Four Cheers

Cummins MerCruiser 2.8L ES 200 diesel

The marriage between Cummins and MerCruiser celebrated its 18-month anniversary with the introduction of its first offspring: The 2.8L ES 200 is a lightweight 200-bhp diesel stern drive that's designed to fit in places where diesels traditionally don't go. Center consoles and other fishing machines under 25' may be able to add a new baby to their arsenal.

Built on Merc's 2.8-liter (169 cid), 4-cylinder block-the same as the 165-bhp version-the ES 200 boasts a new water-cooled turbine that provides more torque at low speeds, peaking at around 320 ft-lbs at 2200 rpm and holding that level to almost 2800. New piston rings and relocated oil jets improve piston cooling. A cooler in the return line reduces fuel temperature, and spiral intake ports create better swirl for a more complete burn, producing added power. The dual-stage, direct-injection fuel system also boosts efficiency and cuts emissions.

Noise levels are moderate for a diesel. Tucked into an Angler 220 and coupled to a Bravo Three stern drive for our test run, the ES 200 produced just 71 dB-A at a 600-rpm idle and maxed out at 96 dB-A at 3800, comparable to many two-stroke outboards. You can still hear the distinct turbo whine and the diesel "tick," but it's not as invasive as a big-block engine. And there are no smoky plumes when you put the hammer down. The engine spools up quickly, and vibrations-though decidedly diesel underfoot-are reduced via twin counter-rotating balance shafts and an oversize flywheel.

The new engine is comparable to Yanmar's 4LHA-STZE, another compact four-cylinder that matches the Cummins-Mercruiser's 41"-by-31" dimensions. The Yanmar is narrower-27" versus 31"-and weighs about the same-1,072 pounds versus 1,096. But the Yanmar has the edge in pounds per horsepower-4.6 versus 5.3.

The Cummins MerCruiser ES 200 is shorter than the old 165 by 4", a trick the company managed by moving the heat exchanger, freshwater pump, and wiring harnesses to the side of the engine. The 85-amp Bosch alternator sits high on the left side of the block. The standard power steering unit is driven through a separate V-belt.

The engine burns 6.5 gph at 2200 rpm and 12 gph at 3800, making it extremely thrifty to operate compared to gas V-8s and four-stroke outboards generating comparable power. And, of course, the safety and longevity of diesel versus gasoline will be sales points to consider.

ContactCummins, MerCruiser Diesel, 800/343-7357, www.cmdmarine.com