I caught up with Andrew Stephen, dealer principal of Melbourne Marine Centre, who had a Pro XS fitted to a Northbank 550c. A cool little boat with a moulded floor and sides that would make a great little package for anyone doing heavy bay work and fishing light offshore conditions. I have spent a lot of time in boats of this size fitted with 115hp outboards from various engine companies. The 115 is a bit of a magic number for boats in that 5-5.5 metre range so I spent some time just cruising around to get a feel for the boat in order to gain some perspective and compare the Pro XS with other engines of the same calibre. The Northbank weighs around 900kg with a full tank and fitted with seats and accessories, has a deadrise of 21 degrees and 2.35 metre beam – pretty standard specs for a glass boat of this size so it was easy for me to get some perspective on how the Pro XS should perform.
In a nutshell
The Pro XS is essentially a hotted-up version of the standard 115 four-stroke. It’s an 8-valve single overhead cam, inline 4-cylinder with electronic fuel injection and 2.1 litre displacement. It revs out to 6300rpm as opposed to 6000rpm on the standard 115 so will give you some minor advantages in top-end speed but offers far better hole shot and more mid-range torque. If that’s what you’re looking for, this is the engine for you.
It’s a very, very cool-looking engine and if you couldn’t make a decision just based on specs and performance, its looks certainly take out first place among its rivals. The classic Mercury Phantom Black paint is adorned with some very cool red racing stripes and graphics that will look great on the back of any boat. If you have an ugly boat, this engine will help. It weighs in at 163kg, making it the lightest engine in its class. It’s what I consider quiet at idle and sounds great when you open it up. I wouldn’t call it loud by any means, but it’s sonically grunty and tough. A great feature of the Pro XS is its charging system. Many anglers – whether it’s this Northbank being used to target snapper on the bay or a hard-core tournament boat – will fit the boat with large sounders, various lighting and multiple pumps which all drains battery power. The Pro XS charge system can monitor your batteries’ voltage and if it fails the engine will increase at idle by 25rpm up to 800rpm until voltage returns to normal. This ensures that you can run all your units with the assurance that nothing will shut off or your batteries go flat.
On the water
Hole shot and throttle response were outstanding. If you’re often going to be navigating the erratic slop of Port Phillip Bay or heading offshore, the Pro XS is a great option – it does what it’s told reassuringly. The 115 pushed the Northbank along to just over 37 knots at 6300rpm like it’s a much bigger engine and the Command Thrust gearing played a big part in that. One of the coolest things about the Pro XS 115 is the Command Thrust (CT) gearing, which is essentially the gear case from the 150. Not only does this aid in better response in all facets of the engine’s operation, but it allows you the option of utilising Mercury’s range of V6 props, which is highly advantageous in getting maximum performance out of any vessel.
The engine performed awesomely and to be honest there aren’t many other engines in this class I would opt for. It looks cool, sounds great and for the marginal extra dollars I would advise choosing the Pro XS 115 over the 115 four-stroke, and possibly any other 115 for that matter. It’s a simple build that has shaved off the weight and it offers performance in droves. Usually when I review an engine they’re brand-new so I can’t really comment on reliability. However, as this engine is now two years old I can provide some insight. I have two friends who have purchased this engine, one fitted to a Haines Hunter 445F (it goes like a rocket) and the other a Haines Hunter 525 Prowler, and they’ve been extremely happy with the performance and reliability with both going over 200 hours without an issue. As I said earlier, the size range of 5-5.5 metres is very popular and Mercury has provided an outboard that will give you maximum performance of your vessel in a simple and stylish unit.