MerCruiser adds Bravo Four S forward facing drive
Brunswick’s Mercury MerCruiser announced a new Bravo Four S forward-facing drive 24 August 2020. The drive obviously targets Volvo Penta’s FWD drive’s success in the wake surfing market.
Mercury paired the drive’s introduction with a new control system called Smart Tow controls that aids in creating specific waves for wakesurfing, wakeboarding, and other tow sports. The digital controls coordinate ballast, surf tabs, and the drive’s settings in a single user interface.
The drive will be available from their 4.5 liter, 6.2 liter, and 8.2 liter formats with 250 to 430 horsepower per their Bravo Four brochure.
Both the Volvo Penta FWD drive and Brunswick’s new Bravo Four S forward facing drive use twin counterrotating propellers.
In the old days forward facing marine drives were referred to as traction drives or tractor drives. They are more common on much larger vessels that don’t spend much time in shallow water due to the risk of damaging the forward facing counterrotating propellers.
Mercury supplied a nice underwater photo of the drive:
MerCruiser says the drive brings several things to the table including:
You can see the drive make a nice wake surfing wake as seen in this Mercury image of a Cobalt boat:
Mercury Marine’s press release says they built their first forward facing drive in 1949 when they invented the reversible gear case.
We reviewed Volvo Penta’s FWD drive back on 22 February 2015. Initially Volvo Penta said nothing about wake surfing behind the drive. We raised the issue in our review questioning if that would be safe or not. It was not long will Volvo Penta was focusing on the wake surfing possibilities of their drive. We have yet to see any studies on the relative propeller safety of their forward facing drive vs a true inboard drive.
The new Brunswick / Mercury Mercruiser Bravo Four S drive is all into wake surfing in its introduction. The cover photo of their brochure features a girl wakesurfing. Again, we are not saying these drives are safer or less safe than true inboards for wake surfing from a propeller standpoint. Similarly we are not saying there is or is not any difference in the propeller safety of the Volvo Penta FWD drive and the new Bravo Four drive. We just think the propeller safety of these two drives for wake surfing should get some attention.
As Brunswick mentioned, they do provide one stop service by having their own Smart Tow system.
Brunswick’s MerCruiser Bravo Four S shows the drive being mounted below a large swim platform in their brochure which may provide additional protection for wake surfers. We see no mention of swim platform’s being required to use the drive.
Boat Test posted an initial review of the Bravo 4s in early September 2020.
Brunswick failed to mention one advantage of the Bravo 4 S drive. Having the propellers in front places them in much smoother water (water has not flowed past the gear case) and makes them more efficient. But the basic concept of wake surfing (using lots of horsepower to make a big hole in the water) is not as concerned with efficiency as some other applications.
At any rate, we are happy to see some innovation in the recreational marine drive market, and wish Brunswick / Mercury Marine / MerCruiser well with it.
Thanks to Mercury for supplying the nice images.
- 25 August 2020 – Interestingly, Volvo Penta issues a press release one day after Brunswick’s announcement of their Bravo Four drive inviting Volvo Penta FWD stern drive operators to send in images, videos, and stories as part of a user generated content campaign titled, “Be A Featured Forward Driver”. There are a number of prizes and the contest runs through October 15th (practical end of wake surfing season for most). This announcement appears to be in response to what happened yesterday. It will allow them to flood the Internet the photos and materials about their FWD drive. This will significantly improving Volvo’s search ranking for forward facing drives, thus attracting some who where searching for Brunswick’s new drive. Brunswick will be unable to respond directly to this challenge because they currently have very few or no drives in customer hands.