Picture a boxing match: Two strong athletes throwing punches, arms fully extended, parallel to the ground, trying desperately to fit their charged fists between the gaps of their opponent, in a punch-counterpunch manner. This is where the boxer engine got its name.
The horizontally opposed pistons in a boxer engine command this motion much more seamlessly, but hopefully you get the point. Unlike traditional inline or V-shaped engines, the pistons in a boxer engine create better balance, due to their horizontal and side-to-side motion.
The opposing pistons balance one another out, so they don’t need counterweights or vibration dampening systems that you’ll find in most other engines. Therefore, the boxer engine creates less vibration, more fluid rotation, and enhanced efficiency, which leads to decreased wear and tear. The design also allows for the transmission to sit directly behind the engine, adding to the powertrain’s unique symmetry.
What Are the Advantages of a Boxer Engine?
The boxer engine returns increased fuel economy due to its seamless functionality. Meanwhile, you will enjoy smoother acceleration. The symmetrical drive train and the low, spread out center of gravity make for more agile handling and confident cornering, with a significant reduction of body roll.
The boxer engine is safer in frontal crashes. Due to its low mount, it is designed to dismount and slide beneath the chassis during a collision, keeping the engine from impacting or entering the passenger cabin.
What Are the Disadvantages of a Boxer Engine?
Boxer engines are more costly and time consuming to manufacture than traditional engines. Today’s typical automotive architecture doesn’t accommodate the shape and size of the flat and stout boxer engines. Due to the low, wide mount, the boxer engine can prove difficult to service. Even changing spark plugs can be a substantial job. However, boxer engines are known for their reliability, and should require less service than most other engine types.
Which Automakers Use Boxer Engines?
Subaru is known for using boxer engines in all of its vehicles. The automaker has remained consistent in this effort since its inception. Subaru first utilized a boxer engine in 1966 in the Subaru 1000.
The Subaru WRX STI is a prime example of the capabilities of a boxer engine. Its turbocharged four-cylinder delivers a whopping 305 horsepower and can pull off a zero to 60 sprint in 4.7 seconds. The boxer engine in the WRX made Wards’ 10 Best Engines list in 2015 and 2016. All Subaru vehicles, minus the BRZ, employ symmetrical all-wheel drive, which pairs remarkably well with the boxer engine setup.
The Scion FR-S is essentially the same car as the Subaru BRZ. The vehicle was a joint effort between Subaru and Toyota, and utilizes a boxer engine. Toyota has since eliminated the Scion brand, but the FR-S lives on in the 2017 Toyota 86, which is also equipped with a boxer engine. Porsche uses the boxer engine in its 911, Cayman, and Boxster models, among others.