It is the most powerful outboard, and the first with two gears and a steerable gearcase: to understand the advantages it offers and who it is aimed at, we met with Alessandro Conti, Country Manager at Mercury Italia
by Niccolò Volpati – photo by Andrea Muscatello
«Two years before the launch I heard that Mercury was working on the Verado 600, so it is reasonable to assume that at least three or four years were required to get to the outcome». Of course, you can’t just create a new outboard engine overnight, and Mercury normally uses focus groups to decide which direction to take. They use their extensive dealer network around the world and their significant client base to understand what owners need. You have to be able to predict where the market is heading some time in advance, and from there develop the most suitable product for future needs.
«We are not concerned on a technical level, because we certainly don’t have a lack of that kind of experience, but we have had to move up a step in terms of customer help. With the V12 it is more than just a matter of installing, finding the right height on the transom, choosing the propeller, and adjusting the motor. We are making sales above all to yards for new boats, and indeed they are already working on fitting them to a 55-footer and a 58. And this is comprehensive customer care – Mercury has started providing all-around consulting services for yards. You have to choose the batteries, the rechargers, and the battery separator, as well as how to do the fittings on the bridge, and decide whether to use VesselView or have all the information sent to the main plotter».
And obviously what must have come out from one of these focus groups is that there are a lot of owners who would have liked to have an outboard on their boat, but who weren’t able to because there weren’t any that were powerful enough. The V12 600hp was created precisely because of that. But we should not overlook the fact that it also includes many innovations that are set to change yachting, at least in the 40 to 70-foot range.
«Initially everybody became fixated with the 600 figure, but then they realised that it had a lot of other features, and perhaps it makes more sense at this point to talk about it as the Mercury V12,» says Conti. And, we could perhaps add, it is Mercury’s first-ever V12.
The project has a very specific goal: allowing 40 to 70-foot boats to use outboards. It is an engine that has been made to open up a very active segment. There are a lot of 50 to 60-foot walkarounds in both Europe and America. Until now, constructors could choose between stern drives, straight-shaft configurations, or azimuth pod drives like Volvo’s IPS line. But there is now also an outboard option available. That was something we also gathered from trying the engine out.
«Brunswick provides specialised assistance for this engine, that is also the product of the feedback from the first owners and from research done by Mercury to ensure the engines are fitted correctly according to the boat’s characteristics. And although Mercury Italia has a very extensive network of dealers and authorised repair shops, they have also made a mobile assistance service available which can meet any demand, wherever you are, in a very short time. When you go to owners who have larger boats, ones that are complicated and expensive, the quality bar should also be raised in line with that». Paolo Gornati
In the space of just a few weeks, at the Genoa Boat Show and the testing trials Mercury organised on Lake Garda, we were able to try out a pair of V12 Verado 600 hp engines on two RIBs – the Mar.Co 36 and Jolly’s new Prince 43, as well as the Key Largo 40 made by Sessa Marine. It feels like an outboard that has been created for a heavy boat, rather than a light inflatable, which shoots off at high speed. For a RIB the best thing would probably be to fit a series of 450Rs. Just to be clear, it isn’t that the Verado 600 isn’t any good, but the thing that struck me most about it wasn’t the top speed that is generated. First of all, it’s an engine with a lot of torque. The kind of torque that is made to move weights, rather than for blistering acceleration. They aren’t mutually exclusive, but it gives the feeling that it was developed to get the hull out of the water as soon as possible, even with a fairly heavy boat.
It is the first outboard with two gears, and I was told that you don’t feel it when you change up. And I can confirm that it’s exactly how it is. Four of us were listening carefully, concentrating to hear a jolt, but there was nothing. And that was even though Andrea Carniti from Mercury (who accompanied us during the trial) had told us more or less at how many rpm the change would occur. But there was nothing, everything was fluid and almost unnoticeable. Perhaps you notice it a bit as you get slower and move down from second to first. But in any case, my car, which is an automatic, shudders in a way that would be unthinkable for the Verado, even when you open the throttle right up.
And then there is how silent it is. There is practically no noise and above all no vibration. That is also thanks to the engine architecture because, as we already know, multiples of six tend to reduce noise and vibrations, and even though I was never much good at maths, 12 cylinders equal 6 times 2 is something I can manage. Leaving calculations aside, what strikes me is that you can happily chat away at fifty knots. Whereas if I look back, a long way back, to around forty years ago when I used to go out on a dinghy with my father, I remember that a two-stroke 25 hp engine was enough to stop you talking. Even though we were one ahead of the other on a boat that was twenty meters long and four wide, we had to shout or use sign language. But now, with 1,200 horsepower on the transom, you can talk as if you were in a lounge.
This particular lounge is, of course, one that is protected by a tough windscreen, which is what we had on board the Nuova Jolly Prince 43, but the V12 Verado 600 is the first among equals, not least because it is the first boat to have a steerable gearcase. So, what does that mean? It means that the radiator grille stays where it is, and so you can fit two engines practically next to each other. What moves is the underwater section, and the propellers can have different pitches and don’t even move symmetrically. That produces an incredible degree of maneuverability with the joystick at low rev levels, similar to what you get with a pair of IPS units.
The instruments that get fitted on the bridge have also been updated. The new electronic throttles will also have a four-inch digital display, with information like trim settings or tiller angle. And so, all of the other engine data can be sent up to the main plotter. That has the advantage of avoiding the clutter of having a special display for the engine.
Different propeller pitches mean that turning is optimised because the outer propeller is set at a greater angle than the inner one, and that means that the boat can do very tight turns, even at high speed. You need just a few meters to turn, and if I have to come clean, it was a bit too tight for my liking. It would be a good idea to work on some kind of self-limiting device because you run the risk of having all the passengers thrown out of the cockpit by doing tight turns at fifty knots.
Logic suggests that so much power brings correspondingly high fuel consumption. But it is the opposite. All the new outboards use less fuel, but if we stop to think how they have evolved in just a few years, the comparison is incredible. A decade ago, if you pushed a 250 hp engine you easily exceeded 100 liters per hour. Nowadays, you get the same consumption level if you have a 600 horsepower engine. So, it seems to me that this outboard is definitively more than just first among equals, it is first above equals because it has arrived at a point that the others haven’t even seen. It is easy to use and it makes steering and maneuvering comfortable. It has plenty of thrusts to get planing easily, it doesn’t use much fuel, and vibrations and noise are minimal; the V12 Verado 600 hp is an ideal engine for boats from 40 to 70 feet, which until just recently had to do without having outboard engines.
(Mercury V12 Verado 600, primus inter pares – Barchemagazine.com – January 2022)