BMW has a pretty big collection of greatest hits engines, especially when it comes to noise. The Bavarians have been making some brilliant engines for decades now, most of which producing unbelievable noises. But which Bavarian beating heart sounds best? That’s a hard one to pick but let’s take a look at a few of BMW’s best sounding engines and you folks can pick.
BMW M1 — M88/1 Engine
Designed by Paul Rosche as a homologated motorsport engine, the M88/1 in the BMW M1 was an absolute masterpiece. It was a twin-cam, 32-valve, 3.5 liter naturally-aspirated inline-six and had six individual throttle bodies. It also made around 275 hp, which was impressive for the late ’70s. More importantly, it made an unbelievable noise. In BMW M1 Procar spec, it’s one of the all-time great motorsport engine noises. In fact, Top Gear recently claimed it to possibly be the greatest engine noise of all time.
E30 BMW M3 — S14 Engine
The E30 BMW M3 was the only M3 to have a four-cylinder engine and it was a good one. It was a 2.4 liter naturally-aspirated four-pot and it only made around 190 hp or so at first, but it did progressively gain a bit of power over the years. No matter though, as the S14 engine’s main party trick wasn’t its power but its ability to rev. It loved to rev and it loved to sing, making some wonderful, buzzy, motorsport-inspired four-cylinder noises. Lovely.
E9X BMW M3 — S65 Engine
While the E30 M3 was the only one to sport a four-pot, the E90-generation M3 (E90, E92, E93) was the only one to have a V8. And what a V8 it was. With 4.0 liters of displacement, not a single turbocharger in sight and a redline past 8,000 rpms, the S65 engine in the E90-gen M3 was astonishing. It only made around 414 hp, which wasn’t even a ton when it was new, but the way it revved and the sounds it made more than made up for it. The way it went from deep and burbly at low revs to pure motorsport shriek at high revs was magical.
E60 BMW M5 — S85 Engine
The only V10-powered M car of all time, the E60 BMW M5 has its place in history. Mostly for that engine, though. While the rest of the E60 M5 was good, with sharp steering, good chassis balance and impressive handling, it was really the engine that made the car. The S85 was a 5.0 liter naturally-aspirated V10 that made 500 hp. However, forget its power. The only thing that now matters is its noise. There are very few road cars in history with engines that sound as good as the S85.
McLaren F1 — S70/2 Engine
When Gordon Murray was designing the McLaren F1, he needed an engine made for it that had almost impossible specs. His demands for the engine were so difficult that even McLaren’s longtime F1 partner, Honda, wanted no part of it. So Murray turned to BMW M’s Paul Rosche to build his engine and what he got was a 6.1 liter naturally-aspirated V12 with over 600 hp and twelve individual throttle bodies. It also made possibly the greatest engine noise of all time. Maybe I’m a bit biased, as I feel that the S70/2 is a contender for the greatest engine of all time, regardless of brand, but this is my vote for best sounding BMW engine. What’s yours?