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Watercraft Preview: Mercury Verado

Project X Unveiled..."Take Charge" with the new Mercury Verado

Date: 2/15/04
Location: Miami, FL
Type: Event (Boat Show)
Reviewer: Zander

For months anglers and boaters have held their breath in anticipation of the unveiling of Mercury’s much hyped “Project X.” Mercury promised to shake up the industry with the introduction of this new powerplant, and two days ago at the Miami International Boat Show the veil of secrecy was lifted and the propulsion system known up to this time as “X” finally had a name….Verado.

The holy grail of marine motors would deliver extreme power, refinement, low noise, excellent fuel economy, reliability, and all the while making sure to meet all of the increasingly strict emissions specifications in all states. Mercury stepped up to the challenge and five years ago begun development of the new system. The project took over 100 million dollars since conception to today’s realization, and countless hours on the side of Mercury Marine engineers.

The main engine is based on a 2.6 liter double overhead cam platform, and features 24-valves. Mercury chose to use an inline-six configuration for better balance and reduced vibration and noise. This is part of the reason why the Verado has such a unique profile. Patrick Mackey, President of Mercury, confirmed that the Verado's engine was designed and built internally, and does not make use of another outboard manufacturer's product, or any other existing Mercury engines.

The Verado system is full of innovation and improvements; Mercury wanted to build a 100% American motor with "No Compromises"

The Mercury engineers didn't just set out to build a next generation marine engine, they decided to pioneer a new propulsion system. "Verado" is not just the outboard engine, but an entirely integrated system that includes electro-hydraulic steering, as well as a digital throttle and shift system dubbed "SmartCraft." SmartCraft Digital Throttle & Shift uses a data cable link between the control system and the engine. This gives the driver instantaneous throttle control at every rpm level, such precise control has never before been offered on any other outboard system.

The Mission: There is no doubt that 4-stroke engines are among the most fuel efficient and reliable engines available today, but lack the torque that 2-stroke engines are able to deliver. Mercury set out to build an engine that not only delivers unprecedented torque and power capable of beating any comparably sized 4-stroke engine, they sought to match any other 4-stroke in emissions, noise, and economy, as well as take on just about any 2-stroke engine in raw performance. Basically a marine engine with "no compromises."

The revolutionary new styling houses a supercharged and intercooler cooled inline-six

Power and Precision: The Verado family of motors will launch in 200, 225, 250. and 275HP configurations, and is premeditated to deliver incredible torque with a smaller displacement, making it the most powerful four stroke engine on the market. How do they plan to do it? The answer is by being the first production outboard to embed a supercharger into the motor! Mercury co-worked with IHI Turbo America to build the supercharger system which effectively forces a higher air volume into the combustion chamber, which results in more throttle response. The centrifugal supercharger is cooled via an active air intercooler that is designed to inject boost air that is the exact same temperature as pure intake air. In the engine itself, each piston is also individually cooled for optimal performance.

The perfect powerplant for today's fast running Bass rigs (Triton shown)

Speed & Control: The weight for each engine, including the entire steering system and mounting bracket tops out at 630lbs. According to Mercury this is the lightest complete system in its class. By using digital controls versus traditional mechanics Mercury should be able to shave off a few pounds, but were not sure if it is enough to put the Verado's complete package weight below the competition. Outboard by itself the Verado definitely weighs more than current motors. Whether or not the addition of 50-80lbs translates into more power will ultimately depend on actual field tests. Initial tests of the Verado seem to reveal an extremely solid powerband, with torque comparable to even larger 2-stroke engines.

The SmartCraft drive system is completely managed by computer, and this electronic drive system eliminates cables and junctions and presents instant throttle response. The digital control allows boaters a much greater freedom when it comes to various configurations of gauges and information. In addition since the controls and readouts are all communicated to via electronics it would be easy to set up a second set of controls, useful on larger boats, especially those with dual towers.


Mercury also integrates electro-hydraulic steering into every Verado propulsion system. This makes it possible for boats in heavy chop or facing harsh ocean conditions to operate with the absence of any steering wheel torque. Claus Brestle, Mercury Vice President of R&D, said that he designed the new Verado used in the highest performing sports cars...and Claus should know as he is a former engineering manager at Porsche in Germany. Mercury explicates that this system will help provide increased engine feel, and cause the boat to convey manners similar to that of a performance sports car. In addition, because the hydraulic system is now internal all of the loose wires now found extending from the outboards will no longer need to flop around as the engine turns from side to side, resulting in a much cleaner rigging.

Steps were taken to vastly improve corrosion resistance of all internal components in saltwater, and electro-hydraulic steering makes it possible to steer through sea conditions with zero steering torque


Quiet: Just how quiet is the Verado? In relationship to the current generation of outboards there is supposed to be no comparison. While we don’t have any decibel numbers yet, some of the industry press that have experienced the Verado on the water claim that it is so quiet all you hear are the wind and water. Mercury patented the silencing technology that went into the design of the Verado. The entire engine is built to run smooth and quiet even at high rpm's, and Mercury's revolutionary new styling complements the outboards technology with insulation capable of keeping the engine quiet, as well as protecting the valuable internal components. The result is an engine that sounds more like a pleasant hum than an exasperating growl.

Pricing has not yet been firmly established but many industry analysts are estimating the Verado system to carry a 1000-1500 dollar premium over competitor offerings. Mercury has released rough estimates around $18,000 for the 200hp models.


Imagine fishing with the engine on and hearing nothing more than a tranquil hum from the potent powerplant behind you

Conclusion: While we haven't had the opportunity to ride in a watercraft powered by the new Verado system yet, the technical specifications and apparent innovation in this marine engine are already enough to make any angler sport a grin. A new production line in Mercury's own Fond du Lac foundry is being tooled to begin full production of these new powerplants this April. Currently less than 200 pre-mass production units exist worldwide, and you can be sure that the top boat builders are already analyzing, testing, and innovating to find ways to make use of the full potential of this new offering. Production aside, this new propulsion system is complex to integrate properly, and not something that may work well on older boats. OEM builders will likely have to redefine their platforms to take full advantage of the Verado. While a formal field test will validate Mercury's performance and noise claims, we can barely contain our excitement in anticipation of seeing a mass production Verado in action. While the entire system may cost a pretty penny, it might just be worth the investment if your in the market for a contemporary high performance watercraft, I for one will be putting away a few extra bucks in the piggy bank.

Thank you to Mercury for use of certain images  










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