BMW retires the Z4 M's straight-six engine

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The iron-block 3.2L monster has lived an eventful, but abbreviated, life

The iron-block 3.2L monster has lived an eventful, but abbreviated, life

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Fantastic engines are to car people like a fine vintage is to a wine enthusiast - not just to be used, but enjoyed, savored as some of the highest expressions of the art of their creation. But like all such things, they are fleeting. BMW's S54B32 engine, the straight-six 3.2L cast-iron motivator that powered such greats as the E46 M3, the Z3, Z3 M, Z4 M, and even the Wiesmann MF3, has now headed into retirement.

The final Z4s, built at the tail end of 2008, housed the last of the S54 straight-sixes, reports CAR. Instead, the replacement cars will feature only a 3.0L twin-turbo rated at 300hp (223kW) as the top-of-the-range model. They're sure to be fun and are most likely somewhat underrated in terms of outright horsepower, but they are unlikely to have the same character of the outgoing mill.

Singing along at its 7,900rpm power peak - just 100rpm shy of redline - the S54 was one of the most sonorous of BMW's sixes, and a worthy successor to the S50B32 of the E36 M3, itself a sonic powerhouse.

At 3.2L, the engine was a middleweight doing the fighting of a heavyweight. Rated at 343hp (252kW) in Euro-spec trim, the addition of U.S. emissions equipment bridled the engine back down to 333hp (248kW) in America.

Some of the awards the S54 earned over its roughly seven-year tenure at BMW include the International Engine of the Year Overall and Best New Engine awards in 2001, the winner of the 3-4L category from 2001-2006 and a spot on Ward's 10 Best Engines for four years running from 2002 to 2004.

Though troubled early on by some mechanical problems, most relating to the car's stratospheric redline and some sub-par contracted engine parts, the S54's cast-iron block and otherwise bulletproof construction have earned it a spot among the most praise-worthy engines of recent times.
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Comments (6)
  1. it's a shame to see it go, but I guess all good things must end :(

    now they just need to put that V8 from the new M3 in the new Z4. :D

  2. Hang on people lets live in the real world and not a Hollywood esque "engine land". This is the very engine that would fail at any and all engine speeds and to avoid negative warranty ratings BMW made its customers sign waivers not to report such issues to the press/rating agenices and bought back the defective engines. Sorry but if you make a defective product I think that it should reflect against your record in the publics eye i.e. J D Power and the like.. such tactics are plain old deceitful.

    Hardly an engine worthy of praise, also it holds the distinction of being the only M series engine not developed out of a motorsport program. So which BMW M series engine is any good? The four pot in the original M3 born out of their F1 program and dont forget the six pot out of the M1 and last but not least the V8 in the current M cars....

  3. Beautiful intro, Nelson! However, I won't miss the engine too much... others will come soon.

    Doc, leave big engines to German tuners. The new Z4 only needs a tweaked version of the current 3.0L inline-6 as a top-spec. Keep in mid that the TT-S has a straigth-4 2.0L unit and the TT-RS would get a five-cylinder.

  4. "Keep in mind", I meant.

  5. Oh well, the twin turbo inline 6 is a good replacement with all the engine tuning possibilities

  6. Why don't they just boost this mill? I'm guessing that the 3.2L displacement means the cylinder walls are too thin to take the increased stress of forced induction? If not, that would be a truly monstrous engine!

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