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Mercury Debuts 600-hp Outboard

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Mercury Marine introduced a 600-hp Verado earlier this week during an exclusive media event at Lake X, the company’s test facility in Florida. The 7.6-liter, V-12 engine weighs 1,260 pounds and has two innovations that Mercury calls industry firsts: a steerable gearcase and an automatic two-speed transmission.

“With boats continuing to grow bigger and performance expectations continuing to rise, boaters have been asking for a better, more capable high-horsepower solution to meet their needs. The V-12 Verado is Mercury’s answer,” said Chris Drees, Mercury Marine president in a statement. “This is a remarkable engine that will change the future of boating.”

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The V-12 Verado was designed expressly for big boats that require big outboards.

“The solution to powering these larger boats has been adding more outboards, but we felt a better solution was a higher-power outboard that could optimize cruise speed and top end,” said Jeff Becker, Mercury’s outboard category manager for engines over 75 hp. “These are big, heavy boats, but owners have the same performance expectations as [they do with] smaller boats.”

Mercury designed an engine with tons of power and torque that runs efficiently for an outboard of its size. That’s where the two-speed transmission comes into play. First gear has a 20 percent reduction ratio, which leverages the engine’s torque to get big boats out of the hole and on plane. The outboard then shifts into second gear, reducing the rpm for better fuel efficiency.

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I ran boats with triple and quad configurations, and unless you were looking at the tachometer, you could hardly tell when the transmission shifted.

To conserve space on the transom, Mercury designed the engine around its 8-cylinder footprint. The narrow V design is constructed on a 64-degree block — basically four additional cylinders on top of the V-8. Match that with the steerable gearcase, and the 600s can be mounted close together. Minimum spacing is 27 inches from the center of one engine to the center of the next, just an inch more than with 400-hp Verados.

The steerable gearcase does all of the work below the waterline. The cowling that’s visible on the transom doesn’t move, which can take some getting used to. There is a rudder indicator on the engine display, and I found myself checking that routinely when running the test boats.

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Mercury eliminated the need for mounted steering, which keeps the stern clean. The company also said the setup is easier on the steering system, since it’s not moving the entire 1,260-pound engine, just the lower unit. There’s also a wider range of motion, Mercury said. A typical outboard swings 30 degrees in one direction or the other. Mercury says the steering on the V-12 Verado can pivot up to 45 degrees.

The gearcase spins dual, contra-rotating props, with a four-blade wheel forward and a three-blade aft. The props come in various pitches and diameters to 18 inches, depending on the application.

Becker said the the 600 won’t need its first routine maintenance until 200 hours of run time. To conduct maintenance, just open the hood. (Yes, the outboard has a hood.) With the push of a button, the top of the cowling raises on a gas strut and reveals neatly arranged, color-coded fluid fills and dipsticks. You can drain and fill the gear lube and transmission fluid from the top of the engine without hauling the boat. The full cowling, which weighs just weighs 44 pounds, doesn’t have to come off for five years or 1,000 hours.

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Mercury says it spent five years developing the engine, which should start to ship in late spring. Retail pricing will be in the $77,000 range.

See the March issue of Soundings Trade Only for more on the 600-hp Verado, including performance data.

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