The Formula 34 Performance Cruiser is an upscale performance cruiser designed to deliver comfortable weekending as well as the speed and handling of a sportboat. She comes loaded with standard equipment, including an electric windlass, remote control search light, radar arch, Bennett tabs, fire suppression system and an 18,000 BTU cool/heating system. She sleeps four, two in a master suite, two more in the convertible salon. Powered with twin 380 MerCruiser 8.2 MAGs, our test boat reached 48.3 mph.
- Imron standard graphic in A or B
- Two cockpit-coordinated vinyl deck sun pads with adjustable chaise backrests, DriFast foam and 316L rails
- Transom shower with hot and cold controls
- Clarion dash-mounted stereo control with six speakers
- Port and aft U-shaped lounge seating with storage and two color-coordinated dual-height cockpit tables and sun pad inserts
- Color-coordinated molded wet bar with integrated sink, Corian countertop, pullout refrigerator
- Bimini top with front and side curtains with easy-mount zippers, and extended aft enclosure in color-coordinated Sunbrella fabric
- Forward stateroom with privacy curtain, a centerline bed with Sensus memory foam mattress, pillow shams, storage below and individual reading lights
4.27 m (max)
Acceleration Times & Conditions
|Time to Plane||4.1 sec.|
|0 to 30||12.8 sec.|
|Props||15.5 X 24P LH SS 4 BL Front 14 X 24P RH SS 3 BL Rear|
|Load||2 persons, 1/2 fuel, no water, 50 lbs. of gear|
|Climate||78 deg., 75 humid.; wind: 5-10 mph; seas: calm|
2 x 380-hp MerCruiser 8.2 MAG
2 x 380-hp MerCruiser 8.2 MAG ECT Bravo III X DTS
2 x 380-hp Volvo Penta V8-380CE Duoprop EVC
2 x 300-hp Volvo D4-300 Duoprop Diesel EVC
The mission of the 34 Performance Cruiser is to combine the Formula boat brand of handling capabilities and speed in a large boat with comfort features that experienced boaters are looking for when entertaining, weekend cruising, or taking longer excursions. For this Formula developed the “Performance Cruiser” line (PC) many years ago and it has thus far proved a successful addition to their fleet. Let’s see how the 2016 version of the 34 Performance Cruiser stacks up.
High-Quality, Fair Hull Surface. This means that the boat's hull was sanded by hand with consummate care, because 5-axis routers can only do so much. Likewise, Formula's molds are treated like gold. They will not be found sitting out in the back 40 exposed to the elements as we often note at many boat factories.
Superior Hull Laminate. Most brands in the premium category of which Formula is a world leader look pretty good these days under close scrutiny -- but occasionally there are some surprising exceptions. Looking at the 34 Performance Cruiser’s hull from the side showed no wash-boarding or distortion whatsoever. We couldn’t see any telltale bulge from the interior ribs or bulkheads.
Built-in Wal-Vac. How else is one to clean up the crumbs from crackers and potato chips? Small vacuum sweepers take up space, often foul up the autopilot compass, and are cumbersome. This system has easy-access bulkhead plug-ins.
316 Stainless Steel Hardware and Rails. Virtually all builders say that they use stainless steel hardware, and they do. The trouble is that stainless steel comes in a number of grades, 316 being the most expensive used in marine applications because of its high corrosion resistance. Saying "300 Series" is a dead giveaway that 316 is not being used. Because it is so much more expensive, our experience is that builders like Formula which use it, flaunt it -- 316 is the number to look for.
Extended Integrated Swim Platform. This not only adds to the usable space to enjoy the platform, but keeps the sharp edges of the outdrive well clear of any swimmers boarding from the concealed ladder. Formula includes a transom shower with hot and cold running water as standard.
Displacement. When we compared the Formula 34 Performance Cruiser with seven other boats in class we quickly discovered that they fell into two distinctive groups: Group A -- three boats with displacements around 16,000 lbs. (7,272. kgs.) and, Group B -- five boats with dry weights from 2,500 lbs. to nearly 4,000 lbs. (1,136 to 1,818 kgs.) less. That 16% to 25% less displacement for Group B is significant. Clearly these two groups of boats are meant for different missions, with the three boats in Group A clearly designed for more serious work, particularly for running offshore and cruising.
Beam. Only one boat in class was slightly beamier than the Formula 34 Performance Cruiser (and was also the heaviest), four others were almost as wide, and three were decidedly more narrow. Beam provides room, stability, and a better ride. More narrow boats are easier to push.
Deadrise. The other most dramatic dichotomy in the general specs among the eight boats studied was the deadrise angle of the bottom at the transom. Here, four boats joined the 34 Performance Cruiser at the low end – 18 to 19-degrees, while the other four were 20-degrees or more. This says to us that the 34 Performance Cruiser's 18-degree deadrise is designed to maximize the boat's fuel-efficiency and speed while providing a bit more buoyancy in the stern.
The Formula 34 Performance Cruiser is not inexpensive. One of the reasons for that is the fact that she includes many, many items as standard equipment that most builders offer as options. Many of these items are necessary for cruising or safe boat operation, so consumers comparing prices should carefully match apples-with-apples on the equipment list. Following is a list of standard items that caught our eye as being at least a bit out of the ordinary on a standard list, even for a premium boat.
Deck, Hull, and Mechanical
Electric Windlass. This is a standard feature and Formula includes 200’ (61 m) of all-chain rode, a chain counter at the helm, a polished stainless anchor and a handheld remote control. All boats in class should have all of this equipment, but few include it all as standard. We particularly like the chain counter when anchoring at night.
Polished Remote Control Searchlight. Typically an item always residing on the options list. Great for locating you parking spot in the mooring field or lighting up reflective channel markers. Again, it is there because Formula expects that people who buy its boats will actually go out and cruise at night.
Ten Formula Cast Cleats. The cleats have the Formula logo cast into them. Not a big deal but indicative of the lengths this company will go to ensure that its boats are finished to perfection. The 34 Performance Cruiser has ten of these cleats, not the 6 to 8 we usually see on premium boats in class.
Bennett Trim Tabs. These are hydraulic and not electric as most builders are installing these days. The system includes LED indicators.
Radar Arch with Mast and Light. This is part of the standard equipment package. It is a great place to mount all manner of electronic equipment without getting in the way.
Versatile Trunk Storage. At the swim platform, there is trunk storage with molded inserts that hold four fenders (two upright, two laying down), storage for cocktail tables and cushions, plus hangers for lines. It’s held open with gas struts.
Automatic Discharge Engine Room Fire Extinguisher. Another item often set as an option but one we’d never want to be without. The boat comes standard with an engine room fume detector, another "must-have" item on our list.
Double-wide Helm and Companion Seats. At the helm, we can have a second set of eyes looking ahead. The double-wide companion seat faces the helm which is necessary to get the headroom necessary for the stand-up shower stall below. This is not our preferred layout on deck, but we and most women we know very much like the separate shower below because it keeps the rest of the head dry. Every boat has a compromise and here it is on the 34 Performance Cruiser.
Digital Depth Sounder. This is part of the standard equipment package. And it’s one of the most looked at gauges on the panel.
Garmin GPS. The 34 Performance Cruiser comes standard with a Garmin GPS with color chartplotter.
All-Weather Cockpit Seating. We hate sitting on a wet cushion -- and it’s not going to happen for long on the 34 Performance Cruiser. With DriFast foam that allows water to flow right through to drain holes underneath, cushions dry out in a jiffy. Formula has upholstered it with marine-grade vinyl covered with PreFixx stain inhibitor and stitch it together with Tenera UV resistant thread and, voila, a seat as good as any and better than most in the marine industry.
Wet Bar. It includes an integrated sink, Corian counters, trash container, and safety rail.
Standard Head. Formula installs the VacuFlush head with a 40-gallon (151 L) holding tank and dockside pumpout. The shower is in a separate shower stall with an acrylic door, which is a bit unusual in this size boat.
Aft Swim Platform. The swim platform is one of the signature amenities for these Formula Performance Cruisers. Measuring 9’10” wide and 2’6.5” deep, it has a four-step stainless steel reboarding ladder concealed in a hatch with gas-assisted struts in the middle of the platform. The hatch is self-draining.
Aft-facing lounge. The 34 Performance Cruiser has aft-facing seating just above the swim platform as well, sitting atop the rear storage trunk, and lifting easily when access is needed. This is a small feature unique in the Formula Performance Cruiser line.
Options for customizing the platform. The platform also has a few add-ons as options available. The decking can be upgraded to woodgrain vinyl in three different shades of teak ($3,810), and this can be extended to the cockpit deck as well ($13,315). Additionally, the platform can be extended ($9,300) and included a concealed swim seat with boarding step as well ($11,795).
There is also the option for a side mount pedestal to install a gas grill, which Formula also offers ($1,530).
The trunk is much more than an empty space to load stuff as noted above. It has mounts inside for two fenders to rest vertically and two more lay down just ahead of those. There are pedestal holders for the cockpit tables and the sunpad cushions. The lid is held open by two gas struts.
To the port bulkhead is a stereo remote and a hot/cold shower. The large transom door opens in as it should on this size boat.
The transom door that leads into the cockpit is fitted with a micro-switch that prevents the engine hatch from opening when the door is closed. The push of a button lifts the standard electrically-actuated engine hatch and once raised, it’s easy to appreciate the roominess of the engine compartment.
Ship Shape Treatment. We found everything neat-and-tidy here, and we mean everything. Even a cursory glance shows obvious signs of attention to detail. All electrical connections are sealed for a harsh saltwater environment, sea strainers are massive, all hoses double clamped. In the aft corners of this compartment, there is extra bracing molded into the hull/deck joint -- right where an errant captain may tag a piling on approach.
Versatile entertaining. U-shaped seating wraps around a pair of removable mounted tables with Corian tops inlaid into the surface. The Corian throughout the boat is offered in two different shades. As is familiar in Formula’s Performance Cruiser line, the tables in this cockpit seating area can be lowered and converted to a king-sized sunpad with the addition of the custom sunpad cushions.
Portside refreshment center. To port, there’s a wet bar, a trash receptacle and a standard cockpit refrigerator with a stainless steel door. This can be swapped out for a 120V cockpit icemaker ($600).
This cockpit is covered in an optional hardtop ($21,915) and we don't think it harms the looks of the 34 Performance Cruiser’s profile. The standard configuration is a radar arch and that’s important because this is a cruising boat and will likely have radar installed, a long-range antenna whip, or a TracVision M3DX Sat TV system. At the very least VHF and GPS antennas will need a place to call home. The optional hardtop comes with polished Bomar venting hatches and polycarbonate Lexan front connectors.
Helm seating. The helm features a double-wide wraparound seat with dual flip-up bolsters, and where in the past we’ve noted issues with flipping up the bolsters on Formulas, these worked flawlessly and easily. The design allows for comfort when seated and leaning-back-and-looking.
Helm dash and layout. The helm layout was textbook Formula with molded fiberglass dash that has a high gloss finish that comes in dark or charcoal woodgrain for the dash panels. It has a Ritchie compass, Garmin 547 GPS color chartplotter, digital depth sounder, auxiliary 12V outlet, tilt steering wheel in leather wrapped stainless steel all standard. The GPS can be upgraded to a variety of Raymarine GPS that have add-ons like widescreen ($2,220-$7,380), HD radar and depth sounder ($15,340), and SmartPilot autopilot system ($26,100).
Optional joystick. The Ilmor one-touch joystick control comes optional ($20,315) and is a huge improvement in ease of maneuverability. Many new boat owners may find navigating a large “performance cruiser” like the 34 Performance Cruiser daunting; with the joystick, docking and negotiating tight spots comes much more easily.
Engine controls were mounted on the 45-degree angle, but it wasn’t so bad as these were digital throttles and worked effortlessly. Just ahead of the engine controls were the trim tab rockers and the Axius Joystick.
To the left of the Ilmor stick was a joystick for the remote spotlight, and a digital depth gauge was just ahead on the upper panel. At the top of the left side panel are the fuel gauges. To the right are the trim tab gauges and a chain counter for the all-chain anchor rode.
Portside on the Helm Deck. To port is a double-wide seating lounge that allows forward or aft-facing seating or simply sitting up and facing the helm. Just forward between the helm and the portside seating are the molded steps up through the windshield pass-through to the bow.
Access to the bow sunning platform can be had, as mentioned, through the windshield walkthrough, or via the side decks. These decks are narrow, but accompanied by grab rails their entire length, extending all the way up to the bow.
Sunning on the bow. The bow has two vinyl sunpads that are coordinated in color with the rest of the cockpit décor. These sunpads are made of DriFast foam, and can recline fully or prop up to act as a chaise lounge.
Electric windlass. As mentioned, the 34 Performance Cruiser comes with an electric windlass anchor, hidden in a hatch fore of the sunpads. It has 200’ of anchor rode that’s all chain, a chain counter in the helm, polished stainless steel anchor and freshwater anchor washdown system.
The first thing you notice in Formula Performance Cruiser’s cabins is the space -- for a 36’ boat, there seems to be more than would be possible. This is due in part to the headroom. On the 34 PC, it comes to 6’8”, which opens up the area considerably upon entering. Between the main salon, the rear lounge, and single stateroom, the 34 Performance Cruiser can sleep six comfortably.
A curved couch to starboard has mountable, removable tables in three sections, which gives versatility for any number of entertaining seating configurations. Just like in the cockpit, these tables lower to convert to a berth with their custom cushions attached.
Ultraleather is everywhere on the upholstery and is soft, luxurious and comfortable. But in a unique move Formula also added a strip of Ultrasuede to the lumbar support on the couches -- these touches make the conversion to berths that much more comfortable and less like a couch posing as a bed. The Ultraleather options for the cabin are Parchment and New Sand.
Rear lounge space. Aft of the dining area and galley, just behind the cabin access stairs, is a lounge space that can mount a small cocktail table. This too converts to a berth via the same methods as the cockpit and salon convertibles.
Forward is an island berth with steps to both sides to allow easy access. The berth is queen-sized with Sensus memory foam mattress. Mirrored cabinets to both sides are attached to doors on the cedar hanging lockers. Underneath are separate bags that hold the Lexan windscreens that install between the windshield and hardtop. Underneath are drawers for additional storage. Above are two hatches that offer both privacy and bug screens. The stateroom also has a privacy screen when entertaining more guests.
To port in the cabin is the full galley with some clever design elements that maximize the space.
The stemware storage cabinets project LED lighting downward onto the glasses adding an interesting effect to the cabinets. Glass doors enhance that effect further. Below is another cabinet that houses the Krups coffee maker in a dedicated storage compartment. A microwave and refrigerator/freezer are standard. An opening portlight is just above the double burner stove, which is concealed under a Corian latch that automatically switches the range off when closed.
The counters are solid Corian and as food is being prepared, the counter can be cleaned off right into the flush mounted trash receptacle. To the right of the counter is additional stemware storage. Below is a cabinet that has the water control to cycle between onboard or city water and a fire extinguisher.
The cabinetry in the test boat was finished in an attractive wood veneer that comes in Bourbon Cherry, Ash and Wenge. The Corian countertops come in Ravine and Shoreline colors. Corian is used by most major builders instead of granite because it is not so brittle, is easy to repair, and weighs less.
Décor pillows, window treatments and bed coverings can come in a number of different colors and types, many of which compliment the exterior hull color. Formula was one of the first builders to offer designer treatments such as Ralph Lauren custom décor, quilted bedspread, pillow shams, bed linens and custom-woven towels.
The head is sizable and surprisingly, it is not a wet head. It includes a separate shower stall enclosed by an acrylic door. The toilet is a VacuFlush plumbed to a 40-gallon (151 L) holding tank. A mirrored medicine cabinet has a door that opens garage style. The countertops are Corian, in fitting with the rest of the boat.
Air Conditioning/Heating. The below decks area is cooled with the 18,000 BTU reverse-cycle air conditioning system that comes standard. That can be plugged into shore power or powered by the optional 7.5 kW Kohler LOW-CO gas generator ($16,825).
The reverse-cyle A/C system will produce heat as well and will keep the cabin toasty in all but the most severe conditions.
Electronics amenities. The lower cabin comes standard with a 32” LED/LCD HDTV that can play DVDs and Blu-rays and has a dockside access cord. It also has a Clarion AM/FM/CD stereo with an iPod docking station, Bluetooth and two 6” x 9” speakers. The stereo is also Sirius Satellite radio-ready, needing only your subscription. The cabin also has a built-in WalVac system that makes cleaning a simple, quick task.
Engine Options. The Formula 34 Performance Cruiser comes with a choice of four different engines:
- Ilmor Twin MV8 6.0L OPS 380 One Drive
- MerCruiser Twin 8.2 MAG ECT 380 Bravo Three X DTS
- Volvo Penta Twin V8-380CE 6.0L Duoprop EVC
- Volvo Penta Twin D4-300 Duoprop Diesel EVC
Handling and Performance
WOT Speed. We tested the 34 Performance Cruiser on a hot and humid day. She was powered by a pair of 380-hp MerCruiser 8.2 MAGs driving Bravo III outdrives. Her tested weight was 17,548 lbs. (7,976 kgs.). We reached a top speed of 48.3 mph at 4900 rpm. This gave us a fuel burn of 66.25 gph.
Best Cruise. Dialing it back to a more economical 3500 rpm turned in a 32.5 mph speed. That generated a 31.85 gph fuel burn meaning a range of 189 miles with the 206-gallon tank topped off and holding back a 10% reserve. Time to plane was 4.1 seconds and time to 30 mph was 12.8 seconds.
Handling was just like we've come to expect from a Formula. She took to the maneuvers just like… well, a performance cruiser. Even though she is one of the heavier boats in class her 18-degree deadrise bottom at the transom and her Bravo III drives kept her nimble and quick in response to the helm. I did find the 34 Performance Cruiser to be sensitive to weight distribution but nothing a shot or two on the trim tabs couldn’t correct with ease.
Trimming for Speed. This is an outdrive powered boat so a couple of shots of up trim had us properly running at a good clip. Hard turns at speed showed no ventilation and the boat rolled into the turns comfortably so nothing got thrown to the outside. Jumping wakes showed no spray coming over the bow and we tended to go through the waves rather than over them. All in all, it was a delightful experience handling this boat. There were no surprises.
Docking with Ilmor joystick is a non-issue. Folks moving up from a sportboat should have no reservations about docking…and that includes the wife and kids. In fact, we have found that wives are often better at using the joystick than their spouses at first, simply because they have a lighter touch, rather than a ham-handed one.
Joystick Caveat. Remember, this is not an arcade video game where one slams the joystick left and right to kill the alien invaders. Each time the stick is moved or twisted, mechanical gears are engaged as well as the throttle. Slow and steady, and using the boat's natural momentum, works every time. And just as with conventional throttles and shifts -- don't go any faster than one would want to hit the dock.
Options to Consider
One of the touchstones of Formula’s Performance Cruiser line is the ability to add-on, even considering the wealth of amenities that already come standard. Here are a few that stuck out in particular.
- Polished stainless LED bow docking lights ($900)
- Three blue LED underwater lights ($3,355)
- Bow thruster ($8,980)
- Cockpit hardtop with polished Bomar venting hatches and polycarbonate Lexan front connectors ($21,915)
- Polished stainless windshield frame ($9,105)
- Woodgrain vinyl decking on swim platform ($3,810)
- Woodgrain vinyl decking on swim platform and full cockpit ($13,315)
- Transom-mounted stainless propane grill with infrared technology, stainless shelf and carrying case ($1,530)
- VHF radio with antenna ($1,560)
- MerCruiser Axius Premier sterndrive docking system
- Volvo sterndrive joystick control ($18,720)
- Cockpit 24” LED/LCD HDTV/DVD combo player (available with the hardtop) ($2,380)
- JL Audio® blue LED-lighted chrome-finished cockpit speakers ($730)
- Cockpit heater ($1,520)
- Krups 5-speed blender ($275)
- Aft cabin 24” LED/LCD HDTV/DVD combo player ($1,545)
- 1,500W/120V cabin heater ($785)
- Electronic security safe ($600)
- Macerator discharge ($1,355)
- Gray water holding system ($480)
- Mercury SeaCore saltwater protection system
- Volvo OceanX saltwater protection system
- Engine freshwater flush system
- 8.5 KW Kohler diesel generator with sound shield & battery ($23,715)
The base boat price with the Volvo Penta Twin D4-300 Duoprop Diesel EVC comes in at $534,000, but consider that there are many options that may come as indispensable to you during the purchase phase.
Picking the Basic Group. As pointed out above, there seem to be two categories of express cruisers, the lighter ones (Group B) and those with significantly more displacement (Group A), which is where the Formula 34 Performance Cruiser resides. Clearly she is intended for more serious entertaining, and cruising, and is loaded to the gills with equipment, much of which is optional on Group B vessels. Not surprisingly Group A yachts are more expensive.
As is likely obvious, Formula boats are for connoisseurs of fine power yachts.
Other Decisions. There are still other decisions to make, such as which brand of engine to select, whether to go with a joystick or bow thruster (or neither), opting for the other major items not listed as standard.
Ultimately this comes down to what appeals to the consumer and what they are in the market for; Formula delivers on all of its promises as representative of “Group A,” but this clearly comes with a steep price tag indicative of a “best-of-the-best” approach, as opposed to a “bang for your buck” one.