Unraveling the History of Subaru’s Boxer Engine: From its Origins to its Modern-Day Application

If you’re a car enthusiast or a mechanic, you might already be familiar with the term “boxer engine.” This type of engine, also known as a flat engine, features horizontally opposed pistons and cylinders that lie flat along the engine block. The design provides numerous benefits, including low center of gravity, compact size, excellent balance, and less vibration. But did you know that Subaru has been using the boxer engine for over 50 years? In this article, we’ll dive deep into the history of Subaru’s boxer engine, from its origins to its modern-day application.

Subaru’s Early Days

Subaru, formerly known as Fuji Heavy Industries, was founded in 1953 in Japan. The company initially manufactured airplanes, but decided to expand into the automotive industry in the 1960s. Their first car, the Subaru 360, was introduced in 1958, but it wasn’t until the 1960s when they began experimenting with boxer engines.

Origins of the Boxer Engine

The boxer engine was first developed by Karl Benz, the founder of Mercedes-Benz, in the late 19th century. However, it was Porsche who refined the boxer engine and made it famous in the 1950s and 1960s with their iconic 911 sports car. Subaru began experimenting with boxer engines in the mid-1960s, and in 1966, introduced its first car powered by a boxer engine, the Subaru 1000.

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The Advantages of the Boxer Engine

The boxer engine has several unique advantages that make it a great choice for certain types of cars. First of all, because the pistons are arranged opposite each other, they cancel out each other’s vibrations, resulting in a much smoother ride. Secondly, the boxer engine has a lower center of gravity than inline or V engines, which improves the car’s handling and stability. Lastly, because of the compact design of the engine, it allows for better weight distribution, which improves the car’s overall performance.

Boxer Engine Drawbacks

Despite its many advantages, the boxer engine also has a few drawbacks. One of the biggest challenges is that it can be more expensive to manufacture than traditional engines due to the complexity of its design. Additionally, because the engine is wider, it can also be more difficult to fit into certain car designs. Lastly, boxer engines may be more prone to engine oil leaks as the engine ages.

Boxer Engines in Subaru Models

Subaru has been using boxer engines since the 1960s, but it wasn’t until the 1970s when they began putting boxer engines in their most popular models. The Subaru Leone, introduced in 1971, was the first model to feature a boxer engine as standard. Throughout the decades, Subaru continued to expand its lineup of boxer engines, introducing it in the Legacy, Impreza, and Forester models.

Modern-Day Boxer Engines

Today, Subaru’s boxer engine has evolved and improved significantly. The latest iteration of the engine, dubbed the Subaru Global Platform, was introduced in 2016. The new platform features improved rigidity, lighter weight, and increased crash safety. Additionally, the newest boxer engines now meet stricter emissions standards, making them environmentally friendly.

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Q: How does the boxer engine work?

A: The boxer engine works by having horizontally opposed pistons and cylinders that lie flat along the engine block. This design allows for a smoother ride and improved handling.

Q: Which Subaru models use the boxer engine?

A: Almost all Subaru models feature a boxer engine.

Q: Is the boxer engine more expensive to manufacture?

A: Yes, the complexity of the engine’s design makes it more expensive to manufacture than traditional engines.


Subaru’s boxer engine has come a long way since its introduction in the 1960s. Today, it is considered to be one of the brand’s core features, setting it apart from its competitors. The boxer engine offers numerous benefits such as smooth ride, improved handling, and better weight distribution. While there are some drawbacks, Subaru has managed to overcome them by continuously improving and refining the engine. With its latest iteration, the Subaru Global Platform, the boxer engine remains a critical component of Subaru’s success as an automaker.

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Billy Covington

With a passion for all things automotive, Billy is our go-to expert on Subaru performance upgrades and modifications. He's been featured in several car magazines and blogs, and his extensive knowledge and expertise make him a valuable member of our team. When he's not working on cars, he enjoys playing guitar and writing music.

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