The first week of October 2011 saw the release of a new 250 horsepower four-stroke outboard from Honda Marine. The new Honda engine expands their offering to include models from 2hp to the new 250. Just a few weeks earlier, Mercury Marine announced its totally new 150hp four-stroke. The Mercury 150 responds to the marketplace demands for a newer, lighter, more compact, durable, strong and economical (to purchase and operate) four-stroke outboard for just about any boating application.
More and more, high horsepower outboards are making their way to the backs of larger boats. It's common to see two or three engine installations on offshore fishing boats and near-shore go-fast cruisers. Many of those engines sport 200hp, 250hp or 300hp decals. Yet, one of the most popular horsepower outboards for bow-riders, bass boats, walleye boats, flats and bay boats, ski boats or mid-range cruisers is the venerable 150.
On a cold, overcast, damp, September Wisconsin morning an iboats.com staff boater had the opportunity for a visit to a secure Mercury Marine test facility to look at the all new 150hp four-stroke outboard.
How many times have you heard "totally new" outboard only to find it's not necessarily a factual claim? Well, this one really is "totally new"! This engine has been in development for over four years. The recent softening of boat and engine sales actually helped the development of this engine by not rushing it into the market.
The 150 is an in-line four cylinder, 3L, eight valve SOHC (single, overhead cam) engine weighing in at only 455 pounds. "Only" 455 pounds? Yes, and that's light for the horsepower and about 19 pounds lighter than the next in its HP range. It also has the largest displacement in its category. Does that mean we'll eventually see a 175 or 200hp from this same engine block? The Merc guys say no. We'll see.
There's a lot of great design features build into this engine for owner servicing and maintenance that we'll cover in follow up articles over the next couple months. The engineers listened to customers, dealers and their own service tech's when designing this engine.
Personally, I like the styling of this engine. It's shorter, more thin and not as deep front to back. It looks nice and proportionate to the horsepower. The decaling is subtle and stylish.
Everything on the 150 is new. The mid-section is new and the lower unit/gearcase is all new. It uses the same series of propellers as other large outboards or stern drives from Mercury but the diameter of the gearcase is actually larger. The transom bracket is a new design too.
So... how did it run? Like many of the four-strokes out there the first thing you notice is how easy it starts. Again, another four-stroke outboard attribute is how quiet they run. This one does not disappoint in that arena either. Four-strokes are inherently quiet but the one noise source some boaters comment on is the air intake. As air goes in, sometimes noise gets out. And the simple function of the air being taken in by the engine at idle or at full throttle makes noise. That too was addressed in this design. The sound of this engine is actually appealing. It has a slightly deeper, throatier sound than other engines in this horsepower range; and that's intentional. To paraphrase a boat dealer I spoke with about this recently; "you don't want the engine to sound like a sewing machine; you want it to sound like an engine".
We idled away from the dock and brought the 19' aluminum test boat up on plane. Of course, an aluminum deep-v boat is light and will plane quickly and this one did with the 150 horses on her transom.
My personal boat has a two-cycle, 200hp outboard on the back, and a conversation at full speed does require some yelling. As I boosted the 150 to full throttle I was able to have a casual conversation with the Mercury reps sitting in the bow, in the left passenger seat and near the engine using normal voice volume levels. We traded places so I could sit closer to the engine and still, no yelling.
Next month, we'll dig into the neat features under the lightweight cowl to talk about fuel economy and pricing that will help this engine appeal to a lot of boaters.
(Bill Gius is a three-plus decade marine industry veteran with extensive, hands-on accessory, boat and engine experience. Bill has been working with iboats.com for six years to help manufacturers and dealers use iboats online marketing, advertising and lead generation services. Bill can be reached at 800-869-1686 x199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)