What makes the best outboard engine really the best? One that starts each and every time you turn the key. One that burns less fuel, makes less noise and vibration, reduces emissions, and weighs less. And all of these advancements have been made in new outboards. Outboard engines have, in fact, evolved at a breakneck pace ever since the two-stroke to four-stroke conversion brought about by emissions regulations. Today the best new outboards are utterly riddled with the latest tech—check out these hot models, and we’re betting you’ll agree.
Mercury Verado 600 Outboard Engine
The largest, most powerful outboard engine in production today, the Mercury Verado 600, is a marvel among modern new outboards. The tech built into this 1,260-pound, 7.6L, V12 beast is nothing short of revolutionary, with several features and functions never seen before on outboard engines. Perhaps most unusual is that the powerhead of this outboard doesn’t move. Instead, the gearcase alone articulates. This allows multiple engines to be mounted closer together, and for faster steering via the electro-hydraulic drive-by-wire joystick and steering controls.
This outboard also has an automatic two-speed transmission, with a multiplate wet clutch system that eliminates the usual “clunk” of shifting an outboard. The alternator system is another highlight, putting out a whopping 150 amps. And even with all this power under its belt, the Verado 600 is as quiet and smooth as any outboard of its size on the market today. Wait a sec, no it’s not—but only because there aren’t any other outboard engines of its size on the market today.
Mercury Verado 600. Mercury photo.
Mercury Verado 350 and 400 Outboard Engines
Even newer than Mercury’s Verado 600, the 350 and 400 5.7L V10 models represent a leap beyond previous models in the class. Paying a great deal of attention to the noise-vibration-harshness factor, the new V10 platform was designed specifically to be as pleasant to run as possible. The midsection isolates the powerhead from the transom of the boat to reduce vibration transmission, a tuned intake reduces the sounds created by air induction, and injectors are muffled. The charging system is the most advanced we’ve seen, too, with an (optional) dual-voltage 12/48 system that’s lithium-charging compliant. It’s potent enough that in many cases, this can eliminate the need for an onboard generator yet still power energy hogs like air conditioning and gyroscopic stabilization systems. On top of all this tech, the V10 weighs a mere 27 pounds more than the supercharged V6 Verado it replaces.
Mercury Verado 400. Mercury photo.
Yamaha F450 XTO Outboard Engine
Yamaha introduced its V8 5.6L platform a few years back in the form of the F425, but in the constant quest for improvement, early last year tweaked out an additional 25 horses to make it the F450. Unlike most outboards, this one benefits from direct injection, a tech adopted by most of the major automotive engine manufacturers, blasting fuel into the combustion chamber at a whopping 2,900 psi for more complete fuel atomization and a bigger bang. This was the only outboard to utilize direct injection when it was introduced as the F425 and remains the only player to do so today in the form of the F450. The increase in power rating comes via design improvements made to the intake and exhaust, cams, and valves, which increased the flow of air and exhaust volume. The F450 also enjoys an upgraded charging system that can put out 96 net amps even at idle.
Yamaha F450. Yamaha photo.
Honda BF350 Outboard Engine
Honda hadn’t made any major introductions in quite some time when it surprised the world this year with its new BF350. Its biggest outboard ever, the BF350 was under development for over four years and is an all-new platform from top to bottom. The V8 powerhead displaces 302 cubic inches and tilts the scales at 776 pounds, and Honda takes full advantage of technology the company has developed for the automotive world. The balanced crankshaft is lifted from the NSX sportscar, and internal friction is reduced via ion plating on the piston rings and plateau honing on the cylinder bores. Honda says the engine enjoys fuel economy 17 percent better than the competition as well as lower sound and vibration levels. When we tested the BF350, we weren’t able to perform side-by-side comparisons with the best new outboards of the same size from other manufacturers; however, we certainly felt the engine was exceedingly quiet and smooth.
Honda BF350. Honda photo.
Suzuki DF350 Outboard Engine
Considering how quickly outboard engine technology advances, the Suzuki DF350A, first introduced in 2017, now has some age on it. However, not only was it groundbreaking in its time, it remains the only outboard around to boast some of the tech that put it on the map. Advancements include shot-peened slipper pistons, variable intake camshaft timing, and 10-hole fuel injectors, but the twin contra-rotating propellers (increasing blade area to the tune of 80 percent) was the biggest news at the time. Since then, we’ve seen other outboards intended to push large, heavy boats adopt the same twin-propeller strategy.
In late 2022, the DF350A received a number of updates and became the DF350AMD. The lower unit was redesigned to increase reliability while also improving hydrodynamics, and an integrated steering system was added to the drive-by-wire controls.
Suzuki DF350. Suzuki photo.
The Best Small Outboard Engine Tech
While the most powerful outboard engines receive the headlines, small outboards have a huge impact on the wider boating world and the best new small outboards on the market today have benefitted from several advancements in tech. Most important is probably battery-less Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) systems, which have now come all the way down in size (in some cases) to the 9.9-hp range. Battery-less EFI eliminates the carburetor, providing one-tug manual starts and making it so easy to pull-start so even kids have no problem. EFI also gets you smoother acceleration and better fuel economy. What’s really critical, however, is that it closes the fuel system off and eliminates the ethanol problems that plague small carbureted engines of all types.
Many small outboards have also lost a lot of weight in recent years thanks to computational fluid dynamics and CAD/CAM design. Manufacturers can locate parts, which don’t need to be metal, and swap them out for composites, and figure out ahead of time which portions of the engine aren’t subject to stress and can be made thinner and lighter. While two-strokes were historically much lighter than four-strokes, and initially the change in platforms made some “portable” outboards practically impossible to move around, today’s small four-strokes weigh about as much as yesteryear’s two-strokes—sometimes, even less.
Suzuki DF15. Suzuki photo.
Finding the Best New Outboard Engine for You
As you peruse all the new outboard engines for sale, there’s one question we haven’t addressed which you’re bound to ask: how much is a new outboard? With all that tech and all those advancements, won’t it cost an arm and a leg? Well, we aren’t going to argue that modern outboards are cheap. Of course, the old ones weren’t either. But when measured by bang for the buck and against the price of a modern automobile, most new outboards are actually surprisingly affordable. And whatever you might think of their pricing, as compared to cars one thing is for sure: they’re one heck of a lot more fun to run.
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