Suzuki Marine Outboards: Innovative and High Tech

The Suzuki Marine history stretches all the way back to 1965, when they introduced their first outboard engine. The diminutive D55 was about as simple an outboard as one will ever find, a one-cylinder two-stroke that put out a mere five horsepower. From this humble beginning Suzuki soon joined the big leagues and in 1997 their DT200 Exante, a 200-hp V-6 two-stroke, won the NMMA’s coveted Most Innovative Products award. Since then, Suzuki has continued to punch above its weight class, regularly applying new and innovative tech to build outboards that constantly grow more efficient, easier to use, and startlingly reliable.

suzuki df90 outboards
Suzuki outboards are known for their reliability, including and especially the DF90 models. The owner of this pair has put on close to 2000 hours over 14 years and had to replace just two parts (the same one on each engine) in that entire time. Photo by Lenny Rudow.

Today Suzuki Marine has a line-up including over 30 models ranging from 2.5- to 350-hp., as well as gauges, controls, replacement parts, and more. While the tech found throughout this range is impressive, perhaps even more impressive is Suzuki’s willingness to stand behind their products. Suzuki offers a five-year limited warranty — substantially more than the industry-standard three years of coverage.

suzuki marine outboards
The Suzuki outboard range goes from 350 horsepower all the way down to 2.5 horsepower. Photos via Diamond Marine and Motors, Reliable Marine, A&S Boats.

Suzuki Outboard Innovations

While Suzuki can claim a number of firsts, the latest ground-breaker for the company is the well-known V6 DF350A. When this powerhouse of an outboard was introduced in 2017, it boasted the highest compression ratio ever for a production outboard: 12.0:1. And, while dual-propeller technology has been around for a while, the DF350A was the first to successfully employ contra-rotating propellers on an outboard in the marketplace. Having six propeller blades rather than three reduces the size and drag of the gearcase, provides a better grip on the water, eliminates steering torque, and improves reverse handling. Perhaps most important, it provides a ton of torque and brings large, heavy boats up on plane much faster than an outboard of equivalent power with a single propeller.

suzuki df350a outboard motor
The Suzuki DF350A broke new ground as the company’s largest outboard engine ever built. Photo by Lenny Rudow.

The DF350A also incorporates a number of features developed by Suzuki Marine specifically for their outboards. Among them is Lean Burn Control Technology, first developed for the DF70A/80A/90A in 2008. This system predicts fuel needs according to environmental operating conditions and can lean-out the fuel-air mix from the average ratio of 14.7:1 all the way to 19:1, significantly improving fuel economy. The system also creates a longer burn-time for the fuel in the cylinders through the downward stroke of the piston, delivering more power through the entire combustion stroke.

Another important feature found on the DF350A is Suzuki’s offset driveshaft design. This positions the powerhead farther forward, improving balance and reducing vibrations. The design also allows for a more compact two-stage gear reduction, producing a larger reduction ratio (2.29:1 in the case of the DF350A), boosting torque and improving acceleration.

The list of additional current technologies Suzuki equips its outboards with is nearly as impressive as the new tech Suzuki has developed on its own: multipoint sequential fuel injection, variable valve timing, long-track intake manifold, multistage induction, and fly-by-wire controls are all in the mix. Suzuki was also the first outboard manufacturer ever to develop Selective Rotation, allowing some models to spin in either direction and thus make it far easier for boat manufacturers to mount a pair of engines to be counter-rotating.

suzuki counter rotating outboards
Suzuki Marine’s Selective Rotation allows the motor to be programed to spin the props in either direction, for counter-rotating engine applications. Photo via Moriches Boat & Motor.

Small Outboards of Interest

While large powerplants grab the headlines, Suzuki has also made strides in the world of small outboards. In fact, this company is responsible for an advancement in portable models so impactful that it’s changed the way boaters expect portable outboards to start and run: battery-less EFI.

All longtime boaters will remember when ethanol was first introduced to the market, and what a disaster it was for outboards — and in fact, for all small carbureted engines. Suddenly, engines that had run smoothly for years began gumming up, became difficult or impossible to start, and had various rather epic fuel problems. At the time, virtually all small outboards were carbureted and suffered from these issues. Changing to an EFI fuel delivery system mitigated these problems to a large degree, since this eliminated the carburetor and their closed systems didn’t expose ethanol to the air.

Unfortunately, small pull-start outboards couldn’t switch to EFI because they didn’t have a battery and an ignition switch. The EFI system needs power prior to firing in order to charge up the computer control and the fuel pump. Suzuki developed a battery-less EFI system for very small outboards in the 9.9 to 30 hp range, which employs a magneto to charge up the necessary systems. A crankshaft rotation of 720 degrees provides all the necessary power, the EFI system kicks in, and most of the time the user enjoys single-tug starts.

suzuki with batteryless efi
Battery-less EFI systems found in much of Suzuki’s small motor line makes pull-starting their outboards easy and reliable – which makes boating better for the entire family. Photo by Lenny Rudow

Once running, these small outboards are amazingly quiet, smooth, and vibration-free. And many boaters who spent years wondering how many pulls of the chord it would take to start up their portable outboard — five? 10? 15? — now expect their engine to start up with a mere pull or two. They are rarely disappointed.

The Future of Suzuki Marine Outboards

What does the future hold for Suzuki Marine? We aren’t fortune tellers, but one thing is for sure: you can expect this company to continue introducing new tech that will change the world of outboards as we know it. This spring they announced developing a microplastics filtering device as part of their “Clean Oceans” initiative, which is currently in testing and may one day turn countless outboard engines into water-filtering devices that make our waterways cleaner every time they’re used.

There are also some recent and substantial corporate changes which took place in 2020, including a restructuring of Suzuki’s operations in the United States. Suzuki separated its motorcycle/ATV and Marine companies, and moved its Marine base of operations from Brea, CA, to Tampa, FL. The move to Florida was intended to improve collaboration and strengthen relationships with marine manufacturers, while also providing easy access to their Marine Technical Center which opened in 2020 in Panama City, FL.

So, what happens next at Suzuki Marine? Yaramaika.

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