Outboard and Sterndrive Boats

While most TAHOE® boats come standard with a factory-installed MerCruiser® sterndrive engine, select models are equipped with a Mercury® outboard.

Each power type has its own benefits and best applications. Which is right for you?

To start, look at the following descriptions of the two power options.

A STERNDRIVE (also known as an inboard/outboard or I/O) typically uses a marine-adapted automotive engine just inside the hull at the transom. It drives a mechanism that looks and operates similar to the lower unit and steering operation of an outboard. Because the drive unit projects from the stern, it's called a sterndrive. Since the sterndrive combines the components of an inboard-type engine with an outboard-type drive, it may also be called inboard/outboard or I/O.

An OUTBOARD is a specialized marine engine that uses components designed for marine use only. It is bolted/clamped to the boat's transom and turns to provide steering.

Note: An I/O should not be confused with an "inboard" motor. A true inboard engine is typically mounted midship with a fixed driveshaft and propeller, angled through the bottom of the hull well forward of the transom. A separate rudder does the steering.

Sterndrive overview

The sterndrive's inboard engine is entirely enclosed within the hull. This gives sterndrive-powered boats a sleeker, cleaner look above the water line, though interior storage capacity can be somewhat reduced. This setup also allows unobstructed views to the rear, and the swim platform can run the full width of the boat. With its heavier engine mounted right inside the transom, sterndrives can be somewhat slower to get up on plane but are usually more fuel efficient. For water sports, sterndrives tend to produce bigger wakes and a lot of low-end torque, which is just what the family's water sports enthusiast ordered. Sterndrives also offer the familiarity and lower parts prices of an automotive-style engine, but can be a little harder to access inside the boat. Since the freshwater cooling system is also automotive based, the engine block and manifolds must be drained before winter. In an effort to make this job easier, MerCruiser® installs an easy drain on many engines helps get the water out.

Outboard overview

An outboard has a higher power-to-weight ratio, meaning it is lighter than a sterndrive of similar performance capability. If you have a smaller, lighter tow vehicle, you can "pack more power" with an outboard. Outboards offer quicker acceleration and higher top speeds than similarly powered sterndrives, but fuel economy may not be as good. Since the engine is mounted outside the boat on the transom, interior room is unobstructed. However, because of this same setup, there's usually only room for smaller swim platforms on both sides of the engine. Since all parts of an outboard system are designed for marine use and can be easily flushed, they are generally more corrosion resistant than inboard engines, and, therefore, more suited for saltwater use. And, because there is no closed cooling system, an outboard can be used throughout the cold weather months without the cost and inconvenience of winterizing or the danger of freezing.

Now that you know the basics, consult with your dealer to find what type of power best suits your needs. Whichever direction you choose, you're in for plenty of high-powered on-the-water fun!