Wide-open throttle. That’s what freshwater boaters care about, and Yamaha has engineered its four new high-output 4-strokes to maximize top-end performance and acceleration.
Yamaha this fall introduced the V MAX SHO 115, V MAX SHO 175, V MAX SHO 150X and the V MAX SHO 250X. The 150 and 250 are 25-inch shaft versions of the current V MAX SHO engines of the same horsepower. The engines join Yamaha’s Super High Output lineup, which delivers performance characteristics most popular in the freshwater arena — speed and acceleration. The new models will begin to hit the market in April.
“What made us strong in salt water is feature-rich product,” Yamaha Marine Group president Ben Speciale told me during the company’s new-product press event in Chattanooga, Tenn., in mid-October. “So we see that trend moving into fresh water at a more rapid pace. We are focusing more on providing that feature-rich product to that freshwater segment. We’re going after that freshwater market in a stronger way.”
Yamaha has even defined the Midwest as a priority for sales and service, Speciale adds.
To showcase the product, Yamaha mounted its engines on 14 boats ranging from about 10 to 42 feet. Some 25 journalists attended the two-day event, putting the engines through their paces — which meant lots of wide-open, high-speed sprints — at Yamaha’s test center in Bridgeport, Ala., on the banks of the Tennessee River.
“You’ll really get a kick in the pants when you go and operate this engine,” Yamaha marine product information manager David Meeler says of the new V MAX SHO 115 during a technical presentation prior to engine testing.
And I did receive that kick when I drove a 20-foot bass boat with the 115. I easily eclipsed the 40-mph mark while traveling against the wind and current on the Tennessee River. The boat jumps from 4,500 to 5,000 rpm with jerk-you-back-in-your-seat acceleration. At full sprint, the engine reaches 6,300 rpm, which is about 300 to 400 rpm higher than with most other Yamaha 4-strokes.
This press event featured the most new-product introductions since Yamaha’s 2009 event, which marked the introductions of the 4.2-liter V6 Offshore outboards, the first V MAX SHO engines and the F70.
Yamaha has also come out with two improved and modernized versions of the F150 and F8 outboards. The upgrades to the 150, which is Yamaha’s best-selling outboard with 150,000 units sold, include clutch improvements for smoother shifting and the addition of the variable trolling feature, which lets the driver increase revolutions per minute in 500-rpm increments.
On the F8, improvements include a more ergonomic shift lever and, for better storage options, it now has rear resting pads and a tiller that folds easier. Both engines have been given a more modernized exterior appearance.
In other news, the company now will offer its Helm Master joystick helm control system for quad applications in boats 40 feet and bigger. The engine maker had a 42-foot Hydra-Sports with quad F350s in the water ready for testing. Helm Master is also now available with twin applications of the F200 four-cylinder outboard.
“We like to stress that the joystick is only part of Helm Master,” Meeler says. In addition to the joystick, it includes digital electronic controls, electronic steering with steering friction control, trim control, comprehensive information displays (quad applications use two 6Y9 displays) and the Y-COP theft deterrence alarm system.
I got a chance to man the joystick. The system moved the boat around responsively, but this was a large boat, so it did take a few seconds to change directions. Yamaha regional application engineer Bill Craft was on board to show the journalists how Helm Master works. He says the best way to operate the joystick on a boat this large is to engage the joystick in a steady, consistent manner, moving the boat slowly.
Yamaha also is expanding its fleet of propellers. Its Reliance SDS props are now available in 13- and 14-inch pitch sizes, and the company is offering its Talon SS SDS propellers for mid-range outboards.
More than 30 Yamaha representatives were on hand to provide information, answer questions and demonstrate the operational features of the engines. The Yamaha personnel included two executives (Speciale and vice president Dean Burnett) and specialists in marketing, operations, product planning and applications.
Speciale stressed the major changes in the market since the recession, saying boats are now equipped with more electronics, sophisticated systems, plush amenities and customization. He cited decked-out boats with twin PowerPole shallow-water anchors, blow-dried deck compartments, multicolor LED lights and custom trim-angle settings on wakeboard boats.
“What we’re seeing is that when a guy buys a new boat he is not barely buying a new boat,” Speciale says in a follow-up interview at the test center in Bridgeport. “What he wants to do is buy a full-featured product. The new-boat buyer is an experienced boater, so he knows what he wants in the product. He wants to have the nice interiors; he wants a wider boat; he wants a longer boat; he wants it full-featured with an electronics package; and he wants the best propulsion. He doesn’t just want to barely get into it; he wants to make sure it runs properly and up to high standards and has all the accouterments he likes to give him and his family a great experience on the water.”
Burnett ran through a presentation packed with details about the engines, highlighting the strengths of each. For example, he said the new MAX SHO 115 is ideal for midsize bass boats and pontoons. It is lightweight at 377 pounds and has Variable Trolling Speed and greater acceleration and top speed. Yamaha tests have shown that the new V MAX SHO 115 is 2.7 mph faster than the current F115 and nearly 4 mph faster than the previous version of the F115.
“Yamaha’s tactic has always been to go high-tech,” Burnett said in his presentation. “We want to give people reasons to move into a product — reasons to move ‘up’ into a product. It is easy to take valves out of engines. It is easy to take technology out of engines. It is easy to do what we call ‘dummy’ them down. It is much tougher to build a small compact package like this that gives you true performance through technology.”
This article originally appeared in the November 2014 issue.