As of right now, BMW does not make a single naturally-aspirated, internal combustion engine in any of their production vehicles. Every single engine BMW currently makes is turbocharged. It’s understandable obviously, emissions and fuel economy regulations are causing all automakers to downsize and turbocharge their engines. This makes engines just as powerful, if not more so, than their NA counterparts while being more fuel efficient. So being that this approach is trending upwards, it begs the question — Will BMW ever make a naturally aspirated engine again?
I sure do hope so. BMW has made some of the most iconic naturally aspirated engines in automotive history; 3.5 liter, I6 from the M1, the 2.3 liter, I4 from the E30 M3 and the 4.0 liter, V8 in the E90/92 M3, just to name a few. I adore the 2.8 liter I6 in my E36 and that’s not even one of the all-time greats.
BMW NA engines, especially the straight-sixes, are simply sublime and famously so. They’re buttery smooth with linear power bands and rev fast to their high redlines. They also make an aggressive, metallic growl as they scream to redline.
Now, though, those engines have somewhat gone by the wayside. Sure the N55, turbocharged 3.0 liter in many BMW’s, shares its roots with a naturally aspirated version, but it isn’t the same. And that’s not to say the N55, or any turbo BMW engines, are bad. In fact, they’re fantastic and I personally adore the turbo, 2.0 liter four-cylinder in all of the “28i” BMWs. It’s just a shame that there will most likely never be a free-breathing, straight-six again.
I applaud BMW for being able to keep up with the times and stay relevant while still keeping their DNA intact. I will just miss those screaming-sixes of the past. Maybe I’ll hold onto my E36 forever, this way I can always go back and drive one of the engines that defined the Bavarian brand.