The World is Flat: What Makes Boxer Engines So Special

Bumper stickers that say “the world is flat” usually refers to the flat-earth theory, but that isn’t always the case. Many boxer engine owners love the phrase “the world is flat” in regards to their engine’s style, and there is a lot that sets it apart from your more standard engine layouts. But what is it that makes the boxer engine so special? For one, they are only available in a handful of cars, and that could be

Cars with boxer engines

There aren’t that many cars that have boxer engines resting under the hood — or sometimes, the trunk. In fact, the three companies that currently offer boxer engines might surprise you, and they aren’t brands that you would consider to be related to each other. Currently, those companies are Porsche, Subaru, and Toyota, and they can be found in each brand’s more common cars. You may have noticed that cars with boxer engines sound a little different, even if you didn’t realize that this is why.

Porsche 911 GT3 high-performance sports car on display at Brussels Expo | Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images

Why don’t we see more of them?

There are a handful of good reasons why we don’t see a lot of cars with boxer engines. Unlike V engines or inline engines, these engines are susceptible to damage under high torque. To mitigate the risk, the engines are made with heavier, more expensive materials, which makes the engines overall more expensive to manufacture.

Subaru WRX STI high-performance sedan on display at Brussels Expo on January 13, 2017 in Brussels, Belgium.
Subaru WRX STI | Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images

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Maintenance and performance

Boxer engines aren’t the easiest to maintain, either. But, there has to be some reason manufacturers continue to produce them, and consumers continue to buy them. Regardless of the specialized maintenance, they do offer a unique sound and good performance. There are many differences between a boxer engine and your more standard V or inline engines, but what most people care about is the performance.

These engines have a lower center of gravity, which makes them better at handling. In cars like the Porsche 911, where the engine is located in the back of the vehicle, this optimizes handling and cornering.

The Porsche 911 is one of the most successful sports cars of all time.
Porsche 911 | Daniel Pullen/Future Publishing via Getty Images

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Regardless of differences in performance and maintenance, the boxer engine seems to have a fan group all to itself. To some, the struggles are well worth it, though we don’t expect them to be taking over the place of large displacement engines like V8s any time soon.