350hp Honda BF350 outboard engine 2023 First Ride Review
Big News! The Honda BF350 wins the coveted Boating Magazine Marine Propulsion Innovation Award!
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Honda has entered the high-horsepower game, revealing an all-new engine, the 5.0-litre V8-powered BF350.
Honda’s BF350 was launched in the US in September featuring an all-new 5.0-litre V8 engine, the Japanese car, motorcycle and marine specialist’s first-ever production bent eight.
The new engine has elevated Honda into the high-output engine market and a stratosphere in which it has never played before – prior to this, the outboard engine range maxed out at 250hp via a bored-out 3.5-litre V6 based on an engine powering cars such as the US version of the Honda Odyssey.
The new V8 engine – the first in Honda’s history – was about eight years in development, with what we see today drawing on Honda’s extensive road-going technology to produce more power and save fuel out on the water.
The engine looks good on paper, but how does it stack up out on the water? We caught up with the new 350hp engine at its debut at the 2023 IBEX Convention, the annual product showcase for North American boatbuilders and the aftermarket industry, in Tampa, Florida.
Honda had four design specifications for the new BF350 over its eight-year development program; it had to be comfortable, easy to use, give owners peace of mind and have a degree of elegance around how it looked.
The twin-cam BF350, code-named ZVP internally, is built at the company’s Hamamatsu manufacturing plant in Japan alongside the brand’s four-cylinder and V6 outboard engines, although it runs down a separate line.
The BF350 is a ground-up design, featuring a narrow 60-degree bend that allows the block to package more tightly on the back of a boat. The BF350 gets away with the tighter bend by giving each cylinder its own journal on the crankshaft that uses the same high-strength mix of metals as the one cast for the Honda NSX supercar; if the block used a traditional 90-degree bend each pair of pistons would share a common journal.
The new V8 shares much in common with Honda’s 3.6-litre V6 engine, which provided the BF350 program with the cylinder heads it now wears. The BF350 engine is the same bore as the V6, but uses a longer stroke.
The VTEC system, which provides a performance boost as revs rise past 4800rpm on Honda’s engines from 60hp up, uses a sliding rod actuated by hydraulic pressure to lock the valves open longer.
The alternator sits high on the engine, making it easy to replace. Thought has also gone into placing the fuses and fuel-water separator at the front of the engine so they are easily accessible from inside the boat.
The oil filter, too, has come in for a redesign. It now has a collar to catch any oil that should spill when the filter is being replaced, as well as a stent that drains residual oil from the filter – just loosen it off and wait a minute or two before removing it.
The BF350’s engine cowling is the same weight as the one used on the BF250, and includes two removable side panels that suggest Honda may one day allow owners to add a customised colour insert.
It’s easier to remove, featuring two latches and striker guides that help make the job of putting the cowling back on easier.
The BF350’s lower unit is the largest made at Honda. It uses the same 1.79:1 gear ratio as the BF250, but features two lower pick-ups to ensure a constant supply of water to the engine while it operates.
The engine now uses 24 button anodes in its cooling system to help protect it against corrosion, while more bonding wires aim to minimise electrolysis.
When it comes to mounting the BF350, it uses 28.5-inch (724mm) centres compared with 26-inch (660mm) for the BF250 V6.
Price and equipment
The new Honda BF350 is due to arrive in Australia in the second quarter of next year. Honda does not discriminate between the US and its international markets, so the engine will launch here about the same time it officially goes on sale in North America.
The launch date is still a long way off, so Australian pricing has not yet been looked in. But as a guide for those who like to gaze into their crystal balls the BF350 will hit the North American market with a list price in the mid-$US30,000 ($A55,000) range.
Honda has put a lot of effort into ensuring the BF350 is more user-friendly.
The trim-tilt unit has improved to make it faster to operate in colder weather – not so much of an issue in Australia – while the trim system gains a fast up-down feature that allows the user to double-tap the trim button to extend the engine fully up or down.
The engine can be set at a maximum tilt angle so that it will stop before hitting the transom or baitboard.
The engine can supply up to 70 amps of recharging power at idle, although a new Amp+ feature will bump that to around 93 amps. It works by increasing the idle revs by 100rpm, and was a request from the US Coast Guard, a longtime Honda customer.
The Honda BF350 also introduces a new fly-by-wire iST (Intelligent Shift and Throttle) controller that adds another feature unique to the BF350 – cruise control.
Basically, Honda’s trolling mode for the BF350 has expanded so that the engine can be set at any speed from 1000rpm to its 6000rpm redline. Owners can set this up so that the cruise control will hold a speed over ground, or revs.
Also launching alongside the new engine is Honda’s new HD-5 engine display. You don’t need to use it, but it will be handy for customising some of the engine’s features such as the trim limits and engine fault notifications.
Honda is the only volume outboard engine maker to output engine data in NMEA 2000 standards; you don’t need to buy an expensive gateway to convert proprietary engine data into a format that your multifunction chartplotter can read. That alone saves Honda BF350 owners around $1000 in installation costs.
The new BF350 is rated to use regular unleaded fuel. The 5.0-litre V8 Honda BF350 weighs from 347kg in its lightest configuration. That compares with 330kg for the 4.4-litre V6 Suzuki DF350 duo-prop outboard engine and 316kg for the 5.7-litre V10 Mercury Verado 350.
A three-blade prop is optional for this engine.
Power and performance
We didn’t get a chance to drive the new Honda BF350. Instead, we were able to jump aboard to experience the four engines that were part of active on-water demonstrations at the 2023 IBEX boat industry trade convention in Tampa, Florida.
First the Sea Born FX25. It’s a pretty lightweight boat, tipping the scales at just shy of 1200kg, and is rated up to 400hp – a lot of mojo for a boat of this size.
We couldn’t get fuel figures for this boat, but we did get a feel for how the engine performs.
There’s little theatre when the BF350’s ignition key is turned. There’s only a slight blip of the throttle on start-up, and the engine idles so quietly you can’t pick that it’s a V8, or even a V6 for that matter.
The test starts with a long run at idle up the Seddon Channel that leads out into the Hillsborough Bay. The BF350 does its job without fuss, running smoothly and quietly until we reach the end of the speed restriction zone and it’s time to roll on some throttle.
It’s here where the Honda BF350 shows its linear power curve. At low speeds, Honda’s BLAST system electronically advances the ignition timing to produce more power. At higher engine speeds above 4300rpm, Honda’s VTEC (Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control) kicks in to help the engine breathe more freely – more air mixed with the fuel means more power.
The best test for this is a hole shot. Roll on the throttle and the BF350 is surprisingly good at building power smoothly.
Also showing its ability is the BF350’s mid-range response. From 3200 rpm the boat responds immediately to the throttle, with the speed increasing linearly.
The boat we’re more interested in is the Sea Vee, fitted with the 5.0-inch HD-5 display optimised for the twin BF350 engines that power it.
Both engines display comfortably on the HD-5 with both a visual and numerical indication of revs. When the engine switches into its lean burn mode at cruising speed, the sweeping revs indicator changes from red to green to give a visual indication that the BF350 is right in its sweet spot for fuel economy.
At 4700rpm, right in the VTEC sweet spot, the Sea Vee is cruising along at 44.7mph, just less than 39 knots, and benchmarking around 13.0 gallons an hour (around 50.0 litres an hour) per engine. Laying down the throttles, the engine is revving out to a 6200rpm redline for a top speed of more than 63mph, or around 55 knots.
Switching on cruise control, the engines work in sequence as you pitch the Sea Vee into a turn, with the inner engine dropping its revs slightly to help carve the corner. The cruise control system on our test boat is set to hold revs rather than speed, so the outer engine sticks to 4700rpm.
Notably, Honda’s aim of building a quiet BF350 has provided dividends. At speed, there is significantly more wind noise than engine noise, with the engines sounding more like V6s than big-bore V8s.
There’s no option to turn up the noise for those boaters who occasionally would like the world to know it’s a V8 hanging off the transom.
This early taste of the 350hp Honda BF350 hints that those attributes that have made these engines great in the past are being carried through into the future.
The early signs are that the BF350 will be a strong, fuel-efficient outboard engine that will tick all the boxes that Honda outboard engine owners have come to appreciate.
Are we sad that it doesn’t sound like a V8? Not really, as while a throaty soundtrack might fluff the owner’s ego, for everyone else on the boat the muted tones will be welcomed.
The second quarter of next year can’t roll around fast enough. Available for purchase April 2024.
Get yours today! Top Notch Marine 888 278-1991 www.topnotchmarine.com
Model: Honda BF350
Engine type: Four-stroke single overhead cam, 32-valve
Cylinders: 60 deg V8
Fuel management: EFI
Weight: 347kg (lightest model, no propeller)
Bore x stroke: 89mm x 99.5mm
Maximum output: 350hp @ 5500rpm
Operating range: 5000rpm – 6000rpm
Shaft length: 635mm (25-inch), 762mm (30-inch)
Alternator: 12V/70A (idle), 12V/93A (700rpm)
Trim method: Power trim/tilt
Gear ratio: 1.79:1
Recommended fuel: Unleaded
Oil capacity: N/A
Servicing: Annually (or every 100 hours after first service)*
Emissions rating: CARB 3-star/OEDA 3-star
Warranty: 5 years (when serviced at a Honda dealer)*
Top Notch marine is a Honda Premier Dealer with a location in Melbourne Florida. 888 278-1991 email@example.com www.topnotchmarine.com
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