By Charles Plueddeman
Yamaha F200/VF 150: Four Cylinders Is Enough
Yamaha squeezes 200 horsepower from four cylinders to offer a new outboard that is narrow, lightweight, and perfect for repower applications.
A new Yamaha F200 and V MAX SHO 150 use the same 2.8-liter, four-cylinder powerhead to reach very different markets. The F200 may find its way onto boats as diverse as pontoons and salt-water center consoles, but a major focus for this motor will be the repower customer who is looking to replace older two-stroke motors with current four-stroke technology. The V Max 150 is designed to push two-stroke motors off the transoms of 17-foot to 19-foot bass boats. In each instance, light weight and a compact size are key attributes. Here’s a more detailed look at each powerhead.
With a claimed dry weight of 487 pounds, the new 2.8-liter F200 weighs 119 pounds less than a 3.4-liter V6 Yamaha F200, and it’s 3.4 inches narrower than the V6. Which means that in dual-motor installations it can be mounted on the same 26-inch centers, using the same bolt holes, as older Yamaha two-stroke motors. The V6 F200 requires 28.6-inch centers. To further ease re-powering, the new F200 works with older Yamaha gauges, and will be offered for either digital or cable controls, which makes repowering an older boat almost plug-and-play easy. This is the same strategy Mercury used for its new 3.0-liter 150 Four Stroke, another motor aimed at repower customers. The Merc is only offered with cable controls, but at 450 pounds with a 20-inch shaft, it weighs even less than the F200.
Yamaha will produce the F200 in the 20- and 25-inch lengths (the V6 F200 is only offered as a 25), but there’s no 20-inch model with V MAX graphics, which I find curious. I’m sure there’s a marketing reason for that. There’s nothing really revolutionary under the cowl. Double overhead cams manage four valves per cylinder. The intake side gets VCT (Variable Cam Timing) which Yamaha says enhances mid-range power. The motor has a balance shaft to reduce vibration, and is built to generally tight tolerances to be super-smooth and quiet at low speeds. A 50-amp alternator makes 13 percent more juice than the 44-amp charger on the V6 F200.
The F200 requires 89-octane fuel (the V6 F200 can run on 87 octane gas). When rigged with a Command Link Plus display or a Command Link tach, Yamaha VTS (Variable Trolling RPM System) is enabled, allowing the operator to adjust motor rpm in 50-rpm increments from 650 to 900 rpm.
The new motor is set up with the Yamaha SDS (Shift Dampener System) to take the clunk out of gear changes, and is designed to work well with the new line of Yamaha Reliance SDS propellers, a three-blade stainless steel wheel available in 13.75- and 14.5-inch diameters and 15, 17, 18, 19, and 21 pitch.
Yamaha will call this motor the V MAX SHO 150 to align it with its V6 high-performance models, intended mostly for bass boats but also finding a home on pontoons and flats skiffs. This is the same 2.8-liter powerhead found on the F200, with all of the same features, but choked down to a 150-horsepower rating with a small-diameter throttle body and a different ECU. The exhaust tuning in the mid-section is also revised, not to make more power but rather to make more noise – the 150 growls a little at idle and has a deeper tone at speed. It will be offered only in the 20-inch length, and only with mechanical (cable) throttle and shift controls.
Yamaha says its performance benchmarks for the VF150 were those of its V MAX 150 HPDI two-stroke, and claims it is indeed faster (57.2 mph vs. 56.8 mph on a Skeeter ZX190) and quicker than that model and its standard F150 four-stroke. The VF150 weighs 480 pounds, seven pounds less than the F200 due to its lighter-weight transom bracket, presumably because it will be pushing lighter-weight boats. The two-stroke VZ150 weighs 468 pounds, but when you add the weight of an oil tank and oil (28 pounds, according to Yamaha) the two-stroke actually weighs more than the VF150.
Yamaha did not discuss fuel economy at the media intro for these new motors, except to note that replacing an old carbureted two-stroke with one of the new 2.8-liter four-strokes would result in 30 percent better economy. It may be that with the V6 F200 still in the line, Yamaha does not want to make a comparison. I did ask when the V6 F200 would be a better choice than the four-cylinder F200, and a Yamaha rep, citing the old “no replacement for displacement” adage, told me that the V6 makes more torque in the bottom of the rpm range, and thus has a place on heavier, wider-beam boats, most certainly on a model rated for about 400 horsepower with a pair of 200s. That said, I ran a Blackwood 27 rated for 600 horsepower with a pair of the F200 motors, and saw about 58 mph top speed and a perfectly acceptable hole-shot. Perhaps a better application was the Starcraft 186 Superfisherman , an 18-foot 7-inch aluminum fishing boat that weighs 1,333 pounds and is rated for 200 hp. Taking more than 100 pounds off the transom of this boat really helps it pop on plane, and the boat felt so light it was almost overpowered, running 53 mph with its bow floating in the air.
Yamaha will not be announcing pricing for either the F200 or the VF150 until February, and both will make a public debut at the Miami International Boat Show. If you are in the repower market – and I can imagine there may be a lot of boats damaged by Hurricane Sandy that are going to need new motors – either of these models is worth consideration, especially if you are still running a nasty old gas-hog two-stroke V6. I wonder if many bass anglers will cringe at the idea of giving up a big ‘ol V6 for a high-tech four, but we can’t get a big-block for the Suburban any more, either. Smaller, lighter, and more powerful is just the smart way to go.
The F200 and VF150 will be posted on the Yamaha website in February.
- 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.