BMW S54 Tuning

"All you need to know about tuning the BMW S54 engine!"

The BMW S54 are fantastic to work on and with carefully chosen motorsport enhancements like a remap, turbo kits and camshafts you will really enhance your driving fun.

The S54 is quite highly tuned and nicely setup from the Factory as it is a powerful engine designed to go in some serious cars.

We shall review S54 tuning and provide tips on the best modifications.

History, Power & Specs of the S54 Engine

The S54 is not an upgraded M54 but instead has more in common with the S50 and was fitted to the Z3 and Z4 cars.

It boasted improvements over the S50 namely, VANOS, Siemens MSS54 ECU electronic throttle, a higher compression ratio and enhanced scavenging oil pump.

  • S54B32 3,246 cc 343 hp @7,900 rpm 269 lbft @4900 rpm 2000–2008
  • S54B32HP 3,246cc 265 kW (355 bhp), 370 Nm (273 lbft)

Best S54 upgrades

Tuning the BMW S54 and best S54 performance parts.

The greatest S54 parts on an engine are obviously the ones that give the best power gain for you spend.

We won't be swayed by popular S54 parts, they need to be cost effective.

Significant gains on the S54 can be made from cam upgrades. Altering the cam profile alters the intake and exhaust durations on the engine and can dramatically change the power band and power output.

Fast road camshafts usually boost the power throughout the rpm band, you may lose a little bottom end power but the higher rpm power will be higher.

Competition camshafts, boost the higher rpm power 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 in heavy traffic.

You should ideally optimize your bhp range to your preferences so for a road car stick with a shorter duration S54 cam

Some S54 engines respond better to different cam durations check your engine on a rolling road.

The ECU mapping and fuel pump and injectors also will make differences on the bhp gains you'll achieve.

A longer valve duration 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.

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

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

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

The S54 engines respond well to mods and thankfully there are increasing numbers of mods and performance parts about.

ECU mapping allows a tuner to unlock the full potential of all the mods you've fitted to your S54.

(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 NASP engines, but figures achieved usually differs on the mods you've applied and the condition of your engine.

We've seen people get to around 450bhp on the NASP S54 (with a lot of work)!

Pushing air into your S54 is the main goal to any engine tuning project.

The intake plenum carry the air during the suck phase from the filter and allow it to be pulled into the engine and mixed with fuel.

Shape and flow characteristics of the Intake manifold can make a noticeable change to fuel mixing and power on the S54.

It's not uncommon that intake are in desperate need of a performance upgrade, although some makers provide fairly well optimized intake.

Fitting big valve kits, carrying out port work and head flowing will also raise bhp, and as an added benefit will allow you to get raising the bhp increase on other mods.

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 S54

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

You'll commonly see there's a restriction in the air flow sensor MAP/MAF/AFM on these engines when loads more air is being drawn into the engine.

You'll see that 4 bar air sensors coping with quite large power gains, whereas the OEM air sensor limited bhp at a much lower level.

Adding a supercharger or additional turbo will make large bhp gains, although harder to setup. We have a twincharger bhp adding guide if you want to read more.

Fuelling

When you raise the performance you will need to look at to the fuel delivery.

More performance needs more fuel. We would recommend you to be generous with your flow rate on the injectors.

As a rule of thumb add 20% capacity when fitting an injector, which takes into account injector deterioration and allows a little spare capacity should the engine need 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.

S54 Exhaust upgrades

You should look to replace your exhaust if your current exhaust is actually causing a restriction.

On most factory exhausts you'll find the flow rate is fine 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 through the engine but do not go too wide or you might just stuff your flow rate and make things worse. So generally speaking, keep to a size of 1.5 to around 2.5 inches to maximise flow rates, and this should take into account the amount of air your engine is moving.

Typically exhaust restrictions come around the catalyst and filters installed, so adding a higher flowing performance catalyst removes the restriction. We note that performance cats perform similarly to decats and have the added benefit of keeping your car street legal, as decats or catalyst removal is illegal in most territories for road going cars.

Weak spots Issues & problem areas on the S54

The 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 S54, especially when tuned and will help extend the life and reliability of the engine.

Overheating due to faults and problems in the cooling system have been reported.

If you would like to know more, or just get some friendly advice on Tuning your engine please join us in our friendly forum where you can discuss tuning options in more detail with our owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased 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.

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