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    N54, S54, S65 Power & Cost Comparison

    500 RWHP BMW Platform Comparisons

    I am in the hunt for a summer driver that will see a decent amount road course track time and the occasional drag strip run. While I am searching and deciding I have conducted a fun little exercise to compare a number of BMWs. I believe am going to land on one of 3 options:

    • N54 Powered E82 135i
    • S54 Powered E46 M3
    • S65 Powered E92 M3


    I love BMW’s I have owned 4 of them over the last 10 years and I will continue to drive these machines hopefully until I get stashed in an old folks home. My goals are as follows:

    • Car delivers a smooth, consistent 500rwhp
    • Car is durable and as reliable as possible for a modified vehicle
    • Car performs superbly on a road course and can handle its own on the strip or highway
    • Outlay the minimum amount of capital to achieve my goals


    There are a host of combinations of modifications for each of these platforms that will get you to the 500 rwhp mark. The S54 and S65 have a few more options while the N54 really only has one twin turbo option that gets you there. It is recognized that the landscape will change with each of these platforms (MAX-PSI turbo option on S54, Vargas turbo options on N54, etc.) but for the purposes of this comparison I am going to look at what is current and proven as of this date.

    I am also limiting the S54 to a supercharged option as if I am to go down this path, I would like to see the car retain its OEM power delivery characteristics as much as possible. This is also the reason why I am not adding the Vishnu Single Turbo Option to the N54.

    I feel that the current commercial turbo option available for the S54 platform is somewhat violent in its power delivery (I am not a good enough driver to handle this) while also being cost prohibitive for me at this time. Although, in a second comparison the $$ / HP is really quite attractive. Additionally, I would like to be emissions and OBDII compliant when testing time comes. It’s easy to swap out DPs on the N54 platform but going down the currently available turbo path on the S54 will not provide me with an easy means of achieving compliance. This is also a factor in why I have elected to only compare the SC option.

    Cost

    Cost really is a huge factor in my decision. I need to be fiscally responsible in my decision making as I am the sole provider for my family; therefore budget is the primary concern. The following table highlights what I believe to be the major costs for each of these platforms to get me to my goals (car costs come from autotrader, mod prices are taken from vendor websites and installation costs are a reasonable ball park estimate).

    Click here to enlarge

    The following modifications were selected for each vehicle:
    • E82 135i: JB4 G5 ISO with Flash ($600), Meth Kit ($529), DCI ($95), Intercooler ($689), DPs ($379), RB Turbos ($3,799), Coilovers ($1,600), LSD ($1,295), Tires ($1,500), Clutch ($1200), installation ($3,000)
    • E46 M3: ESS VT2-550 SC Kit ($8,495), Evolve Tune ($800), Fabspeed Headers ($1000), Sub-frame reinforcement ($800), Tires ($1,500), Clutch ($1000), Installation ($3,000)
    • E92 M3: ESS VT2-625 SC Kit ($11,995), Tires ($1,500), Clutch ($1500), Installation ($2,000)


    I have tried to be as comprehensive as possible but it is recognized that some additional modifications (e.g. DSS axels) or maintenance costs associated with used vehicles may be required. However, for the purposes of this study this is a reasonable list of modifications that will achieve the goals that I have laid out. Additionally, because budget is a primary concern, l will likely be doing many of these modifications over time such that I can time phase my capital outlay.

    Power Delivery

    The following graph depicts the power delivery for each of these platforms with the identified modifications. The data used to compile this graph has been taken from vendor and enthusiast websites and dyno sheets. While this may not be a perfect graph, I would suggest its accuracy is reasonable based on the data points I have gathered:

    Click here to enlarge

    What is surprising to me is how close the performance of the ESS supercharged S54 and S65. The curves are virtually identical. The S65 really is underwhelming here in comparison to its predecessor when comparing 500rwhp kits and factoring in cost. Granted, with the S65 there are more SC kit options to get you up to 550rwhp and beyond on stock internals. In my opinion the cost benefit just is not there at the moment for the S65 as you will see in my second comparison.

    The N54 delivers power quickly but drops off with its inability to wind out beyond 6500 rpms. That said, the RB powered N54 really is a spectacle, and it is pretty evident that in a straight line at lower speeds (sub 125mph) the RB turbo N54 will outperform the M cars.

    You can draw your own conclusions about what you like (high revving vs. impatient torque monster) but there is a clear difference between how these motors deliver power. I must say, I really do miss my old N54 but I can’t help but be intrigued by the smooth, linear power delivery of the supercharged M cars. For road course purposes, the linear power of the M cars is extremely attractive not to mention their innate handling characteristics.

    The N54 really was a lot of fun, I would love to get some seat time in a blown S54 before I make a complete ‘fun’ comparison. I am happy not to be the ‘HP king of the streets’, I am really more concerned about all around drivability, uptime and road course fun factor. For this reason I am leaning toward the S54 as you have to bolt up a lot of hardware on the N54 to get to these numbers along with attempting to match the handling of an M car. There is something to be said about the simplicity of the supercharged option for the S54 M car. Time is on my side, so the decision process will likely evolve.

    Bigger Power Kit Comparison (N54, S54, S65)


    For some additional fun, I have put together the following comparison:

    • Stage II HPF 6766 Turbo S54 (Race + Meth)
    • MAX-PSI Turbo S54 (Race Gas)
    • ESS VT2-575 S54 (Pump Gas)
    • FFTEC/Vishnu Single Turbo N54 (E85 + Meth)
    • JB4 G5 ISO RB Turbo N54 (Race + Meth)
    • VT2-600 + X-Pipe + Exhaust S65 (95 Octane)


    The comparison will be exclusively about power on stock internals, so only modifications that add power are considered in the cost breakout. Stock RWHP numbers are taken from enthusiast websites and are widely recognized as reasonable standard stock power numbers although some deviations will occur.

    Cost / Horsepower Table


    Click here to enlarge

    The costs listed above do not include taxes and installation, and prices are taken directly from vendor websites. Following is the mod list for each platform:

    • HPF S54: Stage II 6766 Turbo Kit
    • MAX-PSI S54: Max-PSI turbo kit (price is ballpark as communicated by MAX-PSI)
    • ESS S54: ESS VT2-575 Supercharger, Fabspeed Headers
    • Vishnu Single Turbo N54: VFF700 Single Turbo, PROcede Rev 3, PWM Meth Kit, ETS 7” Race Intercooler, AEM 3.5 Bar MAP Sensor, Trunk Mount Methanol Conversion Kit, Forge Bypass Valves, Quad Nozzle PWM Upgrade
    • BMS RB Turbo N54: JB4 G5 ISO with Flash, BMS Meth Kit, DCI, Intercooler, DPs, RB Turbos
    • ESS VT2-600 S65: ESS VT2-600 Superchager, Akrapovic Exhaust, Catless X-pipe


    Power Delivery


    The following graph depicts the power delivery for each of these platforms with the identified modifications above. The data used to compile this graph has been taken from vendor and enthusiast websites and dyno sheets. Because I do not have access to the raw data dyno files, the power numbers were manually captured at 500 rpm intervals so this approach has a tendency to smooth out the power curves (e.g. HPG Stage II curve). That said, for this purpose the presentation of this data is reasonable.

    Click here to enlarge

    This has been a pretty interesting exercise to say the least. What stands out to me is how incredible the N54 is. In theory, if the Vishnu single turbo option is running without issue and has traction, it really should pull and pull well on all these other platforms. The BMS RB turbo option is also extremely impressive up to 5500 rpms but quickly drops off as the little turbos lose steam. At $26/HP and $24/HP respectively it’s hard to ignore the incredible performance value of this platform.

    We have all known for some time how impressive the HPF S54s are and this depiction only re-affirms this. The MAX-PSI turbo option is really quite attractive. Assuming the kit does indeed come in around $10k and there are multiple map options (pump, race) this will provide tremendous performance value. Overall, there is a lot of buyer value to be had on the S54 platform with any of the options presented.

    All of these platforms are incredible in their own right. This has been a lot of fun to compile and you can draw your own conclusions.
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    Excellent write.

    Have you considered a turbo kit for the s54 motor? I haven't priced the kits in a while, however it always seems as if you are chasing the dragon with blowers. I will say a blown e46 M car would give you the most driver effective feel.

    I will say the theory of big single vs RBs is quite an exercised one. In my opinion, the upgraded twins would trump the big single for drivability/traction/cost. Road race and drag racing requires that low end hit(as I'm sure you know). Big single isn't bad for dragracing, just invest in some gumballs for the rear if you are going for anything other than trap speed.

    Click here to enlarge

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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Notsafe335i Click here to enlarge
    Excellent write.

    Have you considered a turbo kit for the s54 motor? I haven't priced the kits in a while, however it always seems as if you are chasing the dragon with blowers. I will say a blown e46 M car would give you the most driver effective feel.
    Yes, I am following the MAX-PSI turbo development closely, I love the power curve of that kit. I really desperately want to get some seat time in a supercharged S54 though.
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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Irishace Click here to enlarge
    Yes, I am following the MAX-PSI turbo development closely, I love the power curve of that kit. I really desperately want to get some seat time in a supercharged S54 though.
    Most certainly. I've only ridden in blower e36 applications and honestly there's always a feeling of something missed. Big difference between the two platforms but I've been from the school of it takes a lot of rotating mass/power to keep a supercharger effective.

    I hope you start a build thread here regardless of what you do.

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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Notsafe335i Click here to enlarge
    Most certainly. I've only ridden in blower e36 applications and honestly there's always a feeling of something missed. Big difference between the two platforms but I've been from the school of it takes a lot of rotating mass/power to keep a supercharger effective.

    I hope you start a build thread here regardless of what you do.
    Yes, I will most certainly be starting a build thread when the time comes. Thanks for the comments, appreciate the feedback.
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    If you want a consistent reliable road course car lap after lap...go NA.

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    Great post. I say sacrafice 50whp and go 1m with FBO running e85 for 450whp and puts you right at $60k. Car will have a ton more resale value than any of the others as you will take a bath on resale of the cost of those mods.
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    E46 M3 with a s/c stage 2 S62 gets my vote.

    Better engine than the S65 with plenty of torque before it builds up boost...

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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by BlackJetE90OC Click here to enlarge
    If you want a consistent reliable road course car lap after lap...go NA.
    I understand that, but I want more power and I like FI Click here to enlarge
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  10. #10
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    Amazing review and research @Irishace! N54 ftmfw buddy! Click here to enlarge

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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by mithiral67 Click here to enlarge
    Great post. I say sacrafice 50whp and go 1m with FBO running e85 for 450whp and puts you right at $60k. Car will have a ton more resale value than any of the others as you will take a bath on resale of the cost of those mods.
    Yep, thats another great options as well. Its difficult to get into a 1M around where I live. I would certainly entertain this if I was not so impatient Click here to enlarge
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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by dzenno@ProTUNING Freaks Click here to enlarge
    Amazing review and research @Irishace ! N54 ftmfw buddy! Click here to enlarge
    Thanks bro, I am on kid duty as my wife is in New York for her X-Mas gift so I have been researching and compiling this while I watch the chitlins.

    It really is hard to ignore the N54 Click here to enlarge
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    Excellent post. Repped.

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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Irishace Click here to enlarge
    Thanks bro, I am on kid duty as my wife is in New York for her X-Mas gift so I have been researching and compiling this while I watch the chitlins.

    It really is hard to ignore the N54 Click here to enlarge
    We're going to be testing and tuning 3 bigger turbo options in the next few weeks, two of them are twins and another is a single. Tons of options coming through and that hp/$ will come down even more. I say forget about non-OEM FI platforms and conversions to FI, just my honest humble opinion

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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Irishace Click here to enlarge
    Yes, I will most certainly be starting a build thread when the time comes. Thanks for the comments, appreciate the feedback.
    Outstanding, build threads are my favorite.

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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Irishace Click here to enlarge
    Yep, thats another great options as well. Its difficult to get into a 1M around where I live. I would certainly entertain this if I was not so impatient Click here to enlarge
    I was in the same boat, dying to find a 1m from a dealership (easiest way to get out of my trade in) and couldnt find one anywhere near me in the 50s. If I hadn't found such a deal on my IS with 800 miles on and $12k under invoice, the 1m would have been a prefect car.

    Anything you go with, will be a great option.
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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by dzenno@ProTUNING Freaks Click here to enlarge
    We're going to be testing and tuning 3 bigger turbo options in the next few weeks, two of them are twins and another is a single. Tons of options coming through and that hp/$ will come down even more. I say forget about non-OEM FI platforms and conversions to FI, just my honest humble opinion
    Ohh wow ok, let me know when the testing begins Click here to enlarge
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    Definitely Click here to enlarge

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    Doesn't at least the N54 have some issues with oil control on a road course? I recall someone posted on E90POOP that they blew their engine on what I think was a long right hander (opposite of engine slant) from oil starvation at Laguna Seca. Not sure how the M engines are baffled for that and the S65 had the scare a while back about oil starvation on what I think was the rod big ends. Not sure about the S54.

    I'd be a little worried to race the N54 on a road course for fear of it overheating without a significantly better cooling system, esp at 500WHP.

    You'll probably also want to budget for real brakes on at least the 1M I would think.

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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by BavarianBullet Click here to enlarge
    Doesn't at least the N54 have some issues with oil control on a road course? I recall someone posted on E90POOP that they blew their engine on what I think was a long right hander (opposite of engine slant) from oil starvation at Laguna Seca. Not sure how the M engines are baffled for that and the S65 had the scare a while back about oil starvation on what I think was the rod big ends. Not sure about the S54.

    I'd be a little worried to race the N54 on a road course for fear of it overheating without a significantly better cooling system, esp at 500WHP.

    You'll probably also want to budget for real brakes on at least the 1M I would think.
    I remember that as well but it was an assumption really. I guess it always is an assumption but the 1M is meant to be tracked though. I wonder what sort of an oil pan its got and if its different than a standard N54. Anyone looked at part numbers on realoem?

    I guess you could always add about 1k tops to put a custom baffle in Click here to enlarge

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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by dzenno@ProTUNING Freaks Click here to enlarge
    We're going to be testing and tuning 3 bigger turbo options in the next few weeks, two of them are twins and another is a single. Tons of options coming through and that hp/$ will come down even more. I say forget about non-OEM FI platforms and conversions to FI, just my honest humble opinion
    You're outta control man...at least you're having fun doing it!

    All 3 on your car or a mix?

    My $'s on the Vargas GTX twins coming out on top.

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    The stocker breaks on the 135i and 1M are pretty darn capable, some better rotors and pads should do the trick.
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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by BavarianBullet Click here to enlarge
    You're outta control man...at least you're having fun doing it!

    All 3 on your car or a mix?

    My $'s on the Vargas GTX twins coming out on top.
    Click here to enlarge can't wait! Going on mine...i've got a backup stock N54 sitting as well so I may do some comparisons to get some numbers for the head work alone with the same kit on the car...yes, the Vargas twin GTX prototype is coming up here soon..i have no doubt it'll do VERY well...twin GTXs are no joke as long as they fit and from what I've seen so far they do Click here to enlarge

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    I don't think @Irishace is getting the love he's entitled to from this magnificent write up. Don't be stingy with your rep points just because of the Giveaway!

    +5 my friend, again awesome write-up.
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