Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the S52 Engine in the BMW E36 M3.

The S52 engine is a high performance variant of the M52 which powered the American and Canadian market E36 M3 from 1996–1999. It was developed by BMW’s Motorsport division with the goal of being lighter and more powerful than its European counterpart, which was also used in other markets outside North America. The S52 came equipped with a higher compression ratio, larger throttle body diameter and dual-mass flywheel for better performance and responsiveness at high RPMs.

The S50/S54 engines were available in two versions: S50B30, which produced 255 hp (190 kW) and 250 lb·ft (339 N·m); or an additional 5 horsepower increase over the BMW M3’s most powerful factory variant, via its higher-compression ratio of 11.5:1 instead of 10:1; as well as having forged pistons which allowed it to rev higher – up to 8000 rpm (compared with 7000 rpm for standard M3). The S50B30 was used in many other BMW models including Z3M Roadster(E36), Z3 Coupe & Convertible(E36), 325I&Ci Cabriolet(E36), 318is Coupe & Convertible(E36).

S52 Engine Specs

The S52 engine has a displacement of 2,990 cc (182 cu in) and a bore/stroke of 87 mm x 91 mm (3.43 in x 3.6 in). The valve sizes are 36.0 mm (1.42 in). The compression ratio is 10.2:1 and it produces 240 hp @ 6,000 RPM and 236 ft·lbf @ 3,800 RPM with redline at 6,600 RPM.

Dimensions Engine Length (in) : 24.80Engine Width (in) : 28.61Engine Height (in) : 25.03

  • Engine Length (in): 24.80
  • Engine Width (in): 28.61
  • Engine Height (in): 25.03

Generally speaking, this engine is more powerful than its European counterpart due to superior intake and exhaust manifolds and a more aggressive camshaft profile for high-end power at the expense of low-end torque. In fact, it’s worth noting that even though the S52 is also offered in Europe with a few variations (252 hp/250 lb-ft torque), it doesn’t come close to matching the US M3’s performance numbers. Overall, this makes sense since BMW only sells cars in America; if it wants to be competitive globally, it needs a model that performs well on American roads with their higher speed limits (and lower fuel efficiency).

The S52 was first produced in 1996 as an option for purchasers looking for an engine upgrade over the M52 but didn’t want something as extreme as a V8. It remained unchanged until 2001 when BMW released its final year of production before discontinuing all naturally aspirated V8s due to emissions regulations. As such, only 691 examples were produced during this final year; they became highly sought after by collectors who appreciate their rarity today.

The S52 engine is the last BMW engine to have hydraulic lifters which eliminated the need for periodic valve adjustments associated with most engines that feature solid lifters or shim-under-bucket valve adjustment systems.

The S52 engine is a high performance variant of the M52. The S52 is a 2.9 L DOHC inline-6 that was used in the E36 M3 from 1996–1999 and replaced the older S50B30US and M50TU engines.

The S52 has an oversquare bore and stroke of 82 mm × 71 mm (3.23 in × 2.80 in). This results in an 11:1 compression ratio, which allows for substantial amounts of power to be produced by relatively small displacement due to turbocharging, supercharging, or naturally aspirated engines running at high rpm levels. The narrow width of its cylinder bores makes it quite difficult to bore out beyond 3L without extensive modifications needed on both pistons and cylinders along with new main bearings as well as other components within the bottom end that would require machining due to their close proximity underneath each other. In addition, increasing bore size past 2L requires extensive modification work done inside the cylinder head such as changing valve sizes/shapes among other things because there simply isn’t enough room left between valves without altering them significantly (which would require new seats), reshaping port walls/liners etc…

The BMW S52 engine had also been used on V12 (BMW 750iL) models until 2003 when replaced by 638 cc V10 variants due to emissions regulations imposed upon these cars starting 2004 models onward (this regulation change caused some controversy among enthusiasts since it forced them into needing more expensive maintenance [$1000-$1200 per year] if they wanted something newer than model year 2003).

The S52 engine is a great option when upgrading from an M42 or M44 engine

The S52 engine is a great option when upgrading from an M42 or M44 engine. It’s more powerful, more reliable and easier to work on than the M42. The cost of this upgrade is also significantly less than buying an entire S50 engine.

The S52 offers more power and torque than the M42/M44 engines while having similar reliability and ease of use. This means that you can run a higher boost pressure on your turbocharger and get better performance at low RPMs!

BMW S52 Engine Mods


A cold air intake will give you a few benefits, including:

  • Improved throttle response
  • More power throughout the rev range
  • Better engine sound (depending on the design)As well as some downsides:
  • You’ll have to deal with more noise from the turbocharger when cold.


The exhaust is a big part of the sound and feel of your car, so it makes sense to upgrade this first. The good news is that quality performance exhaust systems don’t cost too much. There are many options available, so you can match the look and tone of your BMW with an inexpensive system or go all out on an exotic setup. Even better: installing an upgraded exhaust system takes only minutes once you’ve removed the stock unit!

Catalytic Converter

A catalytic converter is a device that converts carbon monoxide and unburned hydrocarbons from the exhaust into carbon dioxide and water. They are required by law, so you will need to get one for your car. If you have a standalone cat, it can be installed in front of or after the muffler (or both). There are also some kits that come with the cat already attached to an aftermarket exhaust.


Tuning is the process of modifying an engine’s parameters to extract more power, or to optimize performance. There are a number of different ways to tune an engine, including:

  • Superchips Flashloader
  • AEM Infinity I
  • VEMS

The S52 engine is a great and affordable platform for tuning.

The S52 is a great and affordable platform for tuning. With a stock power output of 240 hp, you might think the BMW M3 would be too much car to drive on the street. The first thing that needs to be done is adding an intake, exhaust and chip to your car. You can do this yourself or take it to a shop that will install them all at once. After that, there are many ways to tune the engine further: cams, pistons and rods, headers…etc..

If you have an automatic transmission then choosing between manual vs automatic transmission should not matter at all because both of these transmissions work very well in this type of car (M3). But if you have a manual transmission then I recommend getting an aftermarket clutch kit because it will make shifting gears easier when trying to accelerate quickly out of corners during track sessions (if done right).


The S52 is a great engine for those looking to upgrade from an M42 or M44. It offers more power and torque and has some unique features that make it stand out among other engines including hydraulic lifters and a higher redline.

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