CHESAPEAKE, Va. — Volvo Penta of the Americas today gave a dozen journalists a sneak peek at its new sterndrive gasoline engines — two V8 5.3-liter engines in 300- and 350-hp models and a V6 4.3-liter engine with 280 horses. These powerplants use General Motors Generation V engines with increased technology.
“Not only are we bringing new technology to the market, we are allowing the downsizing of power in boats,” Marcia Kull, vice president of North American marine sales for Volvo Penta of the Americas, told a roomful of media and Volvo Penta marketing, sales and engineering representatives at the Volvo Penta test center in Chesapeake.
The V8-350 is 119 pounds lighter than its predecessor, according to Tony Kelleher, director of marine leisure sales for Volvo Penta, who outlined the improvements in the Gen V engines. Their benefits include switching from cast-iron blocks to lightweight aluminum, from multi-port fuel injection to direct fuel injection and from fixed-cam to variable-valve timing.
Journalists will get a chance today to test the engines in five boats, including a Formula with the V8-350, a Cobalt with a V8-300, a Stingray with a V6-240 (a Gen V engine that was introduced earlier this year) and the V6-280 pushing a Cobalt. The engine-maker also had a Regal 2100 Surf Boat equipped with its forward drive technology (powered by a V8-300).
Despite the gasoline sterndrive’s waning sales numbers, Volvo Penta and Mercury Marine have stepped up their post-recession development of improved modern inboard/outboard power packages. Competition between Mercury and Volvo Penta is heating up — and Ron Huibers, president of Volvo Penta of the Americas, brought up that very issue in his opening presentation.
“Competition is a great thing — it’s what drives us here at Volvo Penta,” Huibers said. “We are a technology and innovation company — and innovation is our passion.”
Mercury Marine last month debuted its second in-house-built sterndrive — the MerCruiser 6.2L V8, offered in 300- and 350-hp configurations.
Mercury rolled out its first in-house-built engine about a year ago — the 4.5L 250-hp MerCruiser. Mercury formerly used General Motors blocks to build its marine gasoline engines. Volvo Penta has stuck with General Motors, introducing the first of a fleet of sterndrives with the fifth generation of GM motors. The first engines — 200- and 240-hp V6s with a 4.3-liter displacement — were introduced at the 2015 Miami International Boat Show and they hit the market earlier this year.
Since 2011, sterndrive boat sales in the United States have dropped by 5,000 units (from 17,500 to 13,000 units), according to Jack Ellis, managing director at Info-Link Technologies. The numbers indicate that “outboard power is king these days,” he says.
But the weak state of the market has not stopped the research, development and introduction of new inboard/outboards.
Volvo Penta will debut the three new sterndrives at the Sept. 15-17 International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition & Conference in Louisville, Ky. The Swedish engine maker, which operates from a U.S. headquarters in Chesapeake, plans to have a full family of the next-generation gasoline engines by next year.