If big power is what you need this year, here’s a selection of muscular outboards that deserve attention.
Mercury’s Big Dog
The huge and powerful Verado 350 SCi may carry the genetics of Mercury Racing, but it’s a sure bet the new outboard will quickly find its way to numerous saltwater fishing boats. I got the chance to test the big dog on Wisconsin’s Lake Winnebago and was heartily impressed.
With two of the massive power plants buckled onto the back of a 31-foot Yellowfin, the GPS registered 68.6 mph during the top-end run on a slick surface. Better still, the hull virtually shot up on plane, and acceleration was snappy all through the mid range. Perhaps most impressive though, was the minimal engine noise. In fact, the white noise of air rushing past my ears was the only real deterrent to normal conversation.
Engineers did a number of things to give the in-line six-cylinder maximum muscle, but one of the more critical aspects is an intake directed straight to the supercharger to ensure cooler, denser air is fed to the rotors. Plus, a distinctive rotor profile results in more efficient air compression. A purpose-built, heavy-duty gear case and unique cam profile aid performance as well.
Yamaha’s popular F250 four-stroke was the recent recipient of a major upgrade. After the success of the Command Link digital control system when it was introduced on the F300 and F350, the company decided to bring it to the 250-horsepower V6. This means instantaneous and easy electronic control of all throttle and shift functions, as well as automatic engine sync when the boat is rigged with multiple outboards, and precision trolling control. With the punch of a button the operator can fine-tune trolling speed in 50-rpm increments between 600 and 1,000 rpm.
Other improvements include an upgraded corrosion protection package for enhanced durability.
Suzuki’s Big Block
Suzuki’s monster outboard is the 250SS four-stroke, a four-liter V6 the company says, “is specifically engineered to satisfy America’s need for speed.” Many pieces complete the 250SS power puzzle, including a dual overhead cam, four valves per cylinder, multi-stage induction and two intake manifolds for each cylinder. The latter maintains the most favorable fuel/air mix from the hole shot, through mid-range, all the way to the top end.
Suzuki also worked on the lower unit, making it more aggressive and streamlined to reduce drag as it moves through the water. I’ve experienced its performance on inshore center consoles, and was impressed; no doubt it would exhibit equal talent on tournament-style bass and multi-species rigs.
Last year Evinrude unveiled its 250 H.O., the largest in its E-Tec High-Output series. During my most recent test drive, this engine was paired with Stratos’ new 201 XLE, 20 feet, 9 inches and 1,800 pounds of deluxe bass fishing machinery.
Performance across the board was superb. The engine put the heavy hull on plane on an average of 6.9 seconds, and pushed the top-end to 76.9 mph. The water was mirror-smooth, and it’s doubtless a couple more mph could have been squeezed out if there had been some wind to add lift.
Honda’s Heavy Horse
Honda’s heavy horse in the race is its BF225, a 3.5-liter V-6 that’s based on the same architecture as the engine that powers the company’s Ridgeline pickup. It features Honda’s exclusive Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control (VTEC), which maximizes torque throughout the power curve. The engine achieves this by using one set of cam lobes to operate the intake valves at low rpm. Then, at 4,500 rpm, a second synchronized set kicks in for high-output operation.
Recent news from Honda is a special (and temporary) financing package for boat owners who are looking to repower their current rigs. Through March 2, 2009 anglers can get financing as low as 4.99 percent APR on any new unregistered Honda outboard from 2 to 225 horsepower. Those in the market for new boat/outboard/trailer packages can get financing starting at 6.99 percent.