Here's Why You Don't See Many Front-Engine Boxer-Powered Cars

Ever wonder why Porsche never put a flat-six in its front-engine cars? There's a good reason why.

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Toyota

You ever wonder why Porsche has never used flat-fours and flat-sixes for any of its front-engine cars? Or why boxer layouts aren't prevalent in modern front-engine applications, other than in a Subaru? Toyota's Tetsuya Tada, chief engineer of the 86 and the upcoming Supra, did too.

"For myself, this was one of the world's seven wonders," Tada-san said at the Supra's Geneva Motor Show launch. "I had been wondering for years, but having developed the 86 and now the Supra, I finally understand why."

The answer, simply, is packaging.

When you first consider it, a boxer engine makes a lot of sense in a front-engine car. It's short in length, which allows you to easily place the engine behind the front axle without compromising interior space, and it's not tall either, allowing for a low center of gravity. A boxer is wide, however, and that creates all sorts of engineering headaches, as Tada-san explains.

"The steering rack is an important element when we decide the overall placement of engine and transmission," he said. "A boxer engine is wide, which means that it imposes of where we can put the engine itself, as well as the steering rack."

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Porsche

You don't have the same issue with an inline- or a V-engine, which seems to explain why Porsche used inline-fours in the front-engine 924/944, and boxers in the mid-engine Boxster/Cayman. And when you look at the entirety of automotive history, you'll notice that relatively few automakers have built cars with boxers in the front. Even Volkswagen, once kings of the flat-four, switched to inline-fours when it began building front-engine cars.

Today, only Subaru–on its entire lineup–and Toyota—with the 86—offer cars with a boxer in the front. Tada-san said that a boxer engine was chosen for the 86 and its Subaru twin, the BRZ, to help achieve a low center of gravity, but it seems it ultimately wasn't worth the packaging troubles. He's now aiming for the upcoming Supra, with its tall straight-six to have an even lower center of gravity.

So, now you know the answer, and unlike Tada-san, you didn't have to develop a rear-wheel drive sports car to find out.

Update: We've clarified that every Subaru has a boxer engine.

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