One-hundred and fifteen miles an hour in a car isn’t anything to turn your nose up at. Certainly, automakers these days tout their elite models as 200-MPH-smashing beasts, but, honestly, how many people take their cars up to those speeds anyways? One-hundred and fifteen is still very fast, but also a perfectly attainable speed, given a decent enough stretch of road and ample power. Would it be just as feasible on the Hudson River? I went to find out.
Last summer, boat engine maker Mercury Marine invited me to check out a 1,400-horsepower Cigarette boat. It was mind blowing. I don’t think the skin on my face has settled down into quite the same way after that encounter.
This year, they brought something a little more extreme: the one kilometer speed record-breaking SV 43 Outerlimits race boat, built largely out of carbon fiber. Powered by two twin-turbocharged 9.0-liter, 90-degree V8 engines, the SV 43 makes 2,700 horsepower at 6,500 RPM on 91 octane fuel.
I’m confident that I probably won’t ever come close to a car with nearly that much power. So, boats it is.
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The pitch email that Mercury sent mentioned that the Outerlimits boat could go “100-plus mph,” and, gazing down upon the boat’s two sleek, staggered engines, I had no doubt. The SV 43 is shaped like a lance for this very reason: you aim it at the heart of the horizon and you go, quickly.
The man responsible for our outing was Dan Kleitz, Outerlimits customer service manager. He greeted us with a winning smile and showed us how to climb onto the boat and lower ourselves into the cockpit. Usually the cockpit was enclosed, but that day they had the top off. Kleitz warned me that my hair might get messed up. I assured him that this was most certainly the intent of the afternoon.
The inside of the SV 43 cockpit was spartan. Kleitz and I settled in the two Alcantara-lined carbon-fiber bucket seats in the front. Jalopnik video producer Adam Milt and two other Mercury employees crammed themselves into the backseat. Screens, buttons and switches dotted and sparse carbon-fiber dashboard splayed before me. It all looked very complicated.
Beyond the tiny front window, the boat’s long nose expanded outwards. This was all bulkhead for strength and protection against crashes—the largest crumple zone that I’d ever seen.
Kleitz carefully navigated the lance out of the marina, pointed it uptown and opened up the throttle.
It was spooky.
I waited for the murderous G-force, for the deafening roar of the engines. It never came. Yes, I heard the turbos spooling up—a massive whooshing sound. Yes, I felt the acceleration—a magnetic pull that glued me to my seat. Yes, I watched the numbers on the digital speedometer fly into the triple digits—almost instantly.
But as far as noise and cabin vibration went, we could have been going a mere 40 mph, not 115. The Hudson (which, to my knowledge, has no speed limit) was fairly calm that day, which I’m sure helped with the ride quality, but I still expected more violence from a vessel traveling that quickly over water. It was utterly effortless. I wasn’t driving the boat, but even from the passenger seat I could feel that we’d barely scratched the surface of what this thing was capable of.
Curious still, I raised myself from the seat and stuck my head out the roof just to see. “Keep your sunglasses on,” Kleitz cautioned. “I’ve lost contact lenses that way.”
The rushing wind caught me square in the face, ballooning my cheeks out cartoonishly. There was the ferocity I was looking for.
I asked Kleitz if he used full throttle for our run. He chuckled in the same way that wealthy people chuckle when you ask if the entree you ordered for dinner was too expensive. No, not at all.
Emblazoned on the side of this SV 43 is the number 180.47. That is how fast this boat went to set the one kilometer speed record back in 2014, making it the fastest v-bottom boat there is. The number itself is an average, taken from two separate one kilometer passes: one against the current and one with it. The speeds for those runs were 179.500 mph and 181.422 mph, respectively. It’s worth pointing out that the boat was powered by twin 1,650-horsepower engines during the record runs, however.
The SV 43 is based on a regular Outerlimits v-bottom boat. This one had been stripped out and race-prepped—basically the difference between an Acura NSX road car and an NSX GT3 race car. There was an option for a five-point safety harness. Kleitz mentioned that he was building an SV 43 in race spec for a customer with a price tag of about $950,000.
He called it a “pleasure craft,” which, in turn, made me laugh. Sure, if you find stuffing two massive V8 racing engines into a pencil-like body, making it capable of hitting nearly 200 mph over water, pleasurable.
Of course, if boats aren’t your thing, you can always pack one of those engines into a car.
Update 11:32 a.m.: This post has been updated with video.