It figured that the first boat on which we'd find Mercury's new Digital Throttle Shift (DTS) would be a Formula. The "fly-by-wire" system works digitally and makes for the smoothest shift and throttle control we've ever experienced, which is why we say it's fitting for a Formula. Everything about the 260 BR, inside and out, challenges the standards of perfection.
Simply flipping up the seat bolster at the helm stands out because it becomes a flush leaning cradle, like the kind we find on performance boats. On a day when we were avoiding the middle of our test lake on most boats, we stood through the rough stuff on the 260 and noted how solidly the boat held its ground, even in hard turns. It sounds like hyperbole, but the ride was so silky that 53 mph seemed like 30.
Lift is key to milking speed from a big hull. But we think boaters are more impressed with sturdy cruising than with flat-out quicks. And that's harder to accomplish in a boat than in any other type of vehicle.
A close inspection reveals why the 260 stands so firm. If the builder is so particular as to plumb cup holders to the bilge or to use acrylic hatches to prevent gouges or to finish the bilge with gelcoat or to include porcelain in the head (like home!) ... then you know everything has to be first-rate.
Quality comes from fit and finish, which are costly for Formula to accomplish. One example on the 260: the wet bar (with two Corian tops that open in perfect synch on gas struts) is a separate unit from the deck. So are the fiberglass bases under the double-wide helm seat and the engine compartment. Because they are not molded in, the units won't flex with the deck, which over time would skew the seat cushions and hatches into a cockeyed fit.
Our test boat came with Formula's latest feature -- a wakeboard tower so brawny it could be mistaken for a stainless-steel radar arch. It's double-railed and allows a Bimini top to fit within the frame. Like everything else on the 260, it's a premium component and not an afterthought -- for boaters willing to pay for top-line equipment throughout.
Length Overall: 26'
Dry Weight: 5,250 lb.
Seating/Weight Capacity: n/a
Fuel Capacity: 92 gal.
Max HP: 425 MSRP (test boat): $99,845
Test Engine: MerCruiser 496 Mag
Test Prop: 26-cup, stainless steel
Test Load: People (360 lb); Fuel (70 gal.)
Top Speed: 53.1 MPH @ 4,600 RPM
Time to Plane: 5.6 sec.
Time to 30 MPH: 9.0 sec.
Min. Plane Speed: 21.5 MPH @ 2,400 RPM
*Double helm seat has divider so companion can adjust to own comfort.
*Dry-fast foam in cushions allows water to drain instead of festering mildew.
*Burly double foldout hinges allow unencumbered access under all seats.
*Cocktail table straps to engine compartment instead of eating storage space.
*Engine hatch opens electronically with a switch at the helm.
*In-floor "basement" opens on a pressurized shock.
*Windshield wiper on driver's side -- no need to use the hand.