The need for cleaner marine engines is imperative - two stroke motors have powered the marine industry for the last 50 years because they produce more power than four-strokes, have a gruntier, more usable power spread and a better power-to-weight ratio, but they are obviously less environmentally friendly and can do enormous damage to the delicate eco-cultures they (by definition) give access to.
Mercury is a world player in the marine industry - its Project X has been the source of many whispers over the last five years, with research conducted at the company's private lake (aka Lake X) on a revolutionary new motor. Since the modern-day marine industry began, Mercury has traditionally been the industry pioneer of new technology - its list of firsts charts the major advances of the industry. The first to use forged aluminium pistons, the first with fully-integrated hydraulic shock absorbers, the first 6-cylinder in-line outboards, the first with the now industry-wide standard through-prop exhaust system,the world's first 100hp outboard, contactless ignition systems, corrosion-resistance technologies, Electronic Fuel-Injection systems, Direct Injection 2-strokes (the Mercury OptiMax developed in conjunction with Ralph Sarich's Orbital Engine Company), the world's first Digital Throttle & Shift (DTS) and now the first supercharged 4-stroke outboards.
So Project X has been anticipated for a long time and when it was unveiled at the Miami Boat Show earlier this year, it didn't disappoint.
The motor is a supercharged four-stroke - a whisper-quiet motor with sound dampening and cancelling technology built-in and a patented exhaust muffling technology thrown in for good measure. The aim of the exercise was to allow you to hear the wind and have a conversation - a mark which has been achieved.
Power is not a problem - forced induction gives a four-stroke motor lots of power without losing the four-stroke's emission cleanliness. There are two ways to achieve that.
Turbocharging a motor involves forcing extra air into the combustion chamber via an exhaust driven pump. But there's often a lag with turbocharged motors when you first get on the gas while the turbine impellors get a chance to build up some speed. Supercharging, the technology chosen by Mercury, offers forced induction which is mechanically driven, so the boost can be immediate, which is perfect for getting the boat up to planing speed ASAP, particularly when you've got half a dozen mates and everyone's gear on board.
Like Formula One engines, the supercharger also features charge air cooling and electronic boost pressure control.
Raising the Game!
As much as a new motor, the Verado represents an entire new standard - a new level of excellence for Mercury.
In the design stages the company worked with the appropriate centres of design and knowledge to refine each aspect of the motor. Some of the companies which worked on the design of the Verado include Lotus, Motorola, Cosworth and Porsche. The supercharged, four-valve-per-cylinder six cylinder motor is fed by a computer-controlled, multi-port fuel-injection system and like the latest supercars and fighter aircraft, it's all drive-by-wire.
The fact is that a computer can control a throttle or change gears faster, smoother and with far less ecological- damaging emissions than a human being can, so the system incorporates a Digital Throttle & Shift (DTS) for shifting gears seamlessly and the finesse of throttle control which makes docking a breeze.
Then they tested it. Verado engines have been subjected to more than 25,000 hours of testing in the lab and on the water - the Verado is (by far) the most comprehensivelytested marine powerplant in history!
Then the company built a brand-new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility for Verado engines, with the very latest computer-monitored quality control and testing procedures.
The investment is in a new generation of engines with low noise and vibration and higher levels of both power and reliability and with thought to providing all the information the driver requires. These engines make full use of SmartCraft Digital Instrumentation, providing all key engine- management and performance information in a configurable display. So it's Gizmo heaven, particularly given that the engine alternator pumps out 70 amps to power all the plotters, GPS and fishfinders you'll ever need.
No pricing has been announced as yet - there are four variants of the motor, from 200 horses through to the range-topping 275 horsepower unit.