The Signature 500BR is more of a family fun boat than a fishing rig, and is best suited to the occasional angler who is more into skiing/wakeboarding and day trips with the family. With a bit of strategic rod holder placement, you can also slip in a few fishing trips in a hull that will take you offshore or around the bay and islands in comfort.
The test boat, supplied by Boat Scene in Cairns, was fitted with a 90hp Suzuki four-stroke, which is the perfect combination of power and fuel economy. The 500BR is rated up to 115hp, but a 115hp Suzuki would only be needed by the serious skier or speed freak. The 90hp Suzuki pushed the Signature out to 59km/h, which is plenty fast enough for family boating.
For a 5m boat there is a stack of room. Features such as the under-lounge wet storage box, long deep side pockets and bow compartments mean there is a stack of storage to hold plenty of gear out of the way. Wide through-screen access to the bow lounge makes moving around the Signature a comfortable exercise. The layout means the family can sit up the front and enjoy the ride on those picture perfect days or move to the back for a comfortable trip home on a choppy afternoon.
Access over the stern, at the ramp, from the water, or on the trailer, is a breeze via the fold-down ladder on the port side. The wide back deck makes it safe and easy for anyone with normal mobility to step over the full height transom onto the rear lounge. The transom-mounted ski pole can be removed and replaced with a bait board when fishing is on the agenda.
The rear lounge can easily be removed, as can the large wet storage box underneath. It is the perfect place to store wet suits and snorkelling gear, or can double as a kill pen when fishing. It is easy to remove for thorough cleaning and allows access under the transom to get at the steering, battery, fuel filter and outboard mounts. The full height wrap-around backrest on the lounge makes it a very comfortable place to lay back and enjoy the ride.
The twin pivoting bucket seats are super comfortable and the helm seat has a slide to allow shorter people to adjust the position for comfortable driving. The Uflex non-feedback steering was super smooth and very responsive without being overly sensitive, making for relaxing driving. A couple of built-in drink holders leave hands free, and drinks handy, for leisurely cruising.
The dash holds standard Suzuki instrumentation of trim and tilt meter, speedo, tacho (with temp and oil lights) and fuel gauge, and a liquid dampened compass. A six-switch panel controls on-board electronics.
The wrap-around perspex screen has a wide fold forward mid-section, which gives comfortable access to the bow lounge and solid support for the screen in the open position. Support struts either side of the walk-through prevent damage to the screen when passengers use it for support. The passenger dash has a deep well, which is ideal for easy-to-access gear storage, or to fill with crushed ice to keep the drinks cold on a hot day on the bay.
The bow lounge will comfortably seat three but is perfect for two to lie back in the corners in wrap-around luxury and let the wind blow through their hair. A low profile bowrail and passenger grab handles allow passengers to hang on in the bumpy stuff. There is a stack of under seat storage for lifejackets and safety equipment.
The anchoring system is simple and functional, with a lock-down hatch on the ample sized self-draining anchor well. A split cross bollard, with lock pin, is mounted between the well and the small bow roller.
The renowned Signature Variable Deadrise Hull (SVDR) has the added feature of a step about a third of the way forward from the transom, which draws air under the hull, creating more lift at the stern and reducing drag. Care needs to be taken in trailer selection for the 500BR as the step is not well suited to having multi rollers only at the back of the trailer. They can catch on the step when launching, requiring the trailer to be submerged and the boat floated off, rather than rolled. Dropping the back rollers a bit and adding a keel roller solves the problem.
Signatures have a great reputation for comfort, and I have tested enough to know there was no need to go outside in the strong wind warning to test its sea handling capabilities, so we stuck to the Cairns Inlet’s nasty little chop to put the bowrider through its paces. The 90hp Suzuki had plenty of power, producing 19km/h (12mph, 10kts) at 3000rpm, 29km/h (18mph, 16kts) at 3500rpm, 35km/h (22mph, 19kts) at 4000rpm, 48km/h (30mph, 26kts) at 4500rpm, 53km/h (33mph, 29kts) at 5000rpm and topped out doing 59km/h (37mph, 32kts) at 5500rpm.
The Signature handled beautifully and could be put on full lock at full tilt without the slightest sign of letting go. The turns were so tight it produced serious Gs and you had to hang on to remain in your seat. The finish, like all Signatures, is top shelf, with comfort, durability and practicality paramount.
The Signature 500 BR is the perfect family fun boat, that looks as good as it goes, and will find plenty of smiling customers in the general leisure boating market.
Test boat supplied by Boat Scene in Cairns (ph. 07 4051 4922).
Length overall - 5.05m
Beam - 2.1m
Deadrise - 33-21 degrees
Fuel - 100L
Power - (single) 70-115hp
Max outboard weight - 200kg
Hull weight - 475kg
Towing weight - 1120kg
Boat, motor and trailer (BMT) length - approx 6.1m
BMT height - approx 1.87m
BMT width - 2.1m
Package price - from $33,000
For a 5m boat, the 500BR has plenty of room.
The Signature 500BR goes as good as it looks.
The wide walk-through screen makes it comfortable to move around the bowrider.
The compact dash has all the controls close at hand.
The rear lounge has a large wet storage box underneath. Both the lounge seat and the box are easy to remove for cleaning or to gain access under the transom.
The step draws air in under the hull to reduce drag at the stern.