One for All
Thanks to digital technology we now have the ability to dial in the controllability of Evinrude E-TEC engines like never before. It’s a simple matter of programming and adding a digital controller to the helm. Let’s take a look at the individual features and see how they all come together with ICON.
The ICON controller is not only good looking, but it has a natural ergonomic feel to it.
Maintaining the Basics
Before you can get too far into the deep end of the pool, it’s important to keep the basics in mind and not abandon the old ways entirely. On our old controls, pretty much the only perk we had was the ability to push a button on the side of the controller and activate the throttle in neutral, as well as trim the lower units with a thumb toggle.
In our new controllers, we still have the neutral ability, but it is no longer in the form of the button on the side. Now it’s right on top with the rest of the buttons, this time in the form of a two buttons designated “neutral”, and labeled with a capital “N”. That should pretty much remove all confusion. Need a little rpm to charge the batteries? Just depress the “N” and move the throttle forward to raise the rpms. Press it again, and you are now free to move about the water.
Add a Touch of Zeros and Ones
Since the controllers are now, in effect, switches, we can now add some features to those switches, and the first one that we’ll come to appreciate is the gear indicators. Right on top of the control base are three triangular indicators for forward, neutral, and reverse. No letter designators this time, just green pointers for forward and reverse, and a round center yellow one for neutral.
This is actually a great addition to the detents that are easily felt as you move the control arms through the range of motion. Once in a while you just want to see where you’re at. To add frosting on the cake, there is also an audible “chirp” from the I-Command gauges as you drift in and out of gears so now with the E-TEC controller you feel the gear (the detent), see the gear (the light), and hear the gear (the chirp). The only thing left for it to do is talk.
Lighted indicators will let you know at a glance what gear you are in. A chirp also reminds you when you move in and out of gear.
But Wait, There’s More…
Once the programmers got the hang of things, it was a small matter to add to the control love-fest. The first, in the list of perks is cruise mode. Just touch the cruise button and you’re holding your speed, just like in your car. I know, you get the same thing when you take your hand off the controls. But remember, we’re digital, so now it’s always better.
You can also make those pesky incremental changes to your speed by depressing the “+” or "-" rocker switch. Each press will add, or subtract as the case may be, roughly 50 rpm. This is a great feature for those times when you’re cruising and just slightly catching up to the boat in front of you, but have no room or desire to pass. Just tap the minus button and you slow down just enough without having to move the controls.
This feature also works in no-wake speeds too, and that’s where it really shines. Need a little more speed without going too fast? Just tap the + and you're good to go. Creeping up on the boat in front again? Just tap – and you hold your relative position.
Easy changes to your speed are just a button push away with ICON. Each push will add or subtract about 50 rpm.
Keeping your engines running at the same speed can be problematic when they’re individually controlled. Now with ICON you can keep your engines running at the same speed with the push of a button… the sync button. Depressing "Sync" will have you running at the exact same (synchronized) speed, since the engines are sending a signal of exactly how fast they’re running. And the beauty of this system is that it will sync up to five engines.
Here’s the button to not only keep your engines running at the same speed, but to control them with a single lever. A green indicator lets you know when you are in single lever/sync mode.
Additionally, the sync feature also allows single lever operation. So not only are all engines synchronized to each other, they’re controlled with one lever… the left lever. Why the left? Because that’s the one with the trim switch on it. Which leads us to…
Trimming your engines collectively is still done the same way, with the thumb switch on the control arm. However, sometimes you still want to trim individual engines, particularly with triples or quads. For those times, there are individual trim switches for each engine on the control base. In the triple or quad applications, those individual trim controls are relegated to the panel.
Collective trim is on the control arm. Individual trim rocker switches are on the base unit.
The beauty of this system is that there are no longer problematic cables to run back to the engines. Now it’s a simple wire run and the controls are plug-and-play. But there is one mechanical component to the mix and that is the tension adjustment. Screws on the front of the control base will add, or reduce the tension of the control arm to your desired taste.
Lever tension is easy to adjust with just a screwdriver to two screws on the back of the unit.
Wait, Electronics and Water?
Of course for all this to work there needs to be a computer controller, but it’s very secure and we're told by the folks at Evinrude that it is not prone to crashes, failures, or freezing. In fact, the latest Evinrude engines are so self-sufficient that they work where the older outboards used to fail. For example, if you have a dead battery, your old engine would fail you right along with the rest of the systems… not so anymore. Now the engine generates its own electricity and keeps right on going. In fact, if you could rig a pull start to your flywheel, you could even start the engine without a battery.
The ICON control system is available on any of the Evinrude E-TEC engines from 150-hp on up to 300-hp.
Even still, with this innovation, we still have room to grow. Now that signals are going back and forth between the helm and the engines, there’s a whole host of features ahead. Some of which are already here.