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September 21, 2007

Marine Power 2001

Our annual roundup of the newest and hottest marine powerplants to hit the market this year.

The year 2000 saw many innovative technological developments in the world of marine propulsion. "Electronic integration" is the name of the game these days, and more engines than ever are being controlled by microprocessors. This electronic control and the wealth of data it makes available will be a tremendous benefit to us as fishermen, helping our engines run cleaner and more efficiently, and providing engine operating data that will spot potential problems at their earliest stages.

And, with an industry-wide electronic protocol in the development stages, we will soon be able to monitor virtually everything on the boat on one screen at the helm. This system is called NMEA 2000, and will integrate information from all types of electronics with engine control data. It's truly revolutionary.

Diesel-engine manufacturers continue to tweak more horsepower from smaller blocks, providing amazing power-to-weight ratios, and electronic controls are helping diesels run more cleanly than ever. Meanwhile, outboard manufacturers are building larger direct-injection two-strokes (Evinrude's 250-hp FICHT), and have developed sophisticated electronic monitors of their own (Mercury's SmartCraft system).

But perhaps the biggest news of all is the introduction of the long-awaited V-6 four-stroke outboard from Yamaha. Unveiled last fall at the Boating Week show in Orlando, Florida, the 225-hp four-stroke is a giant leap forward in outboard technology, and promises to radically alter the engine market. Let's take a look.

Yamaha F225 Four-Stroke

After years of rumors from Japan, Yamaha finally introduced its new 225-hp four-stroke to rave reviews. This outboard is not an automotive engine adapted to marine use, but rather a powerplant designed from scratch to be used in the harsh marine environment.

The F225 is almost the same size as comparable two-stroke outboards of the same horsepower, meaning that it will be an easy retrofit for owners who want to replace their two-strokes with the new engines. Being a four-stroke, there's no more two-stroke oil to be mixed with fuel, and the engine delivers superb efficiency and economy as well.

The 60-degree, V-6 block is a double-overhead-cam design with 24 valves for precise timing, and the intake and fuel-injection system features six tuned intake tubes that boost torque in the low to middle rpm range to provide excellent acceleration. There are also six independent throttle valves and six individual inside track fuel injectors for smooth power across the range.

A unique idle speed controller and an idle noise-reduction system provide quiet operation throughout the range, and the F225 is compliant with the EPA 2006 emissions standards. Yamaha Marine, Kennesaw, GA; (800) 88-YAMAHA; www.yamaha-motor.com.

Caterpillar 3126B

Caterpillar 3126BCat has recently upgraded its 3126B diesel engine, which has a top rating of 450 bhp. The new 3126B is totally electronic with increased power and responsiveness, cleaner emissions and stronger components.

The electronically controlled fuel system features significant improvements to the turbocharger and cylinder-head designs, and the combustion airflow has been greatly improved. The 3126B has withstood over 39,000 hours of endurance testing to ensure a long service life, and the electronic control module (ECM) on the new engine has been in use in Cat engines since 1995.

Caterpillar's patented Hydraulic Electronic Unit Injector (HEUI) fuel system provides complete electronic control of fuel-injection pressure, timing and duration. Fuel-injection actuation and pressure are no longer dependent on engine rotational speed, but are computer-controlled. The ECM also provides multi-engine synchronization, and electronic diagnostics that substantially improve the information available to the operator. Caterpillar Inc., Peoria ,IL; (800) 321-7332; www.cat-marine.com.

Suzuki 90/115 Four-Strokes

Suzuki 90/115 Four-StrokesSuzuki has substantially raised its profile in the four-stroke outboard world with the introduction of its new 90 and 115 outboards. They are based on the same 1950cc block and share many efficiency-boosting and weight-saving features.

These include an innovative powerhead design with dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, and an oil-bathed, self-adjusting chain-driven valve train below the powerhead, which allows for a smaller cowling. Both engines feature Suzuki's computer-controlled, multi-point sequential digital electronic fuel-injection, with plate injectors that vaporize fuel more efficiently than nozzle injectors.

The new Suzukis have a water-cooling system for the intake manifold, the crankcase and the fuel system, plus a tuned exhaust system for better breathing. The new four-strokes already meet the 2006 Federal EPA emissions standard, as they also qualify for the California Air Resources Board (CARB) 3-Star Ultra-Low Emissions sticker. Suzuki Marine, Brea, CA; (714) 996-7040; www.suzuki.com.

MerCruiser 8.1S Horizon

MerCruiser 8.1S HorizonMerCruiser's new big-block 8.1S features an ignition system that doesn't use a distributor, improving timing accuracy and eliminating mechanical timing adjustments. It utilizes high-tech computer technology through its PCM 555 microprocessor, which optimizes fuel mixture and ignition timing for each cylinder, and also monitors 64 internal functions from system sensors located both inside and outside the boat. This data can then be fed to the Mercury SmartCraft marine integration system, which links power, controls and the sensor data to provide the operator with a wealth of information right at his or her fingertips. Accurate fuel flows, fuel consumption and travel range can be calculated, and SmartCraft even provides maintenance updates and service advice.

The 8.1S develops 370 hp, and is available in a High Output version rated at 420 hp. It also has a newly redesigned exhaust system with stainless-steel risers and elbows, as well as aluminum manifolds that save up to 65 percent in weight over cast-iron components. MerCruiser, Stillwater, OK; (405) 743-6505; www.mercurymarine.com.

Nissan 90-hp TLDI

Nissan 90 -HP TLDINissan's new Two-Stroke Low-Pressure Direct-Injection (TLDI) outboard has an air-assisted direct fuel-injection system, which provides increased fuel and oil efficiency and low emissions that fully comply with EPA 2006 and CARB 2004 standards.

The TLDI system atomizes fuel into microscopic droplets and positions the fuel plume precisely so that the combustion is more complete. The new 90 is very quiet and exhibits practically no vibration at lower speeds, and it also weighs considerably less than competitive four-strokes. Nissan Marine and Power Products, Carrollton, TX; (972) 323-6003; www.nissanmarine.com.

Evinrude FICHT 250

Evinrude Ficht 250The 250-hp FICHT from Evinrude is the first two-stroke, direct-injection outboard to be offered at this power rating. OMC's engineers started with a clean sheet of paper when designing the engine, building a new loop-charged 3.3-liter block. The 250 will offer tremendous fuel savings for the owners of large offshore boats that need this kind of power, while providing low emissions output as well.

Internal components such as the exhaust system, the cooling system and the pistons were totally redesigned for more efficiency, durability and dependable operation. The FICHT Ram Injection system develops over 450 psi and uses Sagem toe-seat injectors to atomize fuel for a complete burn. The electromagnetic, solenoid-driven injector pumps are controlled by a microprocessor and deliver short fuel bursts directly into the combustion chamber at rates of up to 100 times a second.

The new 3.3-liter block also comes in 200- and 225-hp models, and is available with 25- or 30-inch shafts in the 250 version. A 35-amp stator provides plenty of charging power, and a new single-point entry system on the front of the engine makes rigging much easier. Outboard Marine Corp., Waukegan, IL; (888) 909-4662; www.omc-online.com.

Cummins QSM11

Cummins QSM11Cummins Marine has upgraded its QSM11 diesel engine by adding a new horsepower rating and a new service for diesel-engine owners. The QSM11 has been available in 535- and 635-hp configurations, but the new rating is for 580 hp, designed for high-hour use of up to 1,500 hours per year, such as a charter boat might demand.

An optional cruise package provides a digital display and customizable engine-control features, and the electronic control system has been upgraded to provide smoother acceleration and the ability to add a second station. The visibility of the digital display has been enhanced too.

Cummins' Captain's Briefing is a new program that consists of an onboard visit by a certified Cummins technician to completely familiarize new Cummins owners with their engines. Cummins Marine, Charleston, SC; (800) DIESELS; www.cummins.com.

Volvo Penta D12-700

Volvo Penta D12-700This new 12-liter marine diesel from Volvo Penta is an in-line six-cylinder powerplant that develops 700 hp. It uses state-of-the-art diesel technology including unit injectors, a new electronic Diesel Control (EDC) system, and an extremely rigid cylinder block and crankshaft with seven main bearings.

Fuel is injected at very high pressure, while the EDC precisely monitors and controls the fuel delivery through the eight-hole injector nozzles. Five sensors relay information to the EDC, which calculates the torque created by every single cylinder stroke so it can compensate for variations between cylinders. The four-valves-per-cylinder design lets the engine breathe easier, and the D12 is turbocharged and aftercooled.

An electronic information center at the helm offers improved engine control and safety through the increased monitoring it allows, and all engine data is displayed on one screen. A single serial data cable connects the EDC and the display unit, making installation very simple, and the system can be updated in the future by simply adding new software to the computer. Volvo Penta, Chesapeake, VA; (757) 436-2800; www.volvopenta.com.

Tohatsu 50 TLDI

Tohatsu 50 TLDIThis new 50-hp two-stroke outboard features Two-Stroke Low Pressure Direct Injection (TLDI) technology, which provides outstanding efficiency and low emissions.

The air-assisted direct-fuel-injection system is the first of its type and offers extremely smooth and quiet operation. It complies with the EPA 2006 standards and the CARB 2004 mandates as well.

The new Tohatsu has five-layer corrosion protection, CD ignition and loop-charged induction. All Tohatsus come with a standard two-year limited warranty. Tohatsu Outboards, Carrollton, TX; (972) 323-6003; www.tohatsu.com.

Sea Maxx ProFormance 8.1 MPI

Sea Maxx Proformance 8.1 MPIThe new ProFormance Series of gasoline inboards from Sea Maxx includes the 8.1 MPI, which produces 385 hp and over 500 foot-pounds of torque. The ProFormance Series was designed specifically for the offshore fishing world and all the punishment that serious fishermen inflict on their engines.

The 8.1 MPI uses General Motors' fourth-generation MEFI4 multi-port fuel-injection technology, which utilizes proven GM electronics and provides smooth idling, instant starting and excellent fuel economy. It also features an exclusive Fuel Control Cell (FCC), a dual-pump unit that protects the entire fuel system with a ten-micron fuel-filter/water-separator and virtually eliminates the possibility of fuel starvation or vapor lock.

The 8.1 is virtually maintenance-free, due to features such as an engine-control system with no distributor, platinum-tipped spark plugs, a stainless-steel, crankshaft-driven water pump and long-life coolant. A single serpentine belt provides easy service and a long life. Sea Maxx marine Engines, Little Mountain, SC; (803) 345-0001; www.seamaxx.com.

Honda BF 9.9

Hona BF 9.9Honda's new 9.9-hp four-stroke outboard features a programmable ignition module that retards engine timing for easier pull-starting, avoiding the use of a complicated mechanical decompressor. An automatic enrichment feature and a DC/DC converter also ease starting.

A 12-amp alternator puts out a full six amps at only 1,000 rpm. A one-piece crankcase and block assembly provides strength while lowering weight (at 87 pounds, the 9.9 is the lightest four-stroke outboard on the market). A folding handle makes the new engine easy to carry, and it comes standard with a four-blade prop.

The four-stroke engine has an extra-large intake silencer and a baffled idle port chamber for extra-quiet operation, and like all Hondas, the 9.9 offers exceptional fuel economy and very low emissions. The two-cylinder powerhead is mounted on a unique pendulum system with unidirectional rubber mounts to absorb vibration, and the engine is available in 15-, 20- and 25-inch shaft lengths. Options include electric start and remote control. Honda Marine, Alpharetta, GA; (800) 426-7701; www.honda-marine.com.

Yanmar 6CX-GTE2

Yanmar 6CX-GTE2Weighing in at only 1,815 pounds, this new 500-hp diesel from Yanmar offers an exceptional power-to-weight ratio. It features a 7.4-liter displacement and is based on Yanmar's 6CX-ETE 420-hp workhorse, with a newly designed head, fuel-injection system and exhaust valves. Power has been boosted 16 percent over the 420-hp engine, and seven percent over the 465-hp 6CX-GTE model, with no change in weight or dimensions.

The 6CX-GTE2 develops maximum horsepower at 2900 rpm, and is rated for a high cruise of 2800 rpm. And, like all Yanmar diesels, it complies with International Marine organization (IMO) regulations, producing low nitrous-oxide emissions and minimal smoke. Yanmar Diesel America Corp., Buffalo Grove, IL; (847) 541-1900; www.yanmar.com.

Mercury 115 EFI Four-Stroke

Mercury 115 EFI Four-StrokeMercury's new four-stroke 115 features an in-line four-cylinder block with dual overhead cams, and is the first EFI four-stroke the company has offered. At 386 pounds, it is a full 110 pounds lighter than some competitive four-stroke 115-hp outboards, and provides excellent acceleration.

The new 115 fits the 75/90-hp cowling and will be offered in both 20- and 25-inch shaft lengths. It has a 25-amp alternator that will keep all the boat's batteries fully charged, and a 106.2- cubic-inch displacement (1741cc). Gear reduction is 2.07-to-one, and the crankcase holds a full five quarts of oil. Mercury Marine, Fond-Du-Lac, WI; (920) 929-5000; www.mercurymarine.com.