Mercedes M119 Tuning

"All you need to know about tuning the Mercedes M119 engine!"

Let us consider M119 tuning and highlight the best modifications for your car. Mercedes M119 make awesome project engines and with a few sensible motorsport tuning mods like remaps, turbo kits and camshafts you will noticeably maximise your driving pleasure.

The M119 is hailed as bulletproof by many owners and we've heard of some pretty extreme power mods including forced induction so this makes a great project engine.

History, Power & Specs of the M119 Engine

M119 E42 V8 automobile engine produced from 1989 through 1999. It was available in 4.2 L 5.0 L and 6.0 L displacements. It was a double overhead cam with 4 valves per cylinder.

M119 E42

  • 200 kW 272 PS 268 hp at 5,700
  • 210 kW 286 PS 282 hp at 5,700
  • 205 kW 279 PS 275 hp at 5,700

M 119 E 50

  • 235 kW 320 PS 315 hp at 5,600
  • 240 kW 326 PS 322 hp at 5,700
  • 255 kW 347 PS 342 hp at 5,750

M 119 E 60

  • 275 kW 374 PS 369 hp at 5,250
  • 280 kW 381 PS 375 hp at 5,500

M 119 E 63

The power outputs, compression ratios and engine capacity varied depending on the tuning house.

4.2

  • W124 400E/E420
  • W210 E420
  • W140 400SE/400SEL/S420

5.0L

  • W124 500E/E500
  • W140 500SEL/500SEC/S500
  • R129 500SL/SL500
  • W210 E50 AMG

6.0L

  • W124 E60 AMG
  • R129 SL60 AMG
  • W463 500 GE 6.0 AMG
  • W140 S500-6.0
  • C140 S500C-6.0

Tuning the Mercedes M119 and best M119 performance parts.

Best M119 upgrades

The best M119 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 M119 modifications, they need to be cost effective.

Altering your M119 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 usually increase the power through the rpm band, you could sacrifice a little bottom end power but the high end rpm power will be higher.

Race cams, increase the high end rpm power band but as a result the car will not idle smoothly and low end power nearly always suffers.

A Motorsport camshaft makes it harder when on the daily commute, because the lumpy idle will make the car prone to stall and smooth driving at low rpm becomes impossible. If you are developing a track car this doesn't matter as you are in the high end of your RPM range anyway and that is where you want the power to be.

You should ideally optimize your engines power to your usage of the car so for a road car stick with a fast road M119 camshaft

Some M119 engines respond better to more or less aggressive cam durations check your engine on a rolling road.

The map and fuelling 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.

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Best Engine Mods for your car

  1. Mapping - remapping provides the most advantage in terms of cost savings,  aftermarket ECUs, and piggyback ECUs are all alternatives.
  2. Fast road cams are one of the most significant mechanical changes, but they must be installed by someone who knows what they're doing and they are not always easy to source but you might find a local firm to regrind a stock camshaft.
  3. Intake and Exhaust - Note that on their own these mods will NOT ADD POWER in most cases, but they can help enhance power after other mods by removing the restriction.
  4. Upgrades to turbochargers and superchargers - forced induction is the most efficient approach to increase air supply, allowing you to burn more fuel and make more power. It is one of the most costly upgrades but provides the best gains.
  5. Head work - The goals of porting and flowing the head are to get air flowing into the engine while removing flow restrictions and turbulence.
  6. Typical stage 1 mods often include:
    drilled & smoothed airbox, Fast road camshaft, Sports exhaust header/manifold, Intake manifolds, Panel air filters, Remaps/piggy back ECU.

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

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

    Plan your options and then source your modifications and set yourself a power target to avoid wasting your time and money.

    ECU flashing will help fully realize the full potential of all the upgrades you've done to your M119.

    (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 your mileage usually rely on the upgrades you've fitted and the condition of your engine.

    Forcing air and fuel into the M119 engine is the whole point to any engine tuning job.

    Intake Manifolds carry or channel the air during the suck phase from the filter and allow it to be fed into the engine cylinders.

    Shape and flow characteristics of the Intake can make a big difference to fuel atomisation on the M119.

    Many mass produced engine air intake manifolds are begging for a performance upgrade, although a few car makers provide reasonably well designed air intake manifolds.

    Adding a M119 larger valve kit, doing some port work and head flowing will also raise bhp and torque, & importantly will make space for increasing the bhp and torque increase on other mods.

    M119 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 M119

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

    If a car has a turbocharger modifications are giving better power gains and turbo engines are made using better components.

    There are weak spots for every engine, with some being over specified and some only just able to handle stock powerIt is important to find these limits and fit higher quality components to handle the power.

    There are many tuners spending a lots of money on turbocharger upgrades on the M119 only to suffer the humiliation of seeing the engine go up in smoke just after it's been completed.

    Big upgraded turbo units commonly suffer low end lag, and small turbo units spool up much more quickly but won't have the peak rpm torque gains.

    Thanks to new tech the market of turbochargers is always moving on and we are seeing variable vane turbochargers, allowing the vane profile is altered according to speed to lower lag and increase top end bhp and torque.

    Twin scroll turbochargers divert the exhaust gases into a couple of channels and direct these at differently designed vanes in the turbo charger. They also increase the scavenging effect of the engine.

    It is common that there's a limitation in the air flow sensor (AFM/MAF/MAP) on the M119 when loads more air is being pulled into the engine.

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

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

    Fuelling

    When you increase the power you will need to ramp up to the fuel delivery.

    More power needs more fuel. Most tuners we speak with say to be generous with your injector capacity.

    As a rule of thumb add another 20% when buying an injector, this takes into account injector deterioration and affords a bit of 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.

    M119 Performance Exhausts

    Only look to uprate your exhaust if your current exhaust is actually causing a restriction in flow.

    On most factory exhausts you'll see the exhaust flow rate is ok 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 could very well end up with a reduced flow rate. So generally speaking, keep to 1.5 to 2.5 inches for best results.

    Common exhaust restrictions can be traced to the emissions filters installed, so adding a freer flowing high performance aftermarket one will improve air flow, and rather than doing an illegal decat, will keep the car road legal.

    Weak spots, Issues & problem areas on the M119

    The M119 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 M119, 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 M119 engine please join us in our car forums where you can discuss M119 tuning options in more detail with our M119 owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased Mercedes tuning articles to get insights into each modification and how effective they will be for your car.

    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 tuning parts work best for you on your car. Which helps us keep our guides and tips up to date helping others with their modified car projects. Your feedback and comments are used to keep this page up to date, and help improve the accuracy of these M119 tuning guides which get regular updates and revisions.

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