BMW Engines: From M to N – Part 2

Car Tips | December 27th, 2008 by 8
n63 cutaway

We are continuing our coverage on the BMW engines – Part 1 can be found here – and today we are going to focus on …

We are continuing our coverage on the BMW engines – Part 1 can be found here – and today we are going to focus on the latest and what some might call, the best BMW engines to date, such as the award-winning N54 engine.

The “new generation” engines will be the main focus of my engine technical articles. For two reasons; these are the engines I am personally most well versed in and spend the most time working on, secondly; they have the newest innovations which includes all of the aforementioned ones. The N52 (now the N52K, it has received its first update) is the new 2.5L or 3.0L 6cyl engine found on all 1, 3 and 5 series, as well as the X3, and X5.

For terminology purposes all current production 3 series will be referred to as chassis code E9x. For the new 3 there are 4 different designations to better describe which body style. Working at BMW, we refer to all cars by their chassis designation. E9x is a term for the 3 in general.
More specifically the E90 is the sedan, the E91 is the touring (5 door/hatchback), the E92 is the coupe, and the E93is the hardtop convertible. Similarly the 5 and 6 are known as E6x vehicles. The E60 is the 5 series sedan, the E61 the touring. The E63 is a 6 coupe and the E64 is a 6 convertible.
And since we’ve gone this far I might as well tell you the previous generation 7er is the E65, the E66 is the Li (long wheelbase). E70, the new X5 (the previous was the E53). E71 is an X6. E83 is an X3. E85 is a Z4 roadster, and E86 a Z4 coupe. I’m sure that’s more than enough for now.
n62 engine 497x515
Back to the engines.
As I stated we have the N52 for the current 6 cylinder. The N62 is the current V8 (also has received first update, now the N62TU), sized from 3.6L all the way to 4.8L. Mechanically both the N52 and N62 engines are tremendously more weight efficient than their predecessors, mainly through the use of materials and construction.
In particular the N52 uses a magnesium aluminum alloy crankcase with an aluminum cylinder head and oil pan. The valve cover is magnesium. These are extremely light weight materials. I could go one about boring construction techniques but basically everything is as light as possible.

For example the camshafts are constructed from a hydroforming process. The cams are not cast. A hollow steel tube is used and each cam lobe is like a ring that can slide onto the shaft. Each lobe is placed in proper position and the assembly place in a die. The steel tube is then pressurized with water at around 4000 bar (~58,000 psi). The bar expands and the lobes are now a press fit onto the tube. These cams are exceptionally light weight and strong.

n52 crankcase 498x414
There are 3 other major changes. An electric water pump is used to reduce parasitic loses by not being belt driven. This is also a much more precise way of controlling/monitoring engine temperatures more efficiently. Secondly, Valvetronic. This is a system that allows for variable lift on the intake valves. Third, a vacuum pump is needed due to the Valvetronic system as it reduces manifold vacuum. The pump is used for the brake booster for example. Then N62 V8 includes all of the previously mentioned technologies.
Finally there are 3 other new generation engines to be noted. The N54, the N63, and the N73. The N54 is the bi-turbo inline 6 that powers the 135i, 335i and 535i. The N63 is the new bi-turbo V8 introduced in the X6 and will be powering various upcoming models like the new 7s and 5s, 6s,and X5s. finally the N73 is the current V12 in the E66 760Li.
The N73 is similar to the N52 and N62 except the fuel system is direct injection. The engine uses Valvetronic and is naturally aspirated. The N54 and N63 are both parallel bi-turbo engines with direct injection. They do not use Valvetronic. It is redundant due to the naturally more efficient charged air intake. They also do not incorporate DISA valves in their intake manifolds. The DISA valves operate the variable intake runner length. Again due to the charged air intake the system is not needed.
The one special thing about the N63 is its architecture. It’s a totally radical new design based on the “efficient dynamics” principle that BMW has now incorporated into its development process. The strange thing about the engine is that the exhaust manifolds, turbines, compressors and catalytic converters are packaged in the “V” area between the cylinder heads where normally an intake manifold would be. Conversely there are two intake manifolds, one for each bank, located where the exhaust manifolds would normally be. Basically the intake and exhaust ports have flipped. It’s a very ingenious design for many reasons.

Coming up we will take a look at the systems individually in separate articles, and have a little more engine/vehicle specific information. Until next time…

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8 responses to “BMW Engines: From M to N – Part 2”

  1. Gragop says:

    Al – Which engine would you say is better to own? The N52 3.0L or the N54 3.0L turbo? I only ask as I was reading a debate on this over at bimmerfest. Personally, I like the idea of the naturally aspirated N52, despite it’s lack of punch compared to the N54.

  2. adood84 says:

    Just to correct something the new 7er is F01 and F02 :), otherwise great article

  3. Horatiu B. says:

    @adood84: We meant the previous generation 7 series. It’s being updated to reflect that now

  4. Alonso says:

    Can you do part III with the M3 engines?.

  5. Matski says:

    While on the subject of E numbers, if I recall correcly the Security vehicles also have a different number (eg E67 is E65 Gepanzerte version!)

  6. Doug says:

    Al, thanks very much for the article, it’s interesting indeed. You give a lot of very interesting information (and pictures) but you tease with little subtopics!

    “It’s a very ingenious design for many reasons.”

    But— what are the reasons?

    Also, how does the N62 accomplish it’s different displacements? Is it bore, and uses this to accomodate turbocharged versions?

    Also, Does the N62 share block or components with the M3’s S65

    “They do not use Valvetronic. It is redundant due to the naturally more efficient charged air intake”.

    I can see there being less of a need to use this to optimize the intake resonance, but there is still a need to optimize the amount of air coming in. Wouldn’t there be huge variances in intake pressure given the turbo?

    Also… what about the watercooling of the turbos? Is it a separate air-water intercooler or is the compressor jacketed somehow?

    Sorry… a lot of questions :) Thanks for your time and effort in these articles!

  7. bmwtechal says:

    i personally like the N54 engine better. there pretty much now turbo lag. you need to know that youre driving a turbo to feel it. another reason i like it to own is that its actually a little bit simpler of an engine. i know i talk about innovations, and i think all of them are really cool. i like to work on them. but i really love simplicity sometimes. a bi-turbo inline 6 engine with no other power/efficiency add ons but 2 turbos and variable valve timing on the intake and exhaust. no valvetronic, no variable intake (wich is not needed because the air “charage” is always pressurized once the turbo is spooled, wich doesnt take long, hence “charge” air).
    i think this is a good engine to own and be able to work on a little easier than all the fancy stuff. i think its fancy enough. i just like simplicty personally.

    yeah i think and M engine section would be cool. we could talk about F1 engines to since both are based on light naturally aspirated high spinning engines.

    yes the security vehicles are another number. i dont really know anything about these except that there is bullet proof glass available for them.

    no component sharing between “M” car engines and “noraml” car enines. the N62 does not share any components with the N73 either. the N52 and N54 do not share. basically turbos and N/As dont share.
    the N62 has had a couple displacements based on the bore. these came along with the N62tu update. now there is only the N62TU wich is the 4.8. the 4.4 (N62)is being produced anymore.

  8. Shueb Chowdhury says:

    Could clarify if the n52k was installed on the e86 from 2007 onwards?

    Reason I ask is, I’ve noticed on 2006 model e86s, they have a silver/valve cover, and 2007 onwards the e86s had a black valve cover. However when I vin checked two cars, they both said the engine was a n52, even though under the valve cover, it looks different for 2006 and 2007.

    And what did the n52k improve upon from the n52? Reliability, performance? Efficiency? Thanks

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