If there is a formula for a great boat test, it is this. Start with an innovative boat like Formula’s 400 Super Sport Crossover. Stir in a vastly experienced offshore racer like Vic Spellberg as captain, add a dash of deep-V hull and, as a finishing flourish, decorate the transom with four fire-breathing Mercury 350 outboards.
We hadn’t cleared the breakwaters when Spellberg wrapped a fist around the throttles and grinned evilly. “Watch this!” In a flash, we were howling past 30 mph, skimming an inlet swell at 40, out into the open Gulf Stream at 50, and we were watching the digital speedo blink upward until it hovered at just over 60 mph.
By this point, we were grinning evilly too.
Saying Formula and outboards in the same sentence is challenging, since Formula has been inboards and sterndrives since the days of Don Aronow, but the Porter family has nurtured Formula by staying current, and the 400 SSC is in the company’s new outboard-powered Crossover series.
This is a bowrider on steroids, and Formula created the first-ever combination of sliding windshield and folding Lucite door to make access from the cockpit to the bow easy. Even better, the deck from the transom to the bow seating is one level, so no ups or downs for tripping. Formula also used its SmartZone system, where each area of the boat is self-sufficient. Example: The forward wraparound seats have two tables (with dedicated stowage) that create a sun pad (fillers standard), ample drink holders (24 throughout the boat), a hidden insulated cooler, and even a trash can for empties. Poles for the available sunshade also have dedicated stowage.
The skipper rides in style on a triple-wide seat with individual flip-up bolsters and double footrests behind a black dash with space for twin 19-inch Raymarine multifunction displays, plus the Mercury SmartCraft VesselView panel. A Mercury joystick makes docking a cinch, and a tidy row of polished stainless-steel rocker switches completes the controls. Two thoughtful touches are a genuinely waterproof glove box and a dedicated tray for your phone with USB plug.
Opposite the helm is a mini-galley with sink, pull-out Isotherm fridge and plenty of stowage. An optional Yeti 35 cooler rolls out from under the helm seat, and a Kenyon grill is located aft behind the settee. The fiberglass hardtop with electric glass sunroof provides sun protection.
Wraparound seating is to starboard and, at the touch of a button, a table rises from the sole for dining. The backrests on the dinette flip forward to become an aft-facing sun pad.
Formula has hidden all the rigging on the quad Mercs under hatches, thus creating a wide walk-around platform without clutter. Of note is the console to port, which has the battery switches, shore-power connections, immense stowage, and an inlet for the optional freshwater engine-flushing system. This is a no-brainer in our books.
Standard on the 400 SSC is a 7.5 kW Westerbeke gas generator under the cockpit floor with good access via a hydraulic-lift hatch that reveals generous equipment space with room to add an optional Seakeeper 3 or 6 gyrostabilizer.
The cabin is a delight with 6 feet 5 inches of headroom, and lots of light from opening windows. Forward is an Ultraleather lounge with table that converts from dining to double sleeping, and a mini-galley is to starboard with a sink, microwave, and flawless dovetailed drawers for stowage. To port is a pull-out Isotherm fridge, and a 32-inch TV resides on the bulkhead.
The enclosed head offers plenty of space, with a VacuFlush toilet, vanity and shower. Tucked aft is a queen berth with memory-foam mattress, making this an easy choice for primary sleeping without having to convert the dinette. This results in a yacht that isn’t just for overnighting, and you can spend a long weekend aboard without feeling like you’re roughing it — you’re not.
Shopping? Check out the Sea Ray SLX 400 OB ($550,000 powered with twin engines), with a foldout swim terrace.
Underway, the 400 SSC is a pure delight. Fast and flat out of the hole, it carves turns with aplomb at all speeds, and banks solidly without any protest from the quad props. Control yourself or you’ll start throwing 11 tons of yacht around like a go-kart.
We had a benign Gulf Stream and, had we thought to bring our passports, could have been in Bimini in just an hour — 3,600 seconds, whoa! But we had to content ourselves with chasing an oceangoing tug to find a fat wake to cross. The multistep Fas3Tech hull with its 21-degree deadrise sliced that tug wake without fuss. “That’s it?” we asked Spellberg, mildly disappointed in the absence of wham-bam. We shouldn’t have been surprised, considering the Formula offshore heritage and, with the hull supported by a foam-filled stringer grid, there weren’t even any rattles or squeaks. Boring, but with your family and friends aboard when the weather gets mean, you’ll get everyone home fast.
The 400 Super Sport Crossover proved worthy of its name. It’s super and we loved it. It’s sporty enough to satisfy your need for speed without sacrificing comfort and seaworthiness, and with cruising amenities, it’s unquestionably a crossover. Consider it for your short list.
- Every nook has been used for accessible storage with well-finished lockers.
- We found thoughtful dedicated storage for awkward items such as the cockpit TV, sink covers and sunshade poles, plus big self-draining lockers for dock lines and fenders.
- High marks are given for easy access to systems: steering, batteries, pumps, etc.
- Available cockpit barbecue grill is a bit close to some luscious upholstery for those of us who aren’t tidy chefs.
- Knee-level VHF radio at the helm is awkward to use.
- We’d like to see a diesel genset option for the added safety it affords.
Available Power: Outboard
How We Tested
Engines: Quad 350 hp Mercury Verado L6 350s
Drive/Props: 145/8″ x 19″
Gear Ratio: 1.75:1
Fuel Load: 200 gal.
Water on Board: 20 gal.
Crew Weight: 450 lb.
Formula Boats – Decatur, Indiana; 260-724-9111; formulaboats.com