The BMW M60 engine marked a return to the V8 formula for the Bavarian marque. Prior to the M60, BMW’s most recent V8 offering was carbureted. For the first modern V8 in their catalog, BMW knocked it out of the park with the M60, remaining a popular engine in BMW enthusiast circles to this day.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at the M60 V8 and how it stacks up to the V8 engines that BMW produced after it. We’ll also cover general engine specs, design basics, the best performance upgrades, common problems, and everything else that you need to know about the BMW M60 engine.
If you’re interested in learning about the next engine in the BMW V8 lineage, take a look at our BMW M62 Engine Guide here.
|BMW M60 Engine
|90 Degree V8
|3.0L (2,997 cc) 4.0L (3,982 cc)
|DOHC 4 Valves Per Cylinder
|Bore x Stroke
|84.0 mm x 67.6 mm
89.0 mm x 80.0 mm
|10.5:1 (M60B30) 10.0:1 (M60B40)
|Long Block ≈ 386-448 lbs
|215 (B30) / 282 (B40) hp @ 5,800 RPM
|214 (B30) / 295 (B40) lb-ft @ 4,500 RPM
The M60 wasn’t around for very long, only four years between 1992 and 1996. During its stint, it was used in a number of top-trim models, especially in larger luxury models like the E34 5-Series and E32 7-Series. The M60 was offered in two different factory trims including the M60B30 and M60B40. Predictably, the number at the end of the engine designation stands for the displacement. The M60B30 is the 3.0L variant and the M60B40 is the 4.0L variant. In addition to the factory variants, Alpina developed a few special versions of the M60 for use in the Alpina B8, B10, and B11.
Unlike most other BMW engines, the M60 never received a mid-cycle technical update. Instead, it was simply replaced by the M62 V8 in 1995 which is heavily based on the M60 but with some performance, lightening, and strengthening updates.
Despite being developed in the late 1980s, the M60 can still be considered a modern engine. It uses quite a bit of aluminum, including both the block and cylinder heads, to keep the engine’s weight to a minimum. It also has a double overhead cam, four-valve per cylinder design with hydraulic lash adjustment to reduce valve maintenance. Due to the increased output, the M60B40 also received a forged crankshaft while the B30’s was cast. The B40 also received larger valves and a slightly more robust valvetrain overall.
BMW also implemented a new and revolutionary cylinder liner material called nikasil to reduce wear and friction. While nikasil worked as intended, it also caused some unforeseen problems that I’ll talk about later.
BMW M60 vs M62 Engine
In terms of their overall construction, the BMW M60 and M62 are very similar engines. The most immediate difference, right out of the gate, is displacement. The M60 was offered in either 3.0L or 4.0L form as the M60B30 and M60B40. The M62 was offered in a variety of different sizes, with the most common being the 4.4L M62B44. Beyond displacement, the engines did differ in a few notable ways, including block material and intake manifold flow characteristics.
One of the most significant differences between the two, besides displacement, is the design of the intake manifold. While neither the M60 nor M62 is truly choked up on the intake side of the engine, most BMW V8 enthusiasts agree that the M60 has a better-designed intake manifold for high-rpm power production. The M60’s intake runners are longer and wider, which moves the torque curve further up the rev range at the sacrifice of some low-rpm torque.
There is a significant difference between M60 and later M62TU valvetrain configurations, as BMW introduced VANOS to the M62 in 1998. M62TUs are equipped with BMW single-VANOS, meaning that they have variable valve timing on the intake side only. The S62 is the only M62-derived V8 variant with dual-VANOS. It is important to note that early, non-technically updated M62s also lack VANOS entirely. Some BMW enthusiasts prefer the less complex non-VANOS M60 and M62 engines, especially due to the fact that they allow some wiggle room for more aggressive cams. Since VANOS requires a specialized camshaft, there isn’t much upgrade potential for M62TUs.
Some other small differences include the change from double-row timing chains on the M60 to a single on the M62. There were also changes to the MAF design.
Stock BMW M60 Engine Performance
The M60 was initially developed because BMW’s straight-six engines were simply too weak to power the big-chassis models, like the E34 and E32, to a competitive level. So, looking at the M60’s stock performance, it’s no surprise that the V8 was far more capable in the power department. The 3.0L M60B30 was capable of 215 horsepower and 214 lb-ft while the larger 4.0L M60B40 cranked out 282 horsepower and 295 lb-ft. That obviously made the B40 the more desirable engine overall, especially with the additional torque.
Having driven a number of E34 530is and having owned an E34 540i, the difference between the two engine variants is massive. The B40’s additional torque makes the biggest difference, as the B30’s puny 214 lb-ft makes it feel sluggish off the line, especially for a V8. The B40 feels much more usable, nowadays especially. The B40 feels much more suited to power a larger chassis like the E34 or E38 and gives plenty of pull throughout the entire rev range.
Outside of the M60B40 having more impressive torque delivery that makes it feel much peppier than the B30, both engines deliver power in a very similar way. A big reason that some enthusiasts enjoy the M60 over the M62 is the M60’s lack of VANOS. Because neither the B30 nor B40 received any kind of variable valve timing, power delivery is extremely smooth and consistent when rowing through the gears, just like BMW’s inline-sixes.
BMW M60 Engine Mods and Upgrades
Despite being a very popular engine in the BMW community, the M60 isn’t the best engine in BMW’s catalog as far as aftermarket performance is concerned. A large reason for this is the fact that the M60 is already well-optimized from the factory. If you plan on staying naturally aspirated, any big power mods, like cams, increased bore, or individual throttle bodies, are extremely expensive and difficult to achieve. There are some good forced induction options, like a supercharger kit, but those are also getting quite expensive and difficult to find.
Most of the more cost-effective and simple modifications available for the M60 won’t net a ton of horsepower but will make the engine more enjoyable to live with. A lightweight flywheel and a performance chip will liven up the engine and make it more fun to drive overall.
Performance Chip Upgrade
Of all of the simple bolt-on modifications that you can do to a BMW M60, performance chips yield the best gains overall. With that being said, the gains still aren’t much to write home about. With some options, like the Dinan performance chip or the Enhanced Automotive Technology chip, you can expect to gain somewhere in the ballpark of 15-20 horsepower and 10-15 lb-ft of torque. While that isn’t a massive gain, it’s the best that you’re going to do for a little over $200. Ultimately, a performance chip will gain back some of the power that the engine has lost over the years.
Outside of the moderate power and torque gains, there are some other benefits to M60 performance chips too. By remapping ECU parameters, performance chips change the effective power and torque bands of the M60. In the case of the Dinan chip, the power curve is moved left, meaning that peak power is made earlier in the rev range than the stock tune. The Dinan chip also increases the rev limiter to 7,000 and removes the speed governor, allowing for some extra debauchery.
M60B40 Intake Manifold Swap
Okay, this modification is for all of the M60B30 owners out there who are looking for a bit of added performance. While both variants of the M60 are similar, the B40 actually got some upgraded hardware over the B30. One of those upgrades is the intake manifold. The reasoning behind that gets into a discussion about fluid dynamics and a bunch of other hyper-nerdy subjects, but the baseline is pretty simple. The M60B40’s intake runners are longer and wider which affects the engine’s power and torque curves. While short and narrow runners move torque characteristics down the rev range, the opposite can be said for long and wide ones.
While the manifold swap certainly changes the characteristics of the M60B30 engine, there is debate in the E34 and E38 communities as to whether or not the swap garners a significant amount of horsepower or not. Still, to this day, there aren’t any readily available dyno figures that show the difference between the two manifolds in terms of measuring peak horsepower and torque. With that being said, it is estimated that the manifold swap can potentially add around 10-15 horsepower while in high-RPMs with a proper tune.
The M60B40 intake manifold swap modification is best suited for those looking to feel a bit more pull high in the rev range and not necessarily for those looking to gain a lot of horsepower. The good news is that the M60B40 manifold is a direct bolt-on to the M60B30 and they are readily available and pretty cheap to pick up.
I’m not going to lie, it was difficult to find three worthwhile modifications for the M60 that I felt okay about recommending. While a supercharger kit comes in third on my recommendations list, there are some caveats to it. For one, there aren’t any new M60 supercharger kits on the market currently, so if you are trying to find one, it’ll have to be second-hand from the forums or eBay. The other issue is tuning. An M60 supercharger kit requires a standalone engine management system and custom tuning, which might be difficult to achieve in today’s day and age. However, there is a bit of good news on the horizon.
While there are some pretty significant hurdles to supercharging an M60, there’s no better way to get the most out of the engine. The most popular kit on the market in the late 2010s was the ESS Tuning Vortec supercharger kit which is a good option if you can find one used. If you can’t, there might be a new M60 supercharger kit on the horizon from Hyde Motor Works. The team has been working on a supercharger for the M60 for a while now and recently revealed a working prototype.
In terms of power gains, some supercharged M60 owners have claimed that their engines have dyno’d at 420 horsepower from 7-10 psi of boost from a supercharger kit. There aren’t any N/A modifications that can even come close to those gains. While it might be hard to achieve, a supercharged M60 is the best way to get serious performance gains.
BMW M60 Engine Problems
When it comes to common issues, we can’t exactly say that the M60 is worry-free. However, it is the most reliable of the three BMW V8 offerings in the late 1990s and 2000s including the M60, M62, and M62TU. Since the M60 is relatively simple compared to the later engines, especially without VANOS or electronic throttle control, there is less to go wrong with it. Despite its relative simplicity, the M60 does have a few common problems that you should look out for if you are considering owning a BMW equipped with one.
- Nikasil Issue
- Timing Chain Guide Failure
- Failing Engine Mounts
M60 Nikasil Issue
While the M60 and M62 both feature aluminum construction for both the block and the head, they also used some other, more interesting, materials to line the cylinder bores. The M60 cylinders were coated with a “spray in” compound called Nikasil, which was meant to create a stronger and more wear-resistant surface. Nikasil is a nickel-based compound that integrates carbon and silicon particles. While the material serves its purpose effectively, it can corrode when it comes in contact with gasoline with high sulfur content. This corrosion could then lead to poor cylinder compression and a number of additional performance-hampering issues.
This issue was really only severe enough to cause concern in the early 90s, when there weren’t strict regulations to mandate that sulfur content in gasoline was kept to a minimum. The issue was significant enough back in the day that BMW issued a recall for Nikasil-lined M60 engines to have the block replaced with a new, Alusil-lined one.
With that being said, it is commonly concluded that if you own an M60-powered BMW with a Nikasil-coated block and it is running strong today, you aren’t likely to ever have issues. If you want to personally check to see if your M60 has had its block replaced, here are the corresponding part numbers that you can find on the side of the block:
- Nikasil M60B30 – 1 725 970 or 1 741 212
- Nikasil M60B40 – 1 725 963 or 1 742 998
- Alusil M60B30 – 1 745 871
- Alusil M60B40 – 1 745 872
Timing Chain Guide Failure
The timing chain guides in the M60 are responsible for just that, making sure the timing chain is properly moving without any extra slack in the chain. The timing chain is made out of metal, and because metal-on-metal friction is a no-no, the chain guides were made out of plastic.
Over time, the timing chain guide wears down or breaks which creates slack in the chain and can cause the timing chain to jump or completely throw the engine timing out of whack. This could cause serious damage to the pistons and valves of the engine, so it is commonly replaced as preventative maintenance, given replacing it once it breaks is often too late.
The M60 develops timing chain guide problems in the 100k-200k mileage range. We typically recommend replacing the guides, tensioner, and chains at the 150k mark as preventative maintenance if they have never been replaced before.
Symptoms of a Bad M62 Timing Chain
- Check engine light indicating timing is off
- Noisy running and on start-up
- Whining noise from the cylinder head
Failing Engine Mounts
This is common for any old vehicle with significant mileage on it, not just the M60 and not just BMWs. Engines shake, to a degree, naturally, but you also experience all sorts of bumps and shakes from the road too. If engines were simply mounted to the metal frame of the car, a ton of problems would be caused and the car would shake like crazy. Engine mounts act as a buffer between the metal frame and the engine itself, and are usually made out of rubber or polyurethane to absorb some of the shaking which makes the car safer and more driveable.
As engines wear, these rubber engine mounts can tear, break, or just plain deteriorate. Fortunately, bad engine mounts are usually very easy to diagnose.
M60 Bad Engine Mount Symptoms
- Noises coming from the engine bay (clunking, banging, vibration noises, etc.)
- Excessive vibration that can be felt inside the car
- Rattling of interior trim pieces
- Engine shaking (open your hood with the engine on and see if it is shaking badly)
The M60 is Undoubtedly One Of BMW’s Best V8 Engines
At this point in time, BMW V8s aren’t anything to be surprised by. With engines like the S62, S65, and N63, BMW’s V8s are almost as celebrated as their straight-sixes. It was truly the M60 that started that new legacy for the German marque.
The BMW M60 was the first V8 engine that BMW had produced in 25 years at its release. Somewhat surprisingly, they delivered a great engine right out of the box. The M60’s simplicity is one of its greatest strengths. Despite being a modern DOHC 4-valve-per-cylinder engine, it lacked variable valve timing and electronic throttle control which were flawed systems on later M62 and M62TU engines.
The M60B30 is an underwhelming engine compared to the larger M60B40 variant, but both engines deliver power smoothly and predictably, as expected by BMW. However, there isn’t much wiggle room to expand on either variant’s factory output. Since the M60 was so heavily optimized from the factory, there isn’t much in the realm of performance upgrades for the V8.
The M60 is undoubtedly BMW’s most reliable V8 in the late 90s and early 2000s era, once again due to its simplicity. It still has its hiccups, though. The nikasil issue damaged some blocks in the 90s but is largely a non-issue nowadays. Other than that, timing chain guide failure and bad engine mounts are really the only major issues that plague the engine.