Formula 500 SSC
Formula launches a 50-foot, 60-knot crossover powered by quad 600-hp Mercury outboards.
Who says you can’t power a “yacht” weighing nearly 25 tons with outboards? It’s not like there’s a rule saying you must follow in the footsteps of everyone else. That’s no fun. And for a company like Formula, which has been pushing the need for speed for decades, the opportunity to build a new model around the innovative, 600-hp Mercury Verado outboard that just came on the scene was downright exciting. Actually, make that four 600-hp outboards.
While Formula originally said the 500 Super Sport Crossover would come with quint 450-hp Mercury outboards, the plan was to go with quad 600s all along. The builder was one of a select few that Mercury worked with directly to unveil the new powerplants, and they had to keep the news under wraps like a coach who announces his new ringer on game day.
I got to spend some time on the boat at an exclusive reveal on Lake X, Mercury’s test facility in central Florida. The 500 SSC was the largest boat at the event, and I was eager to see what the 50-footer could do with quad 600s on the transom. But with my attention skewed toward the engines, I was completely taken aback when I stepped on board and soaked in all of the entertaining space this vessel offers. With U-shaped seating in the bow and a dinette, lounger and bar with stools in the cockpit, this vessel is built for those who like to enjoy their time on the water with friends.
Firing up the big 600s in rapid succession with the push of a button will never get old. The motors sound a bit throaty when they start, like a muscle car, but they’re surprisingly quiet considering there are 12 cylinders pumping away under the cowling. Using the Mercury Joystick Piloting, we walked the boat sideways from the dock before proceeding out a canal to open water. The 500 SSC is probably the largest boat to ever run in this freshwater lake, so we idled down to the far end—I figured we would need the entire expanse of tannic-colored water to get her up to speed. Boy was I wrong.
Pushing the throttles down, the Formula 500 SSC didn’t skip a beat. Thanks to the extra torque from the two-speed transmission’s low gear, the boat pounced out of the hole like a hungry cheetah. There was little to no bowrise as we hit 25 knots in under 13 seconds and maintained that rapid rate of acceleration. She topped out at a hair shy of 60 knots. Yes, you read that correctly. Even Formula was a bit surprised by the performance of this boat.
“It exceeded our expectations. Our computer models had us thinking maybe 56 knots,” said Danny Porter, Formula’s research and development manager, and one of several third-generation Porters to work at the company, which was purchased in 1976 by industry icon Vic Porter.
The 500 SSC is the latest and greatest iteration of the FAS3Tech multi-step hull that Formula began using in the late 1990s. “We’re forever tweaking the hull as we build new models and come up with ways to make it better,” Porter says. “We could not do this without Mercury. Their power is something special. It’s the perfect match.”
To support the quad, 1,260-pound engines on the end of the elongated swim step, Formula cantilevered the transom into the fiberglass grid of the hull structure to transfer the load. They also increased the thickness of the transom so much that they had to special order extra-long bolts for the motor mounts. Those motors may look a bit far off the transom, but they’re not going anywhere.
At 4500 rpm the 500 SSC cruises at 40 knots with a range of 322 miles. Yes, the boat may sound heavy on paper, weighing nearly 50,000 pounds with a full load, but with performance numbers like that, I’d say the overall weight really doesn’t matter. I don’t know what size sterndrives you would need to hit 60 knots and cruise at 40 in this boat, but I’m guessing they would be quite large, and you’d lose a ton of machinery space for things like a Seakeeper and genset, not to mention the full-beam aft stateroom down below. That’s the beauty of outboards.
After running the boat around the lake a few times, I went into passenger mode, trying out the aft lounge seat, with my feet up, watching the 600-hp Verados stand totally upright, even in tight turns thanks to the steerable gearcase that does all of the maneuvering below the waterline. The 500 SSC is almost two boats in one. You can open the forward sunroofs above the helm, drop down the glass on the aft bulkhead and slide open the bow access to create one massive open space from the point of the bow to the engines. Or, you can button it all up for a quiet, air-conditioned salon that protects you from the elements. I appreciate that kind of flexibility in the ever-changing weather conditions.
Finding all of Formula’s little engineering touches throughout the boat is like going on a scavenger hunt. The company utilizes every inch of space, and does it smartly, so these items don’t jump out at you right away. For example, a double hatch in the transom reveals a joystick for docking and a connection to a single auto-flush system to rid any salt from all four of those expensive powerplants at once. There’s also an electric grill with a splash-guard. Under the seat on the other side of the transom is a custom cradle for a Seabob. There’s a roll-out beverage center right next to the salon door complete with stemware and bottle storage. Need more seating at the dinette? No problem, the table legs offer additional stools—just pull them out, open the drawer below and grab the seat cushion. A roll-out drawer built into the steps leading down to the cabin has custom cutouts that hold a Dyson vacuum. The side windows electrically frost over with the push of a button to provide privacy. Wireless charging stations seem to live right where you need them. And the courtesy lighting throughout the vessel is both smart and elegant. When you add up all of the little touches, they make a large impact and show the kind of thought that Formula put into creating this boat.
The main cabin offers plenty of head room, along with a second small galley should you decide to nuke up some popcorn to nosh on as you sit at the convertible dinette and watch a flick. The full head with separate shower is surprisingly roomy. The aft cabin is the most private area in the boat, and while it’s short on headroom, the hull-side windows let in a ton of light so you don’t feel closed in. The queen berth and sofa provide plenty of room to kick back over a long weekend.
As a general rule, boatbuilders like to create models that fall into a specific category: convertible, weekender, trawler, dayboat, yacht, etc. Each type of boat offers a certain aesthetic and is designed for the owner to use in a specific way. Many boats cross over a bit, offering the luxury of a yacht in a smaller platform, such as a dayboat, for example. It’s not easy to pull off, and if the builder tries to squeeze too many features into one hull, you can end up with an overstuffed vessel that just doesn’t look right, and in a lot of cases, doesn’t run right. That’s definitely not the case here.
The Formula 500 Super Sport Crossover lives up to its name, blending the lines between yacht and bowrider in expert fashion. And it owes a big part of its success to the quad 600-hp Mercury Verado outboards on the transom.
Formula 500 SSC Test Report
Formula 500 SSC Specifications:
Displ.: 47,000 lbs.
Fuel: 650 gal.
Water: 100 gal.
Power: 4/600-hp Mercury Verado outboards
Base Price: $2.8 million