken Freivokh, just about every aspect of the boat is fed through computers. CNC routers and robotics are used to ensure things are cut to fit and don’t need fairing. The devil is very much in the detail of things like the timbers, which are grain and colour matched.

Considering the limited amount of work needed for predelivery, the boats must be well put together. Out of the box, there were no rattles, mismatched liners, dodgy hinges or loose screws on this 56. Basically, it’s a matter of cut the plastic wrap, perform the engine checks, fuel up and go.

Construction meets CE approval and the hand-laid GRP hull has stitched multi-axial rovings with a single-skin bottom and balsa-cored deck and topsides. Stiffening comes via stringers, bulkheads and floors.

The hull is one of Don Shead’s, a designer noted for superyachts among other craft. As with all Sunseekers, the boat has half tunnels, four-blade props, high-performance rudders and aggressive chines for lift. The engines are in a close-coupled vee-drive configuration.

I toured the engineroom with Danny Horvat, a professional skipper from Australian Super Yacht Management. Among the things he likes about it are the great access to the strainers, fuel filters and fuel shut-offs (inside and outside the engineroom), and the terrific access to the Mathers control boxes.

The fact that the engineroom is white and there’s lots of room under the 800hp Caterpillar motors allows you to nip oil leaks in the bud. The double air intakes for the motors go straight to the air filters on the turbos, ensuring they stay cool. Should the worst eventuate, the boat has been designed with a pop-out floor, so you can have the engines out in a day.

Because the motors are mounted aft, fuel and water tanks are positioned forward to offset their weight. There is an auto firefighting system, but no air shut-offs. But to prove commercial standards can be met, four Sunseekers are currently cruising around in NSW survey.

The engineroom has full headroom, permanent 24V extractor fans, and a 16kVa Kohler generator with silent underwater exhaust that feeds the six air-conditioning units. There is good access to all sides of the genset, which has its own filter, plus a 24-12V split-charging alternator.

Numbered and coded, the wiring is linked to a junction box and passed through a common duct running through the boat. The bowthruster, freshwater pressure system, and Vacuflush loos all run off a 24V circuit.

One also notices in the engineroom that just about everything of any significance is labelled. From the hydraulic unit to starboard to the boat’s 12/24V battery system, all of it is tagged and easily located on expanded diagrams in the manuals.

The owners’ manual, a weighty tome in itself, is packaged with spares ranging from globes to fuses and filters. There is also a tool kit, boat hook, mooring ropes, fenders and even a towel set.

Where better to start than the submersible hydraulic boarding platform? This is something Captain Horvat, who drives a Sunseeker Predator for its Sydney owner, believes is a godsend. Both tenders and tykes love the platform. It can carry a RIB around 3m in length or a rabble of kids who prefer to frolic in the shallows on the semi-submersed teak slats.

Nearby are the swim ladder, hot and cold handheld shower, and a locker hiding the 20m shorepower lead and freshwater marina connection. An alarm prevents you starting the motors with the swim platform down. A nice safety feature.

Moulded steps lead either side of the platform to the cockpit proper. The arrangement lets you access the boat with or without its tender on the tail. The central door means the aft corner seats come with an infill. Add an aftermarket brushed-alloy table and chairs and you have a shaded full-width lounge and an al fresco dining area for six people.

The brightwork dotted about the deck includes trendy oversized cleats, handy cockpit grabrails and a metre-high bowrail with an intermediate wire. The latter item coupled with this boat’s wide and flat sidedecks, formed almost like bulwarks, make this boat a breeze to get around.

This is just as well because there is a double-sized sunpad up front and lots of flat non-skid foredeck space upon which guests can mingle at anchor or chat when idling about the harbour or bay. Those high rails add to the security of what amounts to a separate forward entertaining deck.

Also on deck are lots of courtesy lights, a stainless steel rubrail, Delta anchor and 24V capstan ready to roll. The stainless steel pantograph wipers with freshwater washers keep the safety-glass windscreen clean, while a remote spotlight aids anchoring at night.

Add this to the 56’s contemporary deck mouldings and cool raked bridge with trendy superyacht-esque radar arch and you have a boat that not only looks good but whose decks can cater for all occasions.

Back aft, a hatch under the cockpit lounge and a ladder lead to the full-width utility room. Usually reserved as crew quarters, the storeroom has a washer/dryer and freezer, hot-water service, and space to stow six months’ worth of provisions. There is an outlet for hooking up power tools, too.

A moulded stairwell – with a big cutout so you won’t bang your noggin on the way up – is the only access to the bridge. Sensibly, the importer elected to go open-plan inside the boat and delete the visually-intrusive internal bridge ladder.

The first thing to strike you in the bridge is the huge wraparound, low-slung, apartment-like lounge to port. With twin drinks tables, you can seat 8-10 guests. Other times, the backrest on the lounge hinges forward to create an extra big sunpad atop the bridge overhang.

Behind the copilot seat to starboard is an amenities centre with sink, 12/24V fridge and an icemaker. The door from the internal ladder is sealed with a cushion to make a kind of quasi second sunpad.

A small ceramic griddle was located in a console alongside the helm – one hopes no one sits on it while it’s still hot. The skipper has a bench seat big enough for two. The compact console is fitted with repeater 7in navigation screens, a stereo remote, a bowthruster control, Mathers electronic shifts and a sports wheel.

Despite being a 56-footer, the boat is breeze to drive. But in my view it’s best berthed from the internal helm station, where the vision through the saloon out the big stainless steel framed sliding saloon doors to the transom is better.

Left open, those saloon doors bring the outside inside. When closed, the Manhattan 56 is very much a private motoryacht. It has three cabins and two heads including, remember, that full-width master cabin. But first you must pass through the airy and elegant saloon.

Bone-coloured berber carpet and white leather lounges, black-and-gold Roman blinds, warm cherrywood joinery, light headliners and chrome or stainless steel rimmed downlights set the mood. The leather lounge to port is big enough for three or four people and rather opulent.

Opposite is the new galley up on the saloon level and way better than the original tucked down below. Being near the saloon doors, the galley will work for entertaining, too.

My only complaints are that the berber carpet is buff-coloured – don’t spill the canapes! – and that the galley is a fore-and-aft counter that’s difficult to operate at sea. Mid-passage lunches will put prawn rolls in place of the French onion soup.

Though not huge, the black granite benchtops add to the sophistication of the saloon. They harbour a recessed circular sink, a Bosch four-burner ceramic hotplate – no fiddle rails – and an extractor fan. But the Panasonic convection microwave will take care of most things, along with a half-sized fridge, pull-out garbage bin, and generous cupboard space.

Air-conditioning outlets, three opening electric windows and the big sliding saloon door ensure the living area is well ventilated whether cooking or cruising. The boat’s entertainment centre, with crockery cupboard and crystal glasses, is mounted in a return before the upper saloon.

On an upper level behind the windscreen to port is a lounge with a cherrywood dinette big enough for six people. The lounge faces a flat-screen television linked to a DVD surround-sound system that pops up from a timber cabinet. You can dine and enjoy the views, cruise and watch TV, or kick back and chat to the skipper alongside at the lower helm station.

Signposted by a blue leather Besenzoni helm chair with push-button adjustment, the lower helm is the best spot to drive the Manhattan 56. The boat drives like a limo and is responsive enough, thanks to big rudders, to be controlled on the wheel as well as the throttles.

The sportswheel, Mathers electronic controls and Raymarine electronics also make for hands-free or low-effort boating. Sunseeker Australia upgraded the radar and chartplotter, but the bowthruster and big stainless steel trim tabs are standard issue.

The tabs come in handy for maintaining your view when low-speed cruising, arm out the electric window, or tucked inside in winter with the reverse-cycle air-conditioning running. The walnut and low-glare grey dash look the part, more space-age or aeronautic than yacht in style. How quaint, a cigar lighter. Make mine a Cuban.

The Oz-designed Sunseeker 56 has three cabins and two heads via a not inconsiderable internal modification. The master cabin in the bow becomes the VIP guests’ cabin, the second cabin to port becomes the owners’ ensuite and doubles as a dayhead, and with the galley up, the aft cabin stretches full width.

Down five steps from the saloon and leading off a foyer area, the aft cabin is my reason for buying this boat. It’s over 4.50m wide with headroom of more than 1.85m except for an area over the queen-sized cot.

The Manhattan 56 is the only boat in this size bracket – aside from an aft-cabin cruiser – that I recall having a full-width owners’ cabin. Located somewhere near amidships, the owners get stability, privacy and quiet.

Off to the side of the bed are cherrywood drawers and cupboards, a long leather lounge, and a sideboard or dressing area adjoining more timber lockers. You could mount a laptop on the deck top.

A separate Sharp flat-screen television is on the wall facing the bed, which has more drawers in its base, and nearby is a cedar-lined wardrobe ready to swing the blue blazer.

A gold-and-cream quilted bedspread, mirrors and bedhead, gold curtains, and gorgeous lighting enhance the atmosphere. Air-conditioning and opening ports let you dial up a climate to suit.

Some owners mightn’t fancy their ensuite doubling as a dayhead. The solution is to lock the second door and tell your guests to use the forward head.

At either end of the boat, the bathrooms are pleasantly removed.

Both ensuites feature black-ice Avonite counters, Vacuflush loos, and full shower stalls with well-sealed doors that can be locked when underway. Full marks for the extractor fan and the groovy fittings including the multiple showerheads that give an all-over body wash.

On the port side is a kids’ or crew cabin with a narrow top bunk, but there is a wide bottom bunk that can sleep an adult. Even this small cabin comes with its own flat-screen television and is high on headroom, though there isn’t much in the way of storage space.

But the Manhattan 56 has a wonderful VIP guests’ cabin in the bow whose island double bed was topped in a striped-gold bedspread. There are surrounding lockers that form a classy curved cherrywood border, a hanging locker, drawers and floor space to dress. And another flat-screen television and air-conditioning controls.

A great cruiser for two couples or a family of four, the Manhattan 56 very nearly got my vote for the best imported cruiser of the year. I love the way in which two couples can lose themselves indoors. It really is a sleeping beauty. Oh, and a great drive too.

Despite riding flatter than some of Don Shead’s other designs, the Manhattan 56 still responds to a touch of in-trim. With the nose down, I had perfect vision from the lower helm while hightailing it down a busy harbour.

But whether you drive up top or down below, the 56-footer is nimble. Its bowthruster and finger-tip electronic controls take care of close quarters parking. Sunseekers are handy offshore, too. The boat didn’t shudder at the prospect of tackling some messy stuff.

In fact, the 30,000kg (fully laden) hull handled the 20kt sea breeze and 1.5m swell with spilling white horses with aplomb. The boat remained dry, quiet and smooth. It’s very much a gentleman’s cruiser.

At 1600rpm, where the boat could hold plane at 14.7kt, the big 800hp Cats were barely purring. The turbos seemed happier, however, at 1750rpm where the boat made headway doing 18.7kt. According to Caterpillar, the 3406E engines make full power and torque at 1800rpm.

With the trim tabs up the boat surfed through the heads doing 25kt at 2000rpm. Top speed was 30.8kt at 2370rpm, but at such revs the big straight sixes will consume 153lt/h a side, says Caterpillar.

To me, the Manhattan 56 feels like a slippery boat and its sleek profile benefits sea-handling and stability. The hull stays on an even keel and virtually drives itself. It would have been easy to head interstate. Fuel capacity is 2500lt.

Since the first Aussie-designed 56 was imported here in January, the English factory has apparently taken orders for three boats from Euro buyers won over by the new specification. Yet again, we have beaten the Brits at their own game.


  • The full-width owners’ cabin is to die for, the VIP guests’ cabin in the bow is huge and private, and the indoor and outdoor lounges make this a great entertainer.
  • Forward dinette and seating opposite the lower helm make for a social passagemaker.
  • Aft galley will better feed the masses at anchor.
  • Good engineering.


  • Saloon carpet butting up to galley won’t wear too well.
  • No lights in the hanging lockers.
  • Small top bunk in kids’ or crew cabin.
  • Griddle on bridge is too exposed.
  • Engineroom needs additional plumbing to meet survey.

Boat Specifications:  56 Sunseeker Manhattan

Sunseeker Manhattan 56

Options Fitted Generator upgrade, air-conditioning upgrade, bridge fridge, custom layout with new galley up, entertainment centre, electronics and more

Priced from: As above with full inventory


Material: Fibreglass with composite balsa decks

Type: Modified-vee planing hull

Length (overall): 18.65m

Beam: 4.59m

Draft: 1.30m (inc. props)

Deadrise: n/a

Weight: 26,700kg (half load)


Berths: Six

Fuel: 2500lt

Water: 750lt


Make/Model: Twin CAT 3406E

Type: In-line six-cylinder diesel engine w/ turbocharging and aftercooling

Rated hp: 800hp each @ 2300rpm

Displacement: 14.6lt

Weight: 1586kg

Gearbox (Make/ratio): ZF 2.092:1 V-drives

Props: Four-blade NAB bronze

“We were most impressed with how you always returned our calls and emails, put up with our constant change in plans and always put our interests first.”

We are now on our 40′ Albin in New Bern, North Carolina and are very happy with everything! The trip here was not easy and you have been working with us for over four months and I am sure we were not the easiest buy you ever had. Many thanks for all your help. We were most impressed with how you always returned our calls and emails, put up with our constant change in plans and always put our interests first. Thanks again, Joe. You have been great!… [read more]

- Ted & Peggy Hudson // 40' Albin Owner

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