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Pontoon Boat Power: Sterndrive vs Outboard
For our performance tests we pitted a Bennington 2575 QCW I/O Sport Tower against a QCW powered by a Yamaha F350.
When you look at the performance charts, you might notice that the sterndrive boat is only about 2 mph faster at top end. Why, you might ask, even bother with a sterndrive? Looking only at the numbers is like looking at the box score of a baseball game in the paper and trying to determine who made the biggest plays. Sometimes it’s all about the eye test or, in this case, the feel test.
Throttling up the 8.2-liter big block just feels different. With the digital throttle and shift (DTS) controls, we enjoyed smooth acceleration to 30 mph and then wide-open throttle, with the feeling that there was plenty of power left over in reserve. What’s that all about?
“There’s no replacement for displacement,” said Facundo Onni, the category director for Mercury outboards and MerCruiser sterndrives. “Pontoons have grown in size, weight and amenities; sterndrives pick up where the outboards leave off.”
The MerCruiser 8.2L HO is a big-block V-8 with torque to spare. The Bravo Three sterndrive serves to transfer all that horsepower and torque to the water in a very efficient manner. There are plenty of pontoon aficionados who crave that.
“There is definitely a market for inboard-outboard pontoons,” said Trent Eekhoff, the design director for Bennington Pontoons. “The sterndrive setup is perfect for water sports.” But it’s more than that.
Some of it has to do with more boaters switching from fiberglass runabouts and cruisers over to the world of aluminum pontoons. Those boaters find the sterndrive more intuitive. It’s what they know and like. And don’t forget the sex appeal.
Eekhoff helped design the 2575 QCW I/O Sport Tower we tested, with its compelling layout and optional “Black Out” styling that gives it a hologram look that would fit in with the poker-run crowd.
When we cut the wheel hard over at 30 mph, the sterndrive application really shined. This is not standard practice on a pontoon boat, because most experience a slight outward lean in turns that can be unnerving for the driver.