MPI Awards 2023

These marine propulsion manufacturers proved tops in 2023.

Boating honors marine propulsion manufacturers that produce great innovations with the Marine Power Innovation awards. Boating’s MPI Awards honor those manufacturers of marine propulsion products that substantially advance the state of the art and/or substantially impact the owner experience in a demonstrably positive way. Each MPI Awardee has been trialed on the water by Boating Magazine’s team of expert testers. Congratulations to the following marine propulsion makers!

Read Next: About the Boating Marine Power Innovation Awards

Volvo Penta and Group Beneteau Plug-In Hybrid System

Groupe Beneteau and Volvo Penta collaborated to develop a diesel plug-in hybrid system for boats. We traveled to Sweden to sea trial the system as installed in a Jeanneau NC 37.

This system impressed us for its ability to power the boat to planing speed using diesel IC engines, while allowing its owner to cruise at slow speeds using electric power. A surprise benefit we discovered during tests is that the electric motors can be engaged simultaneously with the IC engines to make getting on plane even faster. Additionally, the battery installed allows enjoying silent electric power in an anchorage instead of using a generator.

For integrating diesel engines, electric motors, and a battery system in such a useful and effective way, we award Volvo Penta and Groupe Beneteau with a Marine Power Innovation Award.

Honda BF 350 Outboard

Honda’s new BF350 ramps-up the owner experience for large outboard engines.

We tested this engine in a variety of scenarios aboard two different boats: a SeaVee 29 and Tahoe 2585 pontoon boat. It delivers outstanding acceleration to plane and while up and going, thanks to an offset crank shaft and proprietary innovations like its BLAST system. Hit the throttle and this engine makes the boat jump with a quicker step than some other outboards. Furthermore, it’s not just ultra-responsive, the power delivered is super smooth.

Then consider the noise of the engine. It’s not so much that the volume, in decibels produced by the Honda BF350, may be quieter than those of other engines. Decibels measure noise quantity. What impressed us more was the quality of that sound: the Honda produces a pleasing note.

See and Hear Honda’s BF 350: 2024 Tahoe 2585 Cascade

Other features that ramp up the owner experience include being agnostic with respect to electronics. That is, the BF 350 can display its data on the MFD of your choice, without need for a gateway. This makes the BF 350 an excellent candidate for boaters seeking to repower because they would not need to replace their electronics when they repower their boats.

For these reasons, we award Honda Marine with Marine Power Innovation Award.

Garmin Force Kraken Trolling Motors

Garmin’s Force Kraken trolling motors advance the technology of trolling motors while also advancing the owner experience of using an electric trolling motor.

The brushlees Force Kraken is up to 37 percent more efficient than competitive brushed motors. It won’t fuzz up fish-finder screens with static. It has the ability to spin the prop backward to hasten response time and provide more control to the boat owner. Multiband GPS improves anchor lock. At the low end, the Force Kraken decelerates the motor within a meter of the desired location using reverse prop spin. At the high end, the Kraken applies more aggressive motor speed for improved performance in challenging seas, important as so many coastal anglers now use trolling motors.

Read More About the Garmin Force Kraken: New Bow-Mount Brushless Trolling Motors

For increasing electrical efficiency, for diminishing the static that other trolling motors can create on fishfinder screens, for the ability to spin the prop in reverse, and more, we award Garmin a Marine Power Innovation Award. Congratulations!

Rotax 1630 ACE 325 HP

We do not honor the Rotax 1630 ACE engine with an MPI Award simply because, at 325 horsepower, it sets a new benchmark for PWC power.

Our On-Water Test: New 325 hp Rotax 1630 ACE Engine

We are impressed with the way BRP re-engineered this entire jet-propulsion powertrain to achieve an astounding performance goal. Engineers for Rotax in Austria and BRP in Canada collaborated in drafting a jet pump impeller design with a thrust curve capable of propelling the new Sea-Doo RXT-X and RXP-X watercraft models from zero to 60 mph in a mind-bending 3.4 seconds. They then built up an engine capable of spinning that impeller with the required authority while maintaining the reliability, durability and warranty we expect from an OEM product. Every element of this engine – from the block to the intake – is stronger and more efficient than the previous 300-hp 1630 ACE engine.

A new centrifugal supercharger is driven directly from the crankshaft through a new planetary gear set within the supercharger housing which permits an astounding 100,000 rpm from the impeller. The new 75 mm impeller is 44 percent smaller than the previous 135 mm impeller, resulting in a more compact housing. The new design eliminates the friction clutch that has been a service issue on the previous supercharger. Despite an increase in boost pressure from 12.8 psi to 15.2 psi, Rotax says air temperature at the supercharger outlet is reduced by 50 degrees F, and cooler air makes more power.

For advancing the state of the art in PWC propulsion, we award an MPI Award to Rotax.


Mercury Racing 500R Outboard

Outboard advancements usually involve horsepower increases. Mercury Racing’s 500R impressed us with its power and performance, but also because of the technological advancements it developed to make that performance possible.

Our On-Water Test: Mercury Racing 500R Outboard

While the supercharger, which is belt-driven, helps deliver gobs of torque, the most notable advance may be the humidity sensor.

Any boater who runs outboards knows that performance and power can drop off as humidity increases. This technology allows the engine ECM to combine humidity, air-pressure and air-temperature data to determine the ideal spark timing. It is the first marine engine with humidity compensation. The maker claims up to a 30 percent increase in power as a result.

Other innovations include the Advanced Racing Core (ARC), with a stronger transom plane and adjustment via seven mounting holes, giving boaters more height adjustment. An enhanced trim system features two primary hydraulic rams, plus two new booster rams for added trim authority.

For advancing the technology of outboard engines, as well as marine engines as a whole, we are pleased to award Mercury Racing an MPI Award for its 500R outboard.

Power-Pole Move Trolling Motors

Power-Pole (JL Marine) MOVE trolling motors offer a GPS-driven, electrically-steered guidance system that automatically chops power and reverses engine direction when the motor has wound up its power cord. As such, there is no spinning of the motor to shake up anglers standing on the casting deck.

Our Review: Move Trolling Motors From Power-Pole

MOVE trolling motors use a brushless motor that turns at lower rpm than other motors, reducing power use and increasing range. Add a lifetime warranty to the aircraft-quality titanium shaft and its ability to bounce back from impact, functioning properly if it does happen to bend and the motor is likely to give any angler a full day of fishing under the roughest circumstances.

Further, JL Marine always keeps a live tech on hand to troubleshoot problems and immediately ship out replacement parts–something no other motor brand we know of can boast.

Suitable for fresh or saltwater use, MOVE controls include the RealFeel foot pedal with a low-latency wireless haptic ­motor that provides the sensation of cable steering and the ability to put the foot pedal anywhere you like. There are also wireless foot buttons available to activate the Anchor mode and Active Vector Heading. 

For these advancements to owner and angler ownership and use, we award the JL Marine Move Trolling Motor a Marine Power Innovation Award.