Power Player

The new Mercury Racing 450R has the best power-to-weight ratio among large outboards
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“The torque makes this 22,000-pound boat feel like a smaller boat with punch.”
 - Trond Schou, founder, Nor-Tech boats

“The torque makes this 22,000-pound boat feel like a smaller boat with punch.” - Trond Schou, founder, Nor-Tech boats

After a ride on a Nor-Tech 450 Sport with a quartet of Mercury Racing’s 450R outboards, Trond Schou, co-founder of the Cape Coral, Fla.-based company said: “With the 450s, the boat is peppy.”

It’s not often that you hear that word used to describe a 45-foot boat that weighs about 22,000 pounds. That’s the effect the supercharged 4.6-liter V-8 outboard has been having since Mercury introduced it in late June. “The torque makes this boat feel like a smaller boat with punch,” Schou says.

At 689 pounds for the 20-inch-shaft model in the lightest version, the 450-hp engine is the most powerful outboard, pound for pound, in the industry. It has a power-to-weight ratio of 1.53 pounds per horse. Compare that to the 627-hp 627sv from Seven Marine, which weighs 1,094 pounds and has a ratio of 1.74 pounds per horse. Even Mercury Racing’s naturally aspirated 300R calculates out to 1.71 pounds per horse.

“On my quad-engine center console, it’s absolutely a different boat,” says Randy Scism, president of Marine Technologies Inc. in Wentzville, Mo. “It comes on plane a lot quicker, and it’s faster. I haven’t put on a prop that puts it on the rev limiter yet.”

With 16 people and 250 gallons of fuel, Scism says, an MTI V42 with quad 450Rs tops 80 mph. He thinks about that top-end figure in the context of a 34-foot high-performance catamaran that his company builds. Mercury Racing owns one of those cats, and Scism says its top speed picked up by about 6 mph after switching from twin Mercury Racing Verado 400Rs to the 450Rs.

“Most of our customers just want the newest, coolest, biggest things they can buy,” Scism says, adding that he has six paid-for 340 X catamarans waiting for 450Rs at MTI headquarters. None of the owners want the Verado 400R, a supercharged 6-cylinder engine.

Scism says he has more than 25 of the new outboards on order as Mercury Racing tries to meet demand. The 450R is built on a dedicated line, and Mercury communications manager Rick Mackie says production is limited for the remainder of 2019.

The 450R’s narrow powerhead allows it to fit under the same cowling as the 300R. 

The 450R’s narrow powerhead allows it to fit under the same cowling as the 300R. 

Taking Market Share

“What we make is intended for the few who value highly refined products,” Stuart Halley, Mercury Racing general manager, said during the press introduction for the 450R in June. “They’re not only fast; they’re durable and elegantly designed.”

Where the engine has the biggest advantage over the Verado 400R is torque. Mercury Racing estimates that the 450R makes more than 40 percent more torque than the 400R. Much of that is due to the added displacement — 4.6 liters compared to 2.6 — but Halley says it’s also because the 450R is designed to run on 89 octane fuel. The 400R can run on 89 or 91 but only makes its maximum power on the higher-octane fuel.

Mercury Racing acknowledges that the 450R will take some market share from its smaller sibling, but Mackie says in an email to Soundings Trade Only: “The 400R is a well-proven Mercury Racing product and will still attract many customers who may not be ready to upgrade to the 450R now but will be for the next boat.”

What should help make the new outboard popular is that the technology used to make the extra power has been proved. Like the 400R, the 450R has a belt-driven twin-screw supercharger, which is water-cooled and has twin air-charge coolers. An electronic valve controls the boost. Other features of the new engine include QC4 cylinder heads.

Even with the extra components, the outboard fits under the same cowling as the naturally aspirated 300R. The narrow profile means the 450R can be mounted on 26-inch centers, making it a candidate for multiple installations on big vee-bottom boats. (Cigarette’s 59-foot Tirranna had six 450Rs at the press event.)

For power of a different type, the alternator puts out 115 amps, which is 64 percent more charging potential than the 400R. “From a new design standpoint, that doesn’t matter so much, but for someone trying to put a new engine on an older boat, that is a big deal,” says naval architect Lou Codega. “You can only do so much with adding weight before you screw up everything.”

Adding weight to the transom of a performance-oriented design must be looked at closely. “On a performance boat, it’s something you really have to pay attention to,” says Dan MacNamara, owner of Team Archer Marine in Costa Mesa, Calif.

Mercury Racing engineers were able to fit a supercharger in the same profile as a naturally aspirated engine.

Mercury Racing engineers were able to fit a supercharger in the same profile as a naturally aspirated engine.

Pricing and Props

Another concern for MacNamara is price. Retail price for the 450R starts at about $54,000, depending on the gearcase — the 5.44-inch HD (for boats running below 85 mph) or the Sport Master (for boats above 85 mph) — colors and shaft length. “You can buy a Mercury Racing 540 sterndrive package with a Bravo Drive for $36,000, and to me, it’s a better deal and a more reliable platform,” he says.

A new integrated tie-bar bracket gives the 450R a streamlined look, and as many as six outboards can be controlled with a single digital throttle lever. The engines also can be equipped with the Joystick Piloting system for two to six engines, and with Skyhook station-keeping. For those who like the sound of power, the 450R has selectable exhaust for quiet around the docks and louder at speed.

The midsection has heavy-duty guide plates with stiffened mounts to absorb vibration and keep engine noise from transferring to the boat. The Sport Master gearcase has a sleeker design with low-water pickups. On a couple of test runs, we did hear an audio alarm for low-water pressure when the engines were trimmed too high, but a push of the down-trim button took care of that.

For propellers, the Sport Master Max5 of Mercury Racing’s CNC outboard wheels are available, while the 5.44 can be equipped with the Max5, Bravo 1 FS, Enertia ECO XP or lab-finished Rev 4 XP.

The 450R comes with a three-year factory warranty and three years of corrosion protection. Owners can buy up to five years of protection.

Scott Porter, president of Formula Boats, says buyers are looking to those features and more when choosing the new engines. He says Formula has 430 ASCs on order with owners spending the extra $50,000 to $60,000 to upgrade from quad Verado 400Rs to the 450Rs. “Their fuel economy seems comparable to the 400,” he says, adding that more choices are a good thing. “We’re trying to give people options as to which way they want to go.” 

This article originally appeared in the August 2019 issue.

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