MARK WARD test drives some of the latest and greatest technology from Mercury, which includes Active Trim, the 115 Pro XS and Command Thrust.
EARLIER this year at one of Queensland’s boat shows I was able to look at the new innovations that Mercury has introduced to its line-up of outboard motors. This includes the new Active Trim device, the 115hp Pro XS outboard as well as the not so new, yet still impressive, Command Thrust outboards. While all are very different in what they offer, it’s testament to Mercury’s intent on innovation and development of better outboards for the angler and family boater alike.
Mercury’s active trim system is now available as an addition to new outboards ranging from 40 to 400hp. Just what active trim does is utilises GPS technology to calculate boat speed as well as engine revolutions to obtain the ideal trim setting. The system can be set to five pre-set trim settings which can take into account the load, swell and different weather conditions. The operator can simply select one of the five profiles that best suits the situation and the system takes care of the rest.
The control panel is large and very simple to operate and read. It simply combines an on/off switch and five trim settings. To over-ride the system and go back to manual trim, simply hit the off button or start using the trim and you’re back in total control. If the wife takes over skipper duties and is inexperienced in setting the trim, turn the controls back on and auto trim is up and running. It’s as simple as that.
While testing the active trim system, I was keen to see how it preformed when initially getting the hull up onto the plane and also preventing cavitation when cornering. Trimming the engine up too early when coming onto the plane would be an issue and not trimming down when turning into tight corners would also constitute a fail in my books. Turns out that it was hard to fault as everything that I would do in manual mode was carried out by the active trim system with only a slight delay.
As soon as the system was turned on and the hull was in displacement mode with the engine idling, the active trim system dropped the engine down, ready to pull the hull out of the hole. Once the hull was up and planing the Active Trim went to work on setting the trim for the hull to sit proudly in the water. This would change as the speed changed and was also responsive to cornering. Making some sharp turns, the active trim would tuck the engine in to achieve maximum bite without any cavitation. There was a slight delay as to be expected however, I was still left very impressed with the overall performance of the Active Trim.
The system is available on most new Mercury outboards as well as being available as a “bolt on” feature for those that are interested in the system but aren’t in the market for a new donk.
The Command Thrust has been around for a little while now and is similar to the older Big Foot option from Mercury which was quite a few years ago now. The Command Thrust is along the same lines and is an oversized gearbox designed to generate extra thrust for heavy and hardworking boats.
The Command Thrust is not suited to every boat and situation. The larger gearbox means a bigger, thicker engine leg in the water. This creates hydrostatic drag and therefore can actually slow a boat down. Having said that, the drag (and power) that is created from the engine shaft needs to be balanced by the drag created by the hull itself. Big heavy hulls sit deep in the water and require lots of power and torque to get them moving.
The drag of the hull means that in comparison, the extra drag a larger gear box creates has little effect on performance. For example, if the hull creates a ton of drag and the larger gearbox creates an additional 50lb, then the overall effect of the box is very little. In actual fact, it is only 2.5 per cent increase in drag, but the increase in thrust and the option of a larger prop means that the increase in drag is not an issue.
Compare this to a flat bottomed, light weight bass boat that, while on the plane, only has 200lbs of drag. The 50lb increase due to the bigger gearbox is an increase in drag of 25 per cent. Ten times more than the heavier, deep V hull and therefore we would need to improve the performance of the outboard by more than 25 per cent to make an improvement in boat performance. Obviously, as good as Command Thrust is, this can’t happen.
The larger gearbox of the Command Thrust allows for larger props with more pitch options to allow for that ideal match between hull and prop. This is why Mercury has introduced the option across its 75, 90 and 115hp outboards. It’s this mid-range outboard that is often utilised for a variation of purposes that makes it tricky to get that perfect match between outboard and hull. Having the higher gear ratio of 2.38:1 instead of the standard 2.07:1 makes use of the heavy duty gearbox, making the Command Thrust system a real workhorse. It is even said to improve the slow planing speeds for offshore anglers who target pelagics. Getting a hull to plane at seven knots and staying on the plane can save a heap of fuel.
Mercury 115 Pro XS Four Stroke
With the Command Thrust taking care of the heavier hulls, Mercury have not left out owners of mid sized hulls that require a little more performance than the standard 115hp Merc. Ideally suited to ski boats, tournament fishing boats and bow riders in that five to six metre range, the new 115hp XS Mercury ticks all the boxes.
Creating a lighter, more powerful 2.1L engine, the Pro XS has a faster top speed, quicker acceleration and greater rev range. The Pro XS would ideally suit performance craft but with the choice of having a Command Thrust gearbox and a longer 25 inch shaft as well as the more common 20 inch, the Pro XS can be an option on a huge range of hulls. The new outboard also has an improved charging system which Mercury claim can pump 48 per cent more charge into the batteries than the standard 115hp.
Getting on the water with the Pro XS, the engine ripped the test hull onto the plane and even though it is only said to rev out to an extra 300 revs, the top-end performance was definitely a vast improvement. I’ve always been a huge fan of the brutal acceleration of the Mercury OptiMax outboards so experiencing similar performance in a four-stroke was very exciting.
I still see the Mercury 115 Pro XS as being a high performance outboard and a great option for those wanting two-stroke performance but prefer the quieter, economical four strokes. But with so many options, the Pro XS has plenty of potential as an outboard for everything from bass boats to commercial fishing vessels.
What Mercury has created is more options. Verado, OptiMax as well as the standard two and four stroke models give boat owners plenty of choice. The addition of Command Thrust as well as engines like the Pro XS build on what is already a very impressive line-up of outboards.
More information can be found on the Mercury Marine website.