BMW N54 vs Toyota 2JZ-GTE

We know, we know. The title of the site is not going to help plead our case. Regardless, we will do our best to make this an unbiased comparison. It's true - we love BMW's because we believe they've built some of the best inline-6 turbo engines ever. We also believe the N54 is an exciting comparison since it started the modern turbo BMW era. However, that does not change what the 2JZ-GTE was and still is today.

The Basics: 2JZ vs N54

Toyota's 2JZ-GTE is a twin turbo 3.0L DOHC inline-6 engine produced from 1991 through 2002. US versions made right around 280whp and 280wtq straight out of the factory. Sounds similar to the N54 (other than the years), right? Well, that's just about all these engines have in common. Let's take a look at some of the key differences on paper.

 N542JZ-GTE
Displacement2979 cc2997 cc
Compression10.28.5
Bore x Stroke (mm)84 x 89.686 x 86
Redline7,0006,800
Weight~320 lbs~507 lbs
Engine Block MaterialAluminumCast Iron
Engine Block DesignOpen DeckClosed Deck
PistonsCastCast, Oil Cooled
RodsForgedForged
CrankshaftForgedForged

This is a relatively short list as we don't want to go on for thousands of words. The N54 and 2JZ-GTE are both 3.0L engines, however the 2JZ actually has a slightly higher displacement. It's minor, but gives the 2JZ a small edge. Additionally, its compression ratio is significantly lower which is preferable on boosted engines. The N54's undersquare design assists with low-end torque and fuel efficiency. However, the square design of the 2JZ is preferred for higher revs.

Then there's weight. The N54 clearly has a huge edge in this category. However, the Supra's overall weight actually clocks in just between the N54 powered 135i and 335i. A big determinant in the 2JZ's weight is the cast iron, closed deck engine block. It's a very strong, beefy block when compared to the N54's aluminum, open deck design. The 2JZ and N54 both have cast pistons, however the 2JZ receives oil-spray nozzles for improved piston cooling. Finally, both engines feature forged rods and cranks. Though, the 2JZ likely has the edge as they're beefier parts.

The 2JZ is Stronger

Toyota 2JZ EnginePin

In summary of the above specs - the 2JZ is simply the stronger, beefier, and more capable engine on paper. Then again, we don't really need paper to tell us this. The 2JZ powered Supra didn't earn a legendary status in the tuning world simply because the engine looks good on paper.

280+whp straight from the factory was already impressive enough in the 1990's. A tune and basic bolt-ons pushed the 2JZ into the 400-450whp ballpark. However, that's not what we know the 2JZ for. When we hear 2JZ we immediately think of the awesome sounds and 1000+whp single turbo examples. We think of one of the strongest, beefiest bottom ends in a mass production vehicle. One capable of making ~800whp safely on the stock bottom end.

These feats are impressive by 2020 engine standards. Let alone the 1990's. The Supra and 2JZ earned a legendary reputation for good reason. No, it's not the best engine in the world. Do we believe it's fair to say the 2JZ is over-hyped and over-rated to a small extent? Sure. However, the 2JZ-GTE is still one hell of an engine. It's amazing that nearly 30 years later the 2JZ is relevant and still running with some of the best modern turbo engines. The 2JZ deserves respect for that reason alone, if not for its other accomplishments.

A New Era: BMW N54

900hp N54 Single TurboPin

BMW's N54 engine was produced at the beginning of a new era not only for BMW, but for the automotive industry as a whole. Turbochargers, direct injection, and VVT (dubbed VANOS on BMW's) are standard tech on many modern engines. The N54 was the at the forefront of this movement for BMW. Although the N54 was plagued by early issues, BMW did a solid job overall.

It didn't take much time for the N54 to shatter expectations in the tuning world. A simple tune and bolt-ons can boost the N54 to 400+whp and torque. Stock turbos have been pushed as far as ~510whp and ~575wtq. Notably, the N54 excels at quick turbo spool and staggering low-end torque. In our opinion, this makes the N54 an incredibly worthy daily driver. Something about having 450-500+ torque on tap below 3,000 RPM's just makes the N54 so thrilling. It also makes the N54 deadly in 40mph roll races (though higher HP cars quickly catch up after 100mph). This low-end torque is something the 2JZ simply does not do as well.

Of course, there are then the large single turbo N54's making 800+whp. It took the N54 much longer than the 2JZ to reach this milestone, but an N54 finally eclipsed 1000whp not long ago. However, the 2JZ is able to hold around 800whp on the stock block without completely killing longevity. The N54 is no slouch, but 700-750whp is a generally accepted upper limit for the N54.

So...Is the N54 or 2JZ-GTE Better?

This is tough to answer since better is subjective. As we discussed, the 2JZ and N54 are very different engines in many ways. The N54 uses tech and engine developments that simply weren't there (or at least weren't as good) when the 2JZ-GTE was manufactured. There are some things the N54 does better, and some things the 2JZ does better:

N54 vs 2JZ: Strength and Durability

We already discussed this earlier, but to reiterate the 2JZ is simply a beefier, stronger engine. Its lower compression ratio and cast iron closed deck block give it a significant advantage. It's WAY better than the N54 on paper. However, the N54 does close the gap a little bit in the real world. We would argue 700-750whp on an open-deck aluminum block is more impressive than 800whp on a closed-deck cast iron block. Nonetheless, the 2JZ-GTE is still the stronger engine.

Winner: Toyota 2JZ-GTE

N54 vs 2JZ: Low-end Torque

The 2JZ did receive VVT (variable valve timing) in some later model engines. However, the N54's more modern VVT (VANOS) system is superior. This plays a large roll in the N54's ability to quickly build boost. Additionally, the N54's undersquare design helps with low-end torque. Overall, the N54's advanced technology allows for quicker spooling turbos and better low-end torque.

Winner: BMW N54

N54 vs 2JZ: Cost to Mod

There are a few pieces to this. The N54 is generally cheaper to mod on stock turbos with a tune and basic bolt-ons. Older ECU/DME's simply were not as advanced as they were when the N54 was released. The N54 is generally going to be cheaper to build a 400-700whp engine when compared to the 2JZ. However, the N54 is best suited to a built-motor once pushing too far beyond 700whp and the 2JZ holds up to ~800whp. Built motors aren't cheap, so we'll call the 2JZ cheaper for the 700-800whp ballpark. Anything above 800whp becomes very expensive on both the N54 and 2JZ, so we'll call that a toss up based on specific goals.

Winner: N54 (400-700whp), 2JZ-GTE (700-800whp), Tie (800+whp)

N54 vs 2JZ: Daily Driving

This is very subjective, and for us it ties into the low-end torque discussion. We like the idea of having tons of torque on tap at lower revs for daily driving. We're assuming many other people appreciate that for a daily driver. Additionally, N54's are newer and are found in slightly more luxurious cars. Some may love the idea of daily driving a huge single turbo 2JZ-GTE and stringing the motor to redline for daily driving. We'll take the N54 and it's awesome low-end torque, please.

Winner: BMW N54

N54 vs 2JZ: Respect

We just had to throw in another win for the 2JZ-GTE. It's too good of an engine for its time. We think the N54 is also impressive for its time, and it definitely set the bar high for BMW turbo engines moving forward. We like the N54 more than the 2JZ overall, but we'll give our respects to the 2JZ.

Winner: Toyota 2JZ-GTE

BMW N54 vs Toyota 2JZ-GTE Summary

While the N54 and 2JZ share some common traits they're actually very different engines. The 2JZ-GTE rolled out of the factory with incredible strength - beefy forged crank and rods, oil cooled pistons, and an iron closed-deck block. While the N54 is no slouch, the 2JZ is definitely the stronger and more durable engine between the two.

However, the N54 isn't without its own strengths. Staggering low-end torque and impressive gains on stock turbos are exciting. Only a select few are really gunning for huge power numbers. Most are happy with the daily drive-ability and joys of having a modest 400-500whp with plentiful low-end torque. As such, we like the N54 better as an every day fun engine. However, it's hard to argue that the 2JZ's accomplishments are anything short of incredible. Therefore, we will give our respects to the 2JZ-GTE.

What are your thoughts on the N54 and 2JZ-GTE?

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8 thoughts shared

  1. How many times do comments have to tell you that N54 doesn’t have forged rods??? You can’t run a website like this and not have accurate information.

    1. Alex,

      The N54 DOES have forged rods. Actually just about every single turbo BMW engine uses forged rods. Yes, there are a million arguments on forums with discussions on this and plenty of people who take either side in the debate.

      They’re drop-forged, cracked connecting rods on the N54. You have a lot of research to do, so I won’t give away the details on how that process works. At the end of the day, the N54 rods ARE forged but they’re very run of the mill forged rods. Much stronger factory forged rods exist…such as the 2JZ.

      Regards,
      Zach

      1. I also should have thought to add this the other day. Again, the N54 rods are forged but it’s really a moot point. Whether or not they’re forged doesn’t change the limits of the N54 engine. The fact of the matter is this is a highly proven engine in the long-term at 600-650+whp.

        We wrote a detailed article on the N54 engine limits. With a good setup the N54 can even handle 700whp (and maybe a bit more) for a long time. Engine limits are a lengthy discussion and there’s no perfect answer. Yes, N54’s do blow up below that power. However, with a really good setup we’re very confident in the N54’s ability to handle at least 600-650whp for the long-run.

        Forged rods or not those are roughly the limits. If the N54 is making that kind of power with non-forged rods that would be even more incredible. Even if you assume the rods are forged the N54 already does so much with so little. Heads don’t lift. Valvetrain issues are rare at 700+whp. We’re not aware of a single legitimate crankshaft failure (cranks can be ruined by bearing failures, of course). The open-deck aluminum block is way stronger than those words suggest. Nonetheless, forged rods or not they’re are still one of the primary concerns when pushing 600+whp – alongside pistons and bearings.

        Point here being – the N54 is proven enough and the engine limits are fairly well proven and understood by now. The rods being forged or not doesn’t change the numbers since they’re backed by real world results and data. But again, they’re drop-forged cracked rods.

        Best,
        Zach

  2. With respect, this reads like a typical fanboy posting. All one needs to do is have a read of your owns site’s posting of common N54 engine issues to render this article pointless. What makes the 2JZ legendary is the fact that it is so ridiculously factory over-engineered that it can take mass amounts of abuse without complaint. The N54 was about as durable as paper mache the day it left the factory. Who cares if it is more tuneable (which is highly debatable even based on the comments in this article) if the thing is likely to grenade itself for any number of reasons at any given time? The N54’s VANOS and HPFP problems are as well known as the 2JZ’s reliability. I almost bought a low km 535i 6-speed wagon years ago. I really wanted to convince myself that this was going to be the ultimate sleeper but stopped myself because the service history of the car scared the crap out of me even while it was under warranty.

    1. Hi Alan,

      N54’s don’t simply grenade themselves for any reason at any given time. Sure, plenty of people have blown up N54’s. Plenty have also blown up 2JZ engines. Unfortunately, the low entry cost for an N54 gives it a bad reputation. Too many people buy these engines with limited or no knowledge. Instead of fixing issues they try to throw a few bolt-ons and turbos at the N54 try to squeeze every ounce of power on sub-par fueling, tuning, etc.

      Anyways, for the DIY crowd the N54 is a steal of a deal. If you want a reliable N54 now days you’re looking at a chunk of maintenance. All of the parts can be had for a reasonable price with a weekend or two in the garage. Then get the basic bolt-ons, some fueling mods, and turbo upgrades. With a good setup most N54’s will hold up for ages at 500-600whp. More than enough power for most, especially on an engine that can spool moderate sized turbo(s) very well.

      The 2JZ is definitely in another league when it purely comes to engine strength and reliability of all the other parts around the engine. However, the N54 is old enough that most kinks are worked out and it can offer good reliability with a proper setup and a few upgrades along the way.

      All that said, the N54 will likely never accomplish anything close to what the 2JZ has when it comes to huge power builds. It’s a limited number of people interested in going that far in the first place. Many are happy with a 400-650whp setup and the N54 can do that with ease. With a really good setup the N54 can handle 650-700+whp for a good while.

      You’re entitled to your own opinion, but we could have made this a true fan-boy post. The fact of the matter is the two engines are very different and have their own strengths. 2JZ engines are incredibly strong, reliable, and have shown proven results in almost any category. They’re legendary engines for good reason. The N54 is cheap, easy to mod, and has tech that allows for much quicker spool and better low-end torque. For a crazy 800-1000+whp build we’ll take the 2JZ but for a fun everyday or weekend car we’ll take a “modest” 550-650whp in an N54, B58, S55, S58, etc.

      Best Regards,
      BMW Tuning

  3. The 2JZ is undoubtedly one of Toyota’s greatest accomplishments – it’s ability to withstand the trial of time is testament to that, 30ish years later. The sounds it makes(which I must argue is better than an N54), it’s durability/strength, and even incorporating VVT quite a few years before BMW are very attractive – personally I like the sequential turbo setup as well.

    Now, if there’s one thing I love about the N54, it is it’s responsiveness to tuning and modification. An intake, catless downpipes and you’ll find your car accelerates faster – much more rev happy. You instantly know you have freed up power. An off the shelf tune on top of those two mods and you have gained no less than 60 hp with ease. Were talking less than $1k USD. Sad that BMW decided not to optimally tune the N54, so as not to enter M territory.

    If there was one thing I wish BMW did, it was make a semi closed deck for the N54, I think that would have allowed the N54 to directly compete with the Supra as far as stock block for block. Oh.. and that damn HPFP…

    1. Hi Sav,

      Totally agree. A closed deck or at least semi closed would have gone a long way for the N54. That said, the rods or pistons usually let go before. Nonetheless, the N54 doesn’t look great on paper but holds up very well in reality. With proper tuning, turbos, and supporting mods plenty of N54’s have held up in the long-term around the 650-700whp ballpark. As you mention the N54’s real strength is the ease of tuning & mods and picking up plenty of extra power on a low budget.

      The quick spool and great low-end and mid-range torque also help the N54 punch quite a bit above its weight class. While bigger power cars can reel a stock turbo N54 in on the top-end at 100+mph the N54 is pretty impressive from a 40 roll. Low-end torque is also brutal on an engine, and the N54’s ability to take so much abuse in the lower-end and mid-range is a testament to its strength. It also makes the N54 fun just about anywhere as you don’t need to string the engine out to 6-7k rpms to have a fun time.

      Still, the 2JZ is a hell of an engine and generally has less kinks to work out when shooting for 600-700+whp. However, that’s overkill power for many people. 400-550whp is enough for most enthusiasts especially with a strong overall power band and it’s very easy to get the N54 there.

      Best Regards,
      BMW Tuning

  4. Even though you mentioned it quickly, I don’t think the N54 gets enough credit for making such an incredible engine, with that kind of comparable power with such a great cut in weight!!! While the Supra was a lighter car in general, we aren’t talking about the cars. We are talking about the engines. And as such, I give GREATER RESPECT to the N54 for producing so much MORE POWER per pound of weight. If we put those two engines in the exact same car, with the exact same weight, the N54 wins out in my opinion, with the incredible weight loss and comparable power. Just my two cents worth…