Outboard Review: The Little Engines That Could
When it comes to smallish outboards, utility, not speed, wins out in the campaign to hitch to the transom of a canoe or walleye boat and then push a heavy load. These models have user-friendly features and improved ergonomics.
Features: Yamaha’s 8-hp auxiliary motors are marvels in ergonomics. The electric tilt and trim is built into the tiller handle along with forward-and-reverse gear. Smart features include tensioning on the tiller elbow, which holds it in place where you tilt it, and a bracket in the steering mechanism that will keep the boat on track even if you take your hand off the tiller. A sensitive throttle control lets you goose or decrease the speed at a slow idle.
Hits: The tiller, shifter, and speed control are all in close proximity.
Misses: In very rough seas, the tensioning that should keep the T8 pointed forward when the big motor is under power is not strong enough to stop it from flopping to one side or the other.
Weight: 116 lb.
Suzuki DF2.5, DF4, DF6
Features: Portability is plausible with the new DF2.5; its weight rivals that of a full tackle box. Pull this little 2.5-hp four-stroke out of a car trunk and let it push a canoe or johnboat into places where paddles or oars can’t cut it. The water-cooled DF2.5, like the 4- and 6-hp models, uses a 1.5-liter fuel tank enclosed under the hood. The DF4 and DF6 add a remote fuel connector for use with an external tank. Each has a tiller handle for steering, and a grip for transport. And unlike other little outboards, these go in forward, neutral, and reverse.
Hits: Thirty pounds is less than half the weight of a battery for an electric trolling motor.
Misses: At full throttle, the DF2.5 burns through its internal gas supply in 45 minutes.
Weight: 30¿¿¿57 lb.
Mercury 9.9 & 15 BigFoot
Features: These small but sturdy four-stroke outboards are built in 9.9- and 15-hp models with the gear case of a 25 for greater durability along with a reduced gear ratio (2.42:1 instead of a standard 2:1) for better cornering. BigFoots have electric start with manual backup, and an aftermarket Mercury lift kit will tilt and trim the motors in shallow water-or stow and deploy them entirely. Best of all, the power in this package reminds me of a truck with low gear for hauling loads.
Hits: BigFoots have the torque to provide a burst of speed to steer away from hazards.
Misses: The slightest turn of the throttle moves the boat up to .5 mph faster instead of increasing the speed incrementally.
Weight: 96¿¿¿128 lb.