This latest effort from Big Black raises the ante in the ever-competitive high-horsepower outboard market, providing an ideal power option for a series of offshore applications.

I can clearly remember the day that my Father came home with our first new outboard.  I was only 10 years old and the 25 hp motor was nearly as big as I was.  Shocked by the purchase and its high power, my Mother made him take it back!  She said, “who needs that much horsepower on the back of a boat?”

Fast forward several years to recently testing Mercury Racing’s new water-churning 400 hp outboard engines at the Miami International Boat Show, and I am sure my mother rolled over in her grave.

There are a number of boaters that believe my Mom could be right. Why build outboard motors with more power than most cars on the road? The answer is quite simple – the demand and people buy them.  There are also some very practical reasons.

Today’s boats have dramatically increased in size and weight, requiring considerably more horsepower to achieve their performance capabilities. For boat applications where outboards are preferred over inboard power, powerful outboards have become both practical and popular.  Of course, big horsepower also provides bragging rights for the manufacturers that build them.

The new 400 Race (or quite simply “R”) outboard is based on the proven 2.6L Verado platform and showcases some remarkable new technologies. For example, it has a redesigned cold air induction system. The all-new water-cooled supercharger increases air flow and air density while significantly reducing the high sound levels normally caused by air inflow systems.

Structural upgrades incorporated into the block and head ensure classic Verado durability, even with its higher power output.  High octane fuel is recommended, but should you find yourself in an area where it’s not available, this motor will run on regular 89 octane gas. This handy feature is made possible through a new electronic anti-knock control.

High performance engine mounts and stainless steel mid-section guide plates with composite wear pads ensure excellent stability and handling at higher speeds. Driving is smooth and easy due to a combination of electro-hydraulic power steering and SmartCraft Digital Throttle and Shift (DTS).

The choices of gearcases allow owners to order the optimum match for their specific application.  In addition to the standard 5.44-inch heavy-duty gearcase recommended for heavier center consoles, pontoons and deckboats, the 400R offers the race-proven Sport Master gearcase with the water pickups positioned lower. This Sport Master gearcase is ideal for many applications, from single engine flats boats to multi-engine offshore center consoles, where speeds can exceed 85 mph.

400Rs are available in the traditional Mercury Phantom Black or Cold Fusion White. Seven different accent color graphics, available on Cold Fusion White models, enable buyers to custom match the color scheme of their boat.

Thanks to these new technologies and upgrades, the 400R produces 153 horsepower per liter as well as the highest power-to-weight ratio of all other four-stroke outboards in its class. To test these motors on the type of boat for which they were designed, we chose a Marine Technology Inc. V-42.  This high-performance, luxury, center console utilizes a slotted tunnel in the hull that improved performance so much, the company was able to patent it.  The 42 comes standard with mouth-watering looks.

The helm on this center console closely resembles the panel on a Boeing 747, but don’t let that intimidate you.  Mercury’s Joystick Piloting, (JPO), allows you to easily maneuver this large center console in tight spaces and dock safely by simply moving a central joystick with your fingertips. Complimenting this control feature is the DTS, which delivers smooth shifting and fast response.

Two throttle levers operate all four engines with automatic throttle synchronization by Smart Start.  When we needed to hold in one spot for a few minutes while another boat exited the marina, a simple engagement of Mercury Skyhook connected our boat to GPS satellites and automatically shifted, throttled and articulated the outboards, so we easily held our position.  Integrated autopilot, auto heading and waypoint sequencing make navigation simple and accurate.

The four 400Rs generated unprecedented torque and unmatched acceleration all the way from the lower end of the power band up to the 7,000 rpm maximum. Crossing wakes and heavy chop was easy and smooth, without the usual need to cross them at optimum angles. In the open ocean, long swells prevented us from holding full power on the throttles, yet we still hit 69 mph.

Fuel consumption was surprisingly light. Interestingly, between 30 and 65 mph, the burn tracked at a couple of digits more than the miles per hour as indicated on our GPS. For example, at 50 mph, we burned 52 gallons per hour.

I found myself thinking about which of my kids I might trade for a chance to have this super-sized dream boat for a full weekend – but I’m sure Mom wouldn’t like that either.

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