BMW M88 Tuning

"All you need to know about tuning the BMW M88 engine!"

The BMW M88 are fantastic to work on and with the ultimate performance tuning mods like a remap, turbo kits and camshafts you will dramatically enhance your driving enjoyment.

In this article we review and look at M88 tuning and outline the best modifications for your car.

This became the engine used in the Group 4 racing league and was a very powerful and revolutionary engine for it's time.

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History, Power & Specs of the M88 Engine


277 PS (204 kW; 273 hp) at 6,500 rpm 330 Nm (243 lbft) at 5,000 rpm 1978-1981

  • BMW M1


470 PS (346 kW; 464 hp) at 9,000 rpm 390 Nm (288 lbft) at 7,000 rpm 1979-1980

  • Gr.4 Procar


850 PS (630 kW; 840 hp) at 9,000 rpm 1979-1981

  • Gr. 5 turbo


286 PS (210 kW; 282 hp) at 6,500 rpm 340 Nm (251 lbft) at 4,500 rpm 1983–1989

  • M635 CSi
  • M5

Tuning the BMW M88 and best M88 performance parts.

Best M88 parts

The greatest M88 modifications on an engine are as we have found the ones that give the best value for money.

We won't be swayed by popular M88 modifications, they need to be cost effective.

Altering your M88 cam will make a dramatic difference to the engine power band. Choosing a higher performance cam profile raises the power band accordingly.

Fast road cams normally boost the bhp over the rev band, you might lose a little low down bhp but top end will be lifted.

Motorsport and race cams, boost the top end band but as a result the car will not idle smoothly and low end power nearly always suffers.

A Competition cam won't do well if driving around busy urban areas. This is because a competition cam causes a very lumpy idle, and makes the car more prone to stall or jerk along in stop start traffic, sadly though many ignore this and end up ruining a perfectly good car and having to revert back to a fast road, or OEM cam profile.

You should ideally optimize your engines power to your usage of the car so for a daily driver stick with a fast road M88 cam

Some M88 engines respond better to more aggressive cam durations so set your engine up on a rolling road.

The map and fuelling also have an effect on the power gains you'll make.

Longer valve durations can alter the power band and on most engines the exhaust and intake durations do not need to match, although most cams and tuners use matched pairs there are some advantages to extending the intake or exhaust durations.

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Best mods for your M88

  1. Fast road cams are significant power adders, but TorqueCars recommend they be fitted by someone familiar with setting them up on your car and you might struggle to find one but there is usually a local firm to regrind a stock camshaft for you.
  2. Intake Upgrades and Sports Exhausts - Please note that on their own these mods won't ADD POWER on most cars, but they will enable you to lift power after other modifications by lessening the restrictive flow.
  3. Internal engine mods - crank, pistons, conrods & compression ratio including balancing and blueprinting
  4. Turbo upgrades - forced induction is the most dramatic method to increase air supply, ensuring you are able to burn more fuel and make power gains. Typically one of the most costly upgrades you'll see massive gains.
  5. Tunes - M88 remapping ensures the most advantage in terms of your investment, replacement ECUs, and inline Tuning boxes are all alternatives.
  6. Flywheel lightening - a lower mass flywheel will significantly improve the engines free revving nature. But not always a great mod for all M88 engines.

M88 Tuning Stages

Typical stage 1 mods often include:
Fast road camshaft, Panel air filters, Remaps/piggy back ECU, Intake manifolds, drilled & smoothed airbox, Sports exhaust header/manifold.

Typical stage 2 mods often include:
Sports catalyst & performance exhaust, Ported and polished head, fuel pump upgrades, induction kit, Fast road cam, high flow fuel injectors.

Typical stage 3 mods often include:
Competition cam, Crank and Piston upgrades to alter compression, Twin charging conversions, Engine balancing & blueprinting, Internal engine upgrades (head flowing porting/bigger valves), Adding or Upgrading forced induction (turbo/supercharger).

The M88 engines make great tuning projects and we see that there is an increase of upgrades and tuning parts around.

ECU mapping should help to establish the full potential of all the tuning mods you've done to your M88.

(In some cases, as the factory ECU is locked flashing is not an option, so an aftermarket ECU is the route to take, and many of these will outperform factory ECU's but make sure it has knock protection and that you get it setup properly.)

It will usually give you around 30% more power on turbocharged vehicles and you can expect to see around 15% on NA (naturally aspirated) engines, but figures achieved usually differs on the tuning mods you've done and the condition of your engine.

It is the main goal to any engine performance tuning project to force more air into the M88 engine

Intake carry the air during the suck phase from the air cleaner and allow it to be drawn into the engine and mixed with fuel.

Design and rate of flow of the Intake manifold can make a noticeable change to fuel atomisation on the M88.

I usually find plenum chambers are crying out for aftermarket parts, although some car makers provide fairly well optimized plenum chambers.

Larger M88 valves, doing a bit of port work and head flowing will also boost performance, & more importantly will permit a greater performance increase on other tuning mods.

M88 Turbo upgrades

NA (naturally aspirated) engines need quite a lot of work when you add a turbo, so we have a separate guide to help you take into account the pros and cons of going this route on your M88

The more air you can get into an engine, the more fuel it can burn and uprating the induction with a turbocharger upgrade makes excellent power gains.

If an engine has a turbo already fitted tuning mods are giving better power gains and turbo engines are built using harder and stronger components.

However you'll find engines have weakspots.Research these restrictions and install stronger pistons, crank and engine components to handle the power.

There are many mechanics spending a loads on turbo upgrades on the M88 only to suffer the indignity of watching the whole thing throw a rod soon after it's been enthusiastically driven.

Big upgraded turbo chargers commonly suffer low end lag, and low capacity turbo chargers spool up much more quickly but do not have the peak rpm bhp gains.

In the last 10 years the market of turbo units is always improving and we are seeing variable vane turbo units, allowing the vane angle is altered according to speed to lower lag and increase top end torque.

Twin scroll turbo units divert the exhaust gases into 2 channels and flow these at differently profiled vanes in the turbocharger. They also help the scavenging effect of the engine.

You'll commonly see there is a restriction in the air flow sensor MAF/MAP on the M88 when considerably more air is being drawn into the engine.

Going up you'll find 4 bar air sensors coping with quite large power gains, whereas the OEM air sensor was restricting performance at a much lower level.

Adding a supercharger or additional turbo will make large torque gains, although more complex to configure. We have this feature on twinchargers if you want to read more.


When you raise the power you will need to ramp up to the fuel system.

More power needs more fuel. Don't forget to be generous with your flow rate on the injectors.

The accepted safe increase is to add 20% when specifying an injector, this allows for injector deterioration and affords a little spare capacity should the engine require more fuel.

We think this one is common sense, but you'll need to match your fuel injector to the type of fuel your car uses as well.

M88 Performance Exhausts

Only look to uprate your exhaust if the current exhaust is actually creating a flow problem.

On most factory exhausts you'll find the exhaust flow rate is still ok even on modest power gains, but when you start pushing up the power levels you will need to get a better flowing exhaust.

Note that with the biggest exhaust you can find you'll slow up the exhaust flow rate - the best exhausts for power gains are usually between 1.5 to 2.5 inches. It is the shape and material more than the bore size.

Usual exhaust restrictions come around the filters installed, so adding a higher flowing race alternative such as a sports catalyst pretty much removes this restriction, thanks to it's larger size and surface area, and will effectively raise the performance to levels you would expect without having a catalyst installed, but keeps the car road legal.

Weak spots, Issues & problem areas on the M88

The M88 engines are generally reliable and solid units, as long as you follow the manufacturers service schedules, and use a good quality oil to ensure longevity. Few problems should happen as long as they are regularly serviced and maintained.

Carbon build up in the head, particularly around the valves which will sap power or create flat spots, this is a larger issue on direct injection engines but should be looked out for on all engines. We have tips on removing carbon build up.

Some of our members have had issues with flat spots or glitches after applying mods and upgrades or tuning, this is not usually related to this engines design, so instead see our article on diagnosing flat spots and problems after tuning which should help you get the bottom of this issue.

Regular oil changes are vital on the M88, especially when tuned and will help extend the life and reliability of the engine.

If you would like to know more, or just get some friendly advice on Tuning your M88 engine please join us in our car forums where you can discuss M88 tuning options in more detail with our M88 owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased BMW tuning articles to get insights into each modification and how effective they will be for your car.

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