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Don’t Kiss Subaru’s Boxer Engine Goodbye Yet, Says It’s Going Next-Gen

Subaru Corporation spoke out about its Boxer engine and where it's headed. See if you like what you hear. 

Anytime Subaru Corporation speaks, I'll listen. It's more intently when it's about new vehicles or future engine technology. See if you like what Subaru is doing now.

Subaru Corporation announced that it, along with Toyota and Mazda, are each developing new engine technology. "We have committed to developing new engines tailored to electrification and the pursuit of carbon neutrality." 

That's a fancy way of saying that the three Japanese automakers will each use its engines (Subaru uses the Boxer) to improve performance and couple them with electric drive units to achieve better fuel efficiency. It sounds good so far.

Here's what Atsushi Osaki, President and CEO of Subaru Corporation, says.

Atsushi Osaki said," Achieving a carbon-neutral society is a challenge that must be undertaken by all of Japan's industries and society as a whole. As we continue to refine electrification technology, we will also enhance our horizontally-opposed (Boxer) engines with an aim to use carbon-neutral fuels in the future. Moving forward, the three companies sharing the same aspiration will continue to advance the pursuit of sustainable excellence in Japanese car manufacturing."

What I can take from the announcement is that Subaru is going to shift from using fossil fuels in the Boxer engine and begin testing alternatives, including e-fuel (synthetic fuel), biofuels, and liquid hydrogen. 

How Will They Test The New Fuels?

Subaru announced that it would begin testing alternative fuels in 2021. This has been in the works for over two and a half years. 

Subaru will test the new next-generation Boxer engine in its motorsports cars. The Japanese automaker previously announced it would use a carbon-neutral biomass-derived synthetic fuel in a modified BRZ sports coupe. I covered it in my report here.

But this latest news is about Subaru's next-generation Boxer engine. So buckle up for the ride. If you hope for ICE's end, you'll be disappointed. 

Don't Kiss The Subaru Boxer Engine Goodbye Just Yet.

With automakers backing off the recent massive push towards battery electric vehicles, Subaru is taking a different approach. They will be smart about the transition to EVs and, in the mid-term, develop new Boxer engines that are lighter, more compact, and more fuel-efficient. 

Subaru says, "While transforming vehicle packaging with more compact engines, these efforts will decarbonize ICEs by making them compatible with various carbon-neutral (CN) fuels." 

What Are CN Fuels?

Subaru says these are fuels with net zero CO2 emissions into the atmosphere across their lifecycle, from manufacture to use. These include e-fuel, made from hydrogen and carbon dioxide, and biofuels derived from biomass (plants, etc.).

So How Does It Affect You The Customer?

Look for Subaru to bring new hybrid models to the U.S. market soon. The first is the Forester hybrid (coming next year), followed by an all-new Crosstrek Hybrid (likely in 2026). Whether the new Forester and Crosstrek hybrids will be conventional or Plug-In hybrid models is still uncertain. Read my recent report here. 

I would say customers will also see new Outback Hybrid and Ascent Hybrid trim levels launch in the U.S. in the next two to three years. 

Five Takeaways For Customers

I found five takeaways from the Subaru announcement. Subaru says the new engines will revolutionize vehicle packaging. Here's what it means for customers.

  1. The next-generation Subaru Boxer engines will be highly efficient and powerful. Look for new, more powerful turbocharged engines coupled with electric motors. 
  2. The next-gen Boxer engine will be smaller and more compact than existing models, allowing for new vehicle designs.
  3. Lower hoods mean greater visibility from the driver's seat. Subaru SUVs already have the best visibility, but it improves even more. Read my Subaru visibility from the driver's seat report here
  4. Because of the smaller, more compact next-gen Boxer engine, there will be new exterior design possibilities. Let your imagination run wild with this. 
  5. There will be improvements in the vehicle's aerodynamic performance, which will contribute to better overall fuel efficiency. 

Subaru says, "While being highly efficient and powerful, the new engines will also revolutionize vehicle packaging by being more compact than existing models. Smaller engines will allow for even lower hoods, improving design possibilities and aerodynamic performance while contributing to better fuel efficiency. The development will also emphasize compliance with increasingly strict emissions regulations."

What About Subaru's WRX And STI Sports Cars?

Subaru Corporation and performance partner Subaru Tecnica International are considering three different powertrains. In an interview in 2022, Subaru Australia managing director Blair Read said Subaru is working on powertrain options that include full-electric, hybrid technology, and internal combustion engines that run on new fuel technologies.

When asked why Subaru dropped the STI, Read said, "It was a combination of factors, and ultimately, the primary driver is around fast-tracking the development of new technologies." You can read my STI report here. 

Did you know Subaru is the only automaker that uses the Boxer engine exclusively?

Subaru is the only automaker exclusively using the Boxer horizontally opposed engine design in every vehicle. Porsche uses the engine in the 911 and Boxster/Cayman. 

What Are The Benefits Of The Subaru Boxer Engine?

The pistons in the engine block move horizontally, resulting in a low-profile engine with less vibration and a lower center of gravity. This gives the taller Subaru Forester, Outback, and Crosstrek superior driving dynamics even though they sit higher off the ground (8.7 inches) for additional ground clearance. There's even more ground clearance in the Wilderness trims.  

The Final Word

Look for Subaru Corporation and Subaru of America (Subaru's largest sales volume market) to continue catering to their customers' unique needs and preferences. The Japanese automaker will launch new sleek aerodynamic models with more fuel-efficient powerful hybrid powertrains, new all-wheel-drive technology, and vehicles with a "go-anywhere" attitude. 

It's Your Turn

What do you think of Subaru's Boxer engine design plan? What new vehicles would you like to see Subaru launch in the future? Click the red Add New Comment link below and let us know.

I am Denis Flierl, a top Torque News reporter since 2012. I’ve invested over 13 years in the automotive industry in a consulting role, working with every major car brand. I am an experienced Rocky Mountain Automotive Press member. You'll find my expert Subaru analysis here. Follow me on my X SubaruReportAll Subaru, WRXSTI, @DenisFlierlFacebook, and Instagram.

Photo credit: Photographed by Amy Konieczka 


Randy Davis (not verified)    May 29, 2024 - 12:10PM

I think what subaru is doing is awesome alternat fuels hybrid technology. Not many people are liking the all electric cars . I love my outback can't wait to see the new redesign and the new engine.