Suzuki Marine has come up with a new trick for its digitally controlled DF 300 outboard—push-button counter-rotation. Well, almost push-button. As announced last month at the Miami International Boat Show, beginning this summer DF 300 motors will be equipped with a plug in the wiring harness that can simply be flipped to reverse the shifting action of the motor in response to the control lever on the boat. Insert the plug one way and the prop will turn clock-wise in the forward lever position. Flip it the other way, and the prop turns counter-clockwise when the control is shifted to forward.
This will allow any DF 300 to become a “counter-rotating” model, that is, the propeller turns to port rather than to starboard as on a standard motor. Counter-rotating props are beneficial in dual- and multi-engine installations to balance the twisting torque of the prop thrust, and to allow the boat to back down equally well to port or starboard.
In order to make this work, Suzuki also had to redesign the gearcase. Like all other outboard builders, Suzuki has previously fitted its gearcases with a bearing for the reverse gear that’s designed only to handle about 10 percent of the total thrust of the motor. To gain counter-rotation required a different gearset, cut to turn opposite the standard rotation. On this revised DF 300, both gears will be equally strong, and both are supported by a beefy roller bearing, so they can operate in either rotation.
With this change, Suzuki will no longer have to manufacture counter-rotating gearcases for the DF 300, or manage the inventory of those motors. Boat builders that rig multi-engine boats will also no longer have to juggle inventory or always keep counter-rotating motors on hand. The consumer may benefit, too, as counter-rotating motors usually cost a little more than a standard motor, I suppose because of the lower production volume of the gears. No word yet on a price for the revised DF 300.
Suzuki will make one other change to the DF 300, adding a trolling control system that allows the skipper to adjust trolling speed in 50-rpm increments from idle to 1200 rpm while underway, using a toggle button mounted on the instrument panel.
Also at Miami, Suzuki was honored with a 2011 Innovation Award from the National Marine Manufacturers Association, for its DF 40/50 three-cylinder outboards. The judges, which included Boats.com contributor Lenny Rudow, noted that the DF 40/50 models “provide 15 percent more displacement and are five percent lighter than their 40- and 50-hp predecessors. They bring top end features to a smaller, neater, powerplant.”
A 250 From Honda
Honda Marine was the only other outboard manufacturer with any significant news to share at Miami, announcing that it will be adding an all-new 250-hp BF250 model to its line in late 2011. Honda showed what it called a concept of this motor at Miami, which it says will be powered by a 3.6 liter engine designed to deliver best-in-class fuel economy. Currently the most-powerful Honda outboard, the 225-hp BF225, uses a 3.5-liter V6 powerhead. Honda says the new engine will incorporate features we’ve seen on other Honda models, including BLAST™, VTEC®, and Lean Burn Control. The model also will carry National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA) 2000® electronics certification.
“Honda Marine continues to expand our product line with newly developed engines that provide uncompromised standards of satisfaction and reliability for consumers,” said Alan Simmons, national manager, Honda Marine. “The new BF250 concept signals a new level of quality and refinement to boaters who seek to maximize fuel efficiency without sacrificing performance. We look forward to producing this exciting new product for our customers and boat builder partners.”
Honda has been a day late and a dollar short at the top of its outboard line for far too long. It needs this 250, and probably a 300, to keep pace with Yamaha, Mercury, Evinrude and Suzuki, which each offer a motor rated at 300 or more horsepower for the offshore market. I hope the new Honda is also fitted with digital controls, another key feature offered by its competitors. We shall see.
Charles Plueddeman is Boats.com's outboard, trailer, and PWC expert. He is a former editor at Boating Magazine and contributor to many national publications since 1986.