The new Mercury Verado 400R unveiled and unleashed

By Steven Bull

In the months leading up to the 2015 Miami International Boat Show there was the usual chatter online about what exciting new products might be introduced – and there was significant mutterings about one product in particular. I was hesitant to trust the internet, being the speculative ether that it is, but when Mercury put up a teaser of big news coming at MIBs it finally seemed real.

"Made in USA" box covering Mercury's next big surprise
“Made in USA” box covering Mercury’s next big surprise

And when the big “Made in USA” boxes were lifted, a 400-horsepower production outboard stood in all its glory. Mercury’s brand new 400 Verado R was getting more photos and attention than a Kardashian on a red carpet.

I interviewed Steve Miller with Mercury Racing that same day for BoatTest.ca and his excitement was contagious. He described it as a “performance monster” and an “industry game changer” without sounding like he was in any way exaggerating.

“There’s been a lot of hype leading up to this new platform,” Miller said, standing beside a Phantom Black model that was taller than he was. “When you think about the power output with this kind of a package size, it’s really special.”

The 400R is actually remarkably small, even at 668 pounds. The engineers at Mercury were able to cram a ton of power into something compact enough to mount on traditional 26-inch centres.

“It has the best power-to-weight ratio and the highest horsepower-per-litre output of any outboard in the world,” Miller said, his excitement revving up as if I had hit the throttle on the interview. “When you have one of these on the back of your boat or, better yet, two, three or four and you put the sticks down, you better be hanging on!”

I was sold. I needed to see it in action. But it was only just launched, how many could there be?

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As fate would have it, the centre console Nor-Tech Mercury Racing had used for some test runs happened to be purchased by a friendly guy in Southwestern Ontario who was willing to take our PowerBoat TV crew for a spin with the first boat set-up with quad 400s anywhere in private hands.

Mike Gridley was assigned this shoot, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to finally see these beasts in action, so we found another Nor-Tech – this one a 4000 Roadster – for me to ride alongside in.

The beast tied up to the dock
The beast tied up to the dock

As our high-octane day kicked off, the owner of the Roadster asked me what the fastest I’d been on the water and when I said it was just over 70 miles per hour he smiled, turned to me and said, “We’re not only going to top that today, we’re going to shatter it.”

With our cameraman in a helicopter, Gridley in the centre console and I in a 2200-horsepower sterndrive beast, we started our high-speed day at the office.

Cameraman Aaron Wasylyk getting ready to shoot from above
Cameraman Aaron Wasylyk getting ready to shoot from above

As we cracked 75 miles per hour he tapped the digital display to point out I was the fastest I’d ever been as we kept climbing. Looking across 50 or so feet of water there was the centre console fishing boat, keeping pace as we accelerated past 80 miles per hour, then 85.

At the helm of the 4000 Roadster
At the helm of the 4000 Roadster
Steve enjoying the wind in his hair
Steve enjoying the wind in his hair

At 90 miles per hour as the smile was being stretched across my face to the point I was worried it would push my ears back, the blue-hulled Nor-Tech with quad, Cold Fusion White 400Rs was flying across the top of the water right beside us, keeping pace.

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We came to a stop, idling in the middle of a huge, but calm bay as I put on my photographer hat for some fast passes. After a brief chat boat-to-boat the 1600 combined horsepower purred as it revved up and pushed the big boat into a tight turn and down the bay, pursued by the chopper.

Aaron follows the boats from the helicopter
Aaron follows the boats from the helicopter

As it came skimming past us the loudest noise was the helicopter in the distance, followed by the sound of the water on the hull and then my camera snapping dozens of frames as I panned to chase Gridley and crew whizzing by. The outboards, like we’ve come to expect from the Verado name, are remarkably quiet for how powerful they are. There was engine noise, for sure, but not the kind of roar you’d expect from something rocketing by you at 94 miles per hour.

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The boat I was in, however, was a little more traditional when you think of an offshore style boat in the triple-digit speed range. The twin, 1100-hp turbocharged Mercury Racing sterndrives are powerful and loud. It’s a super cool, Tim “the Toolman” Taylor grunt-inducing kind of noise, but it’s still a loud noise.

While we had the chopper whirring overhead and the cameraman waving for us to do a high-speed run for the “just because we can” file, it was our turn.

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The 4000 Roadster is built for high-speed runs, and it’s not happy if it’s not going fast. That’s not a cheesy “need-for-speed” marketing line either – it’s amazingly accurate. Around 80 miles per hour it can start to porpoise, the owner yelling over the wind to me “once we get to 100, you’ll feel that magic carpet ride as it slides into a groove, the wind working with it instead of against it.”

He was right. Paradoxically the faster we went, the more stable and secure it felt. As I yelled out the speed like a child learning his numbers – “110…120…” – the adult “wait a minute, what’s happening here” voice started creeping in.

As we shot past the chopper I saw that we had cracked 130 miles per hour and I thought we peaked at 135. “It was 137,” I was corrected as the throttles were eased back and we slowed down to a crawling 100 mph.

Nor-Tech 4000 Roadster in action

The only time I’d ever gone 137 miles per hour (220 km/h) not in an airplane before was as a passenger in a competition Ferrari on a racetrack with a professional driver. Now I’d done it on Lake Erie.

As amazing as that top speed was, what really blew me away was a centre console fishing boat with production outboard motors that was able to keep up as we raced around at 90 miles per hour (145 km/h). That’s something you don’t see everyday, or didn’t, until Mercury Racing unleashed this performance monster into the marketplace.

Chopper and cameraman Aaron keep pace with the four 400s
Chopper and cameraman Aaron keep pace with the four 400s

It’s not just raw power, it’s brilliant engineering. External tie bars have a bigger diameter and larger fasteners, and the guide plates are similar to the 350 SCI, but offer better support and stability. It has a water-cooled supercharger fed by a cold air intake and the digital throttle and shift (DTS) provides ultra-smooth results, eliminating the clunking you can sometimes hear and feel on other outboards popping from neutral into gear.

Back in Miami I was promised a game changer and performance monster. After seeing it in action on the first set-up in private hands, I’m confident we’ll all be seeing a lot more Verado 400Rs in the very near future.

Now if only I can wipe the goofy smile off my face any time someone mentions Mercury Racing I’d be all set.

 You can catch the full Mercury Racing feature with both Nor-Tech boats in Episode 1 of PowerBoat Television and well as in the 2016 Winter issue of Boats&Places magazine.

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Steven Bull is an Associate Producer and Host of PowerBoat Television. He grew up boating on runabouts and PWCs on the lakes around Huntsville, while his wife grew up on cruisers. It only took months after getting married for Steve to adopt that lifestyle. Together, they purchased a Sea Ray 380 Sundancer they keep at the Toronto Islands. A graduate of the University of Windsor’s business school, Steve worked in the front office of OHL and CFL teams before moving to Europe and working as a Ski Guide in the French Alps. He returned to Canada get a Master of Arts in Journalism from Western University (formerly UWO). Steve’s broadcast experience ranges from the BBC World Service in England, to business reporter with NTV in Kenya, and from 2010-2014 as a multi-platform reporter and host with CBC News. In 2014, Steve combined his passion for boating with his skills as a broadcaster by joining Lifestyle Integrated where he contributes to Boats&Places Magazine, BoatTest.ca, BoaterNews.ca, and of course, PowerBoat Television.

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