Big outboards reign at Miami show

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In outboard circles, the big news that came out of this year’s Miami International Boat Show was big 4-strokes.

In outboard circles, the big news that came out of this year’s Miami International Boat Show was big 4-strokes.

Yamaha led the way with the introduction of a 350-hp V-8 outboard, and Mercury Marine, not to be outdone, unveiled a 300-hp version of its 6-cylinder Verado supercharged 4-stroke.

While other manufacturers displayed their latest outboards — Suzuki Marine, which last year broke the 300-hp4-stroke barrier, introduced two smaller models in Miami — the focus was on the big engines from Yamaha and Mercury. Put simply, the Yamaha F350 is the largest4-stroke outboard ever built.

Phil Dyskow, president of Yamaha Motor Corp., says today’s offshore boats are stretching the limits of outboard power. The 5.3-liter F350 is Kennesaw, Ga.-based Yamaha’s response. “The development of this engine was truly customer driven,” says Dyskow. “It was incumbent upon us to build an engine large enough to push these larger, heavier offshore boats.”

While Yamaha went the V-8 route, Mercury pulled more horsepower out of its supercharged 2.6-liter inline 6-cylinder engine with its 300-hp Verado. The power increase was accomplished without raising the supercharger’s boost or raising cylinder pressure, modifications that may have raised concerns about the engine’s reliability, says Mercury’s Steve Miller, who has been Verado platform manager since the project’s inception.

“We’re very satisfied and comfortable with the reliability and durability of the product in its current state,” says Miller. “We would not have been willing to trade any of that for the additional power.” The power increase — the largest Verado previously was 275 hp — is the result of more aggressive calibration and camshaft modification without sacrificing idle or running quality, according to the company.

“The engine really isn’t working any harder; it’s just working more efficiently,” says Randy Caruana, director of large outboard products.

More horsepower means these engines will power bigger outboard boats with increased capabilities — speed, range, amenities, rough-water running. Boatbuilders say their customers increasingly have been asking for larger 4-strokes.

“We can definitely use big engines,” says Ariel Pared, owner of Miami-based SeaVee Boats, which introduced a 39-foot center console at the boat show. “We’ve got a lot of customers who want twins, so we can put twins on a 34 or a 32.”

The SeaVee 390 on display, however, was equipped with quadruple 300-hp Verados. Most orders for the big center console have been with quadruple 275-hp Verados, according to Pared, and he says the 300s provide even better performance for the same weight. “There’s no substitute for horsepower,” says Pared.

As the popularity of 4-strokes has risen over the last several years, boatbuilders have been adjusting and tailoring designs to the increased weight of the outboards. Now that the engines have grown bigger, builders are planning the next generation of outboard boats, which will be longer, beamier and heavier.

“It does open up opportunities for bigger boats, there’s no question about that,” says David Neese, vice president of engineering for Grady-White Boats of Greenville, N.C., which builds outboard boats from 18 feet to 36 feet. In fact, Yamaha’s Dyskow says the F350 really came from riding on a Grady-White Express 360 and observing the kind of power that boat demands.

“We didn’t have to create demand for this engine,” he says. “The boats were already built; they’re waiting for us.”

Here’s a roundup of the latest news from the major outboard manufacturers.

Honda Marine Group, based in Alpharetta, Ga., has redesigned its 75- and 90-hp 4-strokes for 2007. The outboards reportedly weigh 15 pounds less and have more advanced technologies than their predecessors. At 359 pounds, the BF75 and BF90 share the same 1.5-liter, inline

4-cylinder engine found in Honda’s Fit automobile. The 16-valve engine has a single overhead camshaft design with dual intake valves. Other new features include Honda’s Boosted Low Speed Torque (BLAST) system, Lean Burn Control and VTEC valve timing technology. (VTEC is available only on the BF90.) BLAST improves holeshot performance, according to Honda, by advancing ignition timing throughout the rpm range. Lean Burn Control uses an oxygen sensor to adjust the fuel/air mixture according to speed and load to maximize power and increase fuel economy. And VTEC — Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control — uses “mild” cam lobes to operate the intake valves at low rpm and engages a “high output” cam lobe to maximize performance at higher rpm.

Pricing for the BF75 starts at $8,995, while the BF90 starts at $9,585. www.hondamarine.com

Tohatsu Outboards and Nissan Marine have introduced 25- and 30-hp 4-strokes with batteryless electronic fuel injection. Unlike conventional EFI outboards that use power from the battery, Tohatsu says the injection system of the manual-start 25 and 30 receives its voltage directly from the alternator.

The engines can be started by pull rope or electric starter, and the rope start is standard equipment on all electric start models. The company claims the CD ignition system is designed for immediate starting in all sea and weather conditions.

The 25 and 30 both have a 3-cylinder engine block with a displacement of 32 cubic inches and are available with 15- or 20-inch shaft, remote steering control or a tiller handle, and manual tilt or a power trim and tilt system. Price for the Tohatsu 25 is $4,173, while the Nissan 25 comes in at $4,347. The Tohatsu 30 has a retail price of $4,747, and the Nissan 30 costs $4,944.

Tohatsu America/Nissan Marine is based in Farmers Branch, Texas. www.tohatsu.com , www.nissanmarine.com

Tohatsu is building the batteryless EFI 4-strokes at its new manufacturing facility in Komagane, Japan, in a joint venture with Mercury Marine.

The aforementioned 300-hp Mercury Verado supercharged 4-stroke outboard is based on the same inline 6-cylinder engine block as the 200- to 275-hp engines that started the Verado line three years ago. In addition to squeezing more horsepower out of the 2.6-liter straight-6 for the big engine, the Fond du Lac, Wis.-based company also introduced a 200-hp

inline 4-cylinder Verado. At 510 pounds (20-inch shaft), it’s the lightest 200-hp 4-stroke on the market by 53 pounds, according to Mercury.

Pricing was unavailable. www.mercurymarine.com

Suzuki Marine of Brea, Calif., has introduced variations on its 9.9- and 200-hp 4-stroke outboards. The DF200TL is a 20-inch-shaft version of its V-6 DF200. The company says it designed the short-shaft model for use on pontoon boats and some bay boats, flats boats and ski boats.

The 2-cylinder DF9.9 High Thrust is a new model that adds the high thrust feature as well as a power tilt system. The kicker is available with tiller or remote steering. The two new engines are set for the 2008 model year. Pricing was unavailable. www.suzukimarine.com

While the latest outboards from Sturtevant, Wis.-based BRP take advantage of E-TEC 2-stroke technology, they also were designed for commercial use. The new direct fuel injection work engines comprise 65- and 90-hp models.

On the recreational side, BRP now offers Evinrude E-TEC and other direct injection outboards from 40 to 250 hp. BRP seems to have separated itself from the other major manufacturers by placing all its chips on direct injection 2-stroke technology. The company came out swinging against its 4-stroke competition with an in-your-face “2 > 4” advertising campaign for E-TEC, and continues to pit its 2-stroke engines head-to-head with

4-strokes on the basis of acceleration, speed, emissions, fuel economy, ease of maintenance and weight.

The current Evinrude lineup comprises V-6 engines from 150 hp to 250 hp, a 115-hp V-4; 75- and 90-hp 3-cylinder models; and 40-, 50- and 60-hp 2-

cylinder outboards. www.evinrude.com

Yamaha Motor Corp. USA now builds 4-stroke outboards from 2.5 hp to 350 hp. The F350 is a 5.3-liter V-8 with sequential multipoint electronic fuel injection, a 60-degree

engine block, and 32-valve dual overhead cam cylinder heads with variable camshaft timing. The 325-cubic-inch engine weighs 804 pounds with a 25-inch shaft, and a 30-inch-shaft version also is available. Other features include a 50-amp alternator, Command Link digital electronic controls, and California Air Resources Board three-star compliance for lowest emissions. Suggested retail price is about $26,000. www.yamaha-motor.com