Slim Fast

Perhaps inspired by the popular TV show “The Biggest Loser,” Yamaha took its 3.3L V-6 F200 four-stroke and put it on a 119-pound diet. The result might be this year’s biggest winner, the all-new 2.8L F200. How do you lose this much weight? For starters, Yamaha engineers cut two cylinders, making it an inline-4. So instead of being a detuned member of the F225/F250 family, struggling to compete in that class, the F200 is like a fighter who dropped down a weight class to be an overachiever in the middleweight division, along with its close relative, the new V MAX SHO 150 (aka VF150). Yamaha has made the F200 the lightest four-stroke 200 on the market.

Target Audience
So what boats is the new and improved F200 designed for? Unlike the previous-generation F200 outboard, which only came in a 25-inch shaft length, the new F200 comes in 25- and 20-inch shaft versions, which means it’s ideal for pontoons, bay boats, flats boats, bass boats, center consoles, deckboats, dual consoles, aluminum fishing boats, RIBs, skiffs, catamarans and runabouts. Did I miss anything? Next to the F150, this is perhaps the most versatile outboard Yamaha has ever made. The “2013” F200 (Yamaha discontinued model-year designations) is right-sized for boats in the hottest-trend category: mid-sized trailerables.

One of the targets for the new F200 is clearly the repower market. Older boats that were built when conventional two-strokes were king are far more weight sensitive than newer models that have been engineered for four-strokes. As a result, the 489-pound weight of the 25-inch-shaft F200 (the 20-incher is 2 pounds lighter) is almost perfectly comparable to old two-strokes’ weight. For instance, a 1996 Johnson 200 V-6 two-stroke “looper” tips the scales at 480 pounds, so the only difference you’ll see with the F200 is no smoke. Oh, and no oil tank to fill. Oh, and a gas gauge that will appear stuck thanks to 30 percent-plus better fuel economy. And since it’s an inline-4, it’s a lot skinnier at 21.6 inches wide with 26-inch mounting centers. So if you’re repowering twins, the F200 can replace virtually anything without doing “the bump.” People replacing Yamaha HPDI 200 two-strokes will find the old and new outboards share the same bolt pattern, for convenience.

I got my first look at the new F200 at the Yamaha press event at the test center in Bridgeport, Ala., on the Tennessee River — where we got to put it through its paces on a variety of boats. In a nutshell, this is one hot engine. The first model I tried it with was the Starcraft 186 Superfisherman, an aluminum fishing boat that stretches 18 feet, 7 inches, with a wide 8-foot, 4-inch beam. The F200 pushed it on plane in 3.4 seconds, to 30 mph in 6.9 seconds and to a top speed of 53.1 mph. What was immediately noticeable was the excellent throttle response, whether out of the hole or in the mid-range. There was nowhere in the power curve that it didn’t respond immediately without pushing you back in the seat.

I then tried it out pushing a heavier load — a Southwind 229 LC, a hybrid that has the layout of a pontoon but features a fiberglass monohull underneath. Despite weighing 3,500 pounds, it reached plane quickly in 3.9 seconds and hit 30 mph in 7 seconds flat, with a very respectable top speed of 46 mph. There was even a twin-engine-powered 27-foot, 4-inch Blackwood 27 bay boat that hit 58 mph. Clearly, the performance is there, but what makes it tick?

The F200 and V MAX SHO 150 (available only with a 20-inch shaft) both use a four-valve-per-cylinder, dual-overhead camshaft configuration that employs Variable Camshaft Timing (VCT), which retards and advances the camshaft timing based on engine rpm. Usually, outboards use a one-size-fits-all camshaft timing for good all-around performance. But with VCT, the engine’s timing changes to provide more torque in the 2000-3500 rpm range, right where your outboard’s load is heaviest and is needed to get a boat on plane and keep it there in rough water.

The F200 uses technology borrowed from its flagship model, the F350 V-8, to enable smoother shifting. Working in concert with a Reliance Series prop, the system uses a splined rubber hub that absorbs most of the force associated with a shift clunk to add an additional “o” to smooth. Coming to you early this summer is an electronic-shift configuration of the F200 (designated the F200A), which not only gives you the ability to use the ultra-smooth Yamaha drive-by-wire shifter but also the color LCD display and one-button start. The first version, F200B, was released in the spring and is a mechanical-shift model, like the V MAX SHO 150.

The VF150 shares the same platform as the F200 from the displacement VVT technology right down to the “square” 96-by-96.2 bore and stroke and sports car-like compression of 10.3:1. And both put out a prodigious 50 amps. The only penalty you pay for their performance is that they require 89 octane gas rather than 87 octane. The V MAX SHO 150 will be showing up on mid-sized bass boats, flats boats and any other boat with a 20-inch transom that can benefit from a lightweight (480-pound) four-stroke. The previous-generation F150 is still available for those who need 25-inch shafts.


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