A sneak peek at what’s in store for the floor of your favorite boat show this season.
As predicted in prior Buyers Guide reviews, two-stroke outboards have gone the way of the dinosaur with the demise of Evinrude which pulled out of the market during the recent pandemic, so it’s all four-stroke moving forward.
While some outboard engine manufacturers are just happy trying to meet demand with their current product lines, others are breaking new ground; you’ll have to read on to see who these innovators are and what they are introducing!
Electric outboards continue to gain market share, but their delimiting factor continues to be available onboard battery power (or lack thereof), which will reduce usable range and keep your trips short and close to home port for the immediate future. The availability of local charging stations (and their cost) is a secondary challenge for electric outboard motors that must be addressed prior to their acceptance by the majority of the coastal boating public. Diesel outboards are also part of the new wave of technology, but a small and specialized part.
Without further preamble, let’s see what’s happening in the world of outboards for 2023.
Suzuki Marine, USA LLC has launched two new additions to its growing line-up of outboard motors, the new for 2023 DF350AMD and DF300BMD V6 four-strokes. Suzuki unveiled these new models during the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show this past October. When I was down there, I had a chance to talk with Suzuki’s EVP of Sale & Service, Gus Blakely to find out more details about these debutants. “We’ve made these flagships of our fleet even better by adding some innovative new features that improve performance, durability and ease of rigging on a wide variety of boats,” Blakely said, adding “We listened to our boat building partners, our dealers and our customers and used their input to make our best motors even better.”
These 350 and 300-horsepower models with contra-rotating twin propellers are the first Suzuki outboards to offer the benefits of advanced integrated steering. Integrated steering allows for more streamlined rigging of these V6 four-strokes on a range of inshore and offshore boats, while also providing a cleaner appearance in the motor well. Because integrated steering eliminates concerns about interference and clearance issues created by external steering cylinders, boat builders can more easily rig these popular outboards on a variety of hull types in single or multiple engine configurations. Integrated steering also reduces the possibility of the steering cylinder hitting the motor well if the outboard is tilted too far forward.
Suzuki has also engineered a new lower gear case for the DF350AMD and DF300BMD (also available on all five series 350A/300B models) designed to enhance durability, increase top-speed performance, improve fuel efficiency and make maintenance and service easier. The new design delivers superior gear lubrication and maintains the gear oil at a lower temperature, increasing durability and reliability over the long run, even in the toughest operating conditions. The external surface area of this new gear case has also been reduced and reshaped, allowing the lower unit to slice through the water with less resistance, which improves both fuel efficiency and top-end performance. This streamlined gear case has the added benefit of reducing the amount of gear oil required from 3.2L to 2.8L. This new gear case also features a new oil passage that allows users to easily change the gear oil with Suzuki’s gear oil changer without having to haul the boat. This improvement will make it easier for boaters to stay on top of scheduled maintenance.
While there is nothing new for Japan-based Yamaha Outboards to speak of presently, reliable scuttlebutt has it that there is something big brewing for the upcoming Miami Boat Show in February, so we’ll just have to stay tuned for more. If I had to make an educated guess, it’s probably some new variant of their popular 425 XTO V8 four-stroke that was introduced a few seasons back.
One of the latest introductions from Yamaha was their new 250 and 300 digital electronic control (DEC) four-stroke outboards. The same smooth, fast and precise digital electric steering (DES) included on the 425 XTO Offshore is now built-in to the new F300 and F250 DEC models. Yamaha’s latest boat steering technology provides smooth, fast steering and unlike some conventional steering systems, draws battery amperage only when actively in use. DES is significantly easier to rig than conventional steering systems and creates an uncluttered bilge with no steering pumps, hoses, hydraulic lines, connections or fluid spills.
When hitting reverse, Thrust Enhancing Reverse Exhaust (TERE) keeps exhaust bubbles above the anti-ventilation plate and out of the propeller below 2500 RPMs. This means the prop bites cleaner water, resulting in outstanding reverse thrust and control to back down on fish or into your boat slip at the marina. Yamaha’s exclusive TotalTilt function allows complete tilt up from any position with a simple quick double-tap push of the “UP” trim/tilt button, or full tilt down (until trim ram contact) by the same double-tap push of the “DOWN” trim/tilt button. There’s also a new built-in integrated tilt limiter to help prevent inadvertent damage to fiberglass parts of the transom’s outboard well or bulkhead. Built-in DES models tilt higher out of the water than previous models, which helps lessen the potential for corrosion on the prop and/or lower unit. The new 4.2-liter V6 Offshore also has an improved lower unit featuring new components and design features that add durability for the long haul.
As the last remaining made-in-USA outboard engine manufacturer (for outboards from 75 to 600-horsepower), Mercury Marine continues their hot streak with two new four-stroke outboards designed for larger saltwater boats. The latest additions to the legendary Verado lineup are the world’s first V10 outboards, the 5.7L V10 350 and 400-horsepower Verado engines.
The 2018 launch of the Mercury V8 and V6 outboards delivered an entire family of 175 to 300-horsepower outboards that are powerful, quiet and efficient. That launch also set up the more recent introduction of the V12 600-horsepower Verado outboard and the development of the new V10 models. This launch also continues Mercury’s transition to high-displacement, naturally aspirated outboard powerheads. One of the benefits here is simplicity. Shifting to high-displacement, naturally aspirated powerheads provides exceptional durability and reliability across Mercury’s high-horsepower portfolio. The V10 is no different. Its class-leading 5.7-liter powerhead can easily generate incredible power and torque, with low stress on the engine. Additional features such as Advanced Range Optimization and a closed-loop fuel system are now common among all Mercury high-horsepower outboards, including the V10 models. They balance power with efficiency by intelligently managing fuel flow to extend your range on the water.
Like all Verado outboards, the V10 engines are paired with Digital Throttle & Shift (DTS) controls for smooth, effortless shifting, and they feature a variation of the Advanced MidSection (AMS) mounting system, which minimizes vibration transfer into the boat. DTS and AMS also enable compatibility with Mercury’s advanced Joystick Piloting for Outboards (JPO) systems.
To optimize performance across the range of applications, Mercury developed a new gearcase, new Revolution X propeller line and new Flo-Torq X hub specifically for this outboard platform. The gearcase features a rugged 6.4-inch-diameter torpedo, which enables it to turn a large-diameter prop. Together, the gearcase and prop generate powerful lift to get boats on plane quickly, along with providing exceptional low-speed steering authority and impressive top speeds. Other upgrades include a 150-amp alternator which can support a large suite of onboard electronics, and calibration to deliver full performance on 87-octane fuel, offering a substantial savings opportunity when refueling. Even the V10 cowl has been carefully designed to help seal out moisture. It combines with sealed electrical components, an onboard freshwater flush system, advanced alloys and durable corrosion-preventive finishes to provide a powerful defense against corrosion, so tough that Mercury backs every Verado engine used for recreational purposes with an industry-leading three-year corrosion warranty, in addition to the standard three-year limited warranty.
Additionally, V10 Verado outboards will be available with the industry’s first dual-mode 48V/12V alternator. This high-power alternator was designed to pair with Navico Group’s Fathom e-Power System. Fathom is an integrated lithium-ion auxiliary power management system. It enhances sustainability and convenience by providing owners of large boats the opportunity to eliminate an onboard generator system while minimizing reliance on shore power.
Mercury has also introduced a pair of new in-line, three-cylinder compact outboards, the 25 and 30 EFI. These are based on a new 500cc/30.5-cubic inch displacement powerhead and are relatively lightweight, weighing between 132 and 145 pounds depending on the model.
For 2023, Honda is going with the flow and doesn’t have any new products as of this writing. The latest news from Honda was their reengineered and redesigned BF115 and BF150 in-line four-cylinder outboards and a new BF140 that were all introduced last season. Available in Aquamarine Silver or Grand Prix White, the BF115, BF140, and BF150 all feature sleek, aerodynamic styling for a bold, new look. All three outboards are now available with Honda’s Intelligent Shift and Throttle (iST) drive-by-wire system, for superb control and power.
Repositioned anodes and a new bolt coating enhance corrosion resistance. The redesigned cowl provides easier spark plug access. Other redesigned and repositioned components include the trim and tilt unit, water separator, fuel filters and an enlarged dipstick tube. Combined with enhanced diagnostic codes, these changes make maintenance easier than ever, and significantly reduce maintenance time. The powerful, compact, 2.35-liter 24-valve DOHC design creates more valve lift to pull in more air for increased horsepower. The low-maintenance design allows easy adjustment of the rocker arms. The Lean Burn Control increases fuel efficiency by allowing combustion to operate on a leaner air/fuel mixture. Programmed Fuel Injection delivers the precise amount of fuel/air to each cylinder. The result is easy starts and instant throttle response with superior fuel efficiency.
Other notable standard features on this Honda trio include: three separate cooling systems keep the cylinder heads running cooler for long-term durability; a single front-mounted latch combines with four securing points to ensure a water-tight seal; a freshwater port that flushes debris and saltwater out of the engine, extending the life of the outboard; plus 20-inch and 25-inch shaft lengths, with counter rotating models available for multiple engine applications.
The new MFS25D and MFS30D four-stroke outboards are designed for a wide variety of boat applications, such as inflatable, aluminum and fiberglass. With these new midsized outboards, Tohatsu claims to have achieved the lightest weight in its class and improved reliability, without sacrificing performance.
Some of the unique standard features on the new Tohatsu MFS25D and MFS30D outboards include built in freshwater flush system on the drive shaft housing for easy access; a no-mess oil filter drip pan located underneath the engine oil filter; tool-free replaceable clear fuel filter with floating indicator ring that provides detection of water in the fuel system and allows quick and easy service; a thermostatically controlled cooling system for consistent engine temperature; stainless steel water pump housing liner for increased durability; high grade marine aluminum alloy that provides the ultimate protection against corrosion; zinc coating on internal water passages for superior corrosion resistance; a 6.6-gallon (25-liter) fuel tank, including fuel fittings and fuel line standard on certain models.
These new Tohatsu 25 and 30-horsepower outboards feature an in-line, three-cylinder design with a 500cc/30.5-cubic-inch powerhead. The two available color options are Aqua Marine Blue and Beluga White. These new four-strokes are available in a variety of model-types, including multiple shaft lengths (15 and 20 inches), manual or electric start, tiller or remote steering, plus manual tilt or power tilt and trim. The EFI fuel system is self-powered and includes an advanced cross-flow induction for smooth operation, ultra-low three-star emissions, and it is EPA and CARB approved. The optimized 2.17:1 gear ratio gives operators better low end torque and the ability to turn a higher pitch prop for better top-end performance. The battery-less manual start Electronic Fuel Injection 4-stroke includes a digital CD ignition system for quicker starts, with a high-output 17.5 amp alternator to recharge your onboard battery, with an adjustable steering friction and trim tab for reducing steering effort. To keep users aware of their engine condition at all times, these outboards include an overheat warning (audible and visual); low oil pressure warning (audible and visual); plus an over-rev limiter (audible and visual).
Unique to the MFS25/30D, Tohatsu has redesigned the tiller handle to include a stop switch, a four-step trolling speed control system from 750 to 1050 RPMs, forward/neutral/reverse shifter, throttle friction adjustment and electric start button on certain models. Tohatsu’s multi-function tiller handle is also available for multiple model options. Both standard and multi-function tiller handles have trolling speed control feature. Remote control models are also available. The multi-function tiller handle is equipped with three-position height adjustment with optional accessory to provide an additional four-position height adjustment. Tohatsu has also repositioned the engine mount locations and optimized the distance between the upper and lower engine mounts by bringing the upper mount and lower mount forward from the center of driveshaft. This revamped design reduces vibration and increases maneuverability for a better boating experience.
Tohatsu’s newly designed gear case has been given a more torpedo-like shape for optimal hydrodynamic flow, reducing water drag and improving performance, from planing to top end speed. The gear case also includes an additional auxiliary water intake port, providing consistent cooling water circulation. This allows the cooling water come up to cool the engine even if the primary water inlet were covered by marine debris. The newly designed flywheel creates airflow inside the cowling. This improves the internal air circulation and reduces the temperature of electrical components to maximize reliability. The intake manifold has been completely redesigned with resin to reduce weight by 48%.
NEW OUTBOARD TECHNOLOGIES
A quick tour of the 2022 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show confirmed that more manufacturers are jumping aboard the electric outboard bandwagon, but it’s going to be a very long and slow ride. The biggest challenge with any E-power system is how to get maximum runtime from the onboard battery packs. Electric cars have the same challenge, getting significantly less range when compared to gasoline-powered vehicles. As we’ve mentioned in the past outboards that produce zero emissions are a wonderful thing for planet earth, since most of the electricity to charge the batteries that run the E-power outboards are produced by power plants running on coal, oil, or natural gas the reality is that these engines are not yet totally emissions-free.
With all that being taken into consideration, the E-power category is attracting more potential players as battery developers (like Brunswick’s ASG division that’s a sister company to Mercury Marine) work to create lithium-ion power cells that are lighter and have longer run times. We’ll give a shout out to the Mercury Avator electric outboard, Torqeedo, E-Motion and Yamaha’s Harmo Electric Drive. It’s interesting to note that Torqeedo is currently producing a 50kW electric outboard that’s equivalent to an 80-horsepower gas outboard and E-Motion is offering a 180-HP equivalent electric outboard. There’s also a relatively new Euro diesel outboard that’s manufactured by OXE and their lineup includes outboards up to 300-horsepower that use 40 to 50 percent less fuel than their four-stroke gasoline counterparts to generate the same hull speeds, which has a dramatic impact on extending range.
We’ll be spending more time on these companies as the technology develops.