BMW to build only turbocharged M cars

BMW M3 | November 27th, 2008 by 27

The BMW //M cars have been powered for nearly twenty-years by normally-aspirated modified engines giving the buyers higher-revs and more horsepower. For the past few …

The BMW //M cars have been powered for nearly twenty-years by normally-aspirated modified engines giving the buyers higher-revs and more horsepower. For the past few years, BMW has been focusing on their turbo and twin-turbo technology building engines that won them several awards

In a recent interview with BMW’s Director of European Delivery, Keri-Lynne Shaw, it was confirmed that the amazing 3.0 liter twin-turbo engine found across BMW’s series, had a huge impact in the recent sales. There were also several reports of BMW moving away from its V8/V10 engines due to emission standards and manufacturing costs and replace them with smaller, more efficient ones.

bmw m3 v8 engine 1 big 500x358

So, it was no surprise when Autoweek and Autoblog reported BMW’s decision to steer away from the large naturally-aspirated engines and replace them across their //M models with twin-turbo engines. It is known that many tuners managed to take the 3.0 liter twin-turbo to the levels and power of a 4.0 liter V8(M3’s engine these days).  

The first model to take advantage of the turbocharged engines is the controversial BMW X6M, a car that will be powered by a 4.4-liter V8 twin-turbo outputting 500 ponies and 516 lb-ft of torque.

As a BMW enthusiast, I’ve grown with the M engines and always loved them, so it will be interesting to see how the new engines will be received by the picky BMW fans. 

What do you guys think? Naturally aspirated V8 or twin-turbo V8? Cons/Pros?

[Source: Autoweek via Autoblog ]

27 responses to “BMW to build only turbocharged M cars”

  1. Giom says:

    I’m all for it! If BMW never re-invented itself since the 80’s, the M3 would still be a four cylinder today. Instead, they always lead from the front with relevant technologies. This is no different. You can bet the new enjins will again break new records in terms of performance vs economy.

    I used to love the 4 pot M3. When they moved to 6, it won me over -same with the V8. I’m sure this time will be no different.

  2. Horatiu B. says:

    @Giom: I definitely agree, it’s time to look forward and let’s try to achieve more with less, or smaller. I also have a lot of faith in the future quad-turbo engines.

  3. Mauro Corti says:

    If you start thinking like “I’m an aspirated engine fan” or “Turbo fan” you’re going nowhere… so here I’ll try to have an objective point of view.


    – “Little” engine;
    – Same power but a lot of torque more than the aspirated;
    – You don’t have to drive like a fool to get power, because with the aspirated you have to stay at 7500 rpm to get the engine really work, with the turbo you can drive at lower rpm but still get a lot of power and fun;
    – Turbo = lighter engine = lighter car = better performance, consumption and less emissions.


    – You have to like it;
    – More chanches to break down something, there’s is one piece more you can destroy :);
    – On the track the aspirated works better, you get more satisfaction pushing the engine to the rev limite :)

    Can’t see anymore cons, maybe others can!!


    • C Barrett2 says:

      actually all the piping and inter-coolers as well as the turbos on a twin turbo car often add around or over 100 lbs to the engine… and in general (unless you re brake boosting) N/A cars will have a more immediate throttle response and will not have to be revved as high.

  4. Gragop says:

    I grew up believing in the power of natural aspiration over forced induction, thus M Division producing superior products over it’s competitors. It’s an adjustment to think that M Division would now produce forced induction engines.

    That said, if the forced induction nets the car buyer a lower gross weight compared to the very heavy cars we have today, then I can support that decision.

  5. L1ndja says:

    Im a die hard fan of the M-series and i allways was but i dont know if im going to bee in the future because i dont like the turbo engines at all and bmw is going that way..But i think that they have no other option so i must accept that but i can garantue you that these new turbo engines will never be better in terms of performance in the track and the funfactor will never be as good as in the old M-cars.The sound was just thrilling but now i can see how they will sound bye hearing the sound of the X50i wich i dont like ,it just sounds like an Mercedes car with that 12cylinder sound..If this continues what is next to be expected??Frontwheeldrive?I hope Bmw will prove me wrong..

  6. Giom says:

    I just wondered how many people remember that BMW won the F1 title in 1983 with a little 1.5l turbo enjin. This was compared to the 3.5l V12 of that day.

    All I’m saying is that turbo charging is as part of BMWs history as the multi valve technology they invented for the origional M1. Just because they went without a serious turbo performance car for so long doesn’t mean it’s new to them.

  7. roffle waffle says:

    not too many people complain about the 911 being turboed :)

    I just hope the M’s retain their above average redline

  8. George says:

    @roffle waffle: Excellent point!

  9. Auday says:

    NA is better in many ways, when Gordon Murray wanted an engine for his McLaren F1 he completely rejected any turbo option and went to BMW to source a high revving NA v12. Yes BMW won the Championship in the Turbo era but that same year, races like Monaco and Detroit showed a clear superiority of the NA V8 engines because turbo power is not as controllable as NA.
    I have to admit that Today, Turbo engines are 10 times better than they used to be and the lag problem is almost solved (still there though) but still, the response of a turbo engine is not the same, and most importantly the feeling of it is different. Most Ferraris, all Lambos, Audi R8, all use NA engines, Porsche has a heritage of Turbo cars and awkward setup (rear engine) so they are not a measure here.
    Regardless of all that, BMW M cars have a distinctive definition: uncivilized rough cars, NA high revving high-tech engine with incredible NA HP/Liter and BMEP numbers, amazing handling that matches the HP, and most importantly great feedback and driver involvement which equals more fun. They kept losing their character slowly after the E30M3 (which Cars magazine choose as the Best M3 of all times, and I totally agree with them).

    Today, the current M-Cars (especially the E60) are farther away from the concept of M cars, but at least they kept the great S engines that people, magazines, even tech focused forums and papers use as bench mark of engineering. Now if we go to Turbo, it will be the last nail in the M cars coffin. M cars will not be much different from any other competitor like Lexus F , Merc AMG, or Audi S and RS.

    I would love it if they keep the M-Cars as they are (or bring them back to the E30 spirit), and make a new brand like BMW-Sport, or something like that, where they could combine stupid high-torque turbo engines with comfortable and easily driven cars, but I guess they want to make the most profit from the M brand reputation.

    Anyway, I read this news again and again for a while, I also read news in the 90s that BMW will go FWD for the 3er to compete in the market, all unfounded rumors. I haven’t yet read a statement from BMW saying anything like that about M-Cars. At the same time I read many statements from the M-Div lead engineers saying that M cars will always be NA, so for me I’d like to think that the M brand is still good, at least till I hear something that has a good reliable source.

  10. Howie_in_AZ says:

    The M division has always been about high-revving naturally aspirated engines that build on the top-end series class, eg the 330i for the E46 model. This is a huge disappointment to say the least.

    I wonder how M will differentiate itself from, say, Dinan, who have some tweaks to the 335i that allow it to output some 380bhp and a whopping 420lb/ft of torque. What is M going to do now that they’re not developing their own high-revving engines? Will they just pop two turbos in everything, slap on an M badge and call it a day? How is that any different than Dinan tweaking the ECU and turbos?

  11. Giom says:


    “Will they just pop two turbos in everything, slap on an M badge and call it a day? How is that any different than Dinan tweaking the ECU and turbos?”

    I think some of you guys are getting a little precious about the subject. BMW has been making breathtaking sports cars for decades all by them selfs. Along the way they broke a few ‘traditions’ to bring us something new. In doing so, they’ve started new traditions that, today, we treasure etc etc.

    I think of this move in much the same way… the performance turbo enjine is about to be re-invented! The industry can only benefit from something BMW does -their turbo diesels to name just one. Everybody had to up their game afterwards. Besides, who can argue with a lighter more economical better balanced M car.

  12. Auday says:


    Yes BMW “broke a few ‘traditions’” but for different reasons. The reason for turbos is mainly cost. Weight is not an issue here, the S65 V8 has almost the same weight as the N54 (twin turbo I6). IMO the whole engine weight thing is just marketing, the E92 weighs almost 300lb more than the E46 although the S65 is lighter than the S54, so saving weight should be focuesd somewhere else. And BTW if you look at the engine specs of the S65 you will find that the engine is way more relaxed than the S54 which means there is easily additional 100hp to take from the enigine with the same reliabilty as the old S54. So I would imagine a bigger bore S65 to be the next step instead of turbos.

  13. Giom says:


    If what you’re saying about weight is true, then where could the other big advantages with turbo charging be? Is there some BMW insider that can back this up? (Non marketing insider please…lol).

  14. Clara says:

    It’s not just about performance, but about control and responsiveness. The 3.0TT has a small amount of lag in terms of throttle *response*, but it still behaves like a turbocharged engine where the turbo is still a third variable. Some folks don’t like the feel as much as naturally aspirated, where you really have just throttle and rpm as variables and it’s more linear and tightly controlled.

    The solution is probably supercharging, or combining supercharging (for response & linearity) with turbocharging (efficiency). If you replaced the small turbo in the 3.0TT with a small supercharger behind its own throttle, you’d get much better control over the engine with negligible efficency losses.

    Audi is reportedly going with supercharging for the next S4/S5.

  15. Auday says:

    Well said, I totally agree!

    I would consider SC to be a good development for M cars and, as you mentioned, since the SC is 100% synchronized (locked) to the engine rpm then there wont be a 3rd variable and responsiveness /predictability of the engine stays the same as NA.

    However, the problem is: SC reduces the fuel efficiency of the engine while Turbo increases it. So for BMW it’s a no a brainer, they need to comply with the new US rules that penalize companies per the average of their models rather than the average of the SUM of each model multiplied by the production/import numbers. With these rules (If I understand them correctly) BMW will be penalized even if it sells 10 M5 with bad MPG and million Mini’s with good MPG.

    What you said about Turbo/SC combined sounds very interesting, something like a turbo that has it’s turbine shaft locked to the crank, sounds like it could be the best of both, but there should be a catch somewhere. Do you know of any example?

  16. Clara says:

    I didn’t realize that’s how the US rules worked… that’s bizarre, actually. Why do they do that? Maybe it simplifies things for companies where most of their cars are the same car? (detroit?)

    What I was thinking was simply the combination of a separate turbo and supercharger, both blowing to the same intercooler. If you have a throttle in front of the supercharger, you can lower the resistance when compression isn’t needed (or the turbo is providing it). However, maybe the turbo is still more efficient because it’s harnessing unused power in exhaust gasses.

    The idea of a hybrid turbo compressor—— that’s interesting. I don’t know how you’d couple it to the engine. Actually, maybe it could be tied to a electric motor/generator– that would be more flexible. So, if exhaust power was present and you didn’t need compression, you could then generate & store power; conversely, when you needed compression but there isn’t enough exhaust, you could run the electric motor. Are there electric motors that can run at 200K rpm without reduction?

  17. Clara says:

    Actually… because a turbo is so much more efficient, it can make more maximum power because not so much is being robbed to run a supercharger. So, you could cut the supercharger out with a throttle for max power scenarios, OR for max efficiency scenarios in stable driving. So really, this would do a much better job than the small-turbo-big-turbo in the 3.0TT, and be of even more benefit to a 4-cylinder engine where it’s already weak at low rpm.

  18. Giom says:


    Very interesting concpet! But I’m wondering what the weight penalties would be from such a set-up. Remember, we’re talking performance enjins here. At the same time, you don’t want to over complicate the system. There’s so much more that can go wrong. I think the mechanical parts of a performance enjin should be basic, but well enjineerd -clever, but nothing fancy. If you have to go smaller due to economical and public perceptions, you’re gonna have to sacrifice some good things, ie, large capacity high revving motors, for something that is perceived to be smaller and lighter, but with more power and better economy… what other option is there but to go turbo charging.

  19. Clara says:

    @Giom: Hi Giom!

    Well isn’t a supercharger much simpler than a turbo anyway? You don’t have to fold exhaust manifolds, there’s no turbine, and best of all- the power is immediate.

    I’m not at all arguing against 4-cylinder turbo engines. If anything 4’s need something like this even more because their weaker low-RPM output makes the turbo characteristics even more pronounced.

    And enough with your blasphemy about “sacrifice” on a performance-oriented car! :) I mean… as long as the driving experience keeps improving despite challenges… then… whatever it takes.

  20. Giom says:


    Lol, don’t kill the messenger! Fact is -it’s a changing world, pretty soon there will be no more V12s… Ferraris wil come wispering by on high speed state-of-the-art electric motors, F1 circuits will have grooves in the tracks to feed the cars with electrical power (skylectric style).
    Just kidding ofcoarse. But “what ever it takes” is a risky statement:) It implies “sacrifice”.

    About the complexity of the system… I was refering to your concept on combining supercharging with turbo charging in one enjin (if that is what you meant).

  21. Clara says:

    It’s exactly what I meant. It’s not really any more complicated than their sequential turbo design (135/335/535), you’re just driving the smaller turbo from a belt rather than the exhaust. It’s actually less complicated than the V8 TT design, because those are variable geometry turbos for the same purpose.

    Maybe we should figure out what the sacrifices actually are. Changes, yes… but I can’t see BMW buyers will accepting a sacrifice in the driving characteristics just for the sake of efficiency. Say the next M3 uses a 4-cylinder engine– that’s fine, but it not only has to perform just as good as the V8 or 3.2, but has to sound as good, feel as good, be just as responsive and controllable. That’s where turbocharging is lacking.

    Whispering Ferraris!!!! More blasphemy. Actually if they are planning that currently, it’s curious that they objected so furiously against the F1 V12 standardization.

  22. Giom says:


    “It’s exactly what I meant. It’s not really any more complicated than their sequential turbo design (135/335/535), you’re just driving the smaller turbo from a belt rather than the exhaust. It’s actually less complicated than the V8 TT design, because those are variable geometry turbos for the same purpose.”

    Ok, if you say so.

    I totally agree with you about the sacrifices issue. It’s just… no one knows for sure how the world will look when this fin crysis is over. The guy that was going to buy a Porshe is probably going to buy a fast sedan. They guy that was going to buy an M3 is probably going to buy a 135i etc etc. It’s all hypothetical, but I bet the top brass of these auto makers are at least talking about it. Am I being too pesimistic? I hear economists are talking about a twe year recession. Thats a long time!

  23. Clara says:

    Yeah the economic crisis could change folks’ decisions about cars. Performance isn’t related to efficiency so much, but it is definitely related to cost — technology and exotic lightweight materials cost $$$.

    Two year recession is what I’ve heard as well. I was getting ready for a big auto upgrade and it’s the worst possible time to risk security.

    Right after the two year recession, the whole “baby boomer retirement” problem is speculated to hit the economy even harder and last a decade……… :(

  24. Paulo says:

    Just a quick note. VW produces a small 4cil engine with a small SC followed by a small turbo. It is only a 1.4 with 170HP but it shows that it is possible.

    A own a Z3MC with the S54…a charm of an engine.
    Currently It seems weird knowing that the most powerful M car is…a SUV (X6M and X5M) and using a Twin-Turbo engine…that is, no NA engine, nor a small, light, agile M car…

    I understand the restrains companies have, because of CO2 emissions but I still feel sad that the great M NA engines seem to have come to an end with the M3 V8 engine (this V8 with increased bore and direct injection would be a dream come true form NA M fans).

  25. paul says:

    I wish BMW would build the M cars with xdrive , as to the turbo’s , this is the future , at some point BMW will have an M / Hybrid car.

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