By: Rick Layzell
In February, the world watched with great excitement as Mercury Marine proudly unveiled their brand new, largest in the business (by over 40% in HP), 600 HP V12 outboard engines. Given that Mercury’s previous king of horsepower was the veritable 450, the 600 Verado platform is brand new from the prop to the top. As I watched the company’s leaders beam with joy over the announcement of their latest creation, I may have jokingly inquired as to when we at BoatBlurb and BoatDealers.ca could anticipate a test. Little did I know that the invite would land on our proverbial door step a mere 5 months later with an opportunity to test the first 600’s to arrive in Canadian waters.
Being an admitted lover of outboard engines and a passionate researcher, I dutifully went to Mercury’s website to learn as much as I could before we made our way to the water. Following are my Top 5 standout features of the new V12’s:
7.6L, 1,260 lbs (572 KG) and 150 amp alternator
Runs on 87 octane and 200 hours between oil changes
Automatic 2 speed transmission – say what?!
Independent steerable gearcase – come on now!
Next generation digital throttle & shift and Joystick Piloting for Outboards (JPO)
Our test would take place with a pair of the new V12’s skillfully affixed the transom of the Tiara 43 LE. Brand new engines on the back a brand new model in a brand new series from Tiara – somebody pinch me!
Now, onto the first impression. Size matters – boasting 461 cc of displacement in a 7.6L package in a V12 design these are stout engines. On the transom of a 43’ Tiara the pair were not at all over sized and appeared like they were designed for that exact layout.
The top of the engine cowl opens to reveal access to necessary fluid checks – so simple. Thanks in part to the use of Mercury’s full synthetic engine oil, oil changes need only happen every 200 hours and the entire top cowl need not come off for more in-depth maintenance until 1,000 hours or 5 years of operation.
Helm electronics have gone next level with Joystick Piloting for Outboards that simplify handling, make docking a breeze and provide great control of the boat in close quarters. And that’s just part of Mercury’s overall SmartCraft suite which is all about integrating technology to improve your boating experience.
One of the forever first impressions for me is the sound. Mercury claims that both noise and vibration levels on these V12’s are on par with their V8 300’s. So I put that claim to the test when I stood between the 2 engines purring at 740 RPM and shot video with me speaking in an intentionally low voice. They were right. If I was blown away by how quiet they are at idle, and I was, then I was truly in awe when we lit those engines up and had them pushing a 22,100 lb (10,024 kg) boat at 54.9 mph. I can say with confidence that guests sitting on the rear seat of that Tiara could have had a conversation at normal levels while we were at speed – there was more natural wind noise than there was engine noise. And vibration – what vibration?
Some comments have been raised over the independent steerable gearcase because what that means is that the powerheads never turn. After driving outboard motors of all shapes and sizes for over 30 years does this seem a little different? Perhaps a little unnatural even? Yes, for about 30 seconds it does. Then I quickly came to appreciate the logic behind the concept. The powerhead is where the bulk of the weight rests, and while I am not an engineer, this has to result in a better transition of overall power since the weight never shifts on the transom. Change is good.
The 2-speed transmission is designed to yield massive torque and acceleration in first gear, which we very evident with blistering hole shots. Once the boat is on plane there is a silent shift into 2nd gear where all that new technology becomes focused on cruising speed, efficiency, and a rocking fun top speed. We hit 54.9 mph in a 22,000 lb (10,000 kg) yacht. I would call that mission accomplished!
There is an incredible amount of outside-the-box thinking here from Mercury’s R&D teams. Clearly the market demand for outboard horsepower is continuing to rise and Mercury has raised the bar in every appreciable manner. If you’re a tech buff you will love what SmartCraft brings to the table with the technology under the hood. If you’re all about power, these V12’s will certainly not disappoint. And if you appreciate a streamlined sexy engine design, you’re in for all the right feels.
For me, I was left with an all-day ear to ear smile and an incredible, awe inspired first impression. Congratulations to all at Mercury Marine who played a role in every meticulous step of the engineering, design, development and testing on a job well done.