Riding in Mercedes-AMG's 2,200-HP Super Boat
Just a quick high-speed run to Bimini with two 1,100-hp V-8s.
Miami, Florida - If you're used to cars, 90 mph doesn't sound all that fast. If you're like me, you probably hit that speed while passing the drooling hordes on the freeway. But in a boat, such speed is multiplied by some geometric effect having to do with the fact that you're riding on a floating scrap of fiberglass with no brakes, no seatbelts, and no enclosed cabin.
Of course, the latest superboat built as part of the ongoing collaboration between Mercedes-Benz AMG and Cigarette Racing is anything but a scrap of fiberglass. Unveiled here at the 2016 Miami International Boat Show, the Cigarette Racing Team 41-foot SD GT3 (as it's officially designated) is 41 feet and 20,400 pounds of wave-crushing, custom-built excellence, with every detail executed to perfection. Which is just as you might expect from Mercedes-AMG.
The style of a very, very fast car
The design for this effort from Cigarette Racing comes from Gordon Wagener, head of Design for Daimler AG. And it is apparently the racing-bred GT3 version of the Mercedes-AMG GT S that serves as the particular inspiration for this gray-and-yellow sea-killer.
The Mercedes theme begins with genuine leather upholstery in the cockpit, a first for Cigarette and the ocean-boat industry that's made possible because the new material is resistant to both UV rays and saltwater. The engine bay is so clean that you could hold a dinner party within. The deck? That's 1,000 pounds—$50,000 worth—of custom-carved teak. The fiberglass roof, which provides some shade for your long days at sea? Another 400 pounds, and an engineering masterpiece when you think of the aerodynamic forces it must withstand at speed.
Build time for one of these beasts? Sixteen weeks. And be prepared to pay about seven figures for the privilege of owning the SD GT3. But once you do, you can hop in, fire up the dual 1,100-hp engines, and give it some stick.
The engines of a very, very fast boat
Under a lounging pad on the stern where your friends and family can sun themselves once you're streaking across the waters of Biscayne Bay, you'll find not just one but two twin-turbo, DOHC, 9.0-liter V-8 engines, each pumping out 1,100 horsepower.
These powerplants from Mercury Marine, the famous specialist in boat engines, might not be what you expect. A car engine reaches peak output for only a few seconds at a time. (You'd run out of track if you kept your foot down for much longer than that anyway.) But the Mercury Racing QC4v V-8s are designed to deliver maximum power for about 300 hours before they are rebuilt.
That's nearly two full weeks at full throttle. At this boat's top speed, you could circle the globe and have a few thousand miles left on the clock. Not that you'd want to drive it flat out for that long.
Not as fast as a car, but it feels much, much faster
The speed multiplication of boats is nowhere more evident than in this, the most powerful "open performance" boat that Cigarette Racing has ever built. Sure, the company has created 3,100-hp superspeed monsters, but such boats are generally only for competition. Instead the SD GT3 is meant to speed you and seven of your closest friends out to an island or swimming spot where you can while away the daylight hours. So this boat will give you that luxury thing. And it'll still pull your face off.
There's a windscreen around the driving and navigation pod, and three huge computer screens show navigational charts, information about cruising speed and the status of the engines, and a lot more. But once you move elsewhere on the boat, you'll be facing a full hurricane-like gale. We're running to Bimini, and the Cigarette's hull is up on a plane and cruising at 60 mph. Cigarette's infamous test pilot, Bud, looks around and then punches it, and we accelerate to 100 mph like a Mercedes-AMG GT3.
My cheeks begin to flap and my eyes start to water in the blast of the airstream, while the twin engines churn up a rooster tail of spray into the air that's size of an apartment building. Even 10 mph below the boat's top speed (which is determined by the shape of the props), the experience is intense, like riding a motorcycle without a helmet on the Bonneville Salt Flats. At this pace, the twin 1,100-hp racing engines in the back are burning through 270 gallons of dinosaur souls per hour. Fortunately there's a 350-gallon tank.
Back to reality
Even the Cigarette Racing president, Skip Braver, acknowledges the brutality of driving boats this fast. You can make it the northern tip of the Bahamas from the company's factory near Miami in about an hour at top speed, but it's exhausting work.
Ease back to 60 mph, however, and it's a breeze. And this is where the Cigarette SD GT3 with its twin Mercury engines starts to make more sense, both for the buyer and for the tie-in with the AMG brand. Unlike a pure performance boat (or car), this latest Cigarette superboat seeks a happy medium. It gives you the experience of an all-out race vehicle, only there's room for a comfortable experience with friends and family. In fact, the whole thing is not unlike a Mercedes-AMG S65, which is a pretty flattering comparison.
It's terrifyingly fast, but also exquisitely finished. Raucous but refined. And what's more AMG than that?