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Mercury launches inboard joystick control, new engines at Miami event

By Jonathan Sweet

Mercury Marine introduced a bevy of new innovations from joystick control for inboard engines to new racing engines at a media event Wednesday night ahead of the Miami International Boat Show.

The growth in popularity of water sports, particularly wake surfing, makes the technology an important addition to the Mercury lineup, Brunswick Corp. Chief Technology Officer David Foulkes said Wednesday.

"That's a segment first in tow sports," Foulkes said. "If you've ever operated a tow sports boat ... you know it's not the easiest boat to maneuver, so having real joystick functionality on a tow sports boat is a real breakthrough for that segment."

See more from the announcement in the video below.

The technology is being launched with Sea Ray's new SLX-W 230, and will be available on both single and dual inboard applications. The joystick technology allows the engine to work with bow and stern thrusters to provide  vessel control and an improved driving experience for the boater.

“We’ve had a number of customers request the joystick option and up until this point we haven’t been able to offer that to them,” said Randy Peterson, engineering manager for Cruisers Boats. “This is great. It’s going to help us and keep our customers happy. We are looking forward to it.”

“Inboard boats are traditionally difficult to dock,” said John Buelow, Mercury Marine vice president of global category management. “Joystick Piloting for Inboards provides the ultimate vessel maneuverability never before seen on a gasoline inboard powered boat.”

Joystick Piloting for Inboards comes standard with a thruster only feature for large dual engine boats, allowing the driver to easily adjust heading by bumping the joystick. In addition, Mercury has updated its Smart Tow to accommodate the lower speeds required by wake surfers. This feature allows tow sports boaters to choose a preset launch profile and cruise speed, providing a consistent ride for the wake surfer or wake boarder.

Skyhook Advanced Features

Mercury also unveiled the new Skyhook Advanced Features, an enhancement designed to improve positioning controls for Mercury joystick-equipped vessels, available  as downloadable content from Mercury’s GoFree store.

New Skyhook Advanced Features include:

  • Heading Adjust provides joystick operators with the ability to adjust the heading lock in 1- and 10-degree increments while SkyHook is active.
  • BowHook can be used to unlock heading and just maintain position, allowing the boat to point in whatever direction the winds and currents dictate.
  • DriftHook lets the operator maintain heading and unlock the position of the vessel allowing winds and currents to move the vessel along. Adjustments of 1- and 10-degree increments can be made while drifting when bundled with Heading Adjust.

Skyhook Advanced Features will be available for purchase starting in late May 2017. These features require Mercury’s latest joystick system and initially, VesselView703 (also available in late May). Boaters will be able to purchase Skyhook Advance Features for VesselView502, VesselView702 and compatible Lowrance and Simrad displays after a software update in late 2017.

Mercury also announced several new engines Wednesday.

Mercury Diesel 6.7L midrange engine family

The new electronic, common-rail engines will be offered with three power levels: 480hp, 500hp and 550hp. They will be available as inboards or packaged with the Mercury Zeus pod-drive. The new Mercury Diesel engine is compatible with Mercury’s full suite of SmartCraft controls and electronics, including optional joystick piloting for inboards and joystick piloting for pods (Zeus).

“Mercury has established itself as providing the best integrated propulsion solutions to our customers,” Foulkes said. “This is the first opportunity to provide our fully integrated ecosystem of technology and ease of boating features to our mid-range diesel customer.”

The new Mercury Diesel 6.7L engines are assembled at FPT Industrial’s dedicated marine engine plant.

“Our strategic partnership with Mercury Marine, initiated in 2015, emphasizes the FPT Industrial technological leadership by providing our customers with best in class product and service, bolstering FPT Industrial’s competitiveness in the marine engine business,” said Massimo Rubatto, vice president sales at FPT Industrial.

Mercury’s new mid-range diesel family offers outstanding acceleration and top speed performance combined with quiet and smooth operation, the company says. The system and electronic common-rail fuel injection technology also provides low fuel consumption.

“We want to be our customer’s first choice when it comes to selecting a power option. Expanding into the Mid-range diesel market offers Mercury the opportunity to deliver on our brand promise to customers in this premium boat segment,” said Reinhard Burk, Mercury Marine senior director of diesel & propulsion strategy. “With this new offering, the consumer isn’t just adopting Mercury’s diesel engine, but will have access to our entire range of SmartCraft features, support and most importantly our Service network.”

New Mercury Racing engines

Mercury Racing also introduced its new QC4v (quad cam four valve) 1750 Competition sterndrive and QC4V 860 sterndrive Wednesday night.

Mercury Racing’s QCV4v family now features models ranging from 860 h.p. to a 1750 h.p.

The 1750 sports a new color package to differentiate it from its consumer QC4v siblings. Designed, developed and manufactured in house, the 9.0 liter engine features Mercury Racing’s exclusive aluminum four valve cylinder heads and dual overhead camshaft valve train. The proprietary V-8 cylinder block is further packed with Mercury Racing designed and specified hardware. The QC4v valve train enables the engine to produce an astounding 1,750 horsepower at 6800 rpm on 117 MON VP C16 race fuel. The engine’s 6500-6800 rpm operating range offers unsurpassed acceleration for its power rating, the company says.

The 1750 is close-cooled for more uniform temperature distribution. Closed cooling, combined with a ball bearing supported compressor shaft, enhances 1750 turbocharger performance and durability as well. Engine temps are kept at bay with an all-new race-proven heat exchanger. Engine oil and glycol for the closed cooling system are routed around the engine via a series of tubes. The tubes are encapsulated in a casting filled with sea water which serves as a coolant. The heat exchanger provides for a higher sea water flow rate for enhanced cooling.

A custom intake system provides the 860 with maximum airflow. Twin 92 mm electronic throttle bodies feed the intake with runners designed to optimize torque. Rear-facing ram horn intakes direct induction noise rearward to reduce cockpit noise and enhance engine power. New camshafts, exclusive to the 860, feature custom lobes for greater valve lift. This, combined with high velocity cylinder head intake ports, provides maximum air flow to the combustion chamber. New pistons, designed exclusively for the naturally aspirated engine, respond to the fuel/air charge with an efficient 9.75:1 compression ratio.

Mercury Racing designed an all-new hydraulic transmission specifically for the 860 to handle high torque and power levels – as well as endure treacherous offshore duty cycles. The 860 comes standard with the Mercury Racing M6 surface drive. The higher capacity M8 sterndrive is optional. The 860’s 6,800 rpm rev limit offers rapid acceleration via Mercury Racing Pro Finish 5 & 6-blade CNC sterndrive Cleaver propellers.

In addition to the rear facing ram horn intakes, the 860 can also be configured with the exhaust outlets routed below water for reduced off-plane noise.

Finally, Mercury Racing also introduced the 400R Carbon Edition, a high-performance Verado outboard sculpted out of lightweight carbon fiber composite.

At 153 horsepower per liter, Mercury Racing’s 400R is the most powerful consumer outboard ever produced by Mercury and provides the highest power-to-weight of all other four-stroke outboards in its class, the company says.

400R outboards feature a custom cold air induction system for improved air flow and power development, while significantly reducing intake noise for improved sound quality. A water cooled supercharger is designed to reduce intake temperatures and significantly increase air density. This enables the engine to generate torque and acceleration all the way from the lower end of the power band, up to the 7,000 rpm maximum engine speed. Electronic knock control enables the engine to safely run on 89 octane (95 Ron) fuel when the recommended premium 91-octane (98 RON) fuel is not available to maximize performance.

400Rs destined for ultra-go fast duty on high performance catamarans and vee-bottoms are equipped with a custom Mercury Racing designed rear tie bar kit. The factory installed kit includes custom rear engine mounts and a heavy duty, stainless steel tie bar wing plate. The engine mounts feature an addendum for the mounting of the wing plate. Tie bars must be sourced through the boat builder or dealer.

The 400R is the first-ever Verado to feature the race-proven Sport Master gearcase with low water pickups for added performance and the first Mercury Racing outboard to feature Joystick Piloting for Outboards (JPO) technology.

 

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