I just picked up a Honda outboard. I mean I really picked it up, and carried it about 100 yards down to the beach and set it on a transom. The new Honda BF6 outboard, introduced to boating writers in late September at a north Georgia media event, is a real portable. It weighs just 60 pounds and delivers enough power to get you and a modest boat a fair distance.
These motors are usually depicted powering dinghies, but they also can successfully serve as a small-boat kicker engine. Motors in the 8-to-9.9-hp range weigh 85 to 100 pounds, and so are a lot more work to carry very far.
During the media event, Honda also announced some updates to its largest outboard models. The Intelligent Shift and Throttle (iST in Honda-speak) drive-by-wire system is now an option for the 3.4-liter BF200 and BF225 models. It has previously only been offered for the 3.5-liter BF250. Honda iST controls up to four engines from two control stations, with automatic engine synchronization and single-handle throttle control of all engines when synched. A single button can trim all engines together. A “slow” mode offers better throttle control for docking, and a troll-speed feature offers incremental rpm adjustment. The BF200/225 and BF250 are also available with cable controls.
The big V6 Honda models (BF200, BF225 and BF250) are now also available in white as an alternative to the traditional Honda silver-gold color.
Honda will offer its new portable outboard at three horsepower ratings: the 4-hp BF4, the 5-hp BF5, and the 6-hp BF6. Each utilizes a new single-cylinder, 127cc (7.75 cubic inch) powerhead with overhead exhaust and intake valves. This trio of portables is replacing a 5-hp BF5 model that’s been in the Honda line essentially unchanged for more than 20 years, and which also has a 127cc single-cylinder powerhead and weighs about 60 pounds. So where’s the progress?
Let’s start at that powerhead, which now features automatic decompression through a centrifugal mechanism that cracks open the exhaust valve each time the engine is shut down. This makes pulling the starter cord a two-finger proposition, requiring no more effort than a lawn mower. A good thing as there’s no electric start option.
The engine also features a new electronic control unit with low-oil-pressure protection that reduces engine rpm to 2300 and flashes a bright red LED on the front on the engine. This protects the engine from damage while offering “get home” thrust. When oil pressure is good, that light shines green. Finally, the stop button located on the front of the motor is now designed to kill the engine instantly. The previous design required the button to be held down until the engine actually quit running; if it was released too soon the motor would chug back to life.
An integral 1.5-liter (about 0.4 gallon) fuel tank is a key upgrade for these portable Honda outboards. The previous BF5 model required a remote tank – one more thing to carry and always in the way in a very small boat. Competing outboard models in this class have all had a built-in tank for years and it’s about time Honda added this feature. Honda says the BF4 will run at wide-open throttle for about 40 minutes on the integral tank. The BF5 and BF6 are equipped with an external fuel line fitting and can also operate from an optional 3.0-gallon remote tank kit ($166.86). A 6-amp charging system is a dealer-installed option (price not yet available) and a big upgrade from the 3-amp alternator offered for the previous BF5. Honda also offers three optional props for these motors.
Over the course of an afternoon spent at its tiller, starting the BF6 never required more than one pull on the cord as long as I remembered to position the throttle grip in the “start” position. The motor offers 90 degrees of steering angle and the throttle was smooth and linear. I was really impressed with the new motor mounts, which effectively isolate the inherent vibration of the single-cylinder powerhead from both the tiller handle and the boat.
Honda is offering this model at three horsepower ratings mostly to meet demand in different global markets. Under the cowl each is identical. Airflow is restricted on the BF4 and BF5 to limit power. Pricing ranges from $1,875 for the BF4 to $2,150 for the BF6. Each is covered by a five-year non-declining factory warranty. These new portable outboards will reach Honda dealers before the end of 2016.