While the BMW N54 can push incredible power and torque through the small stock twin turbos, many enthusiasts look to take their N54 to the next level. Upgraded turbos are the forefront of discussion when it comes to unleashing the N54’s full potential. Despite its reputation as a strong factory motor, upgrading to a big single turbo or larger TD04 twin turbos comes with considerable risk. With so many options on the market it is tough to determine where to even start but worry not. In this guide we will explore upgraded twin turbo options and the benefits, risks, and costs of each.
A Little About the BMW N54
Before diving into the discussion about upgraded twin turbos we want to diverge briefly to discuss the N54 engine. It’s a relatively high compression engine featuring an open-deck block; on paper, neither of these facts lead one to believe the N54 can handle big boost. Though, in the real world, the N54 has shattered expectations and proven its ability as an outstanding high-performance motor. This leads some, us included, to believe the N54 will handle whatever we throw its way. We can’t fault anyone for believing this; it really is one hell of an engine.
However, prior to upgrading your N54 twin turbos, let’s come back to reality throughout this post. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of N54’s pushing 600+whp and torque through unopened motors. Additionally, there are countless examples of blown motors at those power levels and surely many more that have not been documented. The N54, like any other engine, is far from indestructible. At these power levels it may only take one pre-detonation to grenade the engine. Please seriously consider this before upgrading your N54 turbos - can you afford, and are you willing, to drop a new motor into the car if you blow your N54?
Upgraded Twin Turbos vs Single Turbo
We will expand on this once we release our single turbo guide and roll everything into one holistic article. However, for now, we want focus on one important difference: low-end torque.
Twin turbos are typically going to roll in torque at significantly lower RPM’s than a big single turbo. The below dyno charts are an excellent comparison.
N54 Twin Turbo Dyno
N54 Single Turbo Dyno
You can see the power band of the single turbo is shifted right; peak torque occurs right around 5200 rpms while power peaks near redline. The single turbo N54 also makes less torque but manages 125 horsepower more than the twin turbo setup. On the contrary, the twin turbo setup rolls in a whopping 636 wheel-torque below 4500rpms while peak power occurs prior to 5000rpms.
Good or Bad for Twin Turbos?
Well, that depends on your goals and budget. The single turbo N54 above is going to be a faster car, however, the twin turbo setup will provide (in our opinion) a more fun daily driver. You’re not going to really need to string out the motor to redline to have a blast. However, low-end torque is extremely tough on engines. At lower engine speeds, the pistons are travelling slower which exposes the engine to high cylinder pressures for longer periods of time. Additionally, torque is tougher on engines as compared to power; upgraded twin turbos typically make more torque than single turbos as evidenced above.
This can all be adjusted with proper tuning but cutting boost and torque on the lower-end may also defeat the purpose of a twin turbo N54. In general, twin turbos are tougher on the N54. If you want to run an aggressive twin turbo setup you may be best off building the motor.
Upgraded Twin Turbo Setups
Alright, now that we got most of the background information out of the way, it’s time to dive into the fun part. We will break down the various setups for the following goals:
- “Modest” 500whp N54 Twin Turbo Setup
- 600whp Twin Turbo Setup
- “Full Send” 700+whp Setup
Keep in mind – even if your initial goal is a modest 500whp you may consider opting for twin turbos capable of handling significantly more power. Not only will running the turbos below their upper limits help with reliability and longevity, but it also provides the option to extract more power from your N54 down the road without needing new turbos again. Of course, one downside to consider is that switching to larger, more capable TD04 turbos will increase turbo lag slightly.
TD03 vs TD04 Turbos
When looking for aftermarket turbochargers you will frequently see or come across TD03 and TD04 for the N54. This refers to the size of the center section, with TD04 being larger (TD03 stock on the N54). TD04 turbos are more efficient, run cooler, and typically flow more air leading to more power. Upgraded TD03 turbos typically use larger than TD03 sized internals.
9b vs 12b (Compressor Blades)
This simply refers to the number of blades on the turbine wheel. As you likely guessed by now, 9b refers to 9 blades while 12b is 12 blades. All else constant, a 9 blade wheel will flow more air at lower PSI, but the 12 blade wheel will flow more at higher PSI.
15T, 17T, and 19T
These numbers refer to the size of the compressor wheel; higher numbers indicate a larger compressor wheel. A larger wheel will have higher flow.
**Final Note: N54 OEM turbos feature TD03 center section, 10T compressor wheel, and TD03L 11 blade turbine wheel
“Modest” 500whp N54 Twin Turbo Setup
I am referring to this as “modest” simply because the stock turbos on the N54 can push roughly 500whp. However, there are still many benefits to running upgraded turbos over stock even at these power levels. A few of these benefits include:
- Better top-end power
- Flow more air at lower PSI
- Turbo longevity
- Less heat
In general, larger or more efficient turbos will produce better power on the top-end; even if your goal is to keep peak power the same as your maxed stock turbos, upgraded turbos will produce more power at 6000+rpms. Additionally, larger twin turbos may flow more air at lower PSI; stock turbos run about 23psi to produce 500whp while a larger TD04 turbo would make the same 500whp at less than 23psi. Running a turbo below its maximum limit will help with turbo reliability and longevity. Lastly, upgraded turbos will help reduce IAT’s and keep overall temperatures down.
500WHP N54 Twin Turbo Options
If you decided somewhere in the ballpark of 500whp is the goal for your N54 the following options may be your best bet. For those who may want more power in the future, consider upgrading to the more aggressive turbo setups listed in the 600-700+whp sections.
1. RB Twos (475-525whp)
TD03, Billet 15T Compressor Wheel, High Flow Custom Enlarged 9-blade Turbine Wheel
Starting at $1,999
These are a great balance of performance and cost. RB recommends keeping these turbos in the ballpark of 475-525whp, however they have proven capable of being pushed above those power levels. Though going above the recommendation may result in premature wear and shorter life-span.
2. Pure Stage 1 (450-500whp)
TD03, Unknown Compressor and Turbine Wheels
Starting at $1,950
There does not seem to be much information regarding the unknown compressor and turbine wheels. What is known is that these turbochargers are capable of peaking around 500whp, so you would likely be best keeping these turbos slightly under the 500whp goal. Like the RB Twos above, the Pure Stage 1 turbos are a solid choice for those looking to make reliable power on a budget, but they are slightly less capable than the RB Twos.
3. Vargas Turbo Tech (VTT) Stage 1 (450-500whp)
TD03, Choice of Billet or Non-Billet 14T Compressor Wheel, OEM Turbine Wheel
Starting at $1,499 ($1,649 w/ Billet Wheel)
Yet another solid option for those on a budget looking for upgraded turbos. The VTT stage 1 turbos are capable of roughly 525whp but are likely best kept in the 480-500whp range.
4. RB Next Gens (500-550whp)
TD04, Billet 15T Compressor Wheel, High Flow TD04L 11-Blade Turbine Wheel
Starting at $2,399
A little pricier than the previous options, the RB Next Gens are somewhat of an “entry-level” TD04 turbo; these turbos will flow much more efficiently than the smaller center section TD03’s. Good for 500-550whp but capable of being pushed a bit further. Though 550whp may not seem like a huge upgrade from the RB Twos 525whp these are a considerable upgrade. They will hold power later in the RPM range creating a broader power band. Proven to run sub 11 second quarter miles @ 130+ mph these turbos are no joke. Excellent, reliable option for those looking to daily drive in the low-mid 500whp range with the ability to be turned up to 550+whp for occasional glory runs.
Final Thoughts on “Modest” 500whp Turbos
There are many N54 twin turbo options on the market that will meet these modest power goals so please keep in mind this is far from an exhaustive list. We make NO money recommending any of these turbo setups; this is an honest list of recommended turbos based on extensive research.
Most importantly, these 500whp setups are likely best for N54 owners looking to make practical, daily-drivable power. Though proper supporting mods are important, a 500whp N54 will be less demanding than more powerful setups. As we progress to more powerful setups, it should be noted – the turbos themselves may not be significantly more expensive but the supporting mods add up quickly. More on this later.
600WHP N54 Twin Turbo Setups
600+whp N54 setups are beginning to near the limit where you may consider building your engine. Though the low 600’s is commonly accepted to be a safe limit (with proper tuning and supporting mods) for the N54 this is still a considerable amount of power where the likelihood of a blown engine increases. You’ll also be best running full E85 due to its improved detonation resistance.
Basic Supporting Mods
- Port fuel injection
- Stage 2+ LPFP
- Upgraded axles
- Limited Slip Differential
- Dual oil coolers
- 7”+ FMIC
- Upgraded inlets/outlets
Due to the more demanding fuel of these setups you are likely going to need a stage 2+ LPFP along with the addition of port injection. The stock direct injection with a stage 2+ LPFP will likely max out around 550whp, depending on the amount of E85. You will also struggle putting down this kind of power in your N54 without a limited slip differential, and there is an increasing possibility of snapping an axle with each launch. Although larger turbos run more efficiently and cooler, 550-600+whp is going to generate some serious heat. Consider dual oil coolers and a larger FMIC to keep temps in control. Lastly, stock N54 inlets will really limit the potential of these turbos and cause additional stress.
This is not an exhaustive list of supporting mods, and you may be able to get by without everything listed above. To reiterate though, at these power levels you want to ensure you are doing things right. These following upgraded twin turbos may not seem terribly expensive up-front, but the full setup with proper supporting mods may easily run into $10,000+ territory.
600+WHP N54 Twin Turbo Options
1. RB Next Gen Plus (550-600whp)
TD04, Billet 17T Compressor Wheel, High Flow TD04L 9-blade Turbine Wheel
Starting at $2,599
RB’s Next Gen Plus turbos are capable of efficiently running in the 550-600whp range with the ability to be pushed upwards of 625-650whp for some additional fun. These turbos will provide an excellent balance between quick spool, low-end torque, and big top-end power. Known to trap the quarter mile in the mid 130mph range these turbos back-up their power claims with real world results.
2. Vargas Turbo Tech (VTT) Stage 2+ (575-625whp)
TD04, Custom Billet Compressor Wheel, TD04L 9-blade Turbine Wheel
Starting at $2,199
Capable of being pushed towards 675whp, these turbos are likely best kept in the low 600whp range for daily driving. Featuring a 2” turbo inlet, these turbos require 2” aftermarket silicone inlets. Like the RB Next Gen Plus turbos, the VTT Stage 2+ will retain a great balance between quick spooling and high top-end power.
3. MMP Stage 3 Gen 2 (600-650whp)
TD04, 43mm Billet Compressor Wheel, 43mm Turbine Wheel
Starting at $2,500
Though MMP states their State 3 Gen 2 turbos are capable of 700whp max at 30psi, we advise keeping these turbos in the low-mid 600whp range. Given the larger design of these turbos they trade off a little spool and torque in favor of more top end power.
4. Pure Turbos PURE600 (550-600whp)
Custom Turbine and Billet Compressor Wheel
Starting at $2,200
The PURE600 turbos are an excellent option for those looking to stick right around or under 600whp. Though they can push 600whp they are likely best kept around 550whp for daily driving. Retaining great spool and low-end torque these turbos also make peak power near redline.
5. RB Super RB Stealths (575-625whp)
TD04, Billet 19T Compressor Wheel, High Flow TD04L 9-blade Turbine Wheel
Starting at $2,649
As compared to the RB Next Gen Plus, the Super RB Stealth’s see an upgraded 19T compressor wheel supporting an efficient 575-625whp. They can also be pushed a bit further, although anything above 625whp is starting to get out of the efficient range for the housings. Additionally, these turbos will take a slight hit when it comes to spool. There do not appear to be many sets out there on the N54 but one of the few out there has managed 10.7 quarter mile times at 130+mph.
Final Thoughts on 600whp Turbos
The above turbos are not an exhaustive list but are all excellent options for any N54’s looking to make consistent power figures in the high 500s to low 600s. Though some of the turbos are capable of being pushed further, it is always a good idea to keep the turbos below their upper limits in most situations. For occasional fun or “glory runs”, many of the above options can be pushed to their limits to make well over 600whp on the N54 engine.
The supporting mods required for an N54 to reliably and consistently make 600+whp are considerable. Again, you may even want to consider building your motor if you’re planning to make that much power for the long-term. Or, at least be prepared that the eventual fate of your N54 may be death. As we move into the next category things really start to heat up quickly. We’re now looking to push the N54 to, and likely past, it’s upper limits.
“Full Send” 700+WHP N54 Twin Turbo Setups
As the title states, these setups are quite literally full send and not at all intended for the faint of heart. Building a use-able twin turbo 700+whp N54 will likely run into the range of $25,000-40,000, if not more. This list of supporting mods is far from exhaustive but just to name a few: port injection, LSD, upgraded axles, dual oil coolers, transmission coolers, fully built motor, massive intercoolers, and extensive tuning.
Just to Reiterate
This is some serious sh**; not the kind of setup you want to jump into without extensive knowledge, experience, and/or a very deep wallet. If you push 700+whp through an unopened motor it’s not a question of IF it lets go, but rather WHEN it lets go. Similarly, if you launch your N54 from a dig at 700+whp it’s not a question of if you snap an axle, but when you do. Additionally, depending on your specific goals, you may be pushing these turbos close to their limits thereby increasing the chances of blown turbos.
OK, as we stated earlier, this stuff can possibly be avoided with proper tuning and rolling in boost/torque later in the RPM range. However, at that point you’re likely best opting for a single turbo. Even then, a 700+whp single turbo setup is pushing the upper limits of the N54 capabilities. Let’s dive into the options that will reach these power goals.
700+WHP N54 Twin Turbo Options
1. MMP1000 (700-800+whp)
TD04, 46mm Turbine & Compressor Wheels
Starting at $3,500 (currently on sale for $2,800)
With claims of being the most powerful N54 twin turbo offering on the market, these turbos were designed to handle 1000hp (about 850whp). We have not located any data or dyno charts showing these turbos truly pushed towards their upper limits. However, given these are larger turbos and an upgrade over MMP’s stage 3 gen 2 turbos (which have eclipsed 700whp), it is safe to say these turbos will meet your 700+whp goals.
2. Vargas Turbo Tech (VTT) “GC 2.0” (700-850whp)
TD04, Fully Custom Designed Turbo Internals
Starting at $3,299
Given the lack of 700+whp twin turbo N54’s in existence, these may be (at least from our research) the most proven high horsepower twin turbos on the market. Terry at Burger Motorsports, the manufacturers of the popular JB4 tunes, pushed these turbos to 761whp and 660wtq. He also managed a 5.41 second 60-130 time – nothing short of incredible (and may still be the N54 record to date). There is another example that managed a breathtaking 847whp and 726wtq with over 600-wheel torque at a mere 3000rpms. This car trapped an n54 world record 170.49mph in the half mile.
3. RB Super RB EVO 19T (650-700whp)
TD04, Billet 19T Compressor Wheel, and TD04HL 9-blade Turbine Wheel
Starting at $2,749
Super RB EVO 19T turbos do not have a lot of information out there, but still deserve a mention for the highest horsepower N54 twin turbo setups. There is an example of the smaller 17T setup making 575whp at only 21psi. What is more incredible is the 668 wheel torque the smaller 17T turbos made on that same dyno pull at 21psi, with claimed misfire issues.
The RB Super Stealths referenced in the 600+whp section look similar on paper. However, the Super RB EVO’s feature larger custom cast TD04 compressor housings. It is unknown whether these Super RB EVO’s will eclipse 700whp, however, they should make incredible torque in the mid-range as evidenced by the above referenced dyno.
4. Pure Stage 2 Hi-Flow Turbos (650-700whp)
TD04, Specs Unknown
Starting at $3,595
Although Pure’s Stage 2 Hi-Flow twin turbos are just about maxed at 700whp they deserve an honorable mention for their proven results. There are many N54’s running these turbos with countless dynos showing 600-700whp, and a few 700+whp examples.
Final Thoughts on 700+whp N54 Twin Turbo
There are not many examples of 700+whp twin turbo N54 engines, so anyone opting for this setup is entering relatively unknown territory. What is known, these twin turbo setups will still produce amazing low-end torque and put massive amounts of stress on the N54. Not for the faint of heart, these setups will require built motors and extensive supporting mods likely driving all in costs north of $25,000.
Keep in mind – even with a built motor, the most capable turbos, and proper supporting mods there is still a chance of blowing the motor and/or turbos. You may be able to afford the up-front costs of these 700+whp setups, but it is important to understand additional costs may still be incurred. If you’re committed to a 700+whp setup, we are very jealous and hope to one day join you.
BMW N54 Twin Turbo Setups – Turbo Manufacturers
We try to avoid any drama between turbo manufacturers, and there is quite a history of some bickering back and forth on the various forums. The four turbo companies referenced throughout this post – RB, Vargas, MMP, and Pure – are some of the most common turbos on the N54 market. You will find complaints and horror stories about each on the internet, and we hold nothing against any of these turbo manufacturers, nor are we paid by any of them.
Pushing Turbos Past Their Limits
It is important to note – many of the horror stories arise from people pushing their N54 and turbos to the absolute limit. When pushing an engine, turbos, or anything for that matter, past its limit there always remains the possibility of unforeseen issues. Keep this in mind when researching what may be the best option for you.
Summary of N54 Twin Turbos
As discussed throughout this post, the N54 nor any aftermarket turbochargers are indestructible. We know this is cliché but is it so true and as the saying goes: you gotta pay to play. Understand your goals and know what you are looking to get out of your N54. If you know you are looking to make a consistent 600whp don’t opt for upgraded turbos that are absolutely maxed out at those power levels. Additionally, ensure you are budgeting the appropriate supporting mods for your goals. While a modest 500whp setup can get by with minimal supporting mods, a 700+whp setup will require demanding supporting mods that can add up to tens of thousands.
There is a plethora of offerings available for the N54 engine, so be sure to research diligently and take your time. Purchasing upgraded turbos likely isn’t a decision you will make overnight. With all of that being said, a set of upgraded N54 twin turbochargers have the ability to boost your car to the next level. Most importantly, have some fun.