Punching up the power

Engine builders are coming to market with the vanguard of an array of better-performing, user-friendlier products.
The MerCruiser 4.5L 200-hp engine is one of two in-housebuilt, next-generation gasoline sterndrives that Mercury introduced in 2015.

The MerCruiser 4.5L 200-hp engine is one of two in-housebuilt, next-generation gasoline sterndrives that Mercury introduced in 2015.

Throughout 2016 expect more high-tech sterndrive engine introductions and a new Volvo Penta IPS, as well as the debut of a Mercury outboard.

Volvo Penta later this year will begin revealing details about its fourth IPS, which will be coupled with a new diesel inboard engine. “It’s a diesel inboard and a variant of our IPS in a high-volume part of the market,” says Volvo Penta of the Americas president Ron Huibers, adding that 2016 is the 10th anniversary of the IPS (Inboard Performance System). Details about the new IPS will come in the second half of the year.

Volvo Penta and Mercury will continue to develop their fleets of gasoline sterndrive engines. Huibers says Volvo Penta will introduce 380- and 430-hp sterndrives built on General Motors Gen V engine blocks. Mercury will not introduce a new sterndrive this year, but will continue the development of its in-house sterndrive engines, says Marty Bass, vice president of global category management.

Engine companies continue to advance their helm systems, bringing the joystick to more boats. These introductions and product advancements come on the heels of a product-packed 2015 that saw introductions of all types of propulsion — outboard, sterndrive and straight-shaft inboard.

“2015 was an extremely prolific and successful year,” says Mercury Marine chief marketing officer Michelle Dauchy. “We launched new products at the pace of one every six weeks.”


The engine maker debuted at the 2016 Miami International Boat Show a 115-hp 4-stroke aimed at the inshore saltwater and freshwater bass boat markets. The 115 Pro XS FourStroke is Mercury’s first 4-stroke in its Pro XS line of 2-stroke direct-fuel-injected (DFI) outboards. The Pro XS DFI 2-strokes include 150-, 175-, 200-, 225- and 250-hp models.

“This is a quiet, powerful, fast and light 4-stroke that delivers the performance our customers expect from a Pro XS while also being reliable and durable,” says Tyler Mehrl of Mercury’s product category team. “It will be particularly popular with freshwater and saltwater tournament anglers and guides.” The 115 Pro XS FourStroke is based on Mercury’s current 115-hp 4-stroke, an inline 4-cylinder engine that debuted in 2014, says Mehrl. The 115 Pro XS weighs 359 pounds. Retail pricing starts at $10,830.

The 115 Pro XS FourStroke is the first 4-stroke in Mercury’s Pro XS line.

The 115 Pro XS FourStroke is the first 4-stroke in Mercury’s Pro XS line.

Last year Mercury introduced two big outboards, two in-house-built gasoline sterndrive engines, a 1,500-hp Mercury Racing sterndrive, an automatic trim control system for outboard boats and a technology that allows for smoother shifting.

Mercury in early 2015 introduced the Mercury Verado 350 and the Mercury Racing Verado 400R, which became the most powerful recreational outboards ever for the engine maker, which was founded in 1939. The 400R is part of the Mercury Racing segment of the engine maker’s business, but it can be used to power high-performance recreational boats, such as single-engine bay boats, catamaran sportboats and multi-outboard offshore center consoles, such as the new Mako 334 CC.

The two outboards are built on the original 2.6-liter Verados, but Mercury representatives stress that the 350 and 400R are far different from the first 2.6-liter 4-stroke with new induction systems, superchargers, camshafts and fuel systems. Engineers have reduced friction in the powerhead.

Mercury made news on the sterndrive front, too.

The company introduced two more in-house-built sterndrives — the MerCruiser 6.2L V8, offered in 300- and 350-hp configurations, and a 200-hp version of the 4.5L MerCruiser. The first in-house-built engine was launched in 2014 — the 4.5L 250-hp MerCruiser. Mercury formerly used GM blocks to build its marine gasoline engines, but has opted to build its own powerplants.

“Having the freedom to control the design of the base engine block allows us to provide incremental benefits, relative to previous generation products, in the marine application without the need for the added complexity and cost of modern automotive engine technology,” says Bass. “These benefits include improved fuel economy, enhanced performance, improved noise and vibration quality and intuitive maintenance and service points.”

With the in-house engines, Mercury controls its engine supply chain “so we can focus future investments on new products and features such as Active Trim and Joystick Piloting,” says Bass.

Active Trim technology, which was introduced to the public at the 2016 Miami show, automatically adjusts trim based on the boat’s speed (tracked with an integrated GPS chip at the helm circuit board) with GPS technology. In 2015, Mercury also unveiled its Flo-Torq SSR_HD propeller hub system, which decreases the shifting vibration and noise levels (“clunking”) of Mercury multi-engine installations of its big outboards (such as the 350 Verado and 400R Verado). SSR stands for Soft Shift Rubber. Flo-Torq also can be integrated into a helm system with Mercury Joystick Piloting helm control.

A modernized version of Yamaha’s F2.5 outboard has a user-friendlier shift lever.

A modernized version of Yamaha’s F2.5 outboard has a user-friendlier shift lever.


Yamaha introduced this winter the next generation of its smallest portable outboard, the F2.5, a cleaner, more fuel-efficient engine that can now be sold anywhere in the United States. Emissions rules prevented Yamaha from selling the previous F2.5 in certain states. The new engine has the three-star CARB rating.

Clean-burning technology includes a new intake manifold, a new combustion chamber design, a four-degree cylinder offset, an enlarged water jacket for more consistent engine temperature control and a two-stage exhaust gas recirculation system.

Yamaha, with several design changes, also has made this engine easier to carry. A new ergonomic carrying handle can also be used for assistance in steering when in reverse. This engine can be stored almost anywhere, according to the company. A new “oil leak prevention system” allows the owner to lay the engine on one of three sides. It also can be stored vertically.

Yamaha made significant strides at the other end of the horsepower spectrum, introducing in mid-2015 four new high-output 4-strokes that maximize top-end performance and acceleration. The V MAX SHO engines were engineered to meet the needs of freshwater boaters and anglers with greater top-end speed. The quartet includes 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.

Yamaha has enjoyed success in the saltwater market, and now with the MAX SHO fleet it aims to make its mark in freshwater markets, especially in the Midwest. The company fittingly held its MAX SHO introductions for the media last fall on Lake Michigan.

This press event featured the most new-product introductions since Yamaha’s 2009 event, which brought forth the 4.2-liter V6 Offshore outboards, the first V MAX SHO engines and the F70.

Along with the big engines, Yamaha in 2015 came out with two improved and modernized versions of the F150 and F8 outboards. The 150 is Yamaha’s best-selling outboard, with more than 150,000 units sold. The new engine comes with clutch improvements for smoother shifting and the addition of the variable trolling feature. The technology allows a user to bump up rpm in increments of 500.

The F8 has a user-friendlier shift lever, convenient rear resting pads and a tiller that folds more easily. The exterior design has been modernized.

Honda’s BF100 plugs the gap between the company’s BF90 and BF115 models.

Honda’s BF100 plugs the gap between the company’s BF90 and BF115 models.


Honda Marine in 2015 hit the market with a new 100-hp 4-stroke that bridges the gap between its BF90 and BF115 models.

The inline 4-cylinder BF100 weighs 366 pounds, and Honda has equipped the engine with the technologies found in other Honda outboards, such as its version of variable valve timing, VTEC (Variable Valve Time Electronic Lift and Control) and Lean Burn Control. The BF100 is built on the BF90 block, so it’s not a new engine from the inside out. This engine is used in Honda’s Fit cars.

“Year over year we’re going to be bringing new products into the marketplace, so the BF100 is this year’s new product,” Honda Marine senior manager Mark A. DiPietro said at the 2015 IBEX.

Suzuki’s most recent engine is a 4-cylinder 200-hp 4-stroke, the DF200. The company typically debuts at least one new product annually.


Cummins in 2015 introduced a leaner version of its QSB6.7 diesel — the QSB6.7 SL (Slim Line). The QSB6.7 SL was to become available at the end of February. “We have built a few for early-adopting customers out of Europe,” Cummins marketing communications manager Andy Kelly said in January.

With this diversifying move, Cummins can offer “alternatives on some of the marinization components that allow us to align value and price, reduce weight and engine footprint,” Kelly said when the engine debuted at the 2015 IBEX.

The standard QSB6.7 hit the water in 2012. The big diesel is a high-end, high-capacity powerplant with all of the latest technological features, which adds to its price point.

The company wants to align its product price and feature set, Kelly says. “Our standard package includes some additional features over the competitive offering. This SL package allows us to compare more apples to apples with our competitors from a feature set standpoint, and now the builder can select where they want to upgrade the package.”

The SL gives OEM boatbuilders an opportunity to lower the price by replacing advanced and costlier parts with more economical ones and switching to simpler component installation.

Case in point: Because it will be offered in lower-horsepower sizes, the SL will have a resized cooling system with a smaller heat exchanger and aftercooler; a disposable air filter that replaces a high-end cleanable filter; a steel oil pan that supplants a cast aluminum pan; side-mounted filter locations instead of a more complicated front-mount location; and a simpler (though less versatile) engine-mounting method.

The QSB6.7 can be engineered for horsepower outputs from 250 to 550. The SL models will be available in 355-, 380- and 425-hp versions. It is about 71 pounds lighter than the standard 6.7 and only 40 pounds heavier than the Cummins 5.9-liter engine.


Bombardier Recreational Products said last fall that it was bringing its Intelligent Shift and Throttle option to Rotax jet propulsion system engines.

The option will be available on nearly all Scarab jetboat models and Chaparral Vortex models. This electronic control system gives the boat greater low-speed maneuverability, says the company.

“Our new iST system is more than just electronic actuation of the reverse gates; the iST system allows the operator to adjust the neutral position on the fly,” Michael Carter, director of North American business development for jet propulsion systems, says in a statement. “Reducing the shifting effort was great, but not until we married that to our lateral thrust control and provided for natural adjustment from the helm did we truly revolutionize the jet propulsion industry.”

Volvo Penta in 2016 will continue to introduce its next generation of gasoline sterndrives with the lat-est General Motors blocks.

Volvo Penta in 2016 will continue to introduce its next generation of gasoline sterndrives with the lat-est General Motors blocks.

Volvo Penta

Volvo Penta came to the market 10 years ago with its innovative Inboard Performance System — IPS. The company says more than 10,000 IPS units are installed in more than 250 boat models worldwide.​ There are 10 IPS models available in three pod sizes. IPS can power boats as large as 100 feet.

A new IPS will join the family this year. It’s too early to specify the horsepower of the new diesel, but Huibers did say this fourth IPS will power boats from 45 to 55 feet.

Volvo Penta will continue to switch over to Gen V sterndrive gasoline engines this year with next-generation versions of the V8-380 and V8-430. Huibers points out that Gen V engines have an improved power-to-weight ratio. “We’re getting more power out of smaller, lighter engines,” he says.

The first of these next-generation engines — 200- and 240-hp V6s with a 4.3-liter displacement — made their debut at the 2015 Miami International Boat Show last year, along with the company’s Forward Drive. With its two forward-facing propellers, the Forward Drive resembles the IPS drive, but is paired with Volvo Penta’s gasoline sterndrives. The drive’s underway exhaust reduces noise, emissions and engine vibration.

Volvo Penta followed up those introductions at the 2015 International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition & Conference last fall with two next-generation V8 5.3-liter engines in 300- and 350-hp models and a V6 4.3-liter engine with 280 horses.

The engines’ common rail fuel injection and variable valve timing allow for the more efficient use of fuel that boosts acceleration, says the company.

Volvo Penta uses variable valve timing across the sterndrive horsepower range from 200 to 430. The new engines are lighter and more compact than previous versions. The 280-hp weighs 77 pounds less than its 270-hp predecessor, but the 280 block’s fore-aft footprint is 4 inches shorter than that of the Gen IV engine.

Volvo Penta also will introduce improvements and upgrades this year to its Glass Cockpit, a system that links engine data to a bridge with frameless multifunction displays.

This article originally appeared in the March 2016 issue.



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