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New Boat Engines for 2013
Mercury TDI SmartCraft
Who Wants It? Boaters seeking relief from ethanol worries associated with gasoline engines.
Importance? High efficiency, high performance and high torque in a small footprint.
Volvo Penta V8-380
Presented as a lightweight, high-tech alternative to “big block” gasoline sterndrive and inboard engines, the new 6.0-liter (364 cubic inch displacement) V8-380 replaces the company’s 8.1-liter offering and is an interesting alternative to the 380 hp MerCruiser 8.2 Mag. Based on a General Motors Powertrain Vortec 6.0L (L96) VVT engine, the V8-380 is the first gas sterndrive or inboard engine offered with variable valve timing (VVT). A common feature on current auto engines, and also on Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha outboards, VVT broadens the power band of the engine by changing the position of the camshaft relative to the crankshaft through a range of 26 degrees. This produces a broader overall torque band — 90 percent of max torque is available from 2,000 to 5,500 rpm — with good bottom-end grunt and deep-breathing top-end power at the engine’s peak speed of 6,000 rpm. Without VVT you’d get one or the other, not both.
VVT and less displacement help the V8-380 achieve 12 percent better fuel economy than the engine it replaces, and it weighs 270 pounds less than a MerCruiser 8.2-liter package, all according to Volvo. The V8-380 is offered only with a closed cooling system, which includes the coolant circulating through aluminum exhaust manifolds and the oil cooler. Closed cooling also helps maintain a more-constant oil and engine temperature, which aids efficiency.
When GM discontinued production of its 8.1-liter engine in late 2009, Volvo stocked up and had enough inventory to offer that engine until May 2012. Mercury Marine took a different path and in 2010 introduced its MerCruiser 8.2L engines, which it assembles itself using a GM block. Mercury places value on the benefits of displacement and “proven, tested, simple, reliable and low rpm engines,” a spokesperson says. “The benefits of the current strategy outweigh the potential benefits of increasing high-tech automotive technology.” In other words, keep it simple.
I expected simple would also be less expensive, but that may not be the case. Boatbuilders ultimately set the retail price of engine options, and after surveying the prices of several builders, it appears the Volvo Penta V8-380 will cost $2,100 to $2,500 less than an equivalent MerCruiser 8.2L Mag, at least for the coming season.