When the powers that be at Mercury decided to produce a supercharged four-stroke outboard, they allocated more than $100 million to the project. With that much money involved, they couldn’t afford a mistake, so they enlisted Porsche’s Claus Bruestle to head the team, a man who, surprisingly, had never been on a boat before. Prior to working at Porsche, Bruestle had worked for Garrett AiResearch, which specialized in forced-air induction gas engines and had pioneered some of racing’s technology milestones, such as building the first turbocharged engines to win at Indy and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Instead of a turbocharger, the Verado has a supercharger like those on Top Fuel dragsters. It uses a belt to power a pump that jams more air and fuel into the combustion chamber. With it, the smallish 2.6L in-line 6-cylinder (Porsche 911 engines are also in-line 6s) produces up to 375 hp. Racing versions of this configuration can create upward of 1,000 hp, but making horsepower isn’t the trick. Keeping it together under all that violence is the reason they chose Bruestle, an engineer who was involved with the Porsche 935 – a car capable of going for 24 hours at Le Mans while hitting top speeds of 235 mph on the 3.5-mile Mulsanne Straight.
The naysayers who thought the Verado had too much technology for the harsh marine environment were wrong: Since its inception in 2004, Verado has proved to be very reliable. Mercury Verado outboards range in size from the 4-cylinder 150 hp model all the way to the 350 SCi, which is sold under the racing division’s banner.