Looking Back On 4-Stroke Outboard History From The Top Of The Hill
January 17, 2009
“It’s hard to believe, but it wasn’t that long ago that boaters and the industry collectively wondered, ‘will it ever be possible to build a 100-horsepower 4-stroke outboard that is small enough and light enough to be practical’,” reflected Larry Vandiver, Marketing Director for Suzuki Marine. “It was clear to us that 4-strokes would be the technology of choice with boaters, but even our engineers weren’t sure what the horsepower and performance limits would be in developing lightweight, reliable engines for the marine environment.”
This reflection seems “quaint” today, given the fact that powerful V6 4-stroke outboards have become the power of choice for fishing boats, performance boats, multi-species boats and others in salt and freshwater. Especially so because Suzuki Marine recently introduced the industry’s first 300 horsepower 4-stroke outboard — stretching the limits of 4-stroke power while maintaining the weight, size and compact profile to match the greatest variety of today’s boats.
Suzuki’s drive for the 4-stroke finish line required substantial investment in research and development, drawing largely on the company’s extensive global experience with 4-stroke motorcycle and automotive engines. “It was a massive undertaking to convert our entire outboard line from all 2-stroke technology to all 4-stroke. Suzuki’s engineers met this challenge in only seven years (between the 1998 and 2004 model years) and have been improving and expanding our offerings for boaters since then. Our new 300 horsepower 4-stroke shows just how serious Suzuki is about taking the lead and breaking down barriers to greater 4-stroke power — and we’re not done yet,” said Vandiver.
This new powerhouse V-6 is a far cry from Suzuki’s first 4-strokes to hit the American market, modest 9.9 and 15 horsepower models designed for small boats and tenders. These were followed by Suzuki’s Innovation Award-winning 60 and 70 horsepower models and then a year later by 40 and 50 horsepower models making Suzuki Marine the industry’s first back-to-back Innovation Award winner. After introducing new 25 and 30 horsepower models, Suzuki then launched groundbreaking 90, 115 and 140 horsepower in-line four-cylinder 4-strokes that raised eyebrows and raised the stakes in America’s 4-stroke horsepower race. The line was later filled out with portable 4, 6 and 2.5 horsepower 4-strokes to accommodate the smallest powerboats.
It was Suzuki’s breakthrough fuel-injected V6 4-stroke outboards, however, that made the industry stand up and take notice. Suzuki unveiled three powerful V6s at once — 200, 225 and 250 horsepower models — and the boating business witnessed a change in the balance of power. “We passed the competition on the straightaway — and we’re not looking back,” said Vandiver. Suzuki’s 2004 DF250 — the industry’s first 250 horsepower 4-stroke — notched a third Innovation Award for Suzuki 4-strokes and left a lot of people wondering what Suzuki would do next.
They didn’t have to wait long. In 2005, Suzuki introduced new 150 and 175 horsepower inline four-cylinder 4-strokes that brought the promise of top-notch performance to owners of freshwater and inshore fishing boats. With more displacement than any competitive models, these new outboards were quick out of the hole and delivered eye-watering top end speed.
Members of the media and the boating public at a kick-off press conference for the 2006 Miami International Boat Show were the first to learn of Suzuki’s latest move, as they unveiled another powerful breakthrough — the world’s first 300 horsepower 4-stroke outboard. This motor not only offers a higher level of power and performance, it offers a combination of size, weight and balance that’s an ideal match for a wide variety of boats.
“Suzuki engineers committed themselves to 4-stroke technology at the start and never wavered,” said Vandiver. “Some other manufacturers engineered interim two-stroke solutions to meet the impending EPA regulations and bring products to market. Suzuki took a long, hard look at the evolving technology and set itself on the road for long-term success. The really exciting thing will be seeing where that road will take us in the future.”
For more information about Suzuki’s 4-stroke outboards from 2.5 to 300 horsepower, contact Suzuki Marine, 3251 E. Imperial Highway, Brea, CA 92821 • (714) 996-7040 • Or visit www.suzuki.com.
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