Why Subaru Chooses Boxer Engines: The Technical Advantages and Brand Identity of a Flat Engine Design

Subaru has built a reputation for performance and reliability over the years, thanks in no small part to the unique design of its boxer engine. The horizontally-opposed engine layout has been a defining feature of Subaru cars for decades, contributing to their signature sound, handling, and durability. In this article, we’ll explore why Subaru chooses boxer engines, the technical advantages they offer, and how they’ve helped shape the company’s brand identity.

A Brief History of Boxer Engines

Boxer engines have been around for over a century, with early models developed in Germany and used in airplanes. The design gets its name from the way the pistons move horizontally, resembling the punches thrown by a boxer. Instead of the vertical motion of a traditional engine, boxer engines have pistons that move towards each other, cancelling out the secondary forces and resulting in smoother operation.

Subaru first introduced its boxer engine in 1966, with the EA engine series used in the Subaru 1000. Since then, the design has been updated and refined, with various iterations used in different Subaru models.

How Boxer Engines Work

Boxer engines have a unique configuration, with cylinders arranged in pairs that lie flat and opposed to each other. The pistons move towards each other from opposite sides, allowing them to keep the engine block short and wide. Each pair of opposed pistons shares a single crankshaft journal, which reduces the number of parts needed in the engine and simplifies the design.

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The flat engine design also contributes to better weight distribution and a lower center of gravity, which helps improve handling and stability on the road. In addition, the boxer engine’s configuration allows for smoother operation and less vibration compared to other engine types.

Advantages of Boxer Engines

Subaru has chosen to use boxer engines in its cars for a number of reasons, including the following:

Lower Center of Gravity

The flat engine configuration allows for a lower center of gravity in Subaru cars, which contributes to their stable and agile handling. By putting a heavy engine low down in the car, the engineers can enable better weight distribution and make the car feel more planted on the road.

Even Weight Distribution

Another advantage of boxer engines is that they offer an even weight distribution across the vehicle. The engine sits low in the car and is spread out evenly from side to side, which helps to balance the weight between the front and rear axles. This contributes to improved traction and handling in all conditions, making Subaru cars well-suited for off-road adventures and harsh weather.

Durability and Reliability

Boxer engines have a reputation for being extremely durable and reliable. The design allows for smoother operation and less vibration, which can reduce wear and tear on the engine over time. In addition, boxer engines have fewer parts than other engine types, which makes them simpler to maintain and repair.

Brand Identity

The choice to use boxer engines has helped to shape Subaru’s brand identity and reputation for performance. The distinctive engine sound and smooth operation set Subaru cars apart from other vehicles on the road, creating a unique driving experience that has resonated with car enthusiasts around the world.

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Subaru has also marketed the flat engine design as being central to their “symmetrical all-wheel drive” system, which provides balanced power distribution and stability in all conditions. This has become a key selling point for many Subaru models, particularly those geared towards drivers who enjoy outdoor adventures or need reliable performance in harsh weather.


Q: Are boxer engines exclusive to Subaru cars?

A: No, boxer engines are also used in other vehicles, including some by Porsche and Volkswagen. However, Subaru is known for relying exclusively on boxer engines across its entire lineup.

Q: Are there any downsides to using a boxer engine?

A: One potential downside of the boxer engine design is that it can be more complex and expensive to produce than other engine types. In addition, the flat engine configuration can create some challenges when it comes to designing other components of the vehicle, such as the exhaust system.

Q: What is the difference between a SOHC and DOHC boxer engine?

A: Some boxer engines have a single overhead camshaft (SOHC) that operates all the valves in the engine, while others have a double overhead camshaft (DOHC) that uses one camshaft to operate the intake valves and a separate camshaft for the exhaust valves. DOHC boxer engines tend to be more powerful and offer better performance, but they can also be more expensive to produce.


Subaru’s commitment to using boxer engines has been a key driver of its success, contributing to the brand’s reputation for reliability, performance, and unique style. By taking advantage of the technical advantages of the flat engine design, Subaru has created a distinct driving experience that stands out from other vehicles on the road. Whether you’re a Subaru owner or simply a car enthusiast, understanding the benefits of boxer engines can help you appreciate what makes these vehicles so special.

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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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