BMW N46 Tuning

"All you need to know about performance tuning the BMW N46 engine!"

In this article we consider N46 tuning and provide tips on the best modifications for your car. BMW N46 make a good tuning project and with a few sensible modifications like remaps, turbo kits and camshafts you will definitely enhance your driving opportunities.

History of the Engine

  • N46B18 129 lbft at 3,750 rpm
    2004-2005 E46 316i/316ti
  • N46B20U1 133 lbft at 3,250 rpm
    2005-2007 E87 118i
  • N46B20U2 133 lbft at 3,250 rpm
    2007-2011 E81/E87 118i
    2007-2013 E90 318i
  • N46B20O0  A 148 lbft at 3,750 rpm
    2004-2006 E46 318i, 318Ci and 318ti
  • N46B20O1  148 lbft at 3,600 rpm
    2004-2007 E83 X3 2.0i
    2005-2008 E85 Z4 2.0i
    2004-2007 E87 120i
    2005-2007 E90/E91 320i
  • N46NB20  148 lbft at 3,000 rpm
    2007-2011 E81/E82/E87/E88 120i
    2007-2013 E90/E91/E92/E93 320i
    2007-2010 E60 520i
    2009-2015 E84 X1 sDrive18i / xDrive18i
    2007-2010 E83 X3 2.0i

Tuning the BMW N46 and best N46 performance parts.

Best N46 parts

The best N46 upgrades on an engine are as we have found the ones that give the best value for money.

We won't be swayed by popular N46 upgrades, they need to be cost effective.

Significant gains on the N46 can be made from camshaft upgrades. Altering the camshaft profile alters the intake and exhaust durations on the engine and can dramatically change the torque and power output.

Fast road camshafts usually boost the torque through the rpm band, you may lose a little bottom end torque but high end rpm power will be better.

Motorsport camshafts, boost the high end rpm power band but as a result the car will not idle smoothly and low end power nearly always suffers.

On a car driven daily you need to match your engines power to your cars usage.

I'd be surprised if you have ever thought a N46 Competition camshaft is a pleasure to live with when in heavy traffic.

Some N46 engines respond better to less aggressive camshaft durations than others.

The engine timing and injectors and fuel pump also will say much on the bhp gains you'll make.

Altering valve durations can alter the bhp 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.

Stage 1 mods: Intake headers, Fast road camshaft, Sports exhaust manifold, Drilled & smoothed airbox, Remaps/piggy back ECU, Panel air filters.

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

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

The N46 engines make great tuning projects and we're pleased to see that there are increasing numbers of parts and tuning parts about.

remap allows a tuner to to establish the full potential of all the parts you've fitted to your N46.

It will usually give around 30% more power on turbocharged vehicles and you can expect to see around 15% on NASP engines, but the outcome will rely on the parts you've fitted and the condition of your engine.

Feeding air into each cylinder is the aim to any engine upgrade job.

Intake headers take the air during the suck phase from the intake filter and allow it to be pulled into the engine cylinders with fuel for the squish phase.

The bore size, shape and flow rate of the Intake headers can make a large effect on to fuel delivery on the N46.

On popular production engines headers are needing motorsport parts, although some OEM provide fairly well optimized headers.

Fitting big valve kits, getting port matching and head flowing will also boost bhp and torque, the fantastic side effect is it will afford you a better bhp and torque increase on other upgrades.

Turbo upgrades

NASP 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 N46

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

When the engine has a turbocharger upgrades are relatively easy and turbo charged engines already contain harder and stronger components.

However every engines will have power limits

Research these limitations and fit forged components to cope with the power.

There are many mechanics spending a loads of money on turbo charger upgrades on the N46 only to have the engine block explode on it's first outing after it's been completed.

Large turbochargers commonly experience no power at low rpm, and smaller turbochargers spool up much more quickly but do not have the peak rpm engines power gains.

We are pleased that the selection of turbochargers is always evolving and we commonly find variable vane turbochargers, allowing the vane angle is altered according to speed to lower lag and increase top end torque.

Twin scroll turbochargers divert the exhaust gases into a couple of channels and push these at differently angled vanes in the turbocharger. They also improve the scavenging effect of the engine.

It is not unusual that there is a restriction in the air flow sensor MAF/MAP on these engines when loads more air is being sucked into the engine.

We see 4 bar air sensors coping with quite large power gains, whereas the OEM air sensor was restricting bhp at a much lower level.

Adding a supercharger or additional turbo will make large power gains, although harder to install. We have this article on twincharging if you want to read more.


You will need to ensure that the engine is not starved of fuel so will have to uprate the fuelling when you start extending past 20% of a bhp increase.Don't forget to over specify your flow rate on the injectors.

The rule of thumb is to add another 20% when fitting an injector, helps cope with injector deterioration and gives a bit of 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.


You may need to replace your exhaust if your current exhaust is actually creating a restriction.

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

Sports exhausts generally help improve air flow out of the engine but avoid an exhaust that is too wide or you may end up will reduce the flow rate. Stick to 1.5 to 2.5 inches for best results.

Common exhaust restrictions are traced to the catalyst and filters installed, so adding a faster flowing race alternative will help avoid this restriction.

Weak spots Issues & problem areas on the N46

The N46 engines are generally reliable and solid as long as they are regularly serviced and maintained.

Regular oil changes are vital on the N46, especially when tuned and will help extend the life and reliability of the engine.

For more information on Tuning your N46 engine please join us in our friendly forum where you can discuss tuning options in more detail with our tuning articles to get a full grasp of the benefits and drawbacks of each modification.

Please help us improve these tips by sending us your feedback in the comments box below.

We love to hear what our visitors have got up to and which mods work best for them on each model of car. Comments are used to improve the accuracy of these N46 articles which are continually updated.

PLEASE HELP: I NEED YOUR DONATIONS TO COVER THE COSTS OF RUNNING THIS SITE AND KEEP IT RUNNING. I do not charge you to access this website and it saves most TorqueCars readers $100's each year - but we are NON PROFIT and not even covering our costs. To keep us running PLEASE Donate here

If you liked this page please share it with your friends, drop a link to it in your favourite forum or use the bookmarking options to save it to your social media profile.


Please use our forums if you wish to ask a tuning question, and please note we do not sell parts or services, we are just an online magazine.

Help us improve, leave a suggestion or tip

Your Constructive comments on this article

One Response to “N46 Tuning”

  1. Shaun says:

    Hi… I have been looking for info line for a really long time.Thanx somuch this on point advice with pros & cons will help allot. Keep ot up

Member Benefits

Join our forum today and benefit from over 300,000 posts on tuning styling and friendly car banter.

You will also have full access to the modifed car gallery, project car updates and exclusive member only areas.

(All car owners of all ages and from all countries are welcome).
Sign up now!!!

Popular articles

Diesel Tuning
Remapping ECU
Double declutch
Safety mods
Induction Kits
Customize a car
Tuning Chips
Modded Car insurance
Track day insurance cover
Diesel Remaps
Work out your MPG
Unblock a DPF

Superchargers Guide

Superchargers – A guide to supercharger kits benefits vs disadvantages

Adding Turbo

How to add a turbo to a non turbo car.

Lambo Doors

Lambo style doors suicide doors and gullwing door conversions.

Vehicle Wraps

Total vehicle wraps and applying vinyl wrap to your car.

Interior Cleaning

How to clean a car’s interior

Diesel Hot Hatch

Diesels? On Torquecars, Really?

MPG Calculator

MPG calculator UK miles per Gallon – calculate MPG