Jalopnik: “Dear BMW, Why Did You Retire the S54B32 Engine?”

Interesting | August 26th, 2010 by 28
BMW S54B32 Engine 750x500

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 …

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.

BMW S54B32 Engine 655x491

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…

[Source: Jalopnik | Wiki ]

28 responses to “Jalopnik: “Dear BMW, Why Did You Retire the S54B32 Engine?””

  1. Nathaniel says:

    BMW’s changing the direction of the brand, away from high-revving I-6 engines and small, nimble cars, to V8s and V10s. Still nimble, but huge cars.

    That’s not to mention the horror of a FWD BMW.

    • Shincai says:

      They are coming back to straight-6s and twin-turbos.
      Like the new upcoming M3 will have a 3 liter twin-turbo. Atleast that’s what they say. V10s are being replaced by smaller twin-turbo V8s.

    • Laszlo says:

      bigger heavier cars needs bigger, more powerful engines. This was why the 6 cyl evolved into an 8 and then to 10 cyl engines. With strict emissions and fuel consumption rules, the 8 and 10 cyl engines are fading away. The only solution to get more power out of a smaller engine is forced induction. The turbo setup is pretty good , at least when they are new, so BMW choose that path.
      I’m worried about long term reliability on the 3.0l TT and even with a single Turbo with dual vane. The output is not extra high, kept at bay but the lack of proper cooling and the usual sub-standard BMW cooling parts quality might causes a lot of engine blowup after 7-8 years.
      They will not be as robust engines like the S54 anymore. If they need more power out of the engines, it will be more turbo’s direct injection, etc. An S54 reached its maximum in the M3 CSL which was about 350HP. They could have gone to a 3.4l like some tuners did, but they were worried about long term reliability, and still HP was slightly better – 375HP is the most I have heard of any non FI S54 engines. The 3.0 TT can easily meet that and cost less to make and has better emission/fuel consumption numbers. Also better suited for everyday driving with loads of torque at the low rpm range.

      • wazon8 says:

        Interesting thing that I’ve never noticed problems with cooling in this engine, despite above 150.000km milage, neither of driver of car with engine known to me also. Where did you get this data?

      • Barak-Har Elkin says:

        Horsepower is not a worry so much as torque is, given the charcteristic recent BMW tendency toward high-end screams instead of low-RPM grunts

    • Barak-Har Elkin says:

      Saw an amateur race-team online put an M6 V-10 into a Z4-M…It looked like the one jar of Lehua honey on a shelf filled only with Clover honey! (Sadly, a race team is about the only place you’ll find it from here on; cross the difficulty of making an F1-based engine into a reliable emissions regulated motor that stays in the MPG picture instead of the GPM portrait!)

  2. Some nice quoting from Wikipedia there ;) The S54 is a work of M art though, period.

    Have you seen this article regarding the S54? http://www.bimmerboost.com/showthread.php?1165-S54-vs.-S65-Overview-history-comparison-and-power-potential&p=13264#post13264

  3. 1Mc says:

    Love that ad!

  4. adc says:

    They retired the S54 because the S65 V8 is better in every conceivable way: lighter, shorter, more powerful, sounds better – the list goes on. Why would they stick with an inferior product?

    • That’s a good point but I think people will always love the S54 as the last naturally aspirated inline-6 in an M car for probably the forseeable future. I love that engine – the S65 is great, but I still think I would like to own the S54 once in my life.

    • L1ndja says:

      I agree with you to some point but not with the sounds.The S54 was is and will always be the best engine in the world, in terms of sound.I absolutely love it its the best, it has all the characteristics of a Bmw and thats why it is the symbol of BMW

      • adc says:

        Not to me. I have to opportunity to drive the E46 and my E90 back to back and think the rasp of the E46 is ridiculous. It also sounds a lot more strained near the redline – the S65 will literally rip to the limiter and feels like it could do a lot more revs.

        All IMO.

  5. Doug says:

    Oh *that’s* why the v8 was lighter, it obviously would be as aluminum versus steel. I thought it was because of some magical advancements in casting.

    So the engine bay constraints (e46) ended up meaning a heavier engine, although that’s a somewhat moot point if the car is heavier to take the bigger engine.

    • Aluminum vs. iron you mean.

    • Barak-Har Elkin says:

      Cast iron has a solidity aluminum will not provide, although It is a waste of weight. After working with all kinds of metals cutting gears, I’ve always wondered about a titanium block, which would solve both problems even if it was incredibly destructive to the tooling used to make it (plus I only speculate about this, as I have no idea if a Ti block would be feasible in other ways).

  6. GJR says:

    I always wonder why they retired the “BMW M POWER” script which used to be on all the M cars’ valve covers. No, didn’t add any horsepower, but I always loved seeing that under the hood.

  7. M-Roadster says:

    Environmental bullsh*t!
    I prefer a high revving engine over an engine with turbo(‘s). Somehow I find a turbocharged engine much less exciting to drive (despite the extra power). I can understand the V8-step in the M3 (it’s not turbocharged, high-revving, very exciting car!), but what I can’t understand is the turbocharged engine in the new 1M coupé… That would be thé perfect car for the S54 engine!

    • 1Mc says:

      You need to grow up if you think the environment is ‘bullshit’.

    • Barak-Har Elkin says:

      7 years later, I vote this comment up, although I cannot agree with your opening statement at all, having myself gained at least some knowledge of the environment beyond that professed by the morons that run the US Republican party (who are a laughing-stock to all the rest of the world, and to the US population as well except for the know-nothing 21% of ther base).

  8. Steve Wilson says:

    Anyone who thinks themselves a fan of the brand needs to take one of these out for a day. Its one of those events that lives up to the hype.
    Without rival in its standing as a real,live awesome engine.

    • Horatiu B. says:

      One of the best engines ever.

    • Barak-Har Elkin says:

      To be more accurate, it’s always better to be a fan of the tech than of the brand. This way one can applaud (for example) the Mustang or the Escort without having to explain away or rationalize the anti-Semitism of the founder of FoMoCo, Henry Ford.

  9. Barak-Har Elkin says:

    I loves me some’a’them symphonic Z4-M sounds just as much as I loves me some-a them growls off’n’a me Shelby Stangs…going under one of them parkway bridges here on LI-NY is an open-the-windows experience even in the depths of February (whups! forgot that this car is put down to hibernate all winter by yon BMWphiles…).

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