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2004 Engine Epic - BMW Engines

We look at the most desirable modern engines from BMW...

By Michael Knowling

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BMW has a well-earned reputation for building some of the best engines in the world – just take their ‘80s turbocharged F1 engines and the current VALVETRONIC system for example. From four-cylinders to big V12s, BMW engines are designed with the absolute latest technology.

Here are some of the common BMW engine codes...

M10 = 4 cylinder 1.6 – 2.0-litre

M40 = 4 cylinder 1.6 – 1.8-litre

M42 = 4 cylinder 1.6 – 1.8-litre

M44 = 4 cylinder 1.6 – 2.0-litre

N44 = 4 cylinder 1.8/2.0-litre

W10 = 4 cylinder 1.6-litre

W11 = 4 cylinder 1.6-litre supercharged

S14 = 4 cylinder 2.3/2.5-litre

M20 = 6 cylinder 2.0 – 2.7-litre

M30 = 6 cylinder 2.5 – 3.5-litre

M50 = 6 cylinder 2.0 – 2.8-litre

M52 = 6 cylinder 2.5 – 2.8-litre

M54 = 6 cylinder 2.0 - 3.0 litre

M102 = 6 cylinder 3.2-litre turbo

S38 (Original) = 6 cylinder 3.5-litre

S38 (Update) = 6 cylinder 3.6-litre

S38 (Update) = 6 cylinder 3.8-litre

S50 = 6 cylinder 3.0/3.2-litre

S54 = 6 cylinder 3.2 litre

M60 = V8 3.0/4.0-litre

M62 = V8 3.5 - 4.6-litre

N62 = V8 3.6/4.4-litre

S62 = V8 4.9-litre


M70 = V12 5.0

M72 = V12 5.4-litre

S70 = V12 5.6-litre

N73B60 = V12 6.0-litre

BMW V12s...

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The first V12 engine produced by BMW set the world abuzz in 1988. Fitted as standard to the 750iL limousine and 850CSi coupe, the big V12 (coded M70) was essentially a pair of 2.5-litre six-cylinder engines joined at a 60-degree angle. Sweeping 5.0-litres, the BMW V12 employs just SOHC and 2-valves-per-cylinder induction. And despite a low compression ratio (just 8.8:1) this engine could muster 220kW at 5200 rpm along with 450Nm at 4100 rpm. Note that this was the first mass-produced engine to use a pair of electronically controlled throttles. Its all-alloy construction also kept total engine weight below that of the contemporary iron block 3.5-litre six...

Taking over from the 5.0-litre V12 in 1995 was the bigger and better 5.4-litre M72 version. The M72 5.4-litre V12 retained simple SOHC, 2-valve induction but managed to pump out 240kW at 5000 rpm and a massive 490Nm at 3900 rpm. There was already 400Nm on tap by the time the tacho needle reached 1500 rpm... Although updated with single VANOS (ie variable inlet cam timing) in 1998, maximum power output appeared not to change.

Note that a highly-tuned S70 5.6-litre version was also fitted to the ’95 – ’97 BMW 850CSi, which was available in certain markets – output is approximately 280kW.

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Today’s BMW V12 (coded N73B60) displaces a very healthy 6.0-litres and features DOHC 4-valve heads, direct-injection plus double VANOS and VALVETRONIC valve control (for stepless alteration of intake and exhaust cam angle and intake valve lift). Compression ratio is a high 11.3:1. Outputs? Try 327kW at 6000 rpm and 600Nm at 3950 rpm! A minimum of 500Nm is available from 1500 to 6000 rpm. This engine can be found lurking in the current BMW 760i and 760Li.

Interestingly, the mega-dollar McLaren F1 supercar uses an engine that’s loosely based on the original BMW V12 design. With multi-valve, DOHC heads, single VANOS, individual throttle bodies and a whopping 6.1-litres capacity, this engine screams out a listed 468kW!

BMW V8s...

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Almost as powerful as the big V12s is the S62 4.9-litre (aka 5.0-litre) V8 as fitted to the E39 BMW M5 and Z8. Boasting DOHC, 32-valve induction along with double VANOS, solid lifters and individual throttle bodies this engine cranks out a mighty 294kW and 500Nm. The rev limit is set at 7000 – not bad for a big V8.

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Next most powerful is the N62 4.4-litre V8 fitted to the current 745i/745Li and 545i. Sharing the impressive VALVETRONIC technology with the current V12, the 4.4-litre DOHC, 4-valve V8 uses a 10.5:1 compression ratio and delivers 245kW at 6100 rpm plus 450Nm of torque at 3600 rpm.

The contemporary 735i/735Li model uses a smaller 3.6-litre V8 packing 200kW and 360Nm – good considering the swept capacity, but nothing standout in this company.

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Prior to the current range of V8s were the M62 3.5-litre and 4.4-litre bent-eights. Sharing 10.0:1 compression, DOHC, 4-valve induction (including single VANOS from 1998) the 3.5-litre engine made 180kW and 345Nm. This engine came fitted to the 535i and 735i/735iL of that timeframe. The larger 4.4-litre version – as still fitted to the X5 SUV - produces 210kW and up to 440Nm of torque. The top-of-the-range X5 is also now available with a 4.6-litre version of the M62 engine that’s rated at 255kW and 480Nm.

The earliest BMW V8s – released in 1992 – were available in 3.0-litre and 4.0-litre guises. Coded M60, these DOHC, 32-valve V8s use 10.0:1 compression and a plastic intake manifold. Outputs are 160kW/288Nm and 210kW/400Nm respectively. These engines were used in the E34 530i and 540i plus the E32 730i, 740i and 840i.

BMW Sixes...

The BMW six-cylinder range is littered with some truly awesome performers.

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Most potent is the S54 3.2-litre straight-six, as fitted to the E46 M3 and the last Z3 M-Coupe and M-Roadster. This DOHC, 24-valve powerhouse employs double VANOS and individual throttle bodies. Power? Well, depending on spec, you’re talking at least 236kW at 7400 rpm and 350Nm at 3250 rpm. Not bad for an atmo 3.2-litre six!

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M-Power strikes again with the E36 M3 from 1992 to 2000 (except for US models). The S50 engine incorporates a DOHC, 2-valve head with solid lifters, single VANOS and individual throttle bodies. This 3.0-litre version generates 210kW, while the later 3.2-litre – with double VANOS – pushes 236kW.

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Next comes the updated 3.6 and 3.8-litre versions of the S38 engine, as found in the pre-1996 E34 M5. With DOHC, 24-valve breathing, solid lifters and individual throttles the 3.6 makes 232kW and the 3.8 is good for 250kW. The original S38 engine (aka M88 or M88/3) was used in various model between 1979 and 1990, including the M1 and M6. Displacing 3.5-litres, the DOHC, 24-valve S38 six uses a dry sump, Kugelfischer/Bosch injection and generates 207kW at 6500 rpm.

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And now we come across one of the very rare mass-produced BMW turbo engines. Used exclusively in the E23 745i of the mid ‘80s, the M102 3.2-litre SOHC, 2-valve straight-six packed a KKK turbocharger and air-to-air intercooler. Using a very low 7.0:1 static compression ratio and L-Jetronic fuel-injection, this boosted six is rated with 188kW at 5200 rpm. There was also plenty of torque, through drivability suffered due to the low static compression ratio.

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Twenty years down the track and today the naturally aspirated M54 3.0-litre straight-six makes almost as much power as the larger turbomotor! The secret is DOHC, 24-valve breathing with the intelligence of double VANOS – maximum output is 170kW and 300Nm. This engine is available in the current X5, 530i, Z4 and 330i/330Ci.

Note that the same engine family includes less powerful 2.0, 2.2, 2.5 and 2.8-litre versions.

There was a similar range of everyday sixes in the BMW line-up of about five years ago. Locally, the run-of-mill M52 range included 2.0, 2.5 and 2.8-litre capacities with later examples scoring double VANOS – a combination good for up to 142kW (from the 2.8-litre engine). This series was used in the E39 5-series, E36 3-series and E38 7-series.

The slightly earlier M50 range included 2.0 and 2.5-litre capacities and – using a DOHC, 24-valve head (with single VANOS in later versions) – the greatest output was 141kW. This engine range was used in the E36 3-series and E34/E39 5-series.

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One of the most popular BMW sixes is the classic M30 3.5-litre straight-six, as fitted to upmarket versions of the 1988 5-series and contemporary 7-series. In the days of SOHC, 2-valve-per-cylinder, Bosch Motronic and vane airflow meter technology, the M30 3.5-litre pushed 155kW at 5700 rpm along with 305Nm at 4000 rpm. The M535i version made 163kW at 5200 rpm.

A 3.0-litre version (as fitted to the E23 3.0CSi) made 153kW and a long-stroke 3.3 (fitted to the E23 733i) made up to 149kW.

The smaller M20-series straight-six is also recognised in the E30 3-series range – most powerful is the 2.5-litre version with around 125kW.

The rest of the performance BMW 6-cylinder range is now relatively old and low-tech in the context of these beauties.

BMW Fours...

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The pre-1991 E30 M3 holds the record for using the most powerful four ever mass-produced by BMW. The S14 engine displaces 2.3-litres and boasts DOHC, 16-valves and quad-throttle induction – peak output is up to 147kW at 6750 rpm. A rare EVOIII version used a larger 2.5-litre engine pushing out up to 175kW at 7000 rpm – no turbocharger in sight!

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Almost as important was the first ‘non-M’ 4-valve four-cylinder. The 4-valve M42 engine – fitted to the E30 318iS – sweeps 1.8-litre and puts out around 100kW at 6000 rpm. The same engine was also used for a short time in the replacement E36 3-series – until the M44 engine took over.

The M44 1.9-litre engine was released in 1996 in such vehicles as the E36 318iS and Z3. With DOHC, 16-valve breathing and double VANOS this engine is rated at 103kW.

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Today, the range of four-cylinder engines – in Australia at least – is very limited. The E46 316Ti’s N44 1.8-litre engine uses double VANOS and VALVETONIC to generate 85kW and 175Nm while the 318i uses a 2.0-litre version making 105kW and 200Nm. The rest of the current BMW range uses 6, 8 or 12 cylinder engines.

The most impressive BMW four-cylinder from the early era was the 1973 2002 turbo engine. Using the popular M10 2.0-litre SOHC four as the base, a KKK turbocharger was installed in conjunction with an incredibly low 6.9:1 static compression ratio and mechanical fuel injection. Power was a then-amazing 127kW at 5800 rpm – but again, driveability was not a strong point.

Oh, and we mustn’t forget the BMW/Chrysler designed range of Mini engines...

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The current Mini Cooper 1.6 uses a W10 engine with a simple SOHC, 16-valve head and 10.6:1 compression. Output is a relatively pedestrian 85kW and 149Nm. Interestingly, a factory-backed John Cooper Works (JCW) upgrade – which includes an improved head, sports air filter system, modified ECU and sports muffler - ups the ante to 93kW and 155Nm.

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The Mini Cooper S, however, gets an exciting W11 engine using a low 8.1:1 static compression ratio and an Eaton supercharger to crank out 120kW and 210Nm. An air-to-air intercooler is also fitted. But for even more bang, the JCW version tops an impressive 147kW and 240Nm! This extra grunt is achieved with an improved head, new spark plugs, modified ECU, sports muffler and modified supercharger with coated rotors.

BMW Performance Motors at a Glance...


N73B60 6.0 litre


S70 5.6 litre


M70 5.0 litre


M72 5.4 litre




S62 4.9-litre


M62 4.6 litre


N62 4.4-litre


M60 4.0 litre


M62 4.4 litre


N62 3.6-litre


M62 3.5 litre


M60 3.0 litre




Updated S38 3.8 litre


S54 3.2 litre


Updated S38 3.6 litre


S50 3.2 litre


S50 3.0 litre


Original S38 3.5 litre


M102 3.2 litre turbo


M54 3.0 litre


M30 3.5 litre (M535i)


M52 2.8 litre


M50 2.5 litre




S14 EVOIII 2.5 litre


S14 2.3 litre


W11 1.6 litre supercharged (JCW enhanced)


M10 2.0 turbo


W11 1.6 litre supercharged


N44 2.0 litre


M44 1.9-litre


M42 1.8 litre


W10 1.6 litre (JCW enhanced)


W10 1.6 litre


N44 1.8 litre


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