That today’s on-water debut of the new Mercury Racing 450R outboard engine on Old Hickory Lake outside Nashville managed to be impressive was—in and of itself—impressive. To be brutally honest, it’s not as if the 450-hp, supercharged 4.6-liter V-8 outboard was a well-kept secret. Between leaks and rumors, not knowing the most powerful offering in the Fond du Lac, Wis., high-performance marine engine line was coming required a healthy dose of willful ignorance.
Welcome to the revolution—the new Mercury Racing 450R has arrived. And it’s amazing.
But between the Internet and its cursed social media stepchild, secrets are awfully hard to keep these days. So big reveals are fewer and farther between. As the saying goes, don’t hate the player. Hate the game.
And yet the four-stroke 450R outboard, which for demonstration purposes found itself in multi-outboard applications on the transoms of a Cigarette 59 Tirranna, a Formula Boats 430 Super Sport Crossover, a Nor-Tech Hi-Performance Boats 450 Sport center console, a Midnight Express 43 center console, an MTI-V 42 center console, a Mystic Powerboats M3800 sport catamaran, a Wright Performance 420 catamaran and more, was still mighty impressive.
“Four or five years ago when we launched the 400R, we were at the height of transition of marine power away from inboard stern-drive propulsion to outboard power,” said David Foulkes, the chief executive officer of Brunswick Corporation—the parent company of Mercury Marine and Mercury Racing—who was on hand for today’s media event. “And we had the most powerful, quietest and compact mainstream outboard in the segment. As soon as we got into the development of the V-8 platform we knew we would eventually offer a supercharged derivative of it.”
The Mercury Racing 450R should be a hit with sport catamaran and high-performance center console buyers who want the company’s most powerful outboards engines—and are willing to pay for them.
Here are several key things you need to know about the new 450R:
• It produces 439 foot-pounds of torque—some 40 percent more torque than the Mercury Racing 400R outboard—and at 689 pounds, it is reportedly 300 pounds lighter than its nearest competitor.
• It runs on 89-octane fuel.
• Its proprietary 64-degree aluminum block is topped with aluminum cylinder heads with a Mercury Racing Quad Cam Four Valve (QC4) design and double overhead camshafts (DOHC). The valve train features a high-performance intake cam profile and race-spec Inconel exhaust valves. The camshafts are chain-driven and run in an oil bath so there is no timing belt to maintain.
• It has an operating range of 5,800 to 6,400 rpm and features Mercury’s Adaptive Speed Control system—with a special custom Mercury Racing calibration—for better docking manners with high-pitch propellers as well as responsive throttle response for powering over rough seas.
• It comes with a three-year limited factory warranty and can be purchased with an additional five years of Mercury Product Protection.
• Depending on options such as a SportMaster surfacing gearcase or a fully submerged 5.44 HD gearcase it will retail for $54,000 to $64,000.
Key components of the 450-hp outboard include its supercharger, intake cam and SportMaster lower unit.
That final item—the asking price—is sure to raise a few eyebrows. But if you want to play, you have to pay, and for those who don’t need the biggest and baddest outboard offered by Mercury Racing, the more congenially priced, naturally aspirated 250R and 300R V-8 outboards and supercharged inline six-cylinder Verado 400R outboard are still in the company’s lineup.
The 450R’s hefty sticker price also provides a measure of price protection for the still-white-hot Verado 400R, which lists in the high $30,000 range. Buyers who want the 450R will have to step up and dig significantly deeper into their wallets. For those who aren’t willing to take that big of a step, the 400R is still plenty of engine.
And Mercury Racing already has 450R outboards available for order and delivery. “We built up a bank of engines for start of production,” said Stuart Halley, the company’s general manager. “But the engines are on a strict allocation for 2019.”
Of all the aforementioned boats available for demo rides today on Old Hickory Lake today, the one that intrigued me most was the MTI 340X sport catamaran powered by twin 450R outboards. That’s because, thanks to MTI 340X owner Bob Christie and Tim Gallagher, MTI’s director of sales and marketing, I’ve driven MTI’s popular 34-footer with both 300R and Verado 400R outboards on the transom. So I had a solid basis for comparison.
Nick Nida of Mercury Marine and Mike Griffiths of MTI took me for a ride this morning in the 34-footer and they even let me drive for a few legs up and down the waterway. We didn’t run the boat past 115 mph, though it reportedly has topped 128 mph and has a few more ticks in it, but throughout the acceleration process the 34-footer continued to pull hard. There was no waiting—the MTI cat just kept on pulling.
Same went for the Cigarette 59 Tirranna with six of the new 450-hp outboards. With a full boat that included Cigarette’s Bud Lorow and the owner’s crew, we ran the 59-footer to 75 mph—and its GPS recall showed a top speed of 82 mph, which is a full 10 mph faster than the boat previously ran with six 400R outboards. But it was the way the big Cigarette reached that speed, pulling hard all the way, that was so impressive.
That’s the thing about the 450R. From a performance delivery angle, it’s all about the torque produced throughout the lightweight engine’s powerband.
Foulkes explained it best during an interview this morning.
“The 450R produces an unbelievable amount of torque in a compact package,” he said. “If you look at the 450R compared to the 400R, the extra 50 horsepower doesn’t really tell you the story of the engine.”
For the rest of the week, Mercury Racing representatives will introduce boat builders and dealers to the new 450R outboard. Like most of the media types here today, they probably knew it was coming. And yet they will still be impressed.
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