By Capt. Steve--
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 to racing, but its commitment to building high-quality, plush, high-performance boats is unabated.
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 (4,309 kg), which is 1000 – 1500 lbs heavier than most, but not all, of the other high-performance boats. So what makes the 353 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 plush 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 height captain will feel right at home on the 353 FAS³Tech .
So now we come to it. How fast does this go-fast boat go? As mentioned above, the test boat was powered by twin 525-hp 8.2 L EFI engines from Mercury Racing driving through Bravo One XR lower units. This is the smallest engine that Mercury Racing offers, so that might give you some idea of where this boat can go, should you want to take her there.
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, 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. As you move the throttle forward and the bow comes down, don't lollygag at 2500 rpm because she isn't solidly on plane. Keep moving the throttle forward and she'll be a happy lady. About ¾ of throttle travel had us at 4000 rpm and I looked down (briefly) to see that we were at 57.9 mph... 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 she 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? 80.2 mph. 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. At our 5250 rpm top speed of 80.2 mph I measured the fuel burn to be 85.9 gph for range of 125 miles.
Best cruise was measured to be at 3500 rpm and 52.1 mph. At that speed I measured the fuel burn to be 35.0 gph which translates to 1.49 mpg and a range of 200 miles.Time to plane is not as fast as you think it might be. Remember, this boat weighs over 10,000 lbs. (4,545 kgs.) 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 she'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 she's a regular sportboat instead of a go-fast.
There was, however, quite a bit of bleeding off of speed in hard turns 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. I will say that the low profile windshield does have the wind blowing right in your face in at 80 mph, which can get a bit uncomfortable after a while. In the seated position the wind was going over my head and I found that to be much more comfortable, and if I was operating over long distances it would definitely be from the seated position. But of course standing gives you a better feel for speed so that's how I spent most of my time.
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 her out for yourself and see.
Test Result Highlights
- Top speed for the Formula 353 FasTech (2012-) is 80.5 mph (129.6 kph), burning 81.30 gallons per hour (gph) or 307.72 liters per hour (lph).
- Best cruise for the Formula 353 FasTech (2012-) is 52.1 mph (83.8 kph), and the boat gets 1.49 miles per gallon (mpg) or 0.63 kilometers per liter (kpl), giving the boat a cruising range of 200 miles (321.87 kilometers).
- Tested power is 2 x 525-hp MerCruiser T25 EFI B1.
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|