Elan’s new Impression 444 is born from the 434, a design that made an impression itself when it launched a successful line of big- volume cruisers in 2004
The newly launched Elan Impression 444 is born from the 434, a design that made an impression itself when it launched a successful line of big-volume cruisers in 2004.
Over 350 have since been sold, making it the Slovenian yard’s second most popular model to date.
The Elan Impression 444 is actually a rebranding rather than a successor. Using the same hull and deck, but cosmetically enhanced with more modern hull and coachroof windows, space for a dedicated solar panel and a swim platform on the transom.
The interior is largely the same, with a new veneer finish.
Conditions were not as idyllic for this test. We had the beautiful backdrop of Piran on Slovenia’s short coastline, but a Force 3 was not enough to give us a true idea of the Elan Impression 444’s sea-manners.
Still, she proved reasonably alert and responsive, making just over 6 knots close-hauled in only 8 knots true, and just under 6 in 6-7 knots.
Her 135 per cent genoa was certainly required in such conditions (One Sails’ basic Dacron), keeping her moving with the wind abaft the beam, making 4-5 knots.
She began to wallow a little at around 4 knots as the apparent wind dipped, but performance was creditable and she was reasonably nimble for her bulk.
The new twin wheels are a similar design to the carbon ones used on Elan’s sportier models, but made from glassfibre.
They squealed for some oil, but otherwise were very tactile, with the Lewmar chain sprocket to wire system providing adequate translation to the quadrant.
The balance also helped – we were able to set the sails, leave the wheel and let her sail herself.
While the helmsman can reach the genoa sheets on the Elan Impression 444, if the winches were half a foot further back it would make tacking short-handed easier.
The cockpit is reasonably comfortable, with nicely angled coamings and pushpit seats. It’s well protected, and there’s a handy step between cockpit and side decks, which breaks up an otherwise awkward height.
Elan Impression 444 sail-handling
A stack-pack main and genoa furler make for an efficient sail-handling system, including running rigging and genoa track controls led aft, plus a small traveller on the coachroof.
Unfortunately, the genoa halyard was locked off at the mast, with no block at the mast base to lead it aft to a winch, hence there was no means of tensioning a saggy genoa luff.
The upgraded 75hp Volvo saildrive (a D2 55hp is standard) produced 6.3 knots at 1,500rpm, 8 at cruising revs and 9 knots ﬂat out (2,800 rpm).
She was rather stubborn to turn going astern, requiring nearly two lengths, but the optional three-bladed Flexifold we had stopped her obediently, while she span in her own length going forward.
The test boat had the standard four-cabin interior in oak with walnut trim, but it is available with three cabins, with a larger owner’s cabin forward or aft.
Much was made of the new veneer and light colours in conjunction with the extra hull windows, but we found the medley of brown furnishings failed to create an inviting ambience.
And in terms of space and comfort (inside and out), the Elan Impression 444 can’t compare to the Bavaria Cruiser 45.
On the plus side, headroom and natural light are significant and she’s a safe boat to move around in.
The hull windows with their blinds in the saloon look smart. After that, compliments start to dry up.
Each cabin is on a different level, the fixtures and fittings left me cold, and the latches and switches don’t inspire confidence in their durability.
But with the saloon table converting to a double, the Elan Impression 444 can accommodate a small village (up to ten).
The test boat had a Pullman cabin (optional) to port, with a small heads opposite. In this guise the forward vee-cabin disappoints as a master, so the starboard aft would probably play this role for its en-suite virtues.
On deck of the Elan Impression 444
The deep cockpit with comfortable, angled benches is protected yet easy to walk through, and there’s a bridgedeck into the companionway.
The fixed table with a plotter neatly built into the after end makes for a stable supporting structure when heeled.
The swim platform lowers and lifts simply and manually on struts. It works, but looks fairly ordinary compared with the Bavaria’s.
A deep central sole locker and bench lockers provide good stowage.
The foredeck is a clean area, thanks to a sunken windlass, and has a double anchor roller (but no tack eye) and a pulpit seat.
Going forward, there are handrails at a sensible height on the coachroof and on the high sprayhood, plus good non-slip decking all over the boat.
Large cleats, but the midships ones can be prone to catching a flogging genoa sheet.
Below deck on the Elan Impression 444
A good comfortable area that can seat eight.
The table folds over and doubles in size, with fiddles and corner handholds, and also has telescopic legs so can lower to form a sizeable double berth.
The starboard sofa isn’t long enough to sleep on, but has a central fold-down drinks holder section.
Practical stowage is limited to the raised lockers and a deep locker between saloon and chart table
Well-apportioned L-shape with double sink and two lift-top fridges. Useful stowage below and a sturdy handrail.
Protection is good around the stove with a slide-over worktop cover, although stowage here is awkward.
Headroom is generous and there are two opening ports for ventilation.
Stowage in the galley is quite good, including a tin locker in the sole and four deep hullside lockers.
Natural light is excellent thanks to a large overhead hatch and there’s generous (6ft 4in) headroom.
A changing seat doubles as a useful step for getting onto the high berth, but with batteries and bowthruster beneath the aft part, stowage forward is inconvenient.
A tightish space, but with 7ft headroom this area does its utmost to compensate for the cramped forward heads, the shower being its trump card.
This has a comfortable seat, a hingeing Perspex door, a slide-out rail for excellent wet hanging and dedicated washboard stowage.
A shower head attachment point would help it achieve top marks.
The starboard side requires quite a limbo act to get through the tight (5ft 6in) doorway, slide in and around the cockpit moulding, and if you want then to get into the heads, tuck under this area and close one door in order to open the other!
Any such movement requires constant head-banging awareness.
The portside cabin (pictured) avoids some of these issues by providing a larger standing area, wardrobe and changing seat.
There’s good engine and steering gear access from both cabins.
Small table and comfortable seat, yet with no easy mounting space for a plotter screen.
The wiring is tidy, but unlabelled, and the conduits are run crudely through glassfibre.
However, there’s good stowage around and below the table.
Not a place you’d want to spend time.
Much smaller than any heads on the Cruiser 45, in fact it’s too tight even to sit down properly (and would require a Houdini act to retrieve some toilet roll from below the sink).
The positives are a good handrail, useful cupboard and a deep sink.
If anywhere calls out for a hull window, it’s here, as bunk cabins tend to be claustrophobic.
The headroom certainly helps, but it remains ‘friendly’ for two and stowage for a week would be tight. Plus the top bunk doesn’t fold and there are no leecloths.
First published in the October 2010 issue of YW.
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With this boat, I think the Slovenian yard have dropped off the pace. Crucially, other manufacturers (including Bavaria) have moved the goalposts in terms of space, interior design, functionality and comfort. With Humphreys Yacht Design, Elan certainly have the potential to stay in the game or even raise the stakes. By unveiling this ‘new’ boat, in many ways they’re merely showing the age of a seven year-old design. That said, the Elan Impression 444 is a voluminous cruising boat at an alluring price. It has a comfortable, protected cockpit; easy and reasonably nimble sailing qualities; and the ability to house ten people. It was a shame the winds were light, as she has a shape that suggests some manners in a swell. But with poor quality fixtures and finish, plus the fact that you gain very little more space over Elan’s new performance designs, I struggled to appreciate any more tangible USPs