Flat engines have been around since the 1890s, just a few years after the advent of the automobile. Over the decades, it has been the engine of choice for top car manufacturers and fans. In fact, when you think of the Porsche 911, the first thing that comes to mind is the flat engine.
Porsche’s adoption of the flat engine started when Ferry Porsche installed a VW Bettle 1.1-litre, four-cylinder in his Porsche 356, which was then followed by engines that were air-cooled until the 911 Type 993. From 26 kW (35 hp), the air-cooled flat engine delivered 221 kW (300 hp) without turbocharging. With turbocharging, the performance went up to 331 kW (450 hp).
Flat engines comprise of two to 16 cylinders laid out horizontally. Per its underlying design principle, instead of the traditional up and down movement, the pistons in a flat engine move left and right. One of the most popular types of flat engine is the boxer which divides the cylinders into two even banks that surround the central crankshaft.
Also known as boxer or horizontally-opposed, flat engines are often utilized to enhance speed, acceleration, and overall balance.
Because of its unique shape and layout, this engine offers certain advantages you won’t normally find in other engine types:
1. Inherent Balance
Flat engines are known to be some of the smoothest engine systems the industry has seen. This is due to its pistons designed to seamlessly work together, creating a perfect balance.
As a result, you won’t experience any issues with engine vibration which also means long-term reliability. Additionally, because flat engines are naturally balanced, there will be no need to purchase extra balancers which are often costly and complicated to install.
2. Increased Power
Thanks to its size and exceptional balance, the use of flat engines can lessen load on the crankshaft. This reduction can dramatically increase power transmission smoothly and without inconsistencies.
3. Distinct Design
A flat engine’s unique spread-out design allows it to gain a much lower center of gravity in the car unlike other engine configurations. This translates to better handling of the vehicle and makes for a safer and more stable driving experience.
4. Easy Cooling Properties
Thanks to its horizontally-opposed profile, oil and coolant remains in the engine are evenly scattered. The opposite happens in in-line or V-shaped engines where such remains tend to sink. This makes flat engines fairly easier to cool after start-up.
Vastly exceeding what you’d expect from a descendant of the VW Beetle, the Porsche flat engine provides stellar performance and vivid character that has thrived for 30 years, and will only continue to impress enthusiasts around the world for as long as it’s around.
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