The Formula Recipe…
The Formula brand was born back in the heady early days of the sport of offshore powerboat racing with pioneers like Don Aronow and Jim Wynn beating the hell out of their kidneys racing from Miami to Nassau. The Porter family which has owned Formula for decades and built it into a world-class brand, is no stranger to racing. Company president Scott Porter is a former offshore World Champion and for years Formulas were campaigned on racing circuits all over the world. Today because of the world economic situation Formula is taking a more subdued approach racing, but its commitment to building high-quality, plush high-performance boats is unabated. Formula has chosen to make a boat go fast enough, but still have the fine coachwork that has made Formula famous in its express cruiser line and which sets its boats very far apart from virtually all other go-fast builders. Formula has kept the horsepower options ranging from 750-hp to 1200-hp, but sacrificed weight savings in favor of strength and amenities. It’s a winning combination, I think. In addition, the new FAS³Tech line is denoted by its new hull design that incorporates three separate running surfaces produced by two steps built into the hull. The “steps” actually serve to force air under the hull and thereby reduce surface friction for an even faster ride than a boat with a smooth deep V. Some builders put in one step, but Formula puts in two.
Strength Requires Weight
So now we have the stepped hull and the horses doing their job, but we’re slowing the boat down a bit because it’s relatively heavy… 9,500 lbs (4,309kg), which is 1000 – 1500 lbs heavier than most, but not all, of the other high-performance boats. So what makes it so heavy and why does Formula do this? The weight comes from the construction methods, added materials, and to a lesser extent, the amenities. Rather than use a traditional stringer system injected with super light closed-cell foam, Formula utilizes a separately made fiberglass grid system that gets chemically bonded to the hull. The result is a heavier boat, but a stronger and beefier one, and that means a more solid riding boat as well as a safer boat. And yes, it also means that the 353 might be slower than some go-fast boats that are lighter.
Speed Requires Strength
We can’t stress enough the importance of having a strong hull when operating at these high speeds. At speed, waves are not soft, rather they are more like concrete without the rebar. That is why the shape of the hull, the deadrise and the strength of the boat are so important. Picture your car going over speed bumps every 15 feet while traveling at 70 mph and you’ll get an idea of the punishment a boat like this has to endure.
And Then, The Amenities...
Let’s not forget that the 353 FAS³Tech is still a Formula. They didn’t just make an empty cabin in the hopes of keeping it light. The 353 FAS³Tech has a nicely laid out cabin flush with perks. Starting at the bow with an Ultraleather double bow berth, then an Ultraleather wrap-around lounge seat that can convert to another double berth with filler cushions, a removable Corian cocktail table, an entertainment center with polished stainless steel sink and Corian countertop, a dual-voltage refrigerator and a private head compartment.
Sitting at the helm, with the 353’s long and narrow figure, makes you feel like you’re sitting at the controls of a missile. But it is a comfortable missile. Dual wrap-around McLeod electrically adjusted seats are built for sustained high-speed operation. These McLeod seats have been developed over years of offshore racing use. Additionally, the driver even gets an electrically adjustable McLeod footrest. Any size captain will feel right at home on the 353 FAS³Tech .
So now we come to it. How fast does this go-fast boat go? For starters, I had a job to do and that was getting performance figures. Working up through the RPM range is supposed to be an easy matter, but not in this boat. The worst time came at 2500 RPM. That’s where the 353 is trying to get on plane and run but we’re holding it back. It would start to plane and go faster, and then the RPM creeps up, and we’d pull the throttles back to 2500 again, and it’d fall off plane and go lower. She wasn’t happy about this and her attitude was one of a boat that kept looking around to make sure it’s friends weren’t watching this ridiculous display. Everything about the 353’s handling said “screw 2500, let me run” while I keep saying “no, you stay at 2500 or I’ll turn this boat around right now!” It really was difficult holding this boat back.
Now before we get to top speed, let’s talk about getting her to run. When you move the Livorsi throttles forward, the bow comes way up. You’ll lose visibility so check the area before takeoff. Next, because there’s so much power going to those 5-bladed stainless steel props, there’s a lot of ventilation. You have to listen for the scream of the over-revving engines, back off, let her come up on plane and then takeoff again. It’s a 3-step process unless you want to accelerate slowly, and who wants to do that? It’s also a noisy process, but that’s’ part of the sex appeal of these boats. Now, once on plane, it’s all business. Fast-paced business.
Steering at Speed
I know you’re expecting me to describe the unique skill set that it takes to get up to the realm of speed that few can afford to experience, but sorry to disappoint. Not in this boat. Speed is a matter of adding throttle and with the 353, anyone can do it. This is scary in that any idiot can do it. It’s also high praise for the design of the 353 in that any idiot can do it, myself included. The speedometer needle comes up fast, and because of her size, you don’t feel that you’re going as fast as you are. About ¾ of throttle travel had us at 4000 rpm and I looked down (briefly) to see that we were at 62.5mph... and she still had a lot to give.
I eased the throttles forward expecting the bad handling characteristics to materialize that sometimes come with this sort of speed, but it wasn’t happening. You know what I mean… operator induced oscillation, chine walking… things you have to compensate for and drive through. But it stayed rock solid. So forward went the throttles again... on up to the top rpm of 5250.
The Speed Numbers
A little fiddling with the trim to keep the bow nailed to the water just so… and there we were… top speed. No chine walking, no fear factor, just a lot of boat looking awesome and sounding tough. Our top speed? 82 mph one way, 78.4 the opposite way for an average of 80.2. Not too bad for a boat that isn’t competing in the high end of the speed food chain. And we were doing it with a pair of Mercury Racing's 525s. Formula also offers 600s which they report can get you into the 90’s. I believe it.
Now because of the ventilation, time to plane is not as fast as you think it might be. There’s no break-neck hole shot. We had a decent time to plane of 6.5 seconds, and a fair 0-30 mph of 10.1 seconds.
But what about handling? Sure it’s fast, but what happens if you turn the wheel? Then the boat turns! You don’t get thrown out, you don’t flip the boat, nothing dramatic. It’s a Formula. They all handle extremely well, and the 353 is no exception. Your passengers will appreciate you slowing down though, and I did. To 60 mph.
At that speed she handles like a sportboat. Hard turns have a little slide and an easy crank around. Jumping wakes, turn and burn, it’s all there. The boat thinks it’s a regular sportboat instead of a go-fast. There was, however, quite a bit of bleeding off of speed and that’s to be expected. I’d crank the wheel, and accelerate into the turn and then take off in the other direction, all without falling off plane. It was quite a thrill ride.
So if getting there ahead of the rest of the pack and arriving in cabin class style are part of your float plan, then the Formula 353 FAS³Tech might be just the boat for you. Check it out for yourself and see.
Test Result Highlights
- Top speed for the Formula 353 FASTech (2009-2010) is 80.2 mph (129.1 kph), burning 85.9 gallons per hour (gph) or 325.13 liters per hour (lph).
- Best cruise for the Formula 353 FASTech (2009-2010) is 47.4 mph (76.3 kph), and the boat gets 1.34 miles per gallon (mpg) or 0.57 kilometers per liter (kpl), giving the boat a cruising range of 179 miles (288.07 kilometers).
- Tested power is 2 x 525-hp Mercury Racing EFI Bravo One XR ITS.
Standard and Optional Features
|Outlet: 12-Volt Acc||Standard|
|10 Years Yes|
|5 Years Yes|
|2 Years Yes|
|5 Years Yes|
|ISO Certification NMMA Certification||Yes|
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