When you think of engines that BMW is known for, a number of straight-6s will likely come to mind first. With that being said, BMW has a rich history with engines of all shapes and sizes. While BMW has since shifted towards a lower-displacement turbocharged formula, beefy German V8s have a strong presence in BMW’s engine catalog as well.
One of those trailblazing V8s is the BMW M62. As a refreshed and reworked version of the earlier M60 V8 which was in production from 1992 to 1996, the M62 engine made some notable changes to the earlier engine’s design which improved reliability and performance. Innovative changes to the engine block’s construction, hypereutectic pistons, and ferrous coated side skirts make the M62 a sturdy engine and a favorite in the BMW community.
The BMW M62 engine was the premier BMW V8 option in the late 90s to mid-2000s (outside of the S62) and was used in a wide range of vehicles, usually of the larger and more luxurious variety. From the E39 5-Series to the E31 8-Series, the M62 was a lump that provided plenty of power in a linear way. The M62 even found its way into other BMW-owned side projects, including the L322 Range Rover.
BMW M62 Engine Specs
Over the course of the M62’s 10-year lifespan, it was offered in 6 trims, each with slightly different characteristics. While the M62 came in four displacement specs, some variants of the M62 were simply technically updated from the previous version.
Engine: BMW M62
Engine Configuration: 90-Degree V8
3.5L (3,498 cc) (M62B35 +TU)
4.4L (4,398 cc) (M62B44 + TU)
4.6L (4,619 cc) (M62B46 + TU)
4.8L (4,837) (Alpina)
Aspiration: Naturally Aspirated
Valvetrain: DOHC, VANOS on TU versions
Bore x Stroke:
84mm x 78.9mm (M62B35 + TU)
92mm x 82.7mm (M62B44 + TU)
93mm x 85mm (M62B46/Alpina)
Weight: 308 lbs (Short Block)
Horsepower: 332 – 370
Torque: (lb-ft) 236 – 376
The M62 was first introduced in 1996 in M62B35 and M62B44 trims, with the former having a lower displacement at 3.5L compared to the 4.4L M62B44 trim. Both the M62B35 and M62B44 received an updated version in 1998 and received a new engine designation. The updated versions are known as the M62TUB35 and M62TUB44 respectively. The updated versions retained the same displacement and overall construction, but received a bump in horsepower.
The M62B46 is an interesting engine, as it was never used in any factory BMW models. It was developed by Alpina for use in the 1997 and 1998 Alpina B10. The engine’s construction was largely based on the M62B44, yet had an increased stroke and bore, raising overall displacement to 4.6 liters. Like the other M62 variants, the M62B46 also received a technical update after a couple of years in production. However, unlike the other M62 variants, the M62TUB46 received some substantial parts upgrades.
In comparison to the M62B44, the M62TUB46 received metal VANOS hubs, higher lift intake and exhaust valves, stronger valve springs, and a two-piece oil scraper ring. While the standard M62B46 was not used in any factory BMW vehicles, the M62TUB46 was used in the E53 4.6is X5.
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. As we already covered, the M62 engine 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 earlier 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 engine 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.
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-decreasing 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.
What Cars Use The M62 Engine?
With all of the BMW M62 engine variants accounted for, the V8 was used in 16 different models, even reaching outside of the BMW namesake. Here are the vehicles that use the BMW M62 engine:
- 1996–1998 BMW 5 Series (E39) 535i
- 1996–1998 BMW 7 Series (E38) 735i/735iL
- 1999–2001 BMW 7 Series (E38) 735i/735iL
- 1998–2003 BMW 5 Series (E39) 535i
- 1996–1998 BMW 5 Series (E39) 540i
- 1996–1998 BMW 7 Series (E38) 740i/740iL
- 1997–1999 BMW 8 Series (E31) 840Ci
- 1998–2003 BMW 5 Series (E39) 540i
- 1999–2001 BMW 7 Series (E38) 740i/740iL
- 1999–2003 BMW X5 (E53) X5 4.4i
- 2000–2004 Morgan Aero 8
- 2002–2005 Range Rover
- 1997–1998 Alpina B10 V8
- 1999–2001 Alpina B10 V8
- 2000–2004 Morgan Aero 8 GTN
- 2002–2004 BMW X5 (E53) X5 4.6is
Stock BMW M62 Engine Performance
The BMW M62 engine is widely said to have taken the M60 formula and improved it in areas where the M60 was lacking. Despite being similar in terms of construction, there is a very significant difference between the M62B35 and M62B44 in terms of performance. The same can be said for the earlier models versus the TU versions that came later. Regardless, the M62 represented a modernization of BMW’s V8 formula and a slight bit of refinement over the M60.
While the initial 3.5L M62B35 is a largely underwhelming engine overall, considering it is a V8 producing only a meager 232 horsepower, it has a higher redline than the M60B44 and peak torque arrives much sooner in the rev range. The M62B44 is obviously the favorable choice over the B35 because of the elevated horsepower and torque figures, but it will act similarly to the B35 in terms of its power delivery characteristics.
The post-1998 M62s have slightly different power and torque curves due to the presence of single-VANOS. This allowed the M62 to have a much flatter torque curve with much more available down low compared to the M60 and pre-update M62s. As well as the addition of VANOS, the update to fully-electronic throttle control made a significant difference to the acceleration characteristics of the updated M62 in different driving modes.
BMW M62 Engine Mods and Upgrades
Despite being a very popular engine in the BMW community, the M62 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 M62 is already well optimized and designed by the factory. Earlier non-VANOS M62s actually have a bit more support due to the fact that the technical update added complexity to the valvetrain. With that being said, there is still a fair number of modifications that you can do to breathe a bit more life into your M62.
1) Upgraded M62 Headers
It is no secret that the factory M62 exhaust manifold is poorly designed. Between the restrictive catalytic converter setup and tight bends to accommodate the extremely tight squeeze in the engine bay (regardless of model), the stock M62 exhaust manifold is one of the parts that throttles performance the most. Performance headers for the M62 are the best way to increase exhaust flow over the factory setup.
While M62 headers are a worthwhile upgrade overall, the installation isn’t easy. Due to the M62’s large form factor, it is a pretty tight squeeze in most chassis. That leaves very little clearance between the exhaust ports and other nearby components. Most aftermarket M62 headers have trouble clearing the transmission bell housing and starter. That makes the installation almost impossible without either lifting the engine or dropping the subframe. Because of that, M62 headers should be considered/installed when other work is being done that already requires either of those scenarios.
There are a number of high-quality M62 headers on the market that will garner a significant amount of horsepower over the stock manifold. However, they will set you back a pretty penny. If you do decide to spring for some M62 headers, it is a bad idea to go for the cheap eBay option. Even high-quality, laser scanned, mandrel bent M62 headers have a difficult time with fitment and most cheap options won’t align or fit properly at all.
The best option on the market currently is the Supersprint E39 header kit. While pricey, you are undoubtedly paying for quality. The Supersprint set removes the factory pre-cats and additional restrictions found on the stock M62 exhaust manifold. The M62 header set also features a unique design that separates all 8 collectors from the collector, making installation much easier in the tight space. Due to the extremely efficient design, Supersprint has measured gains of up to 30 horsepower from the installation of their headers. Due to the removal of the pre-cats, the Supersprint set is meant for off-street use only from an emissions standpoint.
Supersprint E39 M62 Headers: store.vacmotorsports.com
2) Upgraded M62 Cold Air Intake
While it might not make a night and day difference, a cold air intake for your BMW M62 is a great way to snag a few extra ponies without making too much of a dent in your wallet. Cold air intakes are one of the most popular upgrades for almost every engine under the sun, and the M62 is no different. While the factory M62 airbox is designed pretty well overall, some significant improvements can be made to lower intake air temperatures and increase intake efficiency. For instance, on the E39 540I, the front intake tube chokes down to a 2” opening as it passes over the bumper support which creates turbulence and restricts air from flowing evenly.
Most M62 cold air intake manufacturers claim that you’ll see a gain of around 10 horsepower and 15 lb-ft of torque with a tune adjustment. That might be on the liberal side if we’re being honest. Regardless of the power gains, you’ll certainly notice increased throttle response and better induction noise. Depending on the construction of the upgraded intake, the inertia and flow characteristics of the incoming air can change an M62’s performance. While an upgraded intake doesn’t inherently increase throttle response, it can be a consequence of the modified airflow characteristics. Who can forget the sound as well?
The Dinan M62 cold air intake is unquestionably the most common option for those looking for an upgrade. If you’ve been in the BMW community for any amount of time, Dinan doesn’t likely need an introduction. For those unfamiliar, they have built up such a profound reputation in the BMW community that they were an approved vendor with BMW for years. Their M62 CAI makes significant changes to the factory design which maximizes airflow and keeps temperatures low. The Dinan kit ditches the factory closed box design in favor of an open-air, cone-style setup that is rerouted below the headlights to pull from a source of cold air.
Dinan BMW M62 Cold Air Intake: dinancars.com
3) M62 Intake Manifold Swap
We briefly discussed the differences between the earlier M60 intake manifold and the one on the M62. Despite coming from the engine that preceded the M62, the M60’s intake manifold is actually the preferable option of the two if you prefer high-end torque. 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 M60’s intake runners are longer and wider which affects the M62’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 M62 engine, there is debate in the E39 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 M60 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 M60 manifold is a direct bolt-on to the M62 and they are readily available and pretty cheap to pick up.
BMW M60 Intake Manifold for M62 Intake Swap: eBay.com
BMW M62 Engine Problems
When it comes to common issues, we can’t exactly say that the M62 is worry-free. In fact, it is an engine known to have its faults and caveats. While it isn’t fair to say that any of the M62’s issues are truly common, as a lot of them can be avoided with proper preventative maintenance and upkeep, the technical complexity of the BMW V8 makes the M62 more prone to issues compared to other BMW engines. In this guide, we’ll only cover a few of the M62’s most common issues. However, we have already written a BMW M62 Most Common Problems & Reliability Issues Guide that you can read for more information.
1) M62 Timing Chain Guide Failure
The timing chain guides in the M62 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 happening 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 M62 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
Replacement Parts Kit: https://www.fcpeuro.com/products/clone-bmw-m62-timing-chain-guide-rail-kit-11311704945kt
DIY Replacement Guide: http://www.bimmerboard.com/forums/posts/876903
DIY Difficulty: very difficult. Replacing all of the components requires to you remove: the front bumper, accessory drive belt and pulleys and tensioners, the water pump, power steering pump, and alternator.
2) Failing Engine Mounts
This is common for any old vehicle with significant mileage on it, not just the M62 and not just BMW’s. 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.
M62 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)
Replacement parts: the part will depend on whether you have a 3.5L, 4.4L, 4.6L, and so on. Head over to https://bmwpartsfactory.com to get motor mounts for your specific engine.
3) M62 Vanos Unit Failure
In 1998 the M62 received a technical upgrade which included the addition of a single-unit Vanos system. Vanos systems are responsible for what is called “variable valve timing”, which electronically alters the valve lift timing for better performance, increased gas mileage, reduced emissions, etc. The single Vanos unit in the M62 is responsible for altering intake camshaft timing. If you want to get into the nitty gritty of Vanos, you can read our Vanos guide.
As is with any BMW with a Vanos system, these are frequent problems. They wear down over time and begin to stop functioning, resulting in various symptoms as described below. Fortunately, with the M62 a lot of the Vanos problems tend to be caused by the Vanos seals, rather than the actuator unit itself.
Symptoms of M62 Vanos Failure
- Vanos rattle noise on a cold start (usually first indicator)
- Vanos clanking noise when engine is warm or during driving
- Poor or rough idling
- Check engine light reading Vanos/timing is off
- Loss of power and low-end torque along with poor performance
Replacement Options: either replace the full unit, or have it rebuilt. The DIY requires “moderate” mechanical skills, but will probably take a few days to complete and requires a number of specialty tools that are not cheap to buy. We recommend using someone such as DrVanos to do a full rebuild, but if you are trying to DIY it, you can check out this guide here.