Jalopnik feels melancholic today and takes us back into BMW’s history, and reminds us of one of the best engines ever produced.
The S54B32 was a high-performance engine used in BMW M vehicles. It was featured in the Z3 M Coupe, Z3 M Roadster, E46 M3, E85 Z4 M Roadster, E86 Z4 M Coupe and E46 M3 CSL (an upgraded version of the engine).
The block was made from grey cast iron rather than aluminum to achieve greater rigidity from the same dimensions. It is a 3.2 L (3246 cc) engine; bore is 87 mm (3.4 in) and stroke is 91 mm (3.6 in). It has reinforced forged steel conrods, graphite coated cast aluminum pistons and a forged steel crankshaft.
The S54 is the final, most powerful evolution of the M50 engine line, incorporating individual throttle bodies, drive-by-wire throttle control, and variable valve timing (VANOS) for both intake and exhaust camshafts.
At launch the non-US versions fitted to the E46 M3 produced 343 hp (256 kW) at 7900 rpm, with 269 ft·lb (365 Nm) of torque at 4900 rpm and a 8000 rpm redline.
The US version required some modifications to meet US emissions standards (such as close-coupled catalytic converters closer to the engine exhaust ports) and thus produced slightly less power in each application. In addition, air intake and exhaust differences, as well as a lower RPM limit, resulted in different performance figures for the Z3 M Roadster and Z3 M Coupe.
The S54 won the International Engine of the Year award overall for 2001, and also claimed the “Best New Engine” that year as well as won the 3-4 L category for six straight years in a row from 2001 through 2006. The S54 was also on the Ward’s 10 Best Engines list for 2001 through 2004.
Let’s hear what Jalopnik had to say about the engine:
What makes the S54B32 so wonderful is not the mountain of engineering awards. Not the incredible g’s its poor valves must resist at maximum revs. Not the horsepower-to-displacement ratio of a 1960’s Formula One car.
What makes the S54B32 so wonderful is the noise. It’s the only engine this side of supercar lunacy that has such a—for lack of a better word—voluminous sound. You’ll know it when you’re around one when the air around you suddenly fills with this high-grade metallic substance, this gray-blue vapor of noise that fills an S54B32’s surroundings with such fearful urgency.
With BMW continuing down the path of turbocharged engines, many of us are already nostalgic for those good old days when the revving sound of natural aspirated engines made our day. Those of you looking for one of the few left non-turbocharged BMWs might want to hurry up since the M3 will be the last M to feature these amazing engines.
Last but not least, this is the sound we all crave for…