the last several months we had the opportunity to
sea trial four boats with Yamaha outboard motors in
the 200 to 250 hp range. Two sets of these were on
Grady-White 272 Sailfish, and another on a Pursuit
2855. This makes for a total of eight engines ranging
in years from 1995 to 1999, which gave us a pretty
good look at how these engines are performing over
Compared to all the other engines, we were generally
impressed at the superior performance of Yamaha engines.
First, we can tell you that none of the eight engines
had had any major work done on them. This we can determine
by looking at the painted bolt heads on the engines
and see that no bolts had ever been turned.
thing we look for is salt weeping from the cooling
system and cylinder head gaskets. When that happens,
it means that internal corrosion is taking place,
and it's only a matter of time before some really
bad things happen. None of our test engines revealed
this problem, a very good sign indeed. We'd add these
were Florida boats used in sea water 12 months per
year. Two were stored out of water, and two were permanently
afloat, including the 5 year old engines.
read the advertising, every manufacturer touts the
latest and greatest high tech engineering that results
in the greatest power, longest life, highest reliability
and, of course, their engines hardly burn any fuel
at all. And, of course, we all know that this isn't
true. After all, outboards have a well-deserved reputation
for being gas guzzlers, which is one drawback they
can't overcome by virtue of the fact that outboards
burn a combination of gasoline and oil. That means
that the fuel they burn is not as powerful as any
engine that has a crankcase of oil for lubrication.
That translates to having to burn more fuel to attain
similar power outputs over a conventional gas engine.
Add to this the fact that outboard propellers are
not as efficient as inboard props and you have two
good reasons why outboards burn more fuel.
it was the performance of these engines that really
began to capture our attention. For one thing, outboards
tend to be notorious for their inability to hold certain
speed ranges. With many engines, if you want to go,
say, 2600 RPM, the engine simply will not run at that
speed. The engines will either want to surge forward
to a faster speed, or fall off to a lower speed.
that? Well, it's mainly due to two things: less efficient
propellers and low torque at low speeds. Another factor
is carburetion. Here's one of the advantages of electronic
fuel injection, which can precisely control the amount
of fuel the engine receives, whereas a carbureted
version cannot. In testing these four sets of engines
on different boats, we were amazed at how well they
could hold a speed. The 225 and 250 hp versions were
best at this. Testing each at speed ranges in increments
of around 500 RPM, we found that each would almost
exactly hold that speed indefinitely without falling
off or creeping ahead.
aided by what we feel is the best set of engine controls
in the business. We've long complained about crappy
engine controls. You probably know what I mean. Those
flimsy plastic jobs that feel like they're going to
break off in your hand if you push on them two hard.
In fact, a recent sea trail with a set of Mercury
controls only 9 months old ended up with the idle
control button stuck and jammed with the engine racing
away out of control and no way to stop it.
those with the Yamaha engine controls which, although
they are plastic, feel solid and function smoothly.
There was none of those poor tolerances that let the
levers flop around in every direction. Indeed, when
operating some of the competition's controls, we have
to wonder how boat owners can tolerate such shoddy
products. These Yamaha controls were a real pleasure
away, for us the biggest attention getter was the
optional Yamaha instrument package which is just the
neatest and most reliable set of outboard instruments
we've run across. The digital tachometers have large,
bright LED displays that permit very accurate speed
control. Then there is the bar graph tilt and trim
readouts that, in the case of all eight engines still
worked, even after as much as 850 hours and 5 years
of use. That, we thought, was amazing considering
the propensity of such gizmos to crap out after about
the first year.
the economy minded, "the fuel management system,"
which is nothing more than fuel flow meters
a la Floscan meters, are great. This allows you to
determine at what speeds you're getting the best fuel
economy. You discover nifty things like that at certain
points the engines will burn less fuel at higher speeds
than slower. Now, if this sounds like a virtual impossibility
to you, it can be explained by the fact that nearly
all boats have certain hull speeds that are more efficient
than others. The fuel management system allows you
find out exactly what speeds those are.
features of interest are the motor covers. They are
strong, heavy and well built. On most of the competitor's
models, we find the latches to be clumsy and difficult
to operate. Putting the covers back on usually involves
a lot of fumbling around trying to get the latches
to line up just right, and more often than not, quite
a bit of frustration. Not so with the Yamaha's: just
set the cover in place and push down. It just snaps
into place and the lower gasket makes a good seal
with the lower cowl, no muss, no fuss, no sweat.
were a few things we could gripe about. For instance,
the dual electric power trim motors, which are located
on the lower mounting brackets, constantly get wet.
And despite the "saltwater series" moniker,
they do rust, often badly. Yet, oddly enough, despite
two very badly rusted sets of motors on one boat,
the darn things still worked. Frankly, we think it's
time that these things be replaced with an electro/hydraulic
motor that mounts on the inside of the boat, not on
the motor where they're submerged part of the time.
is the dark metallic blue paint on the engine covers.
In the Florida sun in April, we measured the surface
temperature at 185 degrees. When paint gets this hot,
of course, it's not going to last long, and on older
motors it was badly faded. Yamaha ought to change
to a lighter colored, non-metallic paint. It would
hold up a lot better.
Much Power? Another thing we've been learning
about outboard powered larger boats, like in the 27
to 30 foot range, is that more horsepower is generally
better than less. Sure, you're concerned about fuel
economy, but there is a catch 22 here. Testing two
identical Grady-White 272's, one with twin 200's and
the other with 225's, the one with the lower power
actually burned more fuel at lower speeds than the
bigger engines. Why? It has to do with torque and
larger propeller size that results in greater efficiency
at lower speeds.
only a 50 hp difference, we found an amazing difference
in overall responsiveness, as well as speed. Only
50 more horsepower of the 225's, which is only a 12.5%
increase, resulted in 10.5 mph more speed, for a 30%
increase in speed. Thus you get more than 1:1 increase
in speed for hp per mph. But more than speed, the
boat performed substantially better at lower speeds,
particularly in the 25 mph range which is where you'll
run most often.
Those of you who were Yamaha owners five years ago
are probably familiar with the fact that this manufacturer
did not have the best of relations with their dealers.
We heard plenty of stories from our dealer friends
about how they played hardball, with the result that
a lot of dealers dropped Yamaha. Unless you were lucky
enough to have one of those dealers that would really
go to bat for their customers, you may have felt the
we do not have the resources to perform customer satisfaction
surveys, but we do keep our ears to the docks. About
the best we can tell you in this regard is that we're
no longer hearing either customer or dealer complaints
like we did in the past.
up, these two models of Yamaha engines were the best
designed, best performing engines we've seen yet.
Well designed, smooth and quiet running, and all-around
best performance Granted, they're priced higher than
the competition, but we feel that the difference in
price is well-justified by the difference in overall
quality and performance are the qualities that make
these engines our first choice.