Why Subaru Chooses to Stick with Boxer Engines: A Comprehensive Guide

Subaru is among the few automakers in the world that continues to use boxer engines in its vehicles, even as the rest of the industry transitions to other powertrain technologies. This begs the question – why does Subaru stick with boxer engines, and how does it affect the overall performance and handling of their cars? In this article, we’ll delve into the history, advantages, and disadvantages of boxer engines, explore how they compare to other engine types, and examine why Subaru has remained committed to this unique technology.

What are Boxer Engines?

Before we dive in, it’s essential to understand what boxer engines are and how they work. Unlike a traditional inline or V engine, a boxer engine has horizontally opposed cylinders positioned on opposite sides of the crankshaft. This means that each piston moves in the opposite direction from the one next to it, canceling out each other’s vibrations. Boxer engines derive their name from this horizontal, back-and-forth punching motion that the pistons make, akin to a boxer’s punches.

Boxer engines are typically classified by the number of cylinders they have – a Boxer-4, for example, has four cylinders arranged in boxer configuration, while a Boxer-6 has six cylinders in the same arrangement.

The Advantages of Boxer Engines

Despite boxer engines’ relatively small market share, they have several advantages over other engine types that make them attractive to certain automakers like Subaru. Here are some of the advantages of Boxer engines:

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Low Center of Gravity

Thanks to their compact design, boxer engines sit low in the car’s chassis, resulting in a lower center of gravity than other engine types. This low center of gravity enhances the car’s handling and stability, resulting in better grip on the road and reduced body roll.

Smooth and Balanced Performance

The horizontally opposed layout of boxer engines ensures that the opposing pistons cancel out each others’ vibrations, leading to smooth and balanced performance. This balance is particularly useful in high-performance applications, where engine vibration can negatively affect handling.

Flexible Architecture

Boxer engines are highly flexible, which means they can be scaled up or down to fit different applications. For example, Subaru’s Boxer-4 engine powers everything from the lightweight BRZ to the flagship Outback and Crosstrek, making it a versatile powertrain for different vehicle types.

Unique Sound

One of the unique aspects of boxer engines is their sound, which is quite distinct from other engine types. The back-and-forth motion of the horizontally opposed pistons gives boxer engines a throaty, pulsating exhaust note.

Compatibility with All-Wheel Drive

Subaru’s commitment to All-Wheel Drive (AWD) has been a defining characteristic of the brand, and boxer engines ensure that every Subaru model comes equipped with an AWD system. The compact layout of the Boxer engine allows the AWD components to be mounted directly to the engine, reducing overall weight and improving handling.

The Disadvantages of Boxer Engines

While boxer engines do have several advantages, they also come with some disadvantages that automakers must consider before committing to them fully. Here are some of the drawbacks of Boxer engines:

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High Cost

Boxer engines’ manufacturing complexity translates to a higher production cost than other engine types, resulting in higher costs for the final product.

Limited Availability

Due to their unique configuration, boxer engines are less common than other engine types, making them harder to source and produce. This can lead to delays in production and delivery times for automakers.

Limited Efficiency

Due to their layout, boxer engines may not be as fuel-efficient as other engine types.

Why Does Subaru Stick with Boxer Engines?

Subaru’s ethos has always been about innovation and technology that improves driver safety, performance, and reliability, which is reflected in their boxer engine’s use. However, the main reason Subaru uses boxer engines is to remain true to its core values and maintain a unique selling point in the market.

Boxer engines’ low center of gravity, smooth and balanced performance, and compatibility with AWD make them a perfect fit for Subaru’s performance-oriented and adventure-ready cars. In staying with Boxer engines, Subaru has been able to carve out a niche in the industry and produce vehicles that cater to the needs of enthusiasts and adventurers alike.

Another reason why Subaru continues to use Boxer engines is its partnership with Toyota for the development of the Toyota 86 and the Subaru BRZ. Both models heavily rely on the Boxer engine, and this partnership ensures that the engine will continue to evolve and serve as a competitive edge for both automakers.


In conclusion, Boxer engines have remained a key component of Subaru’s brand identity and continue to enhance the performance, handling, and reliability of their vehicles. While they may not be the most efficient or cost-effective option, they undoubtedly deliver a unique driving experience that sets Subaru apart from the competition.

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Q. What is a Boxer engine?
A. A Boxer engine is an engine type that has horizontally opposed cylinders positioned on opposite sides of the crankshaft. Each piston moves in the opposite direction from the one next to it, canceling out each other’s vibrations.

Q. What are the advantages of Boxer engines?
A. The main advantages of Boxer engines are a low center of gravity, smooth and balanced performance, flexible architecture, unique sound, and compatibility with All-Wheel Drive.

Q. What are the drawbacks of Boxer engines?
A. Boxer engines’ main disadvantages are high manufacturing costs, limited availability, and limited fuel efficiency.

Q. Why does Subaru use Boxer engines?
A. Subaru uses Boxer engines to remain true to its core values and unique selling points, enhance the performance and handling of its vehicles, and maintain a competitive edge in the industry.

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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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