As far as cars go, the V12 is an endangered species. Few are left these days, and the already tiny population of automotive 12-bangers is set to decline even further in the next few years.
The realm of expensive boats is a little different, however. In the marine industry, big, naturally-aspirated engines are still king. So, as the car world turns its back on such lumps, Mercury has released the first-ever V12 outboard.
Boats aren’t something we’d usually cover on Car Throttle (unless it’s a capsized container ship full of cars being lopped into pieces), but we’ll let that slide this time. After all, it’s not like we get that many opportunities to talk about a brand new V12.
The engine in question is the 7.6-litre Verado, a quad-cam, 60-degree V12 producing 600bhp. Inside the powerhead, the engine is mounted on its end with the cylinder banks pointing outwards. Normally, a boat with an outboard is steered by turning the whole engine, but the Verado instead has an electro-hydraulically actuated gear case that pivots the dual propellers under the water.
Another industry first is the two-speed transmission, which has a 20 per cent lower first gear for better acceleration. Apparently, the shift is so smooth, users won’t even notice it.
The whole shebang weighs in at 572kg, but the heft isn’t much of an issue - the Verado is intended for vessels 40 feet or more in length. The under-stressed engine will hit 5600-6400rpm at full throttle and can run for around 200 hours between oil changes.
The posh boat world in an especially indulgent place, but the thinking behind the V12 is purely practical. On bigger boats it’s common to see a series of outboards used, so a big 12-cylinder unit gives the option to reduce the engine count, cutting service costs and increasing fuel economy. According to Mercury, a couple of Verado V12s use 20 per cent less fuel at cruise than a trio of “competitive” 425hp outboards. Plus, a V12 going to be smoother than something like a V8.
Inevitably, it’s not cheap. The Verado will be $77,000 when it goes on sale this spring. There’s also a hardier 500bhp commercial version called the SeaPro.