The news focus this month is on compact motors, as both Yamaha and Honda held media introductions for new motors in this range. These motors see a variety of applications, from pontoon boats to aluminum bass and walleye-style rigs, on flats skiffs in the Gulf and Keys, and in Europe on inflatable boats. According to Honda, the 45/50 market accounts for about 12 percent of the total US motor sales, with 69 percent of those motors used for fishing and 67 percent used in fresh water only. Dig a little deeper into the research, and you'll find that 72 percent of buyers in this segment are over 50 years old. If you are an older guy who makes more than $70,000 a year and likes to fish on fresh water, this is a good year to buy a new outboard.
The addition of electronic fuel injection is a major update to this 747cc, in-line triple motor. Yamaha has already converted its 90/75 and 60/50 models to EFI. The F40A gets a single throttle body with multi-port injection, and new long intake runners to boost bottom-end torque. The result should be easier starting, smoother throttle control and improved fuel efficiency over the previous carbureted F40 model. The addition of the control module that manages the EFI system also makes this motor compatible with available Yamaha Command Link electronic instruments, including the Variable Trolling RPM (VTS) feature, which allows anglers to electronically adjust trolling speed in 50-rpm increments between 650 and 900 rpm. The F40A will also interface with Yamaha dealer service software to help technicians provide fast diagnostic service of engine problems.
Yamaha specs say the motor has a dry weight of 219 pounds, a 16-amp alternator, requires 87-octane fuel, and is only offered with electric starting - the previous F40 was also offering with manual starting. The F40A is priced at $6,481. A tiller kit is sold separately.
Honda also is updating an existing powerhead, adding EFI and other new features to its veteran 808cc platform, rated at 40 and 50 horsepower. The electronic control package is similar to the system introduced last year on the updated BF90/75, with multi-port EFI, the Honda Boosted Low Speed Torque (BLAST) feature for enhanced acceleration, and a lean-burn feature for improved fuel economy. The motor has a new single throttle body intake designed by Mikuni, with long intake runners cast of light-weight resin material. The BLAST system is supposed to boost hole-shot performance by executing a momentary advance of the ignition curve and adding a booster-shot of fuel when the throttle is advanced quickly, as when the boat is being accelerated onto plane.
The Lean Burn Control works in just the opposite manner, leaning out the fuel/air mixture when the boat is running at a steady speed to achieve optimal fuel economy. In this lean condition, the engine computer monitors an oxygen sensor in the exhaust, a knock sensor and cylinder temperature to constantly adjust the fuel/air ratio to prevent engine damage from an over-lean condition. Honda says the Lean Burn Control can improve fuel economy by 20 percent when it is active. The new motors will idle at 800 rpm in gear, and have a low 2.08:1 gear ratio that should produce very slow trolling speeds, depending on the prop pitch.
Other new features include a very powerful 22 amp alternator that delivers 17 amps to the boat (the remaining power is consumed by the engine). The gearcase was redesigned to have a new, more hydrodynamic shape. Both the skeg and the anti-ventilation plate are thicker to be more durable. The splash plate, which knocks down spray flowing up the front of the gearcase, is larger. And a new propshaft bearing carrier has a bolt-on design that will be easier to service than the previous screw-in carrier.
The BF40 and BF50 are physically identical. The 10-horsepower difference is accomplished within the engine's computer, which simply adjusts timing and fuel delivery to degrade the 40's output. The specs say the 40 makes peak power at 5500 rpm, while the 50 peaks at 5750. The 50 also has a WOT rpm range of 5500 to 6000, compared to 5000 to 6000 for the 40. This means that any power difference is at the top of the rpm range. So unless you spend a lot of time at full-throttle, you might be smart to save some money and buy the less-expensive BF40 instead of the BF50, especially if you have a light boat that's easy to plane. Both motors weigh 214 pounds, or just nine pounds more than the previous BF40/50. That's about the same weight as the Mercury EFI 40 (216 pounds), but 29 pounds lighter than the Suzuki DF40/50.
The new BF40 ($7,136) is only available with a 20-inch shaft. The BF50 ($7,999) is offered with a 20 or 25-inch shaft. Both are electric start/power trim only, and both motors can be equipped with a new tiller kit ($380). These motors are also compatible with Honda digital instruments. The digital tachometer ($300) also incorporates warning lights, and hour meter and a trim gauge, while the digital speedometer ($640) has a fuel gauge plus a scrolling screen that can display volts, a trip meter, total fuel used, fuel economy in MPG, and fuel flow in gallons per hour.
At the Honda media launch, held on Lake Travis near Austin, Texas, I got to try the new BF40 and BF50 on a variety of boats, including a pontoon, an aluminum vee-bottom fishing boat with tiller steering, and on a Triumph 17 CC center-console skiff (www.triumphboats.com). The motor shakes a bit at idle, but the mounts do a good job isolating that vibration from the boat. The tiller does vibrate a lot at trolling speeds, however. I gathered data on the Triumph, and recorded great fuel economy, peaking at 8 mpg between 4000 and 4500 rpm, or 19 to 25 mph, and never dipping below 7 mpg at planing speed. Top speed was 32.2 mph at 5650 rpm. Hole shot, however, was less than exhilarating. I think the 11.1 x 14 aluminum prop was too big for this 1,100 pound boat, which is rated for 75 hp and is typically rigged with a F60 Yamaha motor. There was enough rpm left at wide-open throttle to drop down to a 13-pitch prop and improve the acceleration, but Honda did not seem inclined to take that suggestion. I think Honda was focused on propping for fuel economy. The motor appears very compact on the transom, and its new cowl, which is styled to match bigger Honda motors, looks smart.