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Review: Mercruiser 4.5L V6 vs 4.3L V6 / Bayliner 215 Deckboat-gctid618559

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    Review: Mercruiser 4.5L V6 vs 4.3L V6 / Bayliner 215 Deckboat-gctid618559

    Introducing the next generation of stern drive power.

    The 4.3 is dead...long live the 4.3. Introducing the new king, Mercury's spanking new 4.5L V6.

    Let's discuss the future of stern drives for a moment. This 4.5L engine is the first of a new line of engines that will replace over 90% of Mercury's current offerings. The current 3.0L 4 cylinder, 4.3L V6, 5.0L V8, and 5.7L V8s are, or will soon be, discontinued. In general these reasons are related to what is happening in the auto industry right now, as these engines are based on those applications. Most auto engines are being downsized and are using technology that would raise costs substantially were these turned into marine engines. Additionally, all of these engines are very old and overdue for replacement. Specifically, the 4.3 is Mercury's volume engine, and the block has been out of production from GM for a few years now. GM makes a new 4.3 that is completely unrelated to the current marine 4.3, but again, it is a very high tech engine with a mixture of construction methods (which automaticly means closed cooling, added cost, etc...). The current marine 4.3 is a very rough running, thirsty, and unrefined engine that is not particularly power-dense. It won't meet emissions any more, and....well, it's OLD. It's been around in some form or another since Jimmy Carter was in office. With most boats in the $30,000 to $55,000 range running these V6s, this engine is no longer appropriate as a powerplant for boats with these price tags. Customers are getting into them, starting them up, and immediately notice how unrefined the boat sounds. Time marches on.

    While the future for the boats running these engines is cloudy at the moment (I am hearing some big changes coming for the small 3.0L end of the market, as that engine will not be replaced), in general the future is pretty rosy if this 4.5 is anything to go on.

    So, lets talk about what this engine is. It is a DIRECT REPLACEMENT for the 4.3L V6 and the lower power 5.0 and 5.7L V8s. The 4.3L is dead and the 5.0 and 5.7s are also not long for this world, so Mercury needed to come up with a stern drive replacement engine. This engine is a completely in-house Mecury design. It is not based on any current engine block, but does utilize the 4.3 bolt patterns and engine mounts, in order to make for plug and play repowers. There will possibly be a lower power version of this engine to cover the 190 hp nodes, and will also cover the more expensive low end models that are currently running the 3.0L 4 cylinder (like lower end Sea Ray models). In plain English, variants of this engine will power everything from higher-priced 3.0L offerings up to the lower end small block V8s. Meet the new high volume Mercury stern drive engine.

    One reason why Mercury went in-house for the new engine is cost. Automotive V6s have seen technological leaps made with high tech materials and technologies that may not be ready for marine use. Marinization is very possible with, say, GM's 24 valve 3.6L V6, but direct injection hasn't been tried in a boat before. Additionally, the cost to marinize and offer this engine would make stern drives even more cost prohibitive than they currently are. As a result, Mercury decided to go in house using tried and true V6 technology in a more power dense package. Another reason for going in-house is reputation: Mercury wants to be known as an engine builder, not an engine marinizer. This effort will help Mercury legitimize their legacy, and with an engine that is much higher volume than the current 8.2L big block.

    I drove a boat with a new 4.5L V6, a Bayliner 215 Deckboat. I was able to directly compare it to the blue Bayliner 195 Deckboat immediately behind it, running the hoary old 4.3:





    Additionally, I also ran a 642 Overnighter cuddy with a 220 hp 4.3 as well....



    ...so I had a good baseline of old vs. new.

    Now, I grant you that I was comparing separate boats, but I have run enough 4.3s to be a pretty good judge of improvements. The 4.3 is a good engine in terms of it is cheap to buy, cheap to run, parts are ubiquitous, they are easy to fix, and they are pretty bulletproof on the reliability front. The demerits are many, and I spoke to them above - its very unrefined, it feels old, it sounds old, it's thirsty for being small-displacement, it doesn't produce as much hp as it should, and it is a dirty engine.

    The engine is a clean and compact installation in the 215. I particularly appreciated major maintenance information clearly placed on a placard right on the front, clearly visible. No more digging for a manual for basic information like maximum RPM. Other maintenance points like power steering and oil filter are directly up front where they are within easy reach:



    Jump in the new 215 with the 4.5 and you will notice the difference right away. First thing you notice is the noise, vibration, and harshness issue. The 4.5 is smooth and refined sounding when you start it up. By comparison, the 4.3 jerks and vibrates to life and does not sound like a V6. Performance was also an eye opener. The 4.5 is slightly lighter than the 4.3, and nearly an entire person lighter than the 5.0 V8. In the 215, this resulted in very little bowrise and excellent acceleration, with a minimum planing speed around 2,800 RPM. This is very handy in rougher waters as well as for towing sports. A 5.0L V8 would still be under the planing threshold at the speed in which the 4.5 is on plane. Stretch the 4.5 out to the 5200 RPM redline and the engine remains smooth, composed, and powerful across the entire power band.

    The 4.3, by comparison, feels like a hair shirt. In the smaller 195, the stern dug in deeper upon acceleration, crossing the planing threshold took half a second or so longer than the larger 215 did, and it just felt heavy and unrefined. That's not a big deal if you are buying the boat used, or if you bought one back in the early 2000s. It's a very big deal when the sticker of the boat is in the upper $30,000 range.

    In fact, about the only complaint I can levy against this engine package isn't the fault of the engine at all, it's the drive. The 4.5 can be paired with either an Alpha One, or any of the Bravo series drives. In my test drive, the 4.5 was paired to the Alpha. The smoothness of the 4.5 belies the age of the Alpha One drive. Look, I have been a vocal critic of the Alpha One in the past, and as time moves on, the drive's antiquated design is getting more and more unaccpetable. Moving from gear to gear results in the typical teeth-chattering grinding clunk, followed by the half-an-engine-stall as you move it out of gear. To a new boater, this is not normal or acceptable behavior, especially if they are coming out of a test drive boat with a Volvo or a Bravo. Mercury: It's time to overhaul the Alpha. "Cheap", "easy to find parts", and "reliable" isn't going to cut it anymore when your outboards are more refined than your more expensive stern drives. You don't have to move to a cone clutch, but do SOMETHING - the Alpha has all the refinement of a drunken ox, and that behavior is not acceptable on a boat costing more than $30,000. While I am griping, it's also time to introduce some parts commonality with the Bravo series when it comes to the transom assembly. There are people out there would would like to upgrade to Bravos at a later date without doing expensive surgery to their boats's transom.

    The implications of the 4.5 get even more important as you get into the larger boat size ranges. Where a 27 foot cruiser might usually find twin 5.0L V8s in the engine bay, the new 4.5 will supplant that option and take some 250 lbs off the transom of the boat while still providing similar power. Time will tell how successful the 4.5 will be. A major concern will be the parts and servicability of the new engine, which is a valid concern. However, with this engine set to power everything from 18 foot bowriders to larger twin engine cruisers, I would expect to see this engine around for a very long time, and put into a LOT of different boats. This should help allieviate the parts and servicing concerns.

    All hail the king.
    Matt Train
    BOC Site Team
    Chicagoland, IL

    #2
    All Mercruiser needs to do is add a pair of cylinders to this engine: lightweight 6.0 L, V-8 with 300+ hp... :whistle:
    1999 3788, Cummins 270 "Freedom"
    2013 Boston Whaler 130 SS
    Anacortes, WA

    Comment


      #3
      They already have...Mercruiser 6.2L 320 HP
      Joon, Kathy, Jaden & Tristan
      93 3058
      92 2855
      91 Fourwinns 205
      Longbranch WA
      Life is Good

      Comment


        #4
        [quote]"Ruffryder" post=618572 wrote:
        They already have...Mercruiser 6.2L 320 HP[/quot9e]

        Not really because that is still a marinized automotive engine. I'd like to see the new marine engine enlarged.
        1999 3788, Cummins 270 "Freedom"
        2013 Boston Whaler 130 SS
        Anacortes, WA

        Comment


          #5
          "Ruffryder" post=618572 wrote:
          They already have...Mercruiser 6.2L 320 HP
          Are you sure they will still have the 6.2l. If the 5.7l is, or is about to be made obsolete then the 6.2l is obsolete as well. If my understanding is correct the 6.2l is just a rebored 5.7l
          David
          1999 Bayliner 1750 Capri. 3l Mercruiser Alpha

          2014 Yamaha VX Cruiser

          Comment


            #6
            "Davidlyne" post=618610 wrote:
            "Ruffryder" post=618572 wrote:
            They already have...Mercruiser 6.2L 320 HP
            Are you sure they will still have the 6.2l. If the 5.7l is, or is about to be made obsolete then the 6.2l is obsolete as well. If my understanding is correct the 6.2l is just a rebored 5.7l
            The rumor is ALL small blocks have a date with the Grim Reaper.

            I have heard a rumor on what will replace them, but the 4.5 shows the path forward.
            Matt Train
            BOC Site Team
            Chicagoland, IL

            Comment


              #7
              [quote]"Download_Complete" post=618651 wrote:
              [quote=

              The rumor is ALL small blocks have a date with the Grim Reaper.

              I have heard a rumor on what will replace them, but the 4.5 shows the path forward.[/quote]

              Matt, Thanks for taking time to write about this. I think with the weight reduction and the fuel efficiency, this engine would do a fine job in the midsized cruisers both new and as a replacement for the old iron. The economy is better and if the lobbys like Boat US and others can rid boaters of all the insane regs and harassment, the midsize market can return in an infant form.
              David
              http://www.cambridgeadvertising.org
              http://www.davidladewig.com

              Comment


                #8
                I think it is past time to dump the Alpha drive also. If I were to purchase a new single engine boat I would want to have the Bravo III drive installed. It is an all around better performer and the Alpha does not even come close.
                Rick Grew

                1981 Carver 3007 Aft Cabin

                2004 Past Commodore
                West River Yacht & Cruising Club
                www.wrycc.com

                Comment


                  #9
                  "RGrew176" post=618704 wrote:
                  I think it is past time to dump the Alpha drive also. If I were to purchase a new single engine boat I would want to have the Bravo III drive installed. It is an all around better performer and the Alpha does not even come close.
                  The Chicago Boat Show is going on right now, and while nobody would offer it up, once I mentioned my disdain for the Alpha, the eye rolls and agreements started pouring out. Lots of dealers are quietly saying it's time to ditch, or redesign, the Alpha One.

                  Price them up in a boat brand that offers both, and there is no major price difference between it and the same package with a Volvo SX, and I think we would all agree that the SX is a better drive than the Alpha.

                  The current Alpha One was redesigned for the 1991 model year. That's right. The Alpha One in it's current form has been offered for 24 years. During that time, here's what Volvo offered:











                  Each one of these drives represents a significant redesign of some sort.

                  But most telling, when you go down in the smaller HP nodes (lets say the same boat offered with a Merc 150 four stroke OB versus a 4.3L Alpha stern drive), despite the performance being similar, the OB is so much quieter, smoother, and in general a nicer place to be than the grinding, stalling, old fashioned Alpha. I say this as someone who would happilly deal with the stern drive maintenance to get one...I don't like OBs. But in this case, I would get one over an Alpha.

                  Mercury: It's time to redesign the Alpha One. It's putting you at a significant disadvantage.
                  Matt Train
                  BOC Site Team
                  Chicagoland, IL

                  Comment


                    #10
                    "RGrew176" post=618704 wrote:
                    I think it is past time to dump the Alpha drive also. If I were to purchase a new single engine boat I would want to have the Bravo III drive installed. It is an all around better performer and the Alpha does not even come close.
                    Why? I've had three and they were and are still working very well. Maybe a tweak here and there, but not everyone wants the bigger outdrives or dual props.
                    David
                    http://www.cambridgeadvertising.org
                    http://www.davidladewig.com

                    Comment


                      #11
                      "Four Pyrates" post=619935 wrote:
                      "RGrew176" post=618704 wrote:
                      I think it is past time to dump the Alpha drive also. If I were to purchase a new single engine boat I would want to have the Bravo III drive installed. It is an all around better performer and the Alpha does not even come close.
                      Why? I've had three and they were and are still working very well. Maybe a tweak here and there, but not everyone wants the bigger outdrives or dual props.
                      I wasn't referring to the bigger drives or dual props. The Alpha one is VERY unrefined in shifting, coming out of gear, and in general noise and vibration. Run any Alpha One next to a Bravo, or hell, even one of the Volvo drives, and you will wonder who lubricated the engine on the Alpha with peanut shells.

                      Working well isn't enough any more. These boats running Alphas are costing as much as a very nice car these days despite being entrlu level boats, and customers are going to notice.

                      But as I said above, the real difference is comparing a 4.3l Alpha against Mercury's 150 outboard. The OB is smoother, quieter, and more refined feeling than the Alpha. Put someone blindfolded into the OB boat and then the Alpha' and the person will say the OB is the more expensive boat.
                      Matt Train
                      BOC Site Team
                      Chicagoland, IL

                      Comment


                        #12
                        "Four Pyrates" post=619935 wrote:
                        "RGrew176" post=618704 wrote:
                        I think it is past time to dump the Alpha drive also. If I were to purchase a new single engine boat I would want to have the Bravo III drive installed. It is an all around better performer and the Alpha does not even come close.
                        Why? I've had three and they were and are still working very well. Maybe a tweak here and there, but not everyone wants the bigger outdrives or dual props.
                        I can't say it any better than Matt said right below your post. The Alpha is old tech and it is outdated when compared to any other drive system currently on the market. Woud you buy a 2015 Ford Taurus if it was the same as your 1995 Taurus. No and I had both a 1995 Taurus and I now own a 2014 Taurus. Light years apart in every facet of comfort and performance.
                        Rick Grew

                        1981 Carver 3007 Aft Cabin

                        2004 Past Commodore
                        West River Yacht & Cruising Club
                        www.wrycc.com

                        Comment


                          #13
                          "RGrew176" post=619994 wrote:
                          [quo

                          I can't say it any better than Matt said right below your post. The Alpha is old tech and it is outdated when compared to any other drive system currently on the market..
                          Maybe someone will figure out how to improve the Alpha drive. After 20 years with zero issues, I wouldn't change one just to quiet it down a bit. We have Simrock outdrive coolers on all three and those work very well. I'm convinced they help keep the wear and tear down to a minimum. One thing for sure is I don't want any outboard engines no matter how smooth they run. The lines of a good boat are ruined by this hump in the back and they cost way too much for horsepower produced. I hope the new I/O engines will answer the call and be the workhorse. The beat goes on!
                          David
                          http://www.cambridgeadvertising.org
                          http://www.davidladewig.com

                          Comment


                            #14
                            "Four Pyrates" post=620025 wrote:
                            "RGrew176" post=619994 wrote:
                            [quo

                            I can't say it any better than Matt said right below your post. The Alpha is old tech and it is outdated when compared to any other drive system currently on the market..
                            Maybe someone will figure out how to improve the Alpha drive. After 20 years with zero issues, I wouldn't change one just to quiet it down a bit. We have Simrock outdrive coolers on all three and those work very well. I'm convinced they help keep the wear and tear down to a minimum. One thing for sure is I don't want any outboard engines no matter how smooth they run. The lines of a good boat are ruined by this hump in the back and they cost way too much for horsepower produced. I hope the new I/O engines will answer the call and be the workhorse. The beat goes on!
                            I am struggling to come up with a way to get my point across since I don't think you understand what we're saying. The product has been on the market for 20+ years. Yeah, that bodes well for longevity, but there are other aspects to competitiveness that are just as, if not more important. IN a direct comparison to other types of power (both OBs and other competitior stern drives) the Alpha is CLEARLY showing it's age. What I am saying is it is no longer competitve.

                            What you are saying is if it ain't broke, don't fix it. I respect that opinion, but I think we need to characterize what "broke" means. Broke, in this case, doesn't mean it's an unreliable design - quite the opposite. Broke, in this case, means the design is so outdated it no longer can compete.

                            All of this points to a company that is resting on it's stern drive laurels, and I am not the only person to feel this way.
                            Matt Train
                            BOC Site Team
                            Chicagoland, IL

                            Comment


                              #15
                              I never said it was new tech or even the best tech. Just reliable. I know it is old but until it fails, what do you do? Merc has always rested on its "laurels". When Evinrude built a 10 HP saildrive (25" shaft), Merc said 20 was enough. And on and on. If Merc wants to impress anyone, then build something that is modern, quieter, and more efficient. Simple as that. So far, the outdrives aren't all that much different over the years. The outboards are better but I don't use them.
                              David
                              http://www.cambridgeadvertising.org
                              http://www.davidladewig.com

                              Comment

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