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Boxer Engines vs Inline Engines

What is a boxer engine?

There are many things that pit people against one another. You’re either into winter or summer, the mountains or the beach, sports or culture. Sure, these are sweeping generalisations and many people are into a great smorgasbord of things, and oftentimes many contradicting things at the same time. Ergo, we’re less inclined to be put into a box nowadays. Still, there is a great polarising topic that will have car end engine enthusiasts ready to debate — so we thought we’d elaborate on this for you.

Is a boxer engine better than inline?

Let’s get right into it!

Inspired by the design of airplane engines, the Subaru Boxer® engine sets itself apart from the engines you’d typically find in cars. Rather than those with pistons moving straight up and down — or at an angle like most engines — the pistons of the Subaru Boxer® engine are laid flat (horizontally) and move parallel to the ground.

The hallmark of boxer engines is the fact that the engine has two cylinder banks and each piston, directly horizontally opposed from another cylinder, does not share a crank pin with the opposing piston.

The unique punch, counterpunch action is inherently smoother, and the low, horizontal layout delivers a more balanced and stable effect. And because you’ll want to know: is a boxer engine better than inline? Its alignment means it feeds power directly into the Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system with maximum efficiency.

Difference Between Boxer Engines vs Inline Engines

Are boxer engines reliable?

This is why boxer engines are considered opposed; often times people confuse the boxer engine with the 180 degree V engine family, which is similar, yet attaches both pistons to the same crank pin. Furthermore, since the center of gravity on an opposed engine is much lower to the ground compared to an in-line or V design, boxer engines derive several performance advantages inherent to their design. This allows for better acceleration while the benefits to handling are enormous.

Are inline engines reliable?

When it comes to inline engines, the mechanical complexity is reduced because the straight cylinder configuration reduces the need for balancing components. The pros to this are that inline engines suffer from relatively small amounts of unwanted vibration at typical engine speeds, and the long stroke of their cylinders gives these engines superior torque.

Boxer Engine Pros and Cons

Let’s take a look at some of the boxer engines pros and cons.

Boxer Engines Advantages:

These would definitely include towing capacity and the ability to tackle uneven or rough surfaces all greatly increased with the Subaru Boxer® engine. So when you think about the kind of fanbase Subaru has earned itself, these pros (or what would be cons to the alternative) are definite dealmakers when it comes to selecting your new car. And due to its lower profile, you get better turning and cornering capability, decreased roll and better grip of the roadway. Boxer engines also deliver in the pros column when it comes to balance: due to the fact that its pistons are directly opposed to each other, firing motions can cancel entirely.

Boxer engines offer a far better cooling system functionality after start-up, based on the horizontal nature of its profile, oil and coolant remains are more evenly dispersed throughout (rather than sinking down as happens in in-line or V designs).

Its lower profile also makes power transmission more even, as the engine is on a plane closer to the rest of the drive-train.

Boxer Engines Disadvantages:

It would only be fair to present the collated cons associated with boxer engines as heard around the motoring world. Starting with (physical) accessibility, the flat engine is somewhat harder to work on because the cylinder head is right up against the side of the engine. This can make simple tasks like swapping out spark plugs feel like an arduous task and might translate as an increased cost associated with professionals when it comes to the average owner. It would be fair to say then that double the number of head components means more parts and components are required (due to the fact that having two cylinder heads is innate to the flat design).

Weight considerations might also come into play here, though not a dealbreaker at all. While many boxer engines are constrained to mid engine designs — due to the additional size requirements imparted by its wide profile — this is not always the case (with smaller boxer engines generally being exempt).

You don’t do life by flipping a coin

Just like mountain hiking or baking in the sun on the beach for hours, the comparisons should be as meticulous about the individual and what kind of lifestyle they lead as it should about the merits of the activities — and in this case the relative, relevant contexts of boxer engines versus inline engines based on the unique individual who is going to make use of such.

When you buy a Subaru, you don’t simply get a world-class vehicle that offers pure driving enjoyment, but you also get a choice of Subaru services and maintenance plans that will ensure peace of mind for the lifespan of the car. So while it is only fair to the comparison that we listed the cons we did, you’d seldom find yourself in the position of having to change spark plugs — for example.

There’s a reason people move to Subaru, and there’s a greater reason they stay with us once they’ve made that move. Love is many things, one of which we know sits behind the wheel of any of the six incredible Subaru models in our range here in South Africa.

If you haven’t experienced one of these revered boxer engines for yourself yet, why not book a test drive? We guarantee you will be convinced!

Use our store locator to find your nearest dealership, and if you would like to know more about the Subaru range, you can call us on +27 11 608 0116 or email info@subaru.co.za and a skilled member of our team will be happy to assist you.


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