Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Diamond DA40 XLS: Premier Edition

Premier Aircraft of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has created its own ultra version of the Diamond DA40 XLS

Those of us in the aviation press privileged to review new aircraft are sometimes taken to task for not being appropriately critical. The sentiment often seems to be, "If you're not finding things to dislike, you're not doing your job." That's more of a challenge with some airplanes than others. True, there are a few marginal designs, but some models are just too adorable to dislike. Think a husky puppy in a dog bowl or a kitten with a ball of string.

Or, think a Diamond Star. A few weeks ago at the Sun 'n Fun Fly-In in Lakeland, Fla., I wished I could take a Star home with me. Flying with Premier Aviation's Jeff Owen, I had an opportunity to renew acquaintances with the four-seat Diamond, and the experience was equal parts fun and joy.

I'm sorry, all you cynics out there, but the Diamond Star is an absolute ball to fly. Sure, it would be great if it could inhale sky at 3,000 fpm and rip along at Mach .80, but it's already the fastest certified four-seat single above the planet with only 180 hp bolted to the nose. It's also the only one with an aft door, the largest back seat, and arguably the quickest handling in the class.

Jeff Owens' 2011 demonstrator was a special airplane upgraded by Premier Aircraft of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Premier sells more Diamond Aircraft than any other dealer in the world, so it's not surprising that they understand what the Diamond customer wants. Strangely, the modified Star is known as the Premier Edition, and it features upgrades in a number of areas. More on the Premier model later.

Esthetically, the basic DA40 is an automatic winner. Anyone who can't appreciate the sheer grace and beauty of a Diamond Star may need to consider a dog and a white cane. All the Diamond designs are the result of a continuing effort to round off the edges of general aviation. They reflect the shaved-leg smoothness of composite surfaces; semi-sailplane, high-dihedral, high-aspect-ratio wings; waspish empennage and elegant T-tail—all of which lend the Star an aerodynamic elegance, surprisingly uncommon in its class.

Okay, while it's true a sexy design helps any airplane sell, grading an airplane on looks alone is like ranking NASCAR drivers on their knowledge of Chaucer. Fact is, the Star has the numbers to back up its appearance, and the airplane's performance and utility are only enhanced by the Premier mods. Jeff Owen explains: "We wanted to offer a package of options to improve a buyer's choices, and the Premier Edition includes several of those. We made it a point to incorporate functional items as well as comfort and cosmetics features."


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