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Author Topic:   OTNG--OptiMax The Next Generation
jimh posted 03-25-2006 01:44 PM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
Mercury has announced new motors which they call OptiMax The Next Generation (OTNG). These motors will replace all of the current OptiMax motors in production. There has not been much publicity about these motors; perhaps a closer look is needed. Here is what has been announced so far.


The OTNG motors based on the 3.0-liter block will have the most changes. Mercury describes these changes as "dramatic."

The noise signature of the engine is prominently mentioned. According to Mercury, the noise level has been reduced by "up to 6-dB." While 6-dB is a noticeable change in sound level, I would not characterize it as a dramatic difference. If attending a live performance of a symphony orchestra and seated in row-C, if you change your seat to one in row-M you would probably experience a 6-dB decrease in the sound of the orchestra. This is how much quieter the OTNG will be.

The OTNG will use the gear case from the Verado motor, replacing the current Fleetmaster gear case. Mercury says this will improve the performance in rough seas, reduce blow out, and provide more robust mechanical components. I hope it does not add to the weight.

The OTNG will have new cowlings. (The 2.5-liter engine will also have new cowlings.) The cowling will feature an "innovative" air intake with "aggressive" styling. The SUZUKI 140-HP cowling comes to mind.

Other Model Changes

By the logic of exclusion, it appears the 135, 150 and 175-HP OTNG motors will differ only by their new cowlings from their current motors, and the rest of the OTNG will be the same as current Optimax, with these exceptions:

All the OTNG models will have new graphics, called the OptiMax Globe. The current generation of Mercury OptiMax motors have a very minimalist graphics treatment. It is very hard to tell what model motor you are looking at unless you can see the small legend on the front of the current motors. There the engine modestly declares "OptiMax" or "FourStroke." New graphics could be an improvement. On the other hand, some boaters would prefer that their outboard motor not be a floating billboard for the manufacturer. I have even seen new motor cowlings completely repainted to blend the motors into the boat hull color. On aesthetics, there will always be a divergence of opinion. I am looking for a good example of the OptiMax Globe graphic so we can take a closer look.

The OptiMax The Next Generation motors will also have "next generation" propulsion control modules (PCM). If you think about that for a minute, it makes sense. No specifics have been given about the difference between the new PCM and the old. Most likely there will be an increase in the microprocessor speed and memory capacity, as has been endemic in the microprocessor industry for decades.

OTNG motors will have expanded SmartCraft instrumentation. Specifically, the operator will be provided with extended text messages. This will be a welcome change to the more cryptic alerts currently provided, such as CHECK PITOT.

OTNG motors will not differ from the present models in terms of Digital Throttle and Shift (DTS). DTS will continue to be offered only on the OTNG 200- and 225-HP models. I think offering DTS on the 150-HP models would make sense. Twin 150-HP engines are common on 24 to 26 foot boats, and the DTS offers a compelling feature with its auto-synchronization feature.

Mercury also promotes that OTNG motors will offer up to a 45-percent improvement in fuel economy over comparable traditional two-stroke motors. However, they note that the current models possess this same attribute. No change here, and this is reasonable. The thermal efficiency of an outboard motor has an upper bound dictated by the laws of physics and thermodynamics. It appears we are approaching that limit and there will not be significant improvements in fuel efficiency offered by the OTNG over existing motors.

The OTNG models will use the same engine blocks as current motors. These include the V6 3.0-liter block, its cut-in-half offspring the in-line three cylinder 1.5-liter block, and the 2.5-liter V6 60-degree block. The 3.0-liter block will also be used with a longer stroke to produce the 3.2-liter "Stroker" block for racing models.

Mercury says its "product development and engineering teams focused heavily on key customer attributes, such as durability, reliability, noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) and overall ease of operation." A reduction in weight or maintenance intervals is not mentioned.

Warren Buffet once observed that the measure of a product was how easy it was to increase its price. With OTNG positioned as the low-cost alternative to the Verado, price increases may be hard to make.

Please report any sightings of these new motors, new cowlings, and new graphics.

sosmerc posted 03-25-2006 09:11 PM ET (US)     Profile for sosmerc  Send Email to sosmerc     
It's too bad the gearcase change is limited to the 3.0 litre models. The 2.5 litre Optimax models still used the old, stiff, P/N-89984 impeller and believe me, you need to change it EVERY year to retain peak performance and peace of mind. I am very surprised that Merc hasn't re-engineered the complete water pump assembly on the 2.5 V6 engines. The 3.0 litre engines, all Verado, and small 3 cylinder Opitmax models use a soft, floppy vane impeller that is almost indestructable and worry free. Maybe the "Gen III" engines will get it!
jimh posted 03-26-2006 11:03 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Thanks for tip about the older water pump impeller used in the V6 2.5-liter block. I think many will find that information interesting.

As for the new gear case and lower unit design coming to the 3.0-liter OTNG engines, my thinking is that Mercury has improved the design and wants to standardize on the newer product. These big outboard engines are creating problems in the lower unit along two lines: torque and heat.

A big engine can produce a lot of torque, and the new gear case is reportedly designed with this in mind. Mercury said the have beefed up the gears to handle more power. As they are up to 300-HP now (in the Mercury Racing Division engine which they will sell with a limited warranty to recreational buyers) they need a strong gear case.

Exhaust heat is also a problem. When running wide open a 300-HP motor produces a lot of heat, and all of that has to pass through the propeller hub. Because Mercury uses a plastic insert in all of their FLO-TORQ propellers, they have to be careful that the plastic is not melted by the exhaust heat. I expect that the new lower unit design includes some improvements to the exhaust passages so that the temperature of the exhaust can be managed better.

Because these problems are most critical on the larger motors, the new design was probably moved to the 3.0-liter OTNG motors as a priority.

On the 135, 150, and 175-HP in-line four-cylinder Verado motor Mercury has a new lower unit design, too. But the existing gear case on the OptiMax may be fine in that horsepower range. Moving the OTNG motors to the small Verado gear case may be expensive. Perhaps that will come down the line.

The OptiMax seem to be in a renaissance, and the central focus of that is the J. D. Power award. Senior management at Mercury probably passed out some cigars and bonuses when that prize was landed. Since the inception of the J. D. Power marine engine awards, Mercury had been completely shut out. They had been forced to watch every year as Yamaha, Honda, and Evinrude accepted awards. That the OptiMax would bring them their first victory in this very high-profile customer satisfaction survey must have made them very happy.

Mercury says that the OTNG motors will arrive in late Summer of 2006.

sosmerc posted 03-26-2006 01:05 PM ET (US)     Profile for sosmerc  Send Email to sosmerc     
The most significant change that the new Verado gearcase employs is "tighter shimming". By this, I mean that the amount of back and forth and up and down travel of the shafts is shimmed to the point that there is very little slop or movement. Like the high performance lower units, they have two tapered bearings under the water pump to absorb up and down movement of the driveshaft. There is now a tapered bearing at the prop end of the bearing carrier and this is shimmed to greatly reduce back and forth propshaft movement. This reduces wear on the gears, especially when the gearcase suddenly "loads and unloads" due to surfacing out of a wave or swell. It is my understanding that the gears on the new 3.0 litre and Verado lower units are beefier as well to handle the increased torque of the new engines.
PMUCCIOLO posted 03-26-2006 02:29 PM ET (US)     Profile for PMUCCIOLO  Send Email to PMUCCIOLO     
Mercury's releasing OptiMax The Next Generation provides buyers of outboard motors with something they've deserved--a refined product which incorporates the latest technology. Mercury did not rest on its laurels, and I hope that other manufacturers will follow suit.

[Changed topic to disucss personal brand preferences and debates on that topic.]

Yamaha's HPDI seemed to be doing well (in the 2.6L versions); then the 250HP and 300HP "big blocks" were released. The HPDI acronym became synonymous with a four-letter word for many owners of larger engines. Unfortunately, this negative sentiment tainted the smaller, reliable HPDI's as evidenced by their declining relative value on the resale market. Whether or not the larger HDPI engines have been "fixed" remain the subject of conflicting reports. It looks as if Yamaha is phasing two-stroke offerings out of its line-up each year. That doesn't bode well for the HPDI owner.

Four stroke engines from (in alphabetical order) Honda, Mercury, Suzuki, and Yamaha all seem to have provided relatively trouble-free service for their owners, but at a price--increased weight and slower acceleration. The quite, fuel efficient, and low emission four stroke engines on today's market have exceeded what most consumers expected with respect to their durability in the marine environment. Four stroke engines have taken such a hold that many manufacturers advertise "Designed for today's modern four stroke engines" or something of the sort. No, many four-stroke engines are not ideal choices to re-power classic Boston Whaler boats. However, if manufacturers of four stroke outboards continue to refine their products (as Mercury has done with the OTNG) by decreasing weight and improving performance, classic Boston Whaler owners are sure to benefit.

I'm glad to see that Mercury has continued to dedicate research, development, and testing to a two-cycle product which has been recognized by J.D. Power as best-in-class. When complacency results from such accolades, the consumer suffers. Let's hope that the other outboard manufacturers will follow Mercury's lead in this case. All of the participants here, regardless of brand loyalty, are sure to benefit from the spirit of competition.

For the development of Optimax The Next Generation, my hat goes off to Mercury Marine.

jimh posted 03-26-2006 05:51 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Was Mercury Marine pleased that they won their first J. D. Power Customer Satisfaction award?

I'd say so. They set up a separate website to brag about it! See: [Now a dead link.]

If you have not visited, follow the link above to learn more about the J. D. Power findings.

hauptjm posted 03-27-2006 03:49 PM ET (US)     Profile for hauptjm    
As has been stated here and many other places, four-strokes ARE the future. Mercury spends somewhere around $100 million to develop what probably is the most sophisticated outboard ever made. I've actually spent and entire day fishing with a 250-HP Verado with fly-by-wire controls. Very Impressive!

But it seems there is a turnaround in the thought process by none other than the maker of Verado and the largest manufacturer of outboard motors. The "death knell" of two-stroke engines may have been a little premature to say the least.

Since, the only thing to happen in the marketplace from a developmental aspect in the last five years was the introduction of the Verado (four-stroke technology) and the E-TEC (two-stroke technology), I can only conclude that the E-TEC had some form of persuasion over Mercury to re-think their sole direction in the Verado market.

Personally, I think the two can survive side-by-side. It does give the consumer several options from which to choose. From cost, to complexity, to performance, the consumer may at this time in history have more on the menu than ever before.

jimh posted 04-15-2006 08:29 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
It has been two months since the introduction of the OptiMax The Next Generation (OTNG) motor. I have not seen any additional information on these new motors. If there are other resources available which provide more information on these OTNG motors, please bring it to our attention.
sosmerc posted 04-15-2006 12:13 PM ET (US)     Profile for sosmerc  Send Email to sosmerc     
I would think the smart thing for Merc to do would be to introduce the "next generation" Optimax models when they start their 2007 run. How would you feel if you just purchased a current 2006 model and then found out there was an "improved" model on its way available anytime?
I have just sold 3 new Optimax engines, all 2006 models and I did not mention anything to anyone about upcoming improvements because I wanted the sales to go through now...with the benefit of the free extra warranty promotion that ends April 15.
I completed the 150 Optimax installation yesterday, and I must say, that engine ran flawlessly from the very first turn of the key. The SmartCraft Monitor (version 3.04) oriented itself quickly and worked properly without the usual initial fiddling. I do wish Merc would supply an operators manual along with the guage...I generally end up buying one for my customers at $20 a whack.
I hope my other 150 installation and 115 installation go as smoothly. I look forward to doing alot more Optimax re-powers.
TRAFFICLAWYER posted 04-15-2006 12:56 PM ET (US)     Profile for TRAFFICLAWYER    
This seems to me sort of like a rebirth of the dinosaur.
jimh posted 04-15-2006 02:04 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I thought it was very odd that Mercury would announce a new replacement product for their OptiMax just as it was winning the first ever J. D. Power Customer Satisfaction award for them. Spring is probably one of the better sales periods, and why send such a mixed message to customers? The announcement of a new model coming in a few months would seem to have the effect of causing many potential customers to hold off buying until the fall.
jimh posted 08-18-2006 12:45 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
It looks like Mercury has changed the name of their new motors from OptiMax The Next Generation (OTNG) to Generation 2 OptiMax (G2 OptiMax).

This announcement was included in some pre-show publicity for a boat show in Australia last month:

"New from Mercury in 2006 are the latest in low emission two-strokes - Generation 2 OptiMax engines -The upgrades to the OptiMax lineup make what many call these best DFI engine ever built! These enhancements vary by model but include such things as improved sound level and quality and new styling, plus a new gearcase on the 3.0 liter family members.There are a dozen OptiMax models ranging from 75 to 300 horsepower, so there is an OptiMax engine built to fit any application from a mid-size aluminum boat or pontoon to the biggest tournament offshore fishing boat."

Still no word on the new OptiMax "globe" logotype, and no pictures.

Even though Mercury announced these OTNG or G2 motors in February, there has been no appearance of them so far. Yet, without any prior hint, Mercury brought out several new "Pro" OptiMax motors about two months ago. In contrast to the goal of improved sound level (which I think everyone interpreted to mean lower sound level) in the OTNG or G2 motors, these new "Pro" motors seemed to be tuned to be louder than ever so as to impart a race-motor type sound quality.

Again, I am always on the lookout for images or information on these new motors.

BlackMax posted 08-18-2006 02:09 AM ET (US)     Profile for BlackMax    
The new '07 G2 Opti's, with globe graphics, have been coming out of Fond du Lac for about a month now. First production usually heads to the southern loose markets and volume builders and Brnswick affiliates, especially FL. The ignition harness now includes built-in Smartcraft wiring to the helm. [Make an incorrect comparison of Smartcraft wiring topology compared to NMEA-2000 wiring topology. The two are actually extremely similar because they both use the CANBus standard for their network wiring. --jimh]
sosmerc posted 08-18-2006 11:51 AM ET (US)     Profile for sosmerc  Send Email to sosmerc     
There is no such thing as an "07" Mercury! :)
(remember, no more model years?)
But anyway, I can't wait to "hear" the Gen 2 Opti's!!
jimh posted 10-21-2006 10:27 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The comparison of the wiring topology of SmartCraft as compared to the NMEA standard is a topic which is more properly discussed in SMALL BOAT ELECTRICAL. You will find several good discussions of this topic there.

As for model-year designators, Mercury has now joined with its Japanese rivals Yamaha and Honda in suspending the use of model year designators. Bombardier and Suzuki continue the long-standing tradition of offering their products with model-year designators.

I note that the globe logotype has appeared on the website:

[Dead Link]

The new cowling styling is strongly reminiscent of the Suzuki 140.

Mambo Minnow posted 10-21-2006 01:48 PM ET (US)     Profile for Mambo Minnow  Send Email to Mambo Minnow     
I will keep a look out among the local FL bass boat crowd here and send pix when I spot one.
sosmerc posted 10-21-2006 07:01 PM ET (US)     Profile for sosmerc  Send Email to sosmerc     
I just completed rigging a new 175 Optimax. As for "next generation"...all I can say is that there isn't much different on the 2.5 litre. It has the new cowling graphics, but that is about it. Even my DDT tool worked fine with this engine. (I was told the DDT would not work on 2007 and newer product).
As for sound...I did not detect ANY difference from this motor than a similar 2006 model I rigged earlier this year.
I believe most of the significant changes are limited to the 3.0 litre models.
I'm a bit disappointed as I was considering upgrading my 98 Ventura from the current 98 135 Optimax to one of the "Next Generation" 2.5 litre I don't see the point.
I was really hoping to see a big difference in several areas....the 2.5 Optimax is difficult to rig because there is very limited space under the cowling.....just hooking up the control cables is a B_____h! Well anyway, it was a tough job repower this particular boat, but at least the engine ran nicely.
Maybe next year Merc will devote some needed attention to the 2.5 litre model Optimax motors.
prm1177 posted 10-24-2006 12:54 PM ET (US)     Profile for prm1177  Send Email to prm1177     

Did you notice if it was any quieter than earlier models? Mercury had promised improvements in the noise signature.

LHG posted 10-24-2006 03:49 PM ET (US)     Profile for LHG    
Included in the new 2nd generation offerings, besides the 300 XS Optimax introduced in Miami, is a brand new 250 Pro XS Optimax, with regular 3 year warranty and manufactured on the regular production line. Supposedly it is even more powerful than the Performance Division 250 XS which Whaler offered on the 320 Outrage (see Cetacea Page 78), and which engine cleaned up in the B&WB 250 shootout. These new 250's and 300's should make great single engine re-power opportunities for the 22WD and 25 classic Whalers. They have best HP output and fuel economy of any brand, including the 4-strokes, and weigh 40Lb less than the 3.3 liter Evinrudes or Yamahas. A pair of the 300's would be incredible power on a classic 27 Whaler
sosmerc posted 11-03-2006 01:15 PM ET (US)     Profile for sosmerc  Send Email to sosmerc     
PRM1177.....I did not notice ANY difference in sound quality of the latest 175 Optimax. Even though this engine had the latest cowling graphics, I question whether it really was a "gen II" model. OR...maybe all the cool changes are reserved for "gen II" 3.0 litre models?
I haven't as yet been able to get the straight scoop from anyone I trust on the real Next Generation Optimax engines.
jimh posted 11-03-2006 02:29 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Mercury did not promise much change at all in the 2.5-liter OptiMax motors. It may be hard for them to re-work the cowling for better sound insulation because of the mechanical devices hanging on the basic motor. An OptiMax engine has:

--separate belt driven alterntor and bracket;

--separate belt driven air boost pump;

--the pulleys, tensioner, and idler associated with the belt;

--dual injectors for each cylinder, one an air injector and one a fuel injector;

--substantial fuel rails which carry the pressurized fuel to the injectors.

All this mechanical complexity takes up room under the cowling, and it may not leave enough space for noise reduction components. Noise reduction is often accomplished by two techniques. Acoustically absorbent material is added under the cowling to prevent sound from escaping. Air intakes are often ducted through long passages which are designed to reduce sound and also to shed water. Both these devices take room, and in the case of the OptiMax, as experienced Mercury mechanic sosmerc reported above, there is not much extra space available under the cowling.

The cowling of a VERADO fits rather loosely around the motor, and in transparent views of it you can see there is a lot of air space contained under the cowling.

Other direct-injection two-stroke motors have a more compact power head design as a result of using:

--integrated flywheel alternator; by the way, this is the latest rage in automotive powertrain design. The more efficient flywheel/alternator combination is being added to new vehicle designs;

--no need for external air pump;

--no belt, pulley, idler, and tensioner to drive the alternator and air pump.

--lower pressure fuel rails which are carried in simple rubber hoses instead of more substantial metal fuel distribution manifolds.

The lack of these bulky mechanical components under the cowling frees up space for acoustical treatmeants to reduce the sound escaping from the motor.

sosmerc posted 11-03-2006 04:05 PM ET (US)     Profile for sosmerc  Send Email to sosmerc     
It's not like Merc "can't" deal with it.....the 3.0 litre Optimax has the same amount of components bolted to the block, and the 3.0 litre cowl provides better clearance and access to stuff.....though I would like to see it be improved further.
The 3 cylinder Optimax family is just about perfect. Now let's fix the 2.5 issues.
LHG posted 11-04-2006 03:31 PM ET (US)     Profile for LHG    
With the improvements to the 3.0/3.2 liter Optis, 200-300HP, they squarely are at the top now. Nobody can match them for performance, fuel economy and HP at the prop, and now they will be the quietest running also, with the best gearcases, built in engine monitoring (Smartcraft), DTS availability, etc. This engine should have a long future ahead of it as a "must have" in bass, high performance pleasure (inshore and offshore), and racing, except in CA, since not all of them are 3-star. Maybe nobody else cares about that, however.

I'm not sure about the long term future of the other Optimax engines. Even now with 150 HP, there are only 2 DFI outboards left on the market, competing with 4 brand new design 150HP 4-strokes. Clearly, the 150 market is heading 4-stroke and toward single installations too.

The only "issue" that the 2.5 liter block engines have is the high RPM sound of the air compressor. In regular 2 stroke configuration, the 2.5 blocks (especially the EFI's) are extremely quiet running, almost Verado-like. It's ironic that the device that gives them best in their class fuel economy also makes the running sound. It seems the major upgrade to the 2.5's this year is the integration of the Smartcraft wiring into the single ignition harness. If these 2.5's are to survive, perhaps their Gen-2 status will happen with a 3-star upgrade (150 & 175), and new silencing at that time, or a more quiet air compressor design.

It could be that these smaller DFI's, now only made by Mercury and Evinrude, are in limbo at Mercury, waiting to see if Evinrude survives as a competitor. Some have ventured that the only reason these smaller Opti's are still made is because of the 2.6 liter E-tec introduction (which hasn't gone very well with it's long delays and technical problems). Absent E-tec, Mercury could pull the plug on the 2-stroke 150's (and related 135/175's) like Yamaha did.

Peter posted 11-04-2006 08:46 PM ET (US)     Profile for Peter  Send Email to Peter     
Even if the E-TEC wasn't around to scare the BlackMax out of the most avid Mercury aficionados and Yamaha actually discontinued the HPDIs, which it has not (VMax HPDI line up currently advertised includes 150, 175, 200, 225, 250 & 300), Mercury would still need to sell OTNG2 3-Star Optimax to not only support sales of the emissions downgraded Verado in California but to serve markets that the Verado simply can't serve well due to weight and cost, among other things.
jimh posted 09-24-2011 11:02 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Although Mercury has never publicly announced any of the following changes, some avid Mercury enthusiasts have catalogued the following changes made in the 2.5-liter OptiMax The Next Generation (OTNG) engines as being in addition to the announced changes mentioned above:

--the number of pins in an electrical connector was changed to 14 from 8

--the electrical connector for the CAN harness was eliminated

--the fasteners on the exhaust tuner were changed to studs

--some unspecified element of either the fuel injectors or the air injectors was changed

--some unspecified portion of the engine block casting referred to as "the bosses" was changed

jimh posted 09-24-2011 11:09 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
In addition to the above, it has been speculated by at least one person that the number of improvements made in the Mecury OptiMax The Next Generation outboard engines compared to the original Mercury OptiMax outboard engines were so numerous that they could not be mentioned. It was never precisely identified why the improvements could not be mentioned in the cited reference, but the inference was that the magnitude of the number of the improvements was so large that it must have exceeded the capacity of the publisher to provide space for them to be listed.

This same reviewer also speculated that the improvements, which he had not yet himself had seen, would be very likely to make a favorable impression on him. These speculations were made in c.2005 in an unsigned article carried on a Mercury dealer's website.

This same article did specifically identify one change in the 2.5-liter OptiMax The Next Generation: it said the cowling ornamentation was improved and more aesthetically pleasing than the previous design.

Cf.: (the original source but now a dead URL)

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