Friday, January 23, 2009

New BMW Z4 Marks End For 6-Cylinder M3 Engine [The Penultimate Driving Machine]

It's time to say goodbye to one of the smoothest, most driver-friendly engines of all time: the E46 M3's 3.2-liter straight-six. We're paying our respects Jalopnik-style with a mega-gallery of straight-sex.

While the aesthetes in us are relieved by the 2010 BMW Z4's lack of fish-faced ugliness, the drivers in us are a bit worried. Only available as a folding hardtop, we're a bit concerned about the added weight and lack of a sexy coupe, but mostly, we're disturbed by the absence the S54B32. Though the Z4 will use inline-six engines, ranging from a 2.5-litre 201bhp to a 302bhp twin-turbo 3.0-litre, it won't be getting the 343 HP naturally aspirated 3.2-liter unit. That means the old Z4, which has now gone out of production, was the last production BMW to use the legendary powerplant.

The S54B32 engine is an evolution of the S52B32 engine of the E36 M3. It makes 343 HP at 7,900 RPM, 269 Lb-Ft of the creamiest torque you'll ever use at 4,900 RPM and revs all the way to 8,000 RPM. It was used in the E46 M3, 2001 and 2002 Z3 M Roadster and Z3 M Coupe, the Z4 M Roadster and Coupe and even the Wiesmann Roadster.

The reasons for its popularity are two-fold: its specific power output exceeds 100 HP/liter without the aid of forced induction and its torque curve is fat, smooth and gap-free across the rev range. The S54B32 revs quickly, makes power everywhere, sounds like nothing else on the planet, responds instantly and, most importantly, is really, really fast.

The S54B32 won the overall International Engine of the Year award upon its introduction in 2001, then went on to win the 3.4-liter category for six straight years. It happens to be this particular Jalop's favorite engine of all time, preferably housed in a flat black Z4 M Coupe, or in his dreams, a Caterham Super7, which would allow him to experience the engine as it repeatedly bounces off its redline in all its undiluted glory. [via CAR]



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