Porsche is a luxury sports car brand that is known for many things, and among them is the design of its engines. Some counter that they use Volkswagen engines, and while the company does own the Volkswagen brand, there is a lot more you need to know to truly understand the Porsche difference in its engine design. What makes the Porsche engine so unique? It's not a single-engine, although one of them set the bar high for the rest to follow. Here is a recounting of the Porsche automotive history that reveals the facts about the powerplants that established tradition and the secrets that set them apart from the rest of the herd.
The history of the Porsche high-performance engines
Porsche engines have evolved over the years and they've maintained their uniqueness throughout the decades. Porsche engineers developed the first production line engine with cast aluminum cylinders. The V-8 Porsche engine had made automotive history in Europe with a 4.5-liter engine with a compression ratio of 8?5:1. They achieved the goal of designing an engine that could use regular fuel. According to the Porsche Newsroom, it was significant for Porsche's marketing strategies in the 1960s. The power yield for the V8 achieved a top speed of 142 mph with 240 horsepower and 350 NM of torque. This wasn't where they wanted to be in terms of performance, but it was a start.
Evolution of the Porsche engine design
In 1977, Porsche revealed a new design that would first appear in the Gran Turismo 928. The engine was a V8 90 degree that had a brand new flat engine layout. The new V8 had switched from air-cooled to water cooling. The engine was used to power the 928S model and made its debut in 1970 at the IAA Car Show. They beefed the engine displacement to 4.7-liters by increasing the bore by two millimeters, raising the compression ratio, and now requiring super grade fuel. The power jumped to 300 horsepower and increased the top speed by approximately 20 mph. Another redesign switched to an electronically controlled fuel injection system that jumped the horsepower to 310. By the mid-1980s, the bore was increased further to increase the engine displacement to 5.0-liters, boosting the horsepower to 330 in a campaign of continuous and steady improvements in the technology. The V8 engines were discontinued in 1995, but it set the bar high for Porsche and distinguished the brand in the annals of automotive history. This is the engine that set the 928, the Panamera, the 918 Spyder, and the Cayenne at the top of the sports vehicle list.
The Porsche Boxer engine
Motor 1 interviewed Porsche's lead design engineer to learn what makes the Porsche Boxer engine so special. He explained that the flat engine has been around in some form since the late 1800s, but the uniqueness of the current models is in its evolution and the continual strides the brand has made in improving a once racing only engine to one that is used in production cars. He further points out that the extremely low flat engine produces a very low center of gravity that affects the car's road behavior. It also impacts the distribution of weight over the rear axle to improve acceleration when coming out of corners. You don’t have to be a genial car engineer to understand possibly the most important advantage of the boxer. Its incredibly flat construction gives it an extremely low center of gravity, which has a positive impact on the overall road behavior of a car. Of course, the precise weight distribution over the rear axle also helps the vehicle accelerate better out of corners. This is where precision engineering in achieving the ideal balance of mass is vital.
The flat engine design and Porsche innovations
Porsche didn't invent the concept of the flat engine but their approach to taking the inspiration and using new technologies for improving it is what makes the Porsche engine unique in the competitive sea of sports car brands. Porsche discloses that manufacture of a flat engine vs an inline engine takes greater effort because of the difference in the number of parts required for performance. The skilled design and engineering teams have put forth the effort to find new ways of improving on the flat engine format to produce unique engines that are used in the various models of sportscars that Porsche has delivered throughout the past 40 years. The move has taken them to four-valve technology for the sake of reducing fuel consumption and exhaust emissions, which were requisite for complying with local laws and EPA requirements. They've also made adjustments in the design to boost performance for a total package of consumer demands.
Porsche has had its share of high and low points, but the engineering of the flat engine has been one of its most remarkable achievements. It's not so much the fact that Porsche uses a flat engine platform that makes their power plants so unique, it's what they've done with the basic designs. Porsche began by setting the bar for performance and excellence in fast and powerful engines high. The engineering and design teams who would follow the pioneers had their work cut out for them, but then again, nothing that is of value is easy to come by or quickly achieved. They put in the time, expense, and effort to find new and innovative ways to produce the engines that would power the sports cars that the public demanded. This effort was combined simultaneously with the constraints of adherence to the protocols issued for green technology that would reduce fuel consumption and keep emissions at reasonable levels. When you wonder why Porsche price tags for new vehicles are so expensive, it's not hard to understand that a portion of the proceeds goes back into automotive research, design, and implementation so Porsche can continue its status as a unique brand.
Written by Benjamin Smith
Read more posts by Benjamin Smith