Yamaha Says New Engines a Game Changer - 11/18/2009

In 40 years of covering American recreational boating we can’t remember an announcement by an outboard engine maker that has the industry-changing possibilities of Yamaha’s disclosures yesterday in Chattanooga, TN. Not only is the company introducing 7 new engine models, the re-introduction of an old engine, plus a new line of props, among other things. Yamaha VMAXThree of those new models – the 200, 225 and 250 -- are taking dead-aim at the lucrative and for Yamaha – the illusive – bass boat market. Yamaha claims that it has built a better 4-stroke mouse-trap than the EFI 2-stroke technology that bass boat anglers have stuck with for two decades. Behind these brash claims is some exciting new metallurgy (for the marine industry, at least) that has allowed Yamaha to create a new 4.2 L powerhead that has 27% greater displacement than their old 3.3 L powerhead – and also weighs less! That added displacement will help give Yamaha’s 4-stroke engines the low-end torque it has always needed to compete with 2-stroke engines. If Yamaha’s claims are true, where will this leave Evinrude and Mercury?

Altogether there were 8 engines introduced, seven of them are brand new, one is an old one that has been re-introduced, and a ninth engine – the huge V-8 F350 – now is wired up with a “Command Link” control package which is new for this model. The brand new engines are: 300, 250, 225, 200, 70, 6 and 4 horsepower. These seven new engines are built on three different power heads. The “old” engine which is coming back in the 3.3 L 250-hp 4-stroke model which will now be available with conventional mechanical cable controls for re-power applications. With the up-surge in repower, this is a welcome option for boaters.

The company has dropped its V-8 300-hp model and is now building a 300-hp 4.3 L V-6 model which is considerably lighter than the V-8, which was introduced just three years ago.

Yamaha VMAX
New, lighter weight, possibly more fuel-efficient 200-300 hp Yamaha V-6 engines will make the going even tougher for other brands in the saltwater fishing market.

The Offshore V6 Engines

In addition to targeting the bass boat crowd, Yamaha is also playing strongly to its “base” in America -- offshore anglers who own center consoles, walkarounds and small express fishboats. The huge dealer and media introduction gala had some of the top offshore outboard brands present with the new Yamaha engines on their transoms, including Grady-White, Pursuit, Contender, and EdgeWater among others. This was proof-positive that Yamaha is not going to forget their bread and butter business in the U.S. as it goes after the market that has always been the hardest for outsiders to crack – the great American freshwater fishing market.

Link to Yamaha “Hot Sheet” showing details of features of its V-6 Outboard powerhead for 225, 250 and 300 hp engines...

Light and Compact

“The new F300, F250 and F225 are stronger, lighter, quicker and smarter than other outboards in their class,” said Phil Dyskow, Yamaha Marine Group president. “Our new family of four-stroke offshore outboards have less weight than the previous generation as well as best-in-class performance in most categories.”

The new V6 F300 is 246 pounds lighter than the V8 F300 it replaces and 51 pounds lighter than the previous generation V6 F250 engines. The new big-bore 4.2-liter F300 is also the lightest outboard in its class. “The benefit is better performance on the boat and better fuel economy,” said a Yamaha spokesperson.

Big-Bore Displacement

Yamaha VMAX

New 4.2 L V-6 Powerhead

At the heart of the new offshore family is an all-new V6 powerhead with class- topping displacement of 4.2 liters. Also with a class-leading power-to-weight ratio, it is considerably larger in displacement than Yamaha’s previous generation 3.3-liter four-stroke V6 engines. The 4.2-liter unit employs new materials and processes that make it light, efficient and powerful.

The new powerhead uses plasma-fused sleeveless cylinders instead of steel sleeves to provide a durable surface for the piston rings. Not only does the process reduce the overall amount of powerhead weight, the resulting material – which measures about 0.1 mm thick --- takes up less space in the engine block than a conventional steel sleeve, says Yamaha. This design leaves more room for the pistons themselves, allowing that displacement to be optimized creating the new 4.2-liter engine.

Important Metallurgy

The micro textured cylinder walls, Yamaha says, which result from the plasma coating process, create less friction and allow the pistons to move more freely, reducing parasitic power losses. “The result is improved fuel economy,” Yamaha says.

The process has allowed Yamaha engineers to gain the greatest displacement from the least amount of mass in the engine block, which also reduces overall weight. At the same time, it yields a surface that is 60 percent harder than a steel liner for greater durability, says Yamaha. In addition, says the company, the process results in better heat transfer between the cylinder walls and the cooling system, which means cooling is more efficient.

Yamaha VMAX
With a range of 100-hp, (from 200 to 300 hp) the new V-6 Yamaha powerhead is truly remarkable.

Bigger Lungs Need a Bigger Throat

The 4.2-liter not only has greater displacement, it breathes better than its predecessor. The new V6 uses a throttle valve that is 13 percent larger than that of the previous 3.3-liter four-stroke Yamaha. Inside the engine, Yamaha employed 14 percent larger intake valves and 10 percent larger exhaust valves and variable camshaft timing. In addition, the new V6 powerhead uses longer intake tracks and Yamaha’s exclusive In Bank™ Exhaust system, which reduces back pressure and improves performance, the company says.

Higher Performance than a 2-Stroke!

Most noteworthy, perhaps, is Yamaha’s claim that its new 4-stroke VMAX SHO 250, 225 and 200 horsepower models will “outperform the VMAX® Series 2.” (This is Yamaha’s 2-stroke series.)

“With the VMAX SHO, Yamaha has done what everyone said couldn’t be done,” said Phil Dyskow, Yamaha Marine Group president. “We have a four-stroke that out performs two strokes in many ways and provides best-in-class acceleration.”

Acceleration & Performance & Speed

Yamaha says that the VMAX SHO is noticeably faster out of the hole and to plane than the Yamaha VMAX® Series 2, and it has a broader power curve for smoother acceleration and performance. “It also achieves higher speed over a measured distance than its predecessor and provides the best acceleration of the outboards in its class,” says Yamaha.

“One of the most impressive things about the VMAX SHO is its midrange punch,” said Dyskow. “Whenever you push the throttle forward, there’s power to spare.”

To help ensure the powerhead stays cool, the VMAX SHO’s high-performance lower unit has water pickups that are 81 percent larger than those used on the VMAX Series 2. Whether at idle, part throttle or wide open throttle, the VMAX SHO is smoother and quieter than the VMAX Series 2, says Yamaha. Because it’s a four stroke, there is minimal smoke or odor.

Yamaha VMAX
Yamaha engineers seem to have scrutinized virtually every component of the V-6 to save weight. Have they gone too far? Only time will tell.

Saving Weight Everywhere on the VMAX SHO

The VMAX SHO is 34 pounds lighter than its two-stoke predecessor. Yamaha says that no production V6 fishing outboard of equivalent horsepower, four stroke or two-stroke, is lighter. The VMAX SHO models all use a lightweight cowl made of an advanced composite. It is 14.6 percent lighter than a cowl made of more typical fiberglass.

Yamaha has even re-engineered its mounting bracket to be strong yet light. Specifically designed for bass and flats applications, it is 29 percent lighter than the bracket used on the VMAX® Series 2.

Weight Watchers

Yamaha VMAX

Yamaha has incorporated other weight saving measures, including a lightweight composite engine pan, Made of sheet molded compound (SMC) that is 61% percent lighter than an aluminum counterpart. SMC also provides greater protection against corrosion.

The new outboards employ a new alternator that is nearly 6 pounds lighter than those used on previous V6 offshore outboards, yet it provides increased output, Yamaha says.

Yamaha VMAX SHO vs 2-Stroke Engines

Yamaha VMAX

12% Better Fuel Consumption

The VMAX SHO units burn about 12 percent less fuel on average than the VMAX Series 2, according to Yamaha literature. “Overall, fuel efficiency is best in class,” Yamaha claims. The VMAX SHO 200 uses 87 octane fuel, while the 225 and 250 require 89 octane for best performance.

The VMAX SHO uses the same mechanical rigging components as the VMAX Series 2 and is covered by Yamaha’s three-year limited warranty, for pleasure use.

Will the VMAX SHO be a “Game Changer?”

All of this is big news, indeed, as 4-stroke outboard engines have been pretty much excluded from the lucrative bass boat market because they have been heavier, slower to plane, had a lower WOT, and slower from 0-to-30 than the 2-stroke engines of any brand. This indeed will be revolutionary and could be the “game changer” Yamaha claims it will be, if it is true. For the last couple of years Evinrude has been working hard to increase its market penetration of bass boats, making life tougher for both Mercury and Yamaha’s 2-stroke motors. If Yamaha’s VMAX SHO can demonstrably put the wood to the old 2-stroke engines in terms of weight, WOT, 0-to-30 acceleration and decibels, the bass-fishing world is likely to take notice every quickly.

Link to Yamaha VMAX SHO “Hot Sheet” showing 200, 225 and 250 engines for the freshwater market…

Let the Claims Begin!

Yamaha says that the new powerhead permits “class-leading acceleration and top-end speed. In addition, the Yamaha F300 is up to 13 percent faster at cruise rpm than other 300-hp four-stroke outboards.”

Yamaha’s “Hot Sheet” on the V6 engines for offshore says its new 4.2-liter F300 was tested against competitive 300-hp outboards and returned a fuel economy result at cruise speed that was 17 percent better than that of the nearest competitor. BoatTEST.com eagerly looks forward to testing the Yamaha F300 for our own independent, apples-to-apples verification.

Spring 2010 Availability

The new outboards will be available for delivery in the 1st quarter of 2010. Yamaha is anticipating strong market acceptance and a dramatic up-swing in sales this spring. While we do not know how fast Yamaha can ramp up production of the new products, it would not surprise us if some of the more popular sizes become hard to find in mid spring. It has happened before.

For more information or to reserve your new Yamaha engine...

[Editor’s Note: All photos and artwork was supplied by Yamaha Motors. BoatTEST.com does not endorse and has not verified the validity of any of the competitive claims made which are published on these pages or those made in the Yamaha “Hot Sheets.” We pass along this information strictly for the edification and convenience of our readers.]