VIDEO: Volvo Penta touts its new engine lineup

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volvo0919Volvo Penta’s new V8-380 gas sterndrive improves acceleration and fuel economy in a package that’s lighter and more durable than its predecessor, Volvo engineers said during a press event that wrapped up Tuesday night.

“We did not stick with the same-old same-old,” Volvo Penta manager of engine engineering Mel Cahoon said. “We didn’t just update what we already had. We chose to go forward. This is a new generation of our highest-horsepower sterndrive.”

The V8-380, the engine that powers the Chevy Silverado 2500 pickup truck, uses technological advancements to generate the same horsepower as its predecessor — the 8.1-liter engine that GM is no longer manufacturing — to more than make up for the engine’s lower displacement of 6 liters, or 364 cubic inches, Cahoon said.

The engine’s variable valve timing maximizes low-end torque and high-end horsepower, allowing the engine to use a higher gear reduction for a maximum rpm of 6,000. The result is an engine that weighs 245 pounds less and gets 12 percent better fuel economy, according to Volvo Penta.

The V8-380, which is coupled to either the Volvo Penta DP or Ocean Series drives, can power single-installations boats from 24 to 29 feet and twin-applications vessels from 30 to 40 feet.

The engine manufacturer also unveiled the V8-225 EVC, a 5.7-liter gas sterndrive that delivers power and torque and lower emissions, utilizing computer-controlled fuel management and catalytic exhaust treatment systems. The 225 and 380 are Volvo Penta’s cleanest engines yet, satisfying California’s tough emissions standards, vice president of marine sales Marcia Kull said.

Click play to watch Kull talk about the Joystick Driving feature and the new gas engines.

The engines were installed in three boats at the Volvo Penta Test Center in Suffolk, Va. A single V8-225 powered a Monterey 228Si, twin V8-380s powered a Formula 34 PC and a single 380 was installed in a 260 Formula SS. To display the 380′s acceleration capabilities Volvo Penta had an identical 260 Formula SS powered with Mercury’s 8.2-liter MerCruiser sterndrive on hand.

I drove all three Volvo Penta-powered boats. The acceleration of the engines was indeed impressive, especially in the mid-range. The engines immediately respond to throttle adjustment. They also pushed their respective boats out of the hole with little fuss.

I also tried Volvo Penta’s Joystick Driving, which was installed on a 36-foot aluminum test boat, an EagleCraft. Sitting in a shock-absorbing portside helm chair, I pressed a button on the joystick base to engage Joystick Driving.

“Moving the joystick side to side is basically the same thing as turning the steering wheel to port or starboard,” Volvo Penta senior test engineer Jeff Sulla told me in a two-minute tutorial before he gave me the go-ahead to operate the pilothouse vessel. “If you rotate the joystick you change the autopilot heading in small increments — about 2 to 3 degrees per bump.”

We faced 2- to 4-foot chop at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. Steering with the joystick can be tricky at first because small nudges to port and starboard make the boat turn significantly — and quickly. Rotating the joystick to fine-tune the heading on the autopilot should be of great value for long-distance cruising.

Joystick Driving only steers the boat. It does not function like a throttle to control forward and reverse propulsion. The conventional joystick system controls forward and reverse movement, but only at low speed. Joystick Driving will be available in 2013, and Volvo Penta expects to display the system in February at the Miami International Boat Show. It is already available in international markets.

— Chris Landry

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