Review: Mercury OptiMax 150 outboard motor

By: Andrew Norton

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  • Trade-A-Boat

Proven reliability and brilliant fuel efficiency make the Mercury OptiMax 150 outboard a logical choice in its power range.

Review: Mercury OptiMax 150 outboard motor
Mercury OptiMax 150 outboard motor

 

Originally published in TrailerBoat #271, July / August 2011.

The Mercury Marine OptiMax 150 is the middle of three direct fuel-injection two-stroke outboards from 135 to 175hp, all of which use the same 60° V6 powerhead.

The 2.5lt loop-charged powerhead has been around a long, long time and in my opinion is one of the best Mercury engines. In carburetted and EFI form, it can develop up to 200hp. The combination of a relatively low WOT (wide open throttle) range — from 5250 to 5750rpm — plus big cylinder bore and short piston stroke ensure its long lifespan. I’ve even tried a race version running on Avgas and this pushed us to 84kts (155kmh) in a 5.5m skiboat on the upper Hawkesbury River.

 

MERCURY OPTIMAX 150

Unlike some of its four-stroke competition, the Mercury OptiMax 150 outboard motor is a true marine engine with a diecast alloy cylinder block and head designed to handle the rigours of direct saltwater cooling. Spare parts are readily available and Mercury even offers a rebuild program for the powerhead.

As with all Mercury OptiMax engines, the 150 utilises the Orbital Engine Corporation of WA dual-stage OCP (Orbital Combustion Process) direct-injection with stratified and homogenous modes. This differs from the Evinrude E-TEC system in that it injects atomised air and fuel rather than just straight fuel via unit injectors, as occurs in a direct-injection car engine. At low revs (below 1500rpm or thereabouts) the air / fuel mix, which has fuel droplets down to only five microns, is injected in a narrow conical pattern directly at the spark plug. This creates the normal air / fuel ratio of 14.7:1. However, this is as lean as 70:1 overall in the combustion chamber.

Above 1500rpm the overall air / fuel ratio increases to generate the torque needed to plane a hull. Combined with fuel / oil ratios varying from 44:1 at WOT down to 400:1 when trolling, the 150 is very economical for its output. The standard in-boat oil tank holds 11.4lt.

 

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ON THE WATER

At 201kg in extralongshaft (25in) the Mercury OptiMax 150 outboard motor is much lighter than any of the direct four-stroke competition. I tested one on an Archer 58C plate-alloy cuddy cabin, pushing a total of 1350kg and spinning an 18in pitch Quicksilver Mirage stainless steel prop. During the test I felt the demo 150 was slightly overpropped and could have done with a 17in prop. Even so, it performed flawlessly with low vibration levels across the entire rpm range and scarcely any harmonics through the hull structure.

The holeshot acceleration was matched only by other 150hp DFI two-stroke outboards and only when I poured on the power did the typical Mercury V6 "howl" become noticeable. However, the Mercury OptiMax 150 outboard was still noisier overall than the four-stroke competition.

Through full-lock figure-of-eight turns at 4000rpm there was absolutely no prop ventilation — quite an achievement on a plate-hull with a long external keel.

Hot or cold, the 150 started instantly with no oil smoke appearing at any time, nor was there an oil smell when backing upwind. However, the Mercury control box shifting action was "notchy" and should be improved.

Providing the antiventilation plate was kept at least three quarters immersed, power astern was good and no cooling-water starvation occurred. When trolling, the fuel consumption was comparable to that of a 60hp four-stroke outboard and a carburetted 25hp two-stroke. Best of all, after one hour of performance testing the 150 had used only 9.5lt — a superb figure for any 150hp outboard!

Powerhead access is good with the belt-driven air compressor and 60amp/h voltage-regulated alternator easily reached. The air and fuel injectors are also situated in neat blocks.

 

PRICE

Mercury Marine recommends servicing the 150 every 100 hours, or annually after the first service at 20 hours. Providing this is done by an authorised service centre, the recreational-usage warranty stands at five years.

As of April 2011 the recommended retail price was $19,000 with a spare Mirage prop setting you back $1080.

 

COMPETING OUTBOARDS

ENGINE

Evinrude E-TEC 150XL

PRICE

$19674

CYLINDERS

60° V6 2.6lt

WEIGHT

194kg

WARRANTY

3 years

OEDA STARS

3

 

MERCURY OPTIMAX 150 PERFORMANCE

SPEED

RPM

ECONOMY

2.3kts (4.3kmh)

550rpm

0.8lt/h (trolling)

4.4kts (8.2kmh)

1000rpm

2.6lt/h (fast idle)

8.9kts (16.6kmh)

2200rpm

10.2lt/h (offshore troll)

14.8kts (27.4kmh)

2500rpm

11.5lt/h (minimum plane)

21.2kts (39.3kmh)

3000rpm

15.7lt/h (efficient cruise)

29.6kts (54.9kmh)

4000rpm

31.2lt/h (fast cruise)

37.4kts (69.4kmh)

5000rpm

59.0lt/h (WOT)

 

Originally published in TrailerBoat #271, July / August 2011. Why not subscribe today?

 


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