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Need for Speed: Formula’s 380 SSC

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Formula first equipped its 380 Super Sport Crossover (SSC) with sterndrive propulsion, hoping to cater to loyal customers moving up from smaller sterndrive models like the Formula 350 CVR. But Formula and its exclusive yacht designer, John Adams, had a triple-outboard version of the boat on the drawing board from day one, predicting that in the long run, it would outsell the sterndrive model. That’s why I headed back to the same dock at the same North Miami marina where I tested the sterndrive 380 last year—to sea-trial the new Formula 380 SSC Outboard.

While most of the outboard version looked identical to the sterndrive, there was no mistaking the primary difference: a trio of throaty Mercury Racing 450R outboards mounted to the transom. When it came to the boat’s stepped FAS3TECH hull, however, the new propulsion package posed quite a naval architecture challenge.

“The weight issues are pretty critical,” Adams said. “They’re not our grandparents’ outboards. They are huge and they are heavy. The center of gravity shifts aft. The majority of the hull is the same, but there were a few tweaks made—more than just chopping off the back end of the boat and building a motor well.”

As I boarded the boat, I noticed some changes to the deck layout as well. The swim platform, while still large, was smaller than the sterndrive version, but sported new wings on either side of the outboards to expand the platform space as much as possible. The boat also had Formula’s optional “Swim Platform Sport Station,” a padded, arched rail with six drink holders mounted just forward of the outboards. This rail makes a great place to stand and enjoy a beverage while watching the water behind the boat – as we would discover a couple of hours later while sipping Rumrunners at our lunch destination, Gilbert’s Resort Tiki Bar in Key Largo.

The triple-outboard 380 SSC, while significantly pricier than the sterndrive version, does offer several advantages. The space previously used as an engine compartment is now a huge dry stowage locker.

While the sterndrive version we ran last year offered joystick piloting for slow-speed maneuvers, Mercury’s Joystick Piloting for Outboards control system made the triple outboard version a dream to dock at Gilbert’s. The joystick provides 360-degree, fingertip control, allowing you to move the boat forward, aft and sideways with just a push of your fingers.

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Last but certainly not least, triple outboards add up to 13 knots to the boat’s top end. In the calm waters of Biscayne Bay, with four people on board and a 70 percent load of fuel, we recorded an average top speed of 57 knots at 6000 rpm. The previous year, on the 380 SSC equipped with twin Mercury Racing 520 Bravo Three XR sterndrives, we had clocked 43.2 knots. (Formula’s official performance trial recorded 45.19 knots with that propulsion package.)

All told, there are six power options for the 380 SSC; two twin sterndrive packages and four triple outboard packages, ranging from Mercury Verado 350s to the Mercury Racing 450Rs that we ran in the clear, blue-green waters south of Miami. I’m willing to bet that a large number of owners opt for max horsepower when ordering their new Formula 380 SSC. After all, as John Adams says, “Formula has a performance image.”

03-Formula 380


LOA: 38’
Beam (max): 11’6”
Draft: 3’5”
Displ.: 21,200 lbs.
Deadrise: 21”
Fuel:: 300 gals.
Power (as tested): 3/450-hp Mercury Racing 450R outboards
Cruise speed: 35 knots
Top Speed: 58 knots
Price (as tested): $1,219,935

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