For a reporter covering the high-performance powerboat beat, the 2015 Miami International Boat Show was as good as it gets, maybe even the best it’s ever been. In fact, it was so good that to keep my round-up of what was truly hot on the go-fast boat side of things in Miami to a manageable size I’m going to have to divide it in two parts: engines and boats.
Starting with engines, here are the three high-performance powerplants that made the biggest splashes in Miami this year.
Mercury Racing 1550
Dubbed the 1550, the latest offering in the Mercury Racing QC4v (quad-cam four-valve) engine is a dual calibration stern drive powerplant that boasts an advanced control system, which enables the operator to switch the engine's power level with an electronic key fob. The "Race" key fob enables the engine to produce 1,550 hp on 112 AKI race fuel, while the "Pleasure" key fob enables it to create 1,350 hp on 91 octane. Both fuel calibrations reportedly provide maximum torque and efficiency, and are designed to optimize the engine performance at each power level.
The electronic key fobs work in conjunction with Mercury's Theft Deterrent System (TDS), which disables the vessel when an assigned electronic key is not engaged. Both Race and Pleasure key fobs provide the operator with visual cues on an interactive Mercury SmartCraft VesselView display at the dash, and one key fob controls the horsepower output of multiple engines. According to press materials from Mercury Racing, the key fobs are not simply "valet keys" that "detune" the engine: "This is a fully integrated control system with switchable engine calibrations."
Features of the 9-litre 1550 engine include forged race pistons designed for 112 AKI race fuel, an intercooler filter with a stainless-steel element and housing designed for easy removal and cleaning, and an engine-mounted hot lead for ease in rigging to vessel battery isolators. The 1550 also debuts new styling, including attractive carbon-fiber top and front covers for the entire QC4v engine series.
According to the release, the engine comes with a 10-hour warranty at the 1,550-hp power level (at 2,000 rpm or above) or one year, "whichever comes first." The price of the 1550 has not yet been released.
Seven Marine 627 Outboard
OK, we all thought it was pretty cool when Seven Marine introduced its 557-hp V-8-based outboard engine—the most powerful outboard in the world by a lot—a few years back. This year, the company raised the bar even higher with the debut of the 627—that’s right, a 627-hp outboard offering. (Those of us who can remember when a 300-hp outboard was “big” are showing our age.)
The new 627 is based on the same all-aluminum GM LSA 6.2L supercharged and fuel-injected V-8 as the 557. According to a Seven Marine press release, the power level was increased through proprietary development of a new marine-specific, High-Turbulence Combustion chamber. Each 627 combustion chamber is precision-machined to exacting tolerances to create a unique combustion event that increases horsepower and delivers the big torque required for optimizing performance on large center-consoles.
The result is more than 600 foot-pounds of torque from 3,000 rpm through rated speed. At this level, developed horsepower is increased through the entire rpm range, dramatically improving acceleration and raising top speed potential. Seven Marine has also developed a proprietary ECM calibration to optimize top speed and midrange fuel economy. The rated speed of the 627 is 5,500 rpm, 100 rpm higher than the 557, which will assist in propeller selection. Fuel requirements for the 627 remain at a minimum of 89 octane plus 10 percent ethanol.
The 557 engines already featured custom paint options, but the Spectra-Blade design takes outboard styling to a new level. The new blade elements sculpt a unique profile creating more possible color combinations than ever before. Plus the new design provides style, customer individuality, and luxury, all while allowing the installation of subliminal LED lighting. With 615 completely waterproof LED lights creating a full spectrum of colors, the 627's SpectraBlade cowl looks as good at night as it does by day.
Mercury Racing 400R Outboard
Ever since the Mercury Verado series of four-stroke supercharged outboards was introduced in 2004, one joker or another has started a thread on a message board about a “400-hp Verado coming to the Miami show.” Well, this year that happened to be true -- and the message board clairvoyance can officially cease for good.
The highest-output offering in the Verado series, the 400R features a custom cold-air induction system for improved air flow and power development, while reducing intake noise for improved sound quality. The outboard's new water-cooled supercharger was designed to reduce intake temperatures and significantly increase air density. The hardware enhancement reportedly enables the engine to generate "unprecedented torque and unmatched acceleration all the way from the lower end of the power band up to the 7,000 rpm maximum engine speed." Designed to run on 91-octane fuel, the 400R is equipped with electronic knock control that enables it to run safely on 89-octane fuel if the higher-octane gasoline is unavailable.
The 400R is the first Verado outboard to be offered with the manufacturer's performance-oriented Sport Master gearcase. To enhance the performance gains of the Sport Master unit, the 400R boasts stainless-steel guide plates with composite wear pads on the "Advanced Midsection" for greater engine stability and improved handling at speed. (For more traditional applications in which more bow lift is desired, the engine is also available with the standard Verado 5.44-inch HD gear case.)
Incorporating Mercury's SmartCraft technology, the 400R is the first Verado compatible with Zero Effort Controls and Joystick Piloting for Outboards. JPO is compatible with the company's Auto Pilot with Skyhook "digital anchoring system" that works in tandem with a boat's GPS system.
On the aesthetic side, the Mercury Racing Verado 400R is offered in Cold Fusion white and the legendary Mercury Phantom Black. Cold Fusion white models come standard with Mercury Racing Blue accents. In addition, seven custom-color accent decal kits are available on Cold Fusion white models.