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BMW N52 Intake Manifold Upgrade Guide

Austin Parsons

Meet Austin

Austin graduated from the University of Colorado Denver in 2021 with a degree in technical writing and remains in the Denver area. Austin brings tons of automotive knowledge and experience to the table. Austin worked as a Technical Product Specialist at BMW for over 5 years and drives a heavily modified E30 325i with a stroker kit, all of which he built from the ground up.

The BMW N52 is the inline-6 staple engine that powers quite a few vehicles in BMW’s E9X, E6X, and E8X lineups. It is an engine known for its reliability and efficiency, winning the award for best engine in 2006 and 2007. While a solid commuter engine for BMW’s civilian-oriented cars, the N52 lacks the pep of some of BMWs other performance engines.

That’s not to say that the N52 can’t be made to feel sportier, however. Due to the N52’s stellar reliability and performance potential, there are a few ways of squeezing some extra juice from BMW’s widely acclaimed straight-6. An extremely common, and relatively simple, method of gaining a few extra ponies is swapping the stock N52 intake manifold.

This guide will primarily be focused on upgrading the intake manifold on N52B25 engines. The higher-end N52B30 variant already has a high-flow 3-stage intake manifold, leaving little room for upgrades. In fact, the N52B30 intake manifold is so good that it is the most widely suggested intake manifold upgrade for the N52B25. This guide will discuss the purpose of an intake manifold and the reasons why the N52B30 intake manifold is the best upgrade option for your N52B25-powered BMW.

If you are looking for more BMW N52 performance mod content, check out our 5 Best BMW N52 Bolt-On Modifications Guide.

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N52 DISA Intake Manifold

M52 Intake Manifold Upgrade Differences

This gets a bit complicated, so bear with us. The N52 came with three different intake manifold variants. The primary difference between them is the number of DISA actuators within the manifold. The lowest-end N52 didn’t come with any DISA actuators, while the most powerful N52 variant had two. The purpose of a DISA actuator is to ensure optimum air intake into the engine. The internal DISA actuators only have 2 positions, open and closed. Think of them as doors, which open and close at different times depending on where you are in the power band while driving. 

The N52 variants that feature two DISA actuators are the most efficient and produce more horsepower. On those engines, the DISA system works in three stages. Both actuators work simultaneously by opening and closing either together or individually at each stage of the rev range. At low speeds, both actuators are closed, resulting in higher low-end torque. At medium speeds, only DISA actuator 2 is opened, increasing mid-range power. Finally, at high speeds, both DISA actuators are opened, creating additional high-end horsepower.

Obviously, the N52 variant without any DISA actuators does not receive any of the benefits that the DISA-equipped N52s got. Almost all N52B25s lacked DISA actuators or only came with one, making them inferior. Luckily, the N52B25 and N52B30 share the same block and cylinder head, which allows a double-DISA intake manifold from an N52B30 to bolt up directly to an N52B25. 

This is the most common N52 intake manifold upgrade, and one that will net a large increase in overall performance when paired with a tune. To make matters more confusing, not all N52B30 engines received a double-DISA intake manifold. If you decide to source a double-DISA intake manifold from an N52B30-powered vehicle, make sure to check the part number first.

Why Is An N52 Intake Manifold Upgrade Beneficial?

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Most of the time, increased size and improved shape are the factors that make the difference when upgrading your intake manifold. However, BMW’s implementation of sophisticated engineering is what makes the biggest difference with the N52 intake manifold. 

The complexities of BMW’s DISA system extend way beyond a few doors that open and close inside the intake manifold. To truly cover everything, we’d have to talk about air mass oscillations and gas dynamics. To spare you a headache, we’ll keep it general.

The N52 dual-DISA intake manifold is the best manifold for your N52B25 because the DISA system squeezes every drop of efficiency out of the engine from an air/fuel standpoint. DISA actuators divert air to each cylinder as they need it with a high degree of accuracy through computer-controlled sensors. The ECU also adjusts the fuel ratio in unison with the DISA system, ensuring maximum efficiency. 

In many ways, BMW created the perfect intake manifold with the N52B30 dual-DISA. In most cases, an upgraded intake manifold would be supplied by an aftermarket manufacturer that ironed out kinks in the factory design. It is a testament to BMW’s engineering that in this case, the best N52 intake manifold upgrade is another BMW part. 

As a final note, it is extremely important to note that an intake tune is essential to get maximum power gains from an N52 intake manifold upgrade. Without a tune, the car’s ECU will lack the necessary information needed to allow the DISA system to operate correctly. Ultimately, you won’t feel much of a difference from the upgraded manifold itself. With a tune, the difference is dramatic. Some N52 owners that have done the swap have reported a gain of up to 40hp.

N52 Intake Manifold Upgrade Summary

The BMW N52 is one of the best inline-6s ever made from a consumer standpoint. With that being the case, a good consumer engine doesn’t necessarily equal a good performance engine. The N52 can definitely break that mold with the right modifications.

An N52 intake manifold upgrade is one of the most significant performance-boosting modifications that can be done. The efficiency of BMW’s dual-DISA intake manifold will extract every ounce of performance out of your N52B25 from an air/fuel standpoint. That’s pretty impressive from an OEM part. The 40hp that an upgraded N52 intake manifold can provide, with a tune, can transform the overall characteristics of your BMW. 

While you won’t likely be going toe-to-toe with the likes of 335is and M3s, the little bit of extra horsepower will breathe a bit more life into your N52-powered BMW.

If you are interested in performing this upgrade, a few useful resources will be linked below:

N52 Intake Manifold Additional Information: SFBMWCoding.com

N52 Dual-DISA Intake Manifold For Purchase: ECSTuning.com

If you found this article helpful, check out our other E9X-related content. For more mod suggestions, take a look at our BMW N52 Bolt-On Performance Mods guide. For other N52 content, check out our Ultimate BMW E90 & E92 328i Guide. As always, safe driving!

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One Comment

  1. I have 2012 128i Cabriolet , N52K, that came stock that year with the Dual Clutch Steptronic transmission. It appears to also have the Dual Disa Intake. Can you confirm if this was part of the stock application for this year and engine.

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