The Midnight Express Center Console was equipped with three 557 outboards. In earlier tests with the Midnight Express, Seven Marine engineers pushed the 39-footer to 81 mph. But in the test on the video, the boat had a full gas tank and four people on board. Midnight Express, at the request of the buyer, had set up the boat for cruising rather than speed. The test maxed out at 74.4 mph at 5,200 rpm. Redline on the 557 is 5,550 rpm. To help boost hole shot and minimize slippage, Midnight Express equipped the outboards with Mercury Maximus five-blade propellers. Time to plane and 0 to 30 mph times were both in the mid-seven-second range. The boat clocked 25 to 50 mph in 9.3 seconds. Sounds levels at the helm measured 105 decibels at wide-open throttle and a low 69 decibels at idle. Shifting-noise with the 557’s wet-disc clutch ZF transmission was silky smooth, a nice benefit when using the joystick, which can shift frequently while docking. When equipped with two or more 557 outboards and a bow-thruster, a boat can also employ a joystick-control system to help ease low-speed maneuvering in tight quarters. While the outboards do not turn independently, the electronic shifting and bow-thruster work in unison to let you pivot and walk the boat into a slip.
Seven Marine’s 557 is an entirely new approach to outboard design. The 557 uses a supercharged Cadillac LSA V8 engine — Seen in the automotive world in The Cadillac CTS-V and Camaro ZL1. The multi-point fuel-injected V-8 features an alumium block and is the only outboard with a closed cooling system, which willl cut down on corrosion issues. Instead of perching the engine on end as with most other outboards, the 557 mounts it engine horizontally such as an inboard engine. To turn the drive train 90 degrees, the 557 employs an electronic-shifting ZF Marine transmission — a derivative of the gearbox used in ZF’s pod drives. The engines can be specified with gear ratios ranging from 1.4:1 to 2.1:1. All shifting takes place in this transmission using ZF fly-by-wire controls.
With production motors ready to ship, Seven Marine must now convince boaters that having a set of the most powerful outboards is the worth the cost. The purchase price of the triple 557 package with joystick steering is $270,000, bringing the cost of the Midnight Express 39 Open to $700,000. But if you want to get 1,671 hp with three outboards, it’s currently the only way.
Boating Magazine’s Jim Hendricks took video of the test: