When it comes to outboards, companies such as Mercury, Seven and Yamaha have been swinging for the fences over the last year, creating big excitement with the introduction of models that make more than 400 hp.
To extend the baseball analogy, Evinrude is reliably hitting singles and doubles to get on base; for the 2020 model year, it has introduced three outboards rated at 115, 140 and 150 hp, all built on a 1.9-liter inline 3-cylinder aluminum block. The engines are designed to be easier to rig and easier to drive, with electronic shift and throttle, automatic trim and digital instrumentation.
“We’re bringing that bigger-boat user experience down to smaller boats,” says Karl Sandstrom, owner of Sandstrom Marine Consulting and a former product manager for BRP, Evinrude’s parent company.
Tracy Crocker, president of BRP Marine Group, says Evinrude has identified the segment of the marine industry that would be ideal for outboards of this size, including fishing boats, pontoons and runabouts. In the past year, the company purchased Alumacraft, Manitou and Australia’s Telwater, all builders of aluminum boats.
“A great place to start in an industry this big is in the sweet spot that’s $20 billion and growing,” Crocker says, noting that Evinrude has about 3.7 percent of the outboard market. Crocker believes that focusing on the heart of the market (instead of the high-horsepower segment) will increase that share. “We have a cornerstone of consumers who already love us,” he says. “This is an opportunity.”
Crocker acknowledges that Evinrude was not ready for Mercury and Yamaha to pull out of agreements with Alumacraft after BRP purchased the boatbuilder, but Evinrude has increased the number of its engines on the backs of those boats from 10 to 25 percent in less than a year.
The new inline 3-cylinder Evinrude block has a bore and stroke of 3.854 by 3.25 inches. The 115 HO with a 20-inch shaft has an estimated weight of 390 pounds, and the 25-inch-shaft 150 weighs 430 pounds. By comparison, the lightest version of Mercury’s 115 Pro XS FourStroke is listed at 359 pounds, while the 150-hp model tips the scales at 456 pounds. Yamaha’s F115 is an in-line 4-cylinder that starts at 377 pounds; the F150 with a 20-inch shaft weighs 478 pounds.
Only Evinrude uses direct fuel injection in engines of this size range. In this system, each cylinder has its own high-pressure injector. As with all E-TEC engines, the new models were designed using computational fluid dynamics to improve combustion inside the cylinder. The system uses stratified fuel, which is broken down into a finer mist and results in more complete combustion and reduced emissions, according to Evinrude.
Sandstrom says the second-generation E-TEC outboards have 30 percent more torque than the first models, and 15 to 50 percent better fuel economy. Emissions are rated 75 percent lower. Sandstrom says that if emissions regulations become more restrictive, Evinrude is prepared to meet those numbers without needing a catalytic converter.
Because it can be a challenge to get an inline engine with an odd number of cylinders to run smoothly, Evinrude installed balance gears on the top and bottom of the crankshaft. Think of the setup like a harmonic balancer on the crankshaft of an inboard or sterndrive engine. And the lower motor mounts are set at a 25- to 30-degree angle to isolate vibration, in an attempt to reduce running noise.
The engines’ 1.9-gallon 2-stroke-oil tank should last for about 50 hours, which is a typical season of use for many boaters. The midsection is new and no longer has a setback. It can be set up for cable, external hydraulic or power steering, which has to be ordered from the factory. Power steering adds about 25 pounds to the engine weight.
The gearcase has a new shape and different water pickups. Evinrude has come out with RX3 and RX4 stainless-steel propellers. The RX3 reportedly provides more traction in turns and better reverse thrust, and the RX4 is designed more for all-around performance.
With the more compact design, the new engines can be installed on 26-inch centers, which makes them a good candidate for twin installations on a narrow-beam boat; think of a repower on an older center console for an owner who wants the redundancy of two engines when he heads offshore. Evinrude has developed a sensor plate to convert mechanical controls to digital shifting, and it can be retrofitted.
Instead of removable side panels, the outboards have a two-piece cowling that latches at the front. Owners can get the engine in white or graphite, and colored side panels are an option.
For gauges, Evinrude offers the Nautilus, a 3.5-inch-diameter instrument with 7- and 4.3-inch digital I-Command screens. The company recently made the outboards compatible with Simrad and Lowrance devices. Evinrude also has worked with Garmin, and in the future, engine information is expected to be displayed on Humminbird and Raymarine/FLIR products.
As far as joystick compatibility, Sandstrom would only say, “stay tuned.”
Crocker says that during the next five years, Evinrude plans to introduce “significant” new products every six months. Some will be engines, and some will be boat-specific. It sounds like Evinrude’s batting average should be one to watch for the foreseeable future.
This article originally appeared in the July 2019 issue.