Haines Signature 542F and Suzuki DF 115 Review

Suzuki DF115 Review 

 Issue: March 2003

Manufacturer: Haines Suzuki

For this edition of Modern Boating we have tested two old friends, (or at least up-to-date versions of them,) powered by a contemporary motor. In each case our focus was more on the motor and how it relates to the hull, rather than the performance of the hull itself.

You'll find the other test the Haines Hunter 580 Classic powered by a MerCruiser diesel sterndrive elsewhere in these pages. Here we look at a Signature 542F powered by a Suzuki 115hp four-stroke outboard.

Signature's classic 542F hull is an old Aussie favourite that's been around long enough to be considered a tried and true, proven performer. She's based on the Haines Signature 540F hull, which comprehensively proved its sea keeping abilities during Hans Tholstrup's solo journey from Australia to Japan a few years back. The trip gave this Haines Signature hull an undeniable pedigree. It's a great yarn, but it's only part of the story.

Long-term readers may have noticed that now in many writes ups and Haines Signature advertising material, the Haines family name has been toned down, leaving the brand name Signature prominent with Crafted by the Haines Family Company prominent in fine print beneath it.

To many of us, those who have been around the industry longer than we care to admit there's a tinge of sadness in this because the Haines family have been involved in the Australian marine industry for more than 40 years. They're an integral part of a heritage we're so proud of.

But it makes more sense when you realise that the Haines Family Company recently became the Australian and New Zealand distributor for Suzuki outboards and the Kiwi built 40 foot Signature power catamaran, which is another reason why this family company is now known as the Haines Group.

Suzuki outboards were absent from the Australian boating scene for a few years until the Haines Group recently brought them back and they are now available again. The Haines family are currently putting together a suitable dealer network, so it shouldn't be long before Suzuki again takes its rightful place among the other popular brands available here.

If Suzuki has been missing from Australia, and perhaps had been relegated to some kind of minor status here, because of the previous distribution and service arrangements, this has never been the case worldwide. Suzuki, from small beginnings more than 90 years ago has become one of the largest engine manufacturers in the world.

It began producing two-stroke outboard engines in 1965, but it was its increasing prominence in four-stroke motor technology that has seen it regain a position of importance.

Suzuki outboards may have fallen to a position of obscurity in this part of world, but all that's about to change. In some states in the US, Suzuki's market share has increased from a little more than three per cent to over 30 per cent.

In May 2002, according to ICOMIA export figures Suzuki took the lead in the European 115-140hp outboard motor market. They achieved 29.4 per cent of total outboard sales (two and four-stroke) and 39 per cent of all four-stroke sales.

In Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal and now Spain, Suzuki is the top selling outboard brand. Their motors are innovative and state-of-the-art and their sales results reflect this.

Another point some Aussie boaties may not be aware of is that that beaut 70hp four-stroke Evinrude motor, which unfortunately disappeared into obscurity with the demise of the former OMC, was built by Suzuki if you dig deep enough it's fascinating to find out who actually does build the four-stroke motors marketed under certain big name brands. Not that there is anything wrong with this, because, the arrangement is bringing us some truly excellent motors.

The 70hp Evinrude four-stroke was perhaps the first four banger to challenge older type two stroke engines head-to-head in the power stakes. It was quite a favourite of the Modern Boating team and we're delighted it's available again under Suzuki's own badge and in the new range of Bombardier Evinrudes. So, with the background history out of the way let's look at the new Suzuki 115hp four-stroke outboard.

The Suzuki DF 115 is a 1950cc, four-cylinder, 16-valve double overhead cam, multi-point sequentially fuel injected motor. Like others of its type it has a computer controlled engine management system, plus a whopping 40amp alternator. This makes it an excellent choice for boaters that continually run a host of electrics on our boats.

This being the first of the latest generation of Suzuki outboards brought into this country under the Haines family banner we've tested, the Modern Boating team's interest in how well it performed, was keener than normally is. And we were far from disappointed.

Out on the water the DF115 built on the already favourable impressions left by the 70 Suzuki/Evinrude with its notably quiet operation and smooth, gutsy power delivery. Our test session was conducted on a day when even Steptoe was happy to be out boat testing. And not once did I complain that I'd rather have been fishing.

A nasty 25 knot nor – nor – wester screamed down the Broadwater pushing a big run out tide (thankfully) going in the same direction. Because of their combined influence on our performance figures we had to run two sets, one up current/wind and the other down. And there was a difference of more than 4 knots in the top speeds we recorded and no wonder.

It's some time since we ran a 542F against the clock, but from the Modern Boating archives we managed to dig up the figures from a test done on a 542F powered by a 130hp V4 Yamaha. Back then we recorded a top speed of 39 knots under much more user-friendly conditions.

On the day of this test, our top speeds were 32.6 knots upwind/current and 36.4 downwind/current with a standard out of the box 21" aluminium propeller.

Signature's Greg Haines was eagerly awaiting more props from Japan for further testing and commented during proceedings that he thought there was a bit more in it yet. Still, given that this Suzuki was 15hp less than the original 130hp Yamaha we tested, the hull, with a factory power rating of 100 to 140hp, was well matched to the motor.

In the lower and mid ranges, where most boating occurs anyway, the DF115's power delivery was very smooth and quite gutsy regardless of how many strokes the motor was producing. So ugly were the conditions that it proved difficult to define the minimum planing speed, suffice to say that the hull climbed on top of the water and planed between 2500 and 3000rpm.

In either direction, with judicious use of the power trim button, the Haines Signature hull planed cleanly at 3000rpm at speeds of 8 knots upwind and 11.8 knots downwind.

When we lifted the cowl of the DF 115 we noted the length of the intake manifolding, which runs from front to rear right along the motor's starboard side. You don't need to be a design engineer to think that here lies an explanation for the motor's notable low to mid range torque.

All in all, and despite the awful weather, it was great to welcome Suzuki back stronger then ever, and with a motor we're sure will only make a buying decision between the superb four-strokes available in this power category harder. The DF115 certainly deserves some very serious consideration.

For further information and dealer locations contact Greg Haines (07) 3271 4400.

Story & Photos by Warren Steptoe