It is not surprising that people wanting a high-performance boat like the Formula 350 FX CBR would also want her powered by engines with a racing pedigree, and we can’t think of a better name to be associated with than Roger Penske. Ilmor engines have 19 Indy 500 wins to their credit, most of them in Penske cars. Ilmor pulled out all the stops and painted the valve covers the same metallic blue that we see above, creating absolutely the coolest-looking engine room we’ve seen in class. Equally as important, the boat was propelled by the new Ilmor One Drives which raise sterndrive propulsion systems to a new level. All-and-all, it was quite a test.
|Length Overall||35' 0'' / 10.67 m|
Acceleration Times & Conditions
|Time to Plane||4.7 sec.|
|0 to 30||12.4 sec.|
|Props||26P 4bl fnt/ 3 bl rear|
|Load||2 persons, 1/3 fuel, no water, 50 lbs. of gear|
|Climate||60 deg., 70 humid.; wind: 10-15 mph; seas: calm|
2 x 430-hp 6.2L Ilmor
2 x 430-hp MerCruiser 8.2 MAG HO ECT Bravo IIIX DTS
Contents of Report
- Mission Statement
- New Technology
- Features Inspection
The mission of the Formula 350 FX CBR is to provide a large bowrider that has plenty of seating topsides in the bow and cockpit, while at the same time offering a cabin for comfortable overnights. It's a clever combination and one that we’re happy to see come together. By teaming with the propulsion system manufacturer Ilmor Marine, Formula equipped the boat with twin powerful, smooth-shifting stern drives that need to be experienced to be appreciated.
A departure from traditional sterndrive technology that uses a cone clutch for shifting, the Ilmor One Drive has an electro-magnetically actuated hydraulic clutch transmission that shifts two times per second. After driving the Formula 350 FX CBR with the One Drive and its digital controls, our test captain said he felt “a level of precision and quality” that he hadn’t experienced before. When shifting in and out of gear, there’s no clunk or grind, and when operating the twin dual-prop drives with the One Touch joystick, the response from the system to subtle adjustments was instantaneous.
When the One Touch joystick is being used, Ilmor Marine’s Merlin engine monitoring screen at the dash shows which drive is engaging and if the thrust is being directed forward or aft. We were also impressed with many of the safety features built into the controls. First, the joystick doesn’t automatically activate when the shifts are in neutral position. The captain must engage the joystick, which can be used in “Fast” or “Slow” mode. Second, when driving the boat with the engines synced and then an operator switches to joystick mode, if he accidentally hits the shift/throttle, the entire system goes inactive until the lever is moved to neutral. Then the captain can re-engage the joystick or shift/throttle level.
Additionally with the Merlin monitor, the captain can customize the controls, including the number of rotations of the steering wheel from lock to lock as well as the feedback on the wheel. When the joystick is engaged, the steering wheel freezes. We’ve run virtually every joystick docking system in the marine industry and have found that to get the boat to respond, we needed to operate in “Fast” mode. With the Ilmor One Touch joystick, we experienced the opposite. “Slow” mode gave us plenty of power for docking even in a tough 15 mph crosswind. “Fast” mode would be better for holding position in a strong current while waiting for a bridge or a spot at the fuel dock.
A Collaborative Effort
For the One Drive, Ilmor teamed up with Yanmar marine, borrowing some components from the well-known diesel engine manufacturer’s sterndrive. It’s a robust unit with precision forged gears, counter-rotating stainless-steel propellers, and large rudder dimensions. The exhaust outlet in the hub is 25% larger for improved performance and reduced back pressure. Ilmor offers customizing such as trim rams color matched to the boat and engine and custom wraps for the top of the drive.
Ilmor Marine doesn’t refer to itself as an engine manufacturer. The company prides itself on its engineering heritage in automotive performance including Formula 1, NASCAR, and other disciplines. That means the MV8 6.2L OS has to look as good as it runs and be designed for easy maintenance. The intake manifold is custom designed to look like a supercharger even though the engine is naturally aspirated. Lines, hoses, and fuel harnesses are hidden and tucked away for a clean appearance. For convenience, the oil filter is mounted in a tray designed to catch any drips during a change, and the alternator is easily accessed on the lower left side of the motor.
The Formula 350 FX CBR has a length overall of 35’ (10.7 m), a beam of 10'9" (3.3 m), and a draft of 39” (99 cm). With an empty weight of 13,470 lbs. (6,110 kg), full fuel and two people onboard we had a test weight of 14,268 lbs. (6,635 kg).
With a pair of 430-hp Ilmor Marine MV8 6.2L OPS One Drives turning 26” prop-sets through 2.18:1 ratios, we reached a top speed of 56 mph (48.7 knots) at 5680 rpm. Best cruise came in at 3500 rpm and 30.8 mph (26.7 knots). That produced a fuel burn of 24.5 gph (92.7 lph), which gave the 350 FX CBR a range of 195 statute miles with 10% of the boat’s fuel capacity in reserve. In acceleration tests, the boat planed in 4.7 seconds and reached 20 mph in 8 seconds before running to 30 mph in 12.4 seconds.
As is typical with every Formula boat we've tested, the 350 FX CBR exhibits agile sportboat handling. She was very responsive to the helm and had no problem handling any aggressive maneuvers. Even in hard turns, we couldn’t get any spray to come aboard, which will keep bow passengers happy when heading home at the end of the day and the wind is picking up. The 350 FX CBR sliced cleanly through waves keeping the spray down low and wide. Around the docks, the One Touch joystick put our captain in total control.
The aft half of the 350 FX CBR is largely identical to Formula’s popular SS Series. A molded swim platform and a rear facing convertible aft sun lounge provide ideal places to relax while at anchor or nosed up to a private beach. If the plan is to spend as much time in the water as on the water then the boater may want to consider the extended watersports swim platform that includes four drink holders and an under-mount stainless steel swim ladder. Low-maintenance teak grain vinyl decking is offered for both the swim platform and the cockpit. A starboard transom trunk, two transom mounted 90-watt speakers, a hot and cold transom shower, and pull up cleats are all standard. Additional storage is under the sun lounge.
The cockpit is fabricated from a continuous molded fiberglass liner and features Formula’s contoured seating with additional supports in the lumbar area as well as behind the knees. There are 24 drink holders dispersed throughout the bow and cockpit and storage is under most seats and in the deck. To port is a molded wet bar with an integrated sink, Corian countertop, trash receptacle, and a 17.5-quart (16.6 L) carry-on cooler. A dual-voltage cockpit refrigerator is also standard. To starboard, J-shaped seating and a dual height table adds to the entertaining capability. Lower the table and add filler cushions to create another sunning area.
To the port side of the helm is a doublewide lounge that lets a single passenger face forward or aft in the chaise lounge fashion or two people to relax and have a conversation with the captain and admiral at the helm.
The helm features side-by-side seating, so a companion can join the captain. The dash features Monster Series Livorsi performance gauges, a Raymarine Hybridtouch chartplotter and the Ilmor Merlin screen to starboard. The digital controls and the One Touch joystick are to starboard with the buttons for the Lenco trim tabs aft. Accessory switches are on each side of the steering wheel, and the dash has two cupholders, so the driver and companion can stay hydrated during a long day on the water. Circuit breakers for the accessories are down low to starboard.
The walkthrough to the 350 FX CBR’s bow measures 1'10" (.56 m) across. As if there wasn't enough storage already on this boat, the port console allows for a cavernous compartment. There are two doors accessing this compartment and inside is an opening portlight.
The bow is accessed from an offset windshield walkthrough to port, and the deck is on the same level from the stern to the bow. A forward facing doublewide lounge seat is immediately to starboard, and a pair of dual height tables can turn the bow into an al fresco dining area. With the tables lowered, filler cushions turn the entire bow into a third sun lounge. The starboard seating features an armrest that flips up when not in use, and a removable bow cooler will save having to travel back to the cockpit for a drink or snack.
The port seat has dedicated storage for the pedestal table. The forward cushion conceals a carry-on cooler and trash receptacle. To starboard is another storage compartment and a removable seat allowing for a two-across forward facing bench seat. In the foredeck, there is an anchor locker, and owners can add a windlass.
The cabin is accessed from a centerline entryway next to the helm. Three solid wood floating steps lead to a wood grain finished deck and a 5'10" (1.8 m) of headroom. The cabin can be finished in high-gloss cherry or ash with cherry or Baltic Birch woodgrain finish decking throughout.
Several features of the cabin indicate that it's designed to accommodate two people. Immediately to starboard is a two-person lounge. Directly across are a chest of drawers, storage cabinets, and an HD TV/DVD combo. Directly ahead of the stairs is a centerline mounted galley with microwave, concealed sink and a drawer-style stainless steel refrigerator.
Comforts of Home
Just to starboard is a private head with a molded vanity, Corian countertop, sink, shower, and standard VacuFlush head. Thanks to the unique use of space, the aft end of the cabin is taken up by a full-size double berth with memory foam mattress meaning there is no need to convert a lounge to a berth.
The Formula 350 FX CBR has already combined the ability to entertain up to 14 people comfortably and still let the owners get away for an overnight or weekend trip. She exhibits the quality for which Formula is known for throughout the boat and adding the smooth shifting operation of the One Drive system from Ilmor Marine served to further enhance that luxurious appeal.