I will freely admit to struggling with why Subaru continues to stubbornly employ a boxer engine design while so few other automakers do the same. After all, with twice the number of cylinder heads and cams as a traditional inline four-cylinder engine, a boxer four is more complex, more expensive to manufacture and more cumbersome to service with few tangible benefits. Until recently, the company's engines struggled to meet the fuel economy numbers of its competitors while offering no real boon in horsepower or torque. Subaru seems to recognize I'm not the only one scratching my head.

In order to help us non-believers understand what's what, the company has employed a pair of mimes, a toy car and a few clay engines to demonstrate the folly of every other automaker on the planet. Subaru says the boxer offers up a lower center of gravity than either an inline four-cylinder engine or a V6, which I will gladly concede. The company also says the design offers up smoother operation.

I'll offer just two counterpoints here. First, an engine with a low center of gravity is excellent, but when vehicles like the Forester, XV Crosstrek and Outback boast more ground clearance than most mainstream SUVs, that argument flies out the window. Second, anyone who's spent any amount of time behind the wheel of a vehicle equipped with an inline four and then proceeded to move into one propelled by a boxer can tell you the latter has all of the idling manners of a small tractor. Check out the video below to see for yourself.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 120 Comments
      Matt
      • 1 Year Ago
      Subies are are longitudinal-engined also. In a longitudinal arrangement, a boxer engine not only has a lower center of gravity, but also a more rearward one when compared against an inline engine. In fact, I'm suprised BMW didn't opt for boxers, since they are so crazy about weight distribution.
      Eric Henry
      • 1 Year Ago
      \"First, an engine with a low center of gravity is excellent, but when vehicles like the Forester, XV Crosstrek and Outback boast more ground clearance than most mainstream SUVs, that argument flies out the window.\" While this may be true the center of gravity of these vehicles is still lower than comparable vehicles in their class.
      SethG
      • 1 Year Ago
      I've been surprised by Mr. Bowman's criticism of the Boxer on the Autoblog podcast. I agree with him that they're not terribly smooth and are more challenging to service. But the lower center of gravity benefit is a real one and this holds true whether you're in a low to the grown BRZ or a Forester. The boxer can lower the car's center of gravity for a given ride height; even for higher riding cars. Fine the Forester and Outback have a lot of ground clearance and their engines might be higher than in a typical sedan. But not as high as if they were inline or V configuration.
      WillS
      • 1 Year Ago
      Forgive me if someone already pointed this out, but the writer missed on fully half his counterpoints (and plenty is said by others about the idling non-issue). So he says: \"...but when vehicles like the Forester, XV Crosstrek and Outback boast more ground clearance than most mainstream SUVs, that argument [about lower center of gravity] flies out the window.\" Really? How is that? Each of those vehicles he cites is designed to be tall on ground clearance (and, to add further appeal, all wheel drive, at least in the U.S.) and if compared to any V or I engine, especially in \"most mainstream SUVs\", well, there\'s no comparison. Subaru still wins with lower CG. And, by the way, they win with ground clearance too.
      Eric F
      • 1 Year Ago
      The old Subaru Forester had 8.0 inches of ground clearance (more than most CUVs in this current age) yet had a low enough centre of gravity that it didn't need one of those "increased risk of rollover" stickers that CUVs all have. Lower centre of gravity and more ground clearance sounds like a winning combination for CUV/SUVs whose operators tend to be unalert and only react at the last moment (leading to rollovers and single-vehicle collisoins). Too bad it's hard to quantify and/or compare rollover risk... thus mainstream consumers will never care.
        chanonissan
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Eric F
        if you are unaware roll over test are conducted, one for roll over risk (tip or no tip over) and the other for actual roll over . http://www.autoblog.com/2010/06/02/iihs-runs-rollover-tests-on-mid-sized-suvs/ http://www.driving.ca/Four+small+SUVs+earn+rollover+safety+mark+test/1422152/story.html
          chanonissan
          • 1 Year Ago
          @chanonissan
          Here is the website, search for your self , and you see that suv is doing better or match subaru performance in rollover ( tip or no tip over). http://www.safercar.gov/
      ctsmith1066
      • 1 Year Ago
      "but when vehicles like the Forester, XV Crosstrek and Outback boast more ground clearance than most mainstream SUVs, that argument flies out the window." Zach, having an engine with a lower center of gravity allows them to have more clearance without sacrifice. The lower COG offsets the higher COG.
      nolimit092
      • 1 Year Ago
      The reason Subaru likes the boxer engine, in addition to COG, is because of their dedication to Symmetrical AWD. Have you even seen how short, front to back, the boxer engine is? It allows them to mount the engine in front of the front axle without a horribly huge front overhang. That allows the front drive shafts to come out of the front sides of the transmission and thus you have symmetrical AWD, 4 equal length axles at every corner. Audi is the only other company that runs their AWD the same was (and only in certain models) and they also use small displacement v6 and v8 engines. I don't think they would be able to fit a 2.5L inline 4 without having to put the engine in transversely.
        chanonissan
        • 1 Year Ago
        @nolimit092
        what about mid engine, they get good cog, handle more better, than the boxer. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mid-engine_design
          chanonissan
          • 1 Year Ago
          @chanonissan
          the mitsubishi evolution handle better than a subaru wrx .
          chanonissan
          • 1 Year Ago
          @chanonissan
          and if you realize most production race cars use mid engine layout. lexus lfa mazda rx8 honda s2000 infiniti lexus awd mid engine cars nissan gtr and ferrari ff Ask subaru which japaneese company makes the best awd, and who assist them, no better yet search subaru and see who they recommended.
          chanonissan
          • 1 Year Ago
          @chanonissan
          Ferrari FF nissan GTR front mid engine layout.
          Bryan Pizzuti
          • 1 Year Ago
          @chanonissan
          Please, try to make a mid-engine AWD vehicle. Should be fun to watch you try.
      riserburn99andre
      • 1 Year Ago
      I think it's great they are keeping boxer engines alive. They also need the engine and awd to make them standout from the crowd. They do have a solid car niche and by the comments dedicated, passionate fanbase. I like and respect Subaru, they make a unique vehicle that stands out
      w4msp2
      • 1 Year Ago
      I own a 2011 Subaru Legacy, Engine idle very smooth, power is great, gas mileage 33 mpg highway, I am a 50 yr retired Mech. and have owned many autos, This legacy is great No recalls like all other cars,great body and interior design.this will be all of my next future cars. GREAT GREAT CAR
        mmmoose
        • 1 Year Ago
        @w4msp2
        No manufacturer is exempt from recalls. The Legacy did in fact have its share (many of which were reported here on AB): spontaneous remote start (Audiovox RES) without user input, windshield wiper moter overheating, sunroof assembly defects (detachment), side airbags containing incorrect propellant mixture, puddle light electrical/fire hazard, and brake line corrosion. For the record I think the Legacy is a great car too. I had the pleasure of test driving a 2013 base 2.5i and I loved it. I'm still considering getting one as my next car—although I hear it's due for a redesign soon?
      GR
      • 1 Year Ago
      I've owned two Subarus and will definitely disagree with the author's comment of "Second, anyone who's spent any amount of time behind the wheel of a vehicle equipped with an inline four and then proceeded to move into one propelled by a boxer can tell you the latter has all of the idling manners of a small tractor." This is not true. I had an EJ22 and a EJ25 in an Impreza and a Legacy, respectively. Neither had a rough or noisy idle. Since the Subarus, I have owned two inline 4 engine cars of different makes and they don't have engines that idle noticeably quieter or smoother than the boxers in my former Subarus. Most of the idling noise is from the fuel injectors, not the crankshaft and piston movement. If your boxer shakes badly at idle, it's not engine design, but more likely worn motor mounts or maintenance issues. The only engines that have a noticeable rough idle is a diesel engine. Got a TDI in the family and the car vibrates at idle. The good thing about diesel is that at driving speed and especially cruising speeds, it quiets down and hums along at low rpms meanwhile returning hybrid-busting mileage. Not a bad trade-off if you ask me. Every engine has its pros and cons, but the claim that boxers have rough idles is nonsense. The video's graphics and demonstration isn't necessarily a solid argument for boxer engines, but the low center of gravity is a factor that comes to play in the real world. Why do you think Porsche uses this design? BMW also uses boxer engines in their motorcycles.
      Steven Bremer
      • 1 Year Ago
      Zach, can you do a counter point with a toy car and mime to explain your love of Subaru?
      JF1GE
      • 1 Year Ago
      As canuckcharlie pointed out, the design is more harmonically balanced than inline engines. They are also shorter when attached longitudinally, and are a major part of how Subaru's symmetrical AWD train has been designed for decades. I'm struggling with how any editor of an auto... blog struggles with why Subaru continues to employ the engine?
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