LAKE WYLIE, S.C. — Mercury Marine’s new 6.2-liter gasoline sterndrive engine (300 and 350 hp) was only part of the show at the manufacturer’s media event here this week.
Five of the boats that the company made available for testing on Lake Wylie were equipped with Active Trim Control, a system that automatically adjusts engine drive trim angles for the best performance.
Coupled with Mercury’s Adaptive Speed Control technology, which holds engine rpm steady during turns and changing sea conditions, the boats illustrated the engine maker’s commitment to make boating easier, Mercury vice president of product development, engineering and racing David Foulkes said.
“It’s another step toward making boating less stressful and more enjoyable,” he said.
This “easy boating” concept has been the mantra for the industry for many years and it now seems to be materializing in concrete ways through technology. On Tuesday I drove three boats with Active Trim Control — a 31-foot Formula sportboat, a 25-foot Stingray bowrider and a 27-foot Shearwater center console. The latter was powered with the new Mercury 350 Verado; the new 6.2-liter sterndrive propelled the Stingray (single) and Formula (twins).
I watched the trim meter’s needle rise after the Formula had climbed out of the hole and began accelerating at planing speeds. Active Trim, which uses a Mercury-patented GPS integrated into the propulsion system, began bumping up the trim at about 30 mph, gradually increasing the trim until the boat was running faster than 50 mph.
I slowed and then whipped the Formula into a few high-speed donuts, which caused the system to tuck the drives down for a better bite. Meanwhile, the Adaptive Speed Control held her at 3,500 rpm. Not only are these technologies fun to drive, their simplification of a boat’s operation also allows drivers to pay more attention to the water in front of them. Bottom line: You can cut down on the number of times you look at the gauges.
The Shearwater, with its outboard, was even more of a hoot to drive than the Formula. It was neat to glance back at the outboard and watch it rise as the system trimmed it out during acceleration. The boat can do nearly 60 mph.
That’s nothing, compared with another boat at the event — and the only one from a non-mainstream builder. The DCB M29 performance cat with new twin Mercury Verado R400s races to speeds as high as 108 mph. I sat in the companion seat while the driver stretched the boat’s legs in a straightaway on the nearly dead-calm lake. I think we hit 103 mph.
“Our customers want 100 mph boats or faster,” Tony Chiaramonte of DCB, which stands for Dave’s Custom Boats of El Cajon, Calif. (dcbperformanceboats.com), told me between sprints. “100 mph is the cutoff. They can’t be any slower.”
This craft as it sat was $290,000 with a base of $240,000. “The owner wanted the most fuel-efficient 100-mph boat we could give him,” Chiaramonte said.