Mercury and Suzuki roll out new engines

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Four new Mercury engines have hit the water: 75-, 90- and 115-hp 4-stroke outboards and a 4.5-liter 250-hp MerCruiser gasoline sterndrive.

Mercury's new 250-hp gas sterndrive was designed and manufactured in-house.

“These engines are the result of a tremendous amount of consumer research and development activity by [our] team, and we are proud to unveil them here and have you put them through their paces over the next couple of days,“ Kevin Grodzki, president of global sales and marketing, told about 40 journalists at a June press event that Soundings attended at Mercury headquarters in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.

For their horsepower, the new outboards tout a large displacement of 2.1 liters and a low weight of 359 pounds (20-inch shaft). The new 4.5-liter 250-hp engine is the first recreational gasoline sterndrive engine that Mercury has designed and built in-house.

“With outboards, we have always had the luxury of deciding what technology we wanted in our engines, and now we can do the same with our sterndrive engines,” says David Foulkes, vice president of product development, engineering and racing. “The direction of the auto engines was not fully serving our customers. We are now able to give them features that are built into the engine exclusively because they are marine engines.”

Case in point: The new MerCruiser‘s throttle body now faces aft instead of forward. “With the previous engines, the throttle body was always facing the driver and so was the noise that was being generated,“ Foulkes says. “Now we can direct that noise aft and away from the driver.“ (Mercury said last year that it would develop its own engines, separating itself from the automotive market.)

Pricing for the 250-hp V-6 MerCruiser was unavailable. Among the 4-strokes, the 75 has an MSRP of $9,235, the 90 runs from $9,665 to $10,030, and the 115 from $10,610 to $10,975. The higher-priced 90- and 115-hp models include the Command Thrust gear case. The Command Thrust models use the same bigger gear case housing as the Mercury 150 FourStroke but with a 2.38-to-1 ratio. The gear case provides more power for heavier boat applications. The outboards became available in June, and the gasoline sterndrive engine will go on sale in September.

I had a chance to demo Mercury‘s new outboard and sterndrive platforms, taking the helm of a Sea Ray 310 Sundancer with a pair of the new MerCruisers and the Axius joystick system. I also tried out the engine‘s Adaptive Speed Control, which automatically maintains a set rpm point, regardless of load or condition changes. While carving a few donuts and S-turns, the two tachometers held steady at my chosen 3,000-rpm setting.

The new 115-hp 4-strokes are available now.

The engines pushed the boat onto plane effortlessly and at a flat enough angle so I could see the horizon while seated. They are relatively quiet and accelerated nicely in the midrange. In the engine compartment, I saw that all of the maintenance points are within easy reach. Critical engine and maintenance information is posted on top of the engine, along with a QR code that Mercury calls the “Weekend Saver.”

“If an alarm goes off, such as it would for low drive lube, you scan the code and go to the [Mercury website], where you‘ll find out where the drive lube is located. You put a little lube in, and problem solved — no taking the boat to the dealer for help,“ says Daniel Clarkson, Mercury’s director of application engineering.

The three new 4-strokes have similar information posted under their cowlings. I also put a 115-hp 4-stroke through its paces on an M570 Mercury RIB. A Mercury technician warned me to “hold on to my hat” as I boarded the boat. I took off my hat, and it was a good thing I did. This was one of the fastest-accelerating small boats I‘ve ever driven. Immediate throttle response took the boat from 25 to 35 in a few seconds, and zero to 30 mph in roughly five seconds. It shifted in and out of gear smoothly. I put my hand on the cowling while it idled and felt only a weak vibration.

In other engine news, Suzuki unveiled a 4-cylinder 200-hp 4-stroke in June — the DF200A, the manufacturer’s first 200-hp 4-stroke — at a new model introduction and business meeting at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Florida. Suzuki says the inline engine gives boaters performance previously expected from a V-6.

The new design features a 175-cubic-inch “big block” and a higher compression ratio for greater acceleration and low-end torque, according to the company. The outboard features Suzuki’s lean burn technology, and knock-, O2- and water-detection sensor systems allow better monitoring and control internal operations.

The DF200A weighs 498 pounds, more than 12 percent less than Suzuki’s V-6 200. Pricing was unavailable.

August 2014 issue