Mercury’s New 600HP V-12 Outboard is a Game Changer

.... these new outboards fill the need of ever larger boats hungry for more horsepower and increased performance

The thick fog covering Mercury’s Lake X secret testing facility in central Florida added to the drama.  Mercury did not disappoint with a dramatic introduction of their all new 7.4L 600hp V-12 Verado outboard. As the fog lifted so too did the secrecy behind this amazing outboard. It quickly became apparent that this is an outboard that defies traditional thinking and is chock full of innovation.

Mercury Marine's New 600hp V-12 Outboards underway
Mercury Marine’s New 600hp V-12 Outboards underway. Image Courtesy of Mercury Marine

Five years in the making, these new outboards fill the need of ever larger boats hungry for more horsepower and increased performance. With a growing trend of bigger outboard boats replacing inboard and outdrive varieties, the number of outboards and horsepower required to push these larger heavy boats keeps increasing. Double outboards, triples, quads and even quintuple outboards have become more and more prevalent.

With the introduction of the new 600hp V-12 Verado the number of engines required decreases and power and performance increases. It also opens up a brand-new market of even larger outboard driven craft such as those that were also premiered at Mercury’s Lake X event. One such yacht was the Formula 500 Super Sport Crossover, a 53-foot performance crossover that was built specifically to run with a quadruple 600hp V-12s, setting a new standard in comfort and performance in a vessel of its size. These outboards powered the Formula along at speeds close to 70 mph effortlessly, smoothly and surprisingly – quietly.

The largest and highest horsepower outboard Mercury marine has made to date, this engine not only has a lot of horses under the cowling, but it is chock full of innovation. With over $1.5 billion invested by Mercury since 2008 in R&D the result through their outboard evolution is a completely new way of powering today’s larger boats. The heart of the 600hp V-12 is its totally new shallow angle V12 block manufactured by Mercury in Wisconsin. This 7.6-liter block is cast from the largest die cast machine in the US and this monster of a block leaves only an inch to spare in the machine, according to Chris Drees, the President of Mercury Marine. The shallow V block stands vertically, making the outboard tall, yet narrow allowing engines to be mounted surprisingly closer together.

Mercury Marine's 600hp steering is accomplished through a pivoting gearcase.
Steering is accomplished through a pivoting gearcase.

Another innovation that allows the outboards to be mounted so close together (only 27 inches on center) is the outboards themselves do not move from side to side. Their only movement is trimming up and down. Steering is accomplished through a pivoting gearcase. The powerhead remains in a fixed position while the gearcase and duo-props move 30 degrees port and starboard and up to 45 degrees under joystick control. This engineering allows for the outboards to take up less of the valuable real estate of the transom, leaving room for more engines or transom access. While It was a bit odd maneuvering these boats and not seeing the outboards move it became intuitive and every boat tested, with dual outboards, trips or quads, was easy to steer and surprisingly maneuverable. Captains used to inboard engines would have no issues and outboard captains just have to look at the Mercury Smart Gauge to see a rudder reference indicator displaying exactly where the gearcase was pointing. It takes no time to feel at home maneuvering in tight quarters.

Innovations don’t just include the gearcase and narrow v-block, however. To allow all that power to push a large, heavy boat out of the water and up on plane quickly the 600hp V-12 utilizes a two-speed transmission — a first in an outboard. On all boats tested the time from sitting still to on plane running at top speed was smooth and seamless. The only way I could tell the outboards had shifted from first to second gear was by looking at the tachometers and seeing a slight drop in rpms. This smooth consistent power throughout the powerband adds to the luxury component of these motors. The decadence of running the all-new Formula 500 with quad 600hp outboards (one of six yachts tested that day) was palpable.  Powering the over 43,000-pound yacht at close to 70 mph and doing sharp turns at over 50 mph, the smooth effortless ride could only be described as a thrilling luxury ride.

Another luxury element of these monster outboards is how quiet they are. You would think that 2400hp on the transom would be a noisy affair. It’s the complete opposite. Much of the time while idling, the sound of the engines was almost imperceptible. Mercury Marine has spent a lot of time making sure these are the quietest motors they have produced with lots of testing in a new 5 million dollar sound engineering studio in Wisconsin. All their work paid off. These outboards are so quiet that they even removed the cooling indication stream that you find coming out of the lower cowling of other outboards. If those water streams remained that is all you would hear. Even at speed the wind and water noise drown out the engine noise. You can run at high speed and still have a conversation in normal unelevated voice tones. Even the shifting of gears is inaudible and gone are the clunking sounds you hear in other outboards as they shift gears. While holding the boat in position virtually with the Sky Hook virtual anchor, shifting was imperceptible and if I hadn’t seen the gauge display and turbulent water around the engines I would have thought they had shut off.

These outboards are controlled through Mercury’s all-new Next Gen Digital Throttle & Shift (DTS). Image Courtesy of Glenn Hayes
These outboards are controlled through Mercury’s all-new Next Gen Digital Throttle & Shift (DTS). Image Courtesy of Glenn Hayes

These outboards are controlled through Mercury’s all-new Next Gen Digital Throttle & Shift (DTS). Two models are available, one with a display and one without. They both feature a start button on the base of the left throttle that sequentially starts and stops the engines. On the front side, where your fingers would naturally rest, there are switches to manually control the automatic and very efficient Active Trim. There are also separate engine start and stop buttons at the control base. On the throttle itself there is a green light that illuminates when the engine is in neutral, giving an easy visual reference. Next to the digital controls on all boats tested was the Mercury Joystick Piloting joystick. This facilitates wider steering of the gearcases for easy maneuvering and also acts as an autopilot control. Simply bump the joystick port or starboard for a 1-degree shift or rotate the dial at the top of the joystick for 10-degree shifts. A 150-amp smart alternator provides more than enough power for voltage hungry electrical and electronics aboard. It will even increase the idle speed incrementally if it senses the battery voltage dropping below a certain point.

Engineering has also gone into the maintenance of these outboards. They require service every 200 hours. All that is needed is to press a button on the front of the cowling and the cowling lid pops open supported by a strut. Image Courtesy of Mercury Marine
Engineering has also gone into the maintenance of these outboards. They require service every 200 hours. All that is needed is to press a button on the front of the cowling and the cowling lid pops open supported by a strut. Image Courtesy of Mercury Marine

Engineering has also gone into the maintenance of these outboards. They require service every 200 hours. All that is needed is to press a button on the front of the cowling and the cowling lid pops open supported by a strut. Access to all the fluids, fuses, filters and the diagnostic port are easy and accessible. The upper cowling only needs to be removed at the 1000-hour service and these outboards are designed to be serviced while the boat is in the water. This eliminates the need for a haul out and makes servicing that much easier.

Of course, there are innovations and technology borrowed from other new outboards in the Mercury line, but these outboards are truly one of a kind and have reset the bar at which outboards perform. It will be interesting to see what technology and engineering trickles down to other Mercury outboards and how they further develop these massive outboards. The future will be interesting, but for now these new outboards can get you there quicker, smoother, quieter and more luxuriously and on a bigger yacht than ever before.

Glenn Hayes
Glenn Hayes is a writer and photographer based out of west central Florida and has marine industry background spanning almost a quarter century. He can be reached through his web site www.HayesStudios.