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.
|Displacement||2979 cc||2997 cc|
|Bore x Stroke (mm)||84 x 89.6||86 x 86|
|Weight||~320 lbs||~507 lbs|
|Engine Block Material||Aluminum||Cast Iron|
|Engine Block Design||Open Deck||Closed Deck|
|Pistons||Cast||Cast, Oil Cooled|
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
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
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?