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‘Next generation’ 4-strokes from Yamaha

The new outboards are lighter and more fuel-efficient, as the company rolls out nine models

In the largest and broadest product introduction in its history, Yamaha Motor Corp. presented nine new outboard engines from 4 hp to 300 hp at a media event late last year in Chattanooga, Tenn.

"We believe by introducing products now, we're going to catch the market in an upswing," Phil Dyskow, president of the marine group for Yamaha Motor Corp., said at the November event, dubbed "This Changes Everything." "We've got to give customers a reason to buy and a reason to go to boat shows and to visit their dealer. If all we do is discount closeouts and excess products and repossessions, we aren't doing anything to help restart the industry."

Soundings Trade Only was on hand as Yamaha unveiled the engines to 43 journalists at The Chattanoogan Hotel. Seventeen boats, including models from Contender, EdgeWater, Scout and Grady-White, were available for sea trialing at Yamaha's test center on the Tennessee River in Bridgeport, Ala.

The outboard manufacturer has re-engineered its V6 engine in the 225-, 250- and 300-hp models. In addition, a new midrange engine, the F70, was unveiled, as well as two kickers - the F4 and F6. For the inshore coastal and freshwater bass boat markets, Yamaha introduced new V MAX 4-strokes in 200-, 225- and 250-hp models. All of the engines are touted as lighter, more compact, more fuel-efficient and better performing than previous models.

"This is the next generation of 4-strokes," says Dyskow. "You can see the direction we're going - significantly better power-to-weight ratio, lighter weight, better fuel economy, better performance."

Yamaha delayed the introduction by a few months to allow dealers to sell existing product, says Dyskow. "Normally we do product introductions around July 1, when the program year kicks in," he says. "We looked at what was happening in the marketplace, and we saw that there was a fairly significant bubble of inventory that still existed. If we had launched the new product [in July], it would have made it very difficult for the dealers to sell what they already had, so we made a conscious decision to wait until early November."

The inshore models and kickers will hit the market in January, while the V6 models and the F70 are scheduled to debut at the Feb. 11-15 Miami International Boat Show, says Dyskow.

First impressions

I got a chance to drive four of the boats at the event - a Scout 245 XSF center console with a single F250, a 318 EdgeWater center console with twin F300s, an Alumacraft Dominator 165CS with the F70, and an F4-powered Zodiac Cadet 260 Air Lite.

The V6 outboards were smooth and powerful. We had five men in the Scout, and the F250 pushed it on plane without a problem. The F250 was set up with a propeller that uses the company's new Shift Dampener System. An internal damper in the propeller hub eliminates the "clunk" that sometimes occurs when shifting into gear. The F250 certainly shifted smoother than prior V6 models, but from what I could tell the clunking hasn't been completely eliminated. With the single F250, the Scout gets 3.7 mpg at 30 mph. Impressive.

The twin F300s provided plenty of power for the EdgeWater 318. With four crewmembers on board, the test boat blew up and down the river at 56 mph. At a cruise of 32 mph, you're getting a respectable 1.8 mpg.

The F70 will make a good choice for repowering center consoles from 15 to 21 feet. The 4-cylinder engine weighs 260 pounds, making it the lightest 70-hp 4-stroke on the market. (The Suzuki DF70, a 4-cylinder engine, weighs 341 pounds.)

The 60-pound F4 and F6 have also been lightened, by 23 pounds. That can make a big difference - on your back - when you're standing in the dinghy trying to mount or remove the engine. It also makes the exercise safer. These two models are built with better carrying handles than their predecessors. Also, while many portables can be stowed on one side only, these can be stored in one of three horizontal positions - on the face and port and starboard sides - without oil leakage.

Light but large

The engines are lighter, but their displacements are greater. Current Yamaha 225- and 250-hp models are built with 3.3-liter engines with a displacement of 204.6 cubic inches, while the new versions utilize 4.2-liter engines with 254-cubic-inch displacements. The new V6 300-hp engine replaces the V8 300, which used the same block as the 350-hp engine. The V6 version weighs 246 pounds less and is 17 percent more fuel-efficient than the V8 version, according to Dyskow. The new 225 and 250 weigh 558 pounds. The previous 225 came in at 583 pounds, and the 250 weighed 604 pounds.

The V6 powerheads use plasma-fused sleeveless cylinders instead of steel sleeves to provide a durable surface for the piston rings and reduce overall weight, according to the company. The material takes up less space in the engine block than a conventional steel sleeve, according to the company.

The company also talked about its new Command Link Plus instrumentation, which can monitor up to three engines on one 5-inch color display. The company will also offer an optional anti-theft technology for its larger engines. Plus, Yamaha plans to reintroduce the 3.3-liter 250-hp engine with mechanical controls. "This option is for boat owners who want to repower, and it's also ideal for price-point packages where we are trying to do everything we can to control expense of the equipment," says Dyskow. (All of the high-horsepower models have digital fly-by-wire controls.)

Retail pricing on the F225 ranges from $23,125 to $23,865, the F250 from $22,190 to $25,015, and the F300 from $25,875 to $25,975. The F70 retails for $8,745, the F4 for $1,565, and the F6 for $1,870.

Pricing for the V MAX SHO (super high output) engines is as follows: VF200, $19,370; VF225, $20,620; and VF250, $21,870.

Looking ahead

Dyskow says he believes the industry is over the hump in the downturn. "We're expecting some modest growth in 2010, but then more sustained growth in 2011 and 2012," he said in his presentation. "The most important piece of information for all of us is that Americans are participating in boating in record numbers. There are over 15 million registered powerboats in the U.S. Some of those are getting older and are going to have to be replaced. Sales in 2010 will be slightly up over 2009."

However, the framework of sales will be different. "In 2009, a significant portion of the retail sales were categorized by what I would call 'distress sales' - repossessions, closeouts," he says. "Those will continue in 2010, but I do feel the significant portion of overall retail sales next year will return to more traditional new-boat package sales."

This article originally appeared in the February 2010 issue.


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