Head to Head: 200HP Outboards

Mercury v E-TEC, Yamaha & Suzuki

The third instalment of our ground-breaking outboard engine testing program sees Mercury’s Optimax 200 go head to head with E-TEC, Yamaha* and Suzuki. By Jim Harnwell.

AS detailed in previous editions, Fisho has embarked on an ambitious testing schedule which will see a range of 200hp outboards fitted to the Fishing World Stabi-Craft 659 Super Cab and tested for between 20-50 hours. The aim of this project is to provide an independent and unbiased perspective on the pros and cons of the various outboard options availableSo far we’ve put the E-TEC 200 H.O. and the Yamaha F200* to the test (see full report in the February 2009 edition) and we compared those engines with Suzuki’s DF 200 in the June issue.  This time we put Mercury’s Optimax up against the Suzy, Yammie and E-TEC. Mercury’s unique supercharged Verado four-stroke will be the next cab off the rank with Honda’s new BF200 to be the final engine tested.  A wrap up featuring all six test engines is planned for publication in early 2010.

(*This engine has now been superseded).

The Optimax @ 25 hours
Mercury’s Optimax 200 is a three-litre V6 DI two-stroke with a two stage direction fuel injection system. The test unit ran a 19-inch SS prop and was installed by Nowra Marine, on the NSW South Coast. At just over 25 hours of use involving bay and offshore fishing, my opinion is that this is a reliable and very responsive powerplant. The motor has proven 100 per cent reliable in regards to starting and in general performance. The responsiveness and instant power inherent to DI two-strokes like the Opti is markedly different to that of the four-strokes previously tested; the Optimax rivals the E-TEC in providing exhilarating performance across the rev range.

That said, the Opti is significantly noisier (especially when starting and at idle) than the other engines, and sometimes produces a burnt oil smell when trolling with the wind and vibrates at low speeds.

Performance observations

• Like the other engines tested so far, the Optimax maintains speed in a variety of ocean conditions without having to adjust the throttle (ie, minimal surges in a following sea).

•GPS measured top speed at WOT in calm water was 42 knots; the E-TEC recorded 42 knots in the same conditions; the Yamaha 37 knots; and the Suzuki 40 knots.  A top speed of over 35 knots is more than adequate, in Fisho’s view, for any offshore fishing boat.

• While the Opti was noisier than the other engines at low and mid-range speeds, at high speed, the engine noise of all four was about the same. As noted in the June issue, at idle the Suzuki was by far the quietest out of the four engines tested so far, followed by the Yammie, the E-TEC and then the Optimax.

Ease of use

There are some differences between the Optimax, the Suzuki, the E-TEC and the Yamaha relating to ease of use.

• The E-TEC has by far the smoothest gear shift out of the three, with the Suzuki being less “clunky” than the Yammie and the Optimax.

• The Suzuki’s tilt/trim hydraulic system matches the E-TEC in being marginally quieter than that on the Yammie and the Optimax.

• At low revs/idle, the Optimax, the Suzuki and the Yamaha vibrate slightly, causing a rattle in the portside cabin window. This is not evident with the E-TEC.

• There are no noticeable fumes or smoke from either the Suzuki or the Yamaha, but both E-TEC and the Opti sometimes produce a burnt oil smell when trolling with the wind.

• All four engines feature innovative engine and fuel data systems to provide incredibly accurate fuel use and engine system information via dedicated gauges. The Mercury’s Smartcraft system available with the Optimax is particularly informative and easy to use. The Opti can also be fitted with a Vessel View system, which Fisho will test with the Verado. The Opti’s engine management system can also be used in conjunction with Northstar marine electronics.

 • All the engines tested so far have factory backed warranties and all comply with the latest international pollution control regulations. The Optimax 200 is a CARB 2 star engine, which is “very low emission” (250, 225, 135,115, 90, 75hp OptiMax models are 3-star rated). Mercury reportedly reverted the OptiMax 200 to a 2 star rating as it proved more economical in this configuration.

The Yamaha, Suzuki and E-TEC are 3 star, rated as “ultra low emission.”

• Mercury’s Optimax was launched in 1997, just after OMC rushed its ill-fated Ficht DI technology to market. Unlike Ficht, Optimax, which is based on the Aussie-designed Orbital engine design, is still going strong. Like Yamaha and Suzuki’s range proven four-strokes, Optimax definitely has the runs on the board for longevity and reliability. Evinrude’s E-TEC system, on the other hand, is much newer technology.

Size & weight

The Optimax is the lightest and most compact engine so far tested. At 225kg dry weight, it is a whopping 44 kilos lighter than the Yamaha, 38 kilos lighter than the Suzuki and 13 kilos less than the DI two-stroke E-TEC.

Fuel & oil

The Suzuki continues to lead the pack in the “cruise” rev ranges of 3000rpm (18.9L per hour) and 4000rpm (25.91L per hour) compared to the Yamaha (27.7 and 30.5 LPH) and the E-TEC (29 and 44 LPH).  The Optimax recorded an impressive 22.5LPH at 3000rpm and 40LPH at 4000.

The E-TEC retains its lead in the low rev range of idle and 1000rpm (slow trolling/jigging) while the Yamaha retains it superiority at Wide Open Throttle (WOT), beating the Suzuki by almost 5 litres, the E-TEC by 14 litres and the Opti by 11.5 litres. The E-TEC now shares the No.1 position for top end speed with Optimax at 42 knots (5 knots faster than the Yammie and 2 knots faster that the Suzuki). The Opti has taken the E-TEC’s position as the best performer at marlin trolling speed of 8 knots. The Opti uses 8.6LPH at 1900RPM and 8 knots compared to the E-TEC’s  9.6 LPH at 1800rpm and 8 knots.  The Opti beats the Yamaha by 4LPH and the Suzuki by 2.2LPH.

Based on these figures, we maintain our previously published view that none of the engines tested so far has a significant advantage in regards to fuel use when used in typical offshore fishing scenarios.  Most boats either troll or travel at a cruise of about 20-25 knots – it’s rare you can go flat out for extended periods out at sea – so average use between long periods spent trolling and shorter periods spent travelling would, in our view, see overall fuel use to be similar. The Yammie would offer benefits if you travel more than you troll and vice versa with the E-TEC and Opti if you troll more than you travel. The Suzuki is impressive in that it performs well across the board, especially at cruise speeds. All four engines use significantly less fuel than a traditional two-stroke 200hp outboard.

• An important point to note is that the above performance and fuel data has been compiled using different propellers on each test engine: a 17-inch high cup on the E-TEC, a 19-incher on the Yammie, a 21-incher on the Suzuki and a 19-incher on the Opti. Engine performance, speed and fuel use can vary radically depending on the prop used. The props used in our tests were selected by dealers and manufacturers to provide what they regarded as “typical” offshore fishing boat performance. Fishing World invited all manufacturers involved to thoroughly “prop” the boat to ensure maximum performance. The above data needs to be assessed with that in mind. Consideration also needs to be given to engine performance/speed at stated RPMs. For example, one engine may be going slower or faster than another at the same RPM and thus using differing amounts of fuel.

• All three engines have been operated with 91 octane unleaded fuel with fuel data for the E-TEC and Yamaha provided by NMEA 2000 connections between engine EMMs and a Lowrance X37c sounder/chartplotter for maximum accuracy. The DF200 was tested using an interface with Suzuki engine management data on a laptop computer operated by a Suzuki technician and the Optimax via its Smartcraft gauges. See comparison chart below for detailed fuel use data.

• The Yammie and the Suzuki offer a benefit over the E-TEC and the Optimax in that both four-strokes have wet sumps and thus don’t require the addition of expensive XD100 or OptiMax/DFI Synthetic Blend 2-Cycle Outboard Oil synthetic DI two-stroke oils recommended for use with E-TECs and Optimax engines.  Both of these oils are expensive, retailing for about $65 for four litres (or more than $16 a litre).

• The cost of oil needs to be considered when comparing fuel use between DI two-strokes such as Evinrude’s E-TEC and Mercury’s Optimax and their four-stroke competitors. The DI engines use very little oil compared to traditional two-strokes, but the cost of the new-age synthetic oils is far more than what you’d pay for a bottle of standard marine two-stroke oil. Our data indicates that the Fisho E-TEC used about 330ml of XD100, worth about $5.20, per 100 litres of fuel with the Opti recording similar figures.

• The Suzuki requires about eight litres of engine oil when the sump oil is changed annually or once every 100 hours. Based on current prices for engine oils, this involves a cost of about $70 (or $9 a litre). The Yamaha requires six litres each service (about $54 worth of oil).

Servicing

Evinrude’s main claim to fame is that its E-TEC engines only require servicing once every three years, or 300 hours. This gives the Canadian outboard company a significant advantage over its competitors in regards to savings on servicing costs and reducing time off the water.

The Yamaha, Suzuki and Optimax all require an initial 20 hour service and then a service once a year or every 100 hours.

A typical 300 hour E-TEC service would cost about $550 (including impeller change), Nowra-based E-TEC specialist Noel Hill, from Dave Hill Marine, said. According to South Coast Yamaha dealer Abby’s Autos & Marine, a 100 hour service on an F200 would be about $450 (not including impeller). An annual service for the Suzuki is also about $450 (including impeller), according to Suzuki.  An annual Opti service would be about $530, according to the service guys at Nowra Marine.

Extrapolated over a three-year period, both the Yamaha F200 and Suzuki DF200 would cost about $1350 to service with the Opti costing about $1590. An E-TEC would cost $550, resulting in an $800 saving over both the Yamaha and the Suzuki and more than a grand over the Optimax. You need to think about oil use, however, when considering these figures. The $50-$70 of oil used in a year by the Yammie and Suzuki is included in the above service cost but DI engines’ oil use isn’t.

Note: The E-TEC 300 hour servicing schedule is based on typical use. If you damage your impeller, contaminate your fuel or have any other issue, then the engine would require professional attention outside the recommended servicing period. The E-TEC service manual also recommends the owner perform basic maintenance (lubrication etc) annually.

Sum up


It was good to get back into a DI powered boat! While I enjoyed the smoothness of the four-strokes tested so far, I missed the raw power only a DI two-stroke can provide. The noisy growl and roar of the Opti was compensated, in my view, by its fantastic performance and awesome responsiveness. It’s also priced very competitively. It will be very interesting to see how it performs against the Verado, a four-stroke designed to provide the grunt of a two-stroke via its innovative supercharging system. Stay tuned!

Fuel/Speed Data

Yamaha F200

700RPM idle – 2.3 litres per hour

1000RPM 4 knots – 3.8 litres per hour

2000RPM 7 knots – 9.7 litres per hour

3000RPM 12.6 knots – 22.7 litres per hour

4000RPM 26.5 knots – 30.5 litres per hour

5000RPM32.6 knots – 44.4 litres per hour

5800 (WOT)37 knots – 65 litres per hour


Evinrude E-TEC

700RPM idle – 0.7 litres per hour

1000RPM 3.6 knots – 1.54 litres per hour

2000RPM 8.7 knots – 10.1 L/hour  

3000RPM 18.5 knots – 29 litres per hour

4000RPM28 knots – 44 litres per hour

5000RPM 36 knots – 65 litres per hour

5500RPM (WOT) 42 knots – 79 L/hour.


Suzuki DF200


650RPM idle – 1.8 litres per hour

1000RPM 4 knots – 3.8 litres per hour

2000RPM 6.5 knots – 9 litres per hour

3000RPM 16 knots – 18.9 litres per hour

4000RPM 26 knots – 25.91 litres per hour

5000RPM 34 knots – 51.3 litres per hours

6000RPM (WOT) 40 knots – 69.74 L/hour

Mercury Optimax

600RPM idle – 1.4 litres per hour

1000RPM 5 knots – 3.1 litres per hour

2000RPM 8.6 knots – 11.7 litres per hour

3000RPM 20.3 knots – 22.5 litres per hour

4000RPM 30 knots – 40 litres per hour

5000RPM 57 litres per hour – 38 knots

5800ROM (WOT)42 knots – 76.5 litres

 

OFFSHORE LURE TROLL AVERAGE SPEED COMPARISONS

Yammie: 2100RPM – 8 knots
12.6 litres per hour

E-TEC: 1800RPM – 8 knots
9.6 litres per hour

Suzuki: 2156PRM – 8 knots
10.8 litres per hour

Optkmax: 1900RPM – 8 knots
8.6 litres per hour

OFFSHORE DOWNRIGGING/LIVIE AVERAGE TROLL SPEED COMPARISONS

Yammie: 700-900RPM – 1-2 knots
2.3-3.2 litres per hour

E-TEC: 700-900 – 1-2 knots
0.7-1.2 litres per hour.

Suzuki: 650RPM – 2 knots
1.8 litres per hour

Optimax: 700-900RPM – 1-2 knots
1.6-2 litres per hour


SPECS


Yamaha F200

Transom Height: 643mm

Weight (dry):  269kg (inc SS prop)

Engine Type: 24-Valve DOHC
Direct Action, 60° V6  

Displacement: 3352 cc

Output (hp): 200

Max RPM: 5500-6000  

Fuel management: EFI

Alternator: 12V 45 AMP

Limited Warranty: 4 years

Compliance:CARB 2008

Colours:Grey Metallic Silver

RRP: $23,248.00*


E-TEC 200 H.O.

Transom height: 635mm

Weight (dry): 238kg

Engine Type: Loop Charged V6 90°
E-TEC Direct Injection

Displacement: 3279 cc

Output: Factory Tuned for
High Performance

Max RPM: 4500-5800

Fuel management: E-TEC Direct Fuel
Injection w/stratified low
RPM combustion mode

Alternator: Variable Voltage Computer

Controlled 133 Amp /1800 watt

output w/ regulator

Limited Warranty: 5 Years Non-Declining

Compliance: EPA 2006 / CARB 3 STAR /

European Union 2006

Colours: Blue/White

RRP: $25,363*



Suzuki DF 200

Weight (dry): 263kg

Engine type: DOHC 24-Valve

Displacement: 3614 cc

Output: 200hp

Max RPM: 5000-6000rpm

Fuel management: Multi Point Sequential

Electronic Fuel Injection

Alternator: 12v 54amps

Warranty: Limited five (5) years
for recreational use.

Compliance: CARB ULTRA LOW 3 STAR,

EURO1,
OEDA 3 Star

Colours: Black

RRP: $25,268*   



Mercury Optimax 200

Weight (dry): 225kg

Engine type: V6 60° vee DI
two-stroke

Displacement: 3032 cc

Output: 200hp

Max RPM: 5000-5750

Fuel management: 2-stage direct
fuel injection

Alternator: 12 volt 60amps

Warranty: 3 years

Compliance: CARB 2 STAR

Colours: Black

RRP: $21,829

* All RRPs sourced independently from dealers and correct at time of printing. Prices may have changed by time of publication.

Mercury OptiMax 200

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