How-To Build a 500HP 135i, 335i, 535i N54 BMW for Less Than $1,500

Want to Build a 500hp N54? Easy.

The BMW N54 engine featured in the 135i, 335i, and 535i is one of the most tune-able engines ever. Some people call it the ‘2JZ’ of German engines, but we think the N54 is on a whole new level. The N54 engine has forged internals, meaning it can handle an immense amount of power without requiring any expensive engine modifications. We have seen N54’s break 800+whp on the stock internals – good luck achieving that with a 2Jz. BMW rates the engine at 300hp and 300tq to the crankshaft directly out of the factory. It is widely known that BMW undershoots their power estimates, and this is especially true with the stock N54 putting down roughly 280hp and 290tq to the wheels!

The great thing about the N54 engine and its forged internals, is that it’s very easy to generate crazy amounts of power very for very little amounts of $$$. This guide will take you step-by-step on the mods necessary to build a 500hp 135i, 335i or 535i. And we are going to do it for less than $1,500!

Mod List for a 500HP BMW N54

1. Dual Cone Intakes – BMS or VRSF

BMS n54 dual cone intakes

Dual cone intakes are an essential upgrade for your N54 if you are looking to further tune and modify your car. DCI’s will allow your twin-turbos to take in more air, creating more pressure and combustion, resulting in more horsepower. This was the first mod Zach and I put on our cars, and it is, in my opinion, one of the most necessary supporting mods for breaking 500hp. I say it is a “supporting mod” because the extra airflow is crucial in maximizing additional horsepower gains from other mods, such as the JB4 tuner. Aside from additional horsepower, you also get an awesome and aggressive engine sound that is intoxicating. People also claim DCI’s will improve fuel efficiency, but you can throw that out the window at 500hp. If you care about fuel efficiency, you probably don’t want 500 horsepower.

If you are unsure of which dual cone intake is the best for you, you can read our tuning guide on intakes which lists all of the available options, their prices, and horsepower gains. For the purpose of this guide, we are trying to achieve 500hp with spending the least amount of $$ possible, so I recommend either VRSF or BMS dual cone intakes. Even if you don’t care about price, I still recommend these two options. Zach and I run the BMS intakes, and are more than pleased with the results.

Price: ~$100

Horsepower Gains: 20hp to the wheels!

BMS on Amazon for Only $99: http://amzn.to/2yTFgQS

 

2. Catless Downpipes – VRSF

BMW N54 VRSF downpipes

Second on the list is a set of catless downpipes. The catalytic converters on the OEM downpipes are very restrictive, and limit the amount of airflow leaving the engine. This becomes an issue when we put a tuner on our car and increase our boost pressure (psi). With catless downpipes, you will be able to run more air through the turbo system which results in higher boost pressures, and better spool times. These are second on my list after the dual cone intakes, because once you are bringing more air into the engine and turbos, you will need to allow more air to flow out. Downpipes and an intake are the best mods to do before you add a tuner to your car. These mods will allow the tuner to maximize horsepower gains through increased boost. As with above we are looking for a cost-effective set of downpipes, so we recommend the VRSF downpipes. From a quality standpoint, they are highly praised throughout the N54 community, and they come at a price of only $350 brand new. Zach runs the VRSF downpipes, and I will be adding them to my car very soon.

As a disclaimer, removing the catalytic converters on your N54 will result in the car failing emissions tests. Technically it is “illegal”, but the majority of N54 owners will run catless, you simply need to find a shop to do your inspection that is more so on the lax side of things. If you are concerned with this, and don’t want to run an illegal setup, you can get “high-flow” downpipes that still have the catalytic converters, but are less restrictive than OEM. The high flow downpipes don’t create as much power as catless, but they are still a huge improvement over OEM.

Price: $360

Horsepower Gains: 25hp to the wheels!

Buy VRSF Downpipes here: Buy VRSF Downpipes on eBay for $359

 

3. JB4 Piggyback Tuner

BMW N54 JB4 Tuner

Alright, when it comes to tuners for the N54, no product holds more world records than the JB4. The JB4 has the record for the highest horsepower N54, and also has more cars running in the 11 seconds on the quarter miles than any other tuner. There are realistically three tuners out there on the market, (1) JB4, (2) Procede Rev3, (3) Cobb Accessport. It just so happens that the JB4 is the best, and the most cost efficient. I’m not going to get into the details of this tuner, because it is exhaustive, but click the link below to read our guide on tuners that compares all of the options on the market. If you are someone that likes to buy things new, a JB4 is going to run you near $500. If you don’t mind a used item (in the case of tuners, I personally don’t think it matters) then you can grab one for around $350 from someone on the forums.

Read our guide on N54 tuners to decide which is best for you!

Price: $500 new, ~$350 used

Horsepower: 60-100hp, depending on supporting mods and maps

Link to buy on Amazon: BMS JB4 $479

 

4. Front Mount Intercooler (FMIC) – VRSF 7″ Street Intercooler

BMW N54 vrsf front mount intercooler

Mod #4 on our road to 500hp, is a front mount intercooler. An intercooler cools the air that comes from the turbos, before entering the engine. The OEM system is designed to support low boost levels and lower levels of airflow. With a DCI and downpipes you are going to need an intercooler that can support the amount of air you are bringing into the car. The JB4 tune, or any of the others, will have you running higher boost pressure. Running high psi of boost on the OEM intercooler is dangerous because it overwhelms the system, creating heatsoak from high air temperatures which results in a loss of power. VRSF is once again, the best cost-efficient manufacturer. I recommend the 7″ Street Intercooler, which will support you up past 600hp, for a price of just $450. If you are shooting for 650hp+ I recommend using their 7.5″ Race Intercooler (pictured above).

Price: $450

Horsepower: 15-20hp to the wheels

Link: VRSF 7″ Stepped FMIC

 

5. MHD Flash for E85 Ethanol – 40% E85

BMW N54 MHD Flash Software

The MHD Flasher in an Android application that allows you to use a phone or tablet to tune and monitor the ECU in your N54. This app allows you to directly flash your ECU and run various different tune setups, etc. It plugs directly in to your car and is a great tool for monitoring and data logging various engine figures.

The MHD flasher couples well with the JB4, and provides additional

Price: ~$150

Horsepower: Depends on the flash you run, check the posts below for additional info

Link to all MHD info: http://www.e90post.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1096242

MHD Guide by BMS: http://www.n54tech.com/forums/showthread.php?t=29236

JB4 Backend Install: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mhd.flasher.n54&hl=en

These 5 mods will get you to 500hp at the crank, but what about at the wheels? 500hp at the crank is likely to be around 430-440whp. For those who want a serious 500WHP, keep reading!

 

Optional/Recommended Mods

1. Upgraded Chargepipe

BMW N54 chargepipe upgrade

When you reach the point of 500hp or upwards, you are really going to need a performance chargepipe. This isn’t a power mod, meaning you shouldn’t expect any performance benefits from it. The chargepipe supports boost pressure, and once we starting increasing our boost pressure with our tuner and other mods, the OEM chargepipe is likely to fail. The OEM chargepipe is made from plastic, so it is very unstable, and can’t handle high amounts of boost. While this isn’t a necessary upgrade, it eventually will become one once you burst your OEM chargepipe from high boost pressure. The OEM system will commonly leak boost pressure, resulting in less boost and therefore less power. Replacing it ensures you will be holding the maximum boost power possible, and it will prevent the chargepipe from cracking or bursting while you are driving. Some people like to upgrade it before they start increasing boost pressures, others just replace it when they blow their stock pipe. The choice is up to you, but expect to have to eventually upgrade your chargepipe. Prices range from $200 and upwards depending on the blow off valve.

 

2. Low-Pressure Fuel Pump (LPFP) – Stage 2 (500hp) or Stage 3 (550+hp)

BMW N54 low pressure fuel pump

Above, we suggested running around 40% E85 with the MHD backend flash tuner. At 40% ethanol fuel, you are adding serious horsepower, but likely running your low-pressure fuel pump at a full 100%. If you want to run higher than 40% ethanol, which we suggest if you are looking to push past 450whp, you will need to upgrade your low-pressure fuel pump. With a stage 2 or 3 LPFP upgrade, you can safely run 100% E85. The stock LPFP can generally handle around 430whp on E85 and near 460whp on E50. At higher percentages of ethanol fuel, your stock pump will hit capacity and not be able to pump fuel fast enough. We recommend a Stage 2 pump ($450) for people who are shooting for the 500hp range. If you are looking to break 550whp, you’re going to need a Stage 3 LPFP ($850). We recommend Fuel-It’s LPFP upgrades. The dudes there are great and their pumps are the most praised in the community.

 

3. Michelin Pilot Super Sport Tires

Image result for bmw michelin pilot super sports

500hp is loads of fun, but it isn’t so fun when you don’t get to use it! After I installed my JB4 I couldn’t put my foot to the floor until I was in 3rd gear…buzzkill. My Pilot Super Sports were down to about 15% left in the rear and I had no traction, even running mild levels of boost. You can read about it on my build thread, and about my fantastic experience ordering new Michelin Pilot Super Sports from Tire Rack. The performance benefit of new (high performance) tires is enough in itself for you to grab a new set for the summer. But lets also keep in mind the safety benefit of new tires as well. The last thing we want is your N54 in a tree and you in the hospital.

 

500WHP with this One Additional Mod

1. Upgraded Turbo Inlets & Outlets – 50+whp & 60+ft-lbs tq

BMW N54 MMP Turbo Inlets

Intake inlets are the piping that goes from the intake filters to the turbochargers themselves. From the picture above you can see the dual cone intakes, the inlets are the aluminum piping that follows the filters down to the turbos. The stock inlets on the N54 engine get as small as 1″ and also flatten out at various points. The small size of the inlets decreases the amount of air fed to the turbos, which results in less turbo boost. A set of upgraded inlets, such as the MMP inlets, features 2.5″ piping all the way through, increasing air flow and boost pressure. Inlets are a great upgrade for the stock turbos, as they generate more than 50whp and 60wtq, and also increase the natural boost pressure by more than 3psi. Inlets are a necessary upgrade for people whom are upgrading their turbos, as the stock inlets are too small for upgraded turbos.

The catch, is that turbo inlets are a pain in the a** to install. The inlets only cost around $250, but the installation requires a ton of rerouting in the engine bay, and can take nearly 10 hours to complete. We recommend this mod if you are a very handy DIY expert and can handle something of this magnitude yourself. If not, we recommend this if you have $1,000 to spend freely. Otherwise, wait to upgrade these when you upgrade to larger turbo’s if you ever plan to do so as it won’t add much of an addition install cost.

MMP Inlets:Buy MMP Inlets & Outles on eBay

DIY Link: https://mmp-e.com/pages/installation-guides

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Jake

Jake has been active in the BMW industry and community for years and has a passion for blogging about all things BMW. He currently drives a 2008 BMW 135i and has build plans for 600whp. Follow this blog to keep up to date on his progress!
By |2018-05-13T18:01:29+00:00June 16th, 2017|Featured, N54 Tuning Guides|21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Brandon Talkmitt January 4, 2018 at 4:43 pm - Reply

    Jake… I seriously think that you should go back and re-examine your comments on the 2Jz.. I own both a Supra and a 535i. My Supra puts down 835 WHP on my stock engine. No way I would trust my N54 to do that. The stock block record on the 2JZ is over 1000 RWHP. I am just telling you this as a fellow enthusiast to keep people from discrediting your page.
    N54s are great, but they are not that great…

  2. Jake February 3, 2018 at 4:16 pm - Reply

    Hey Brandon.

    Sorry for the late reply. I appreciate the feedback! I think I could have put a little more clarification behind what I really meant. My post might be a little overshot but I’ll do my best to correct it!

    Yes, 2JZ’s definitely put way more power down than N54’s. I think the N54 world record (which we are doing a post on soon) puts down approx. 920whp. I don’t know what the 2JZ world record is, but I have seen 1300whp+ 2JZ’s before which is nuts! But I do think, when it comes to the stock block, the N54 is built better. And part of this might be that the 2JZ is a 90’s engine and the N54 is later 2000’s. I guess i should start by mentioning that power is relative to the platform it is on, so it is tough to compare just numbers when we talk about the 2JZ and N54.

    If we look at this in a unique way…the N54 stock block will handle 800whp, on a platform that maxes out at 920whp. A 2JZ stock block that can handle 800hp, or even 900hp, on a platform that can handle 1300whp is less impressive on a relative basis.

    My other thought behind the N54 being more “tuneable” comes to the costs of tuning. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it is a good bit cheaper to hit the 500hp mark on an N54 compared to on a 2JZ. And in reality, the majority of the people tuning their cars aren’t shooting for records. For our readers here, most people’s goal is 500hp (hence this post), and I think this is achieved easier than on a 2JZ platform.

    Regardless, both are fantastic engines, and definitely (in my opinion) the two best engines ever produced from a tuner aspect. I think you owning both is awesome, and would love to get your take on both of them!

    If you’d be interested, I’d love to have you write a post on here about both your cars. I think it would be interesting and unique and the readers here would love it!

    Best,
    Jake

  3. Freddy montejano February 10, 2018 at 10:17 pm - Reply

    Jale idont know you nor do I think I’ll ever meet you but great response to haters…… lol very professionally said. As obvious as it is there’s just some people with two cents to say they got tothrow in but when their turn comes up to hit the stage it becomes apparent that hate is within those who claim to have two cents in their pocket but sadly just truly don’t. Wich in this case classic example of I guess you call it “stage freight” lol or just plain not even an owner of either beautiful machines. Just thought I’d throw my two in since I’m a Supra 2jz fanatic and a n54 335xi e92 owner with probably 5ish on the hp’s just saying….,,,

  4. Jake February 11, 2018 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    Hey Freddy,

    Thanks for the comment. I shot him an email and offered for him to write about both of his cars here, I would love to feature that. My goal is for this website to be more of a community rather than just a site of me, and disagreements are part of what makes a community a community. I welcome everyone to share their feedback on what I write, and also open my site up for anyone else to write about what they want to on it.

    If you (or anyone reading this) wants to write about their cars on here, just shoot me an email at zj@bmwn54tuners.com!

    Best,
    Jake

  5. Entombb February 12, 2018 at 8:33 am - Reply

    Are you gonna make a post about upgraded twins vs big single? Just found this and helps me a lot with me planning on buying a 335i

    • Jake February 12, 2018 at 10:34 am - Reply

      Yes, we will eventually be doing an upgraded turbos post and will discuss twins verses single. Not sure when exactly it will get written, but I can bump it to the top of my to-do list for you! Just subscribe to our email box and you will get a notification when it gets posted.

  6. Entombb February 12, 2018 at 12:40 pm - Reply

    Awesome, I’m coming from a 415awhp 2004 sti. I’m stuck between a gti, 335, or an s4, but I’m leaning towards the 335 because it’s like the middle point for me (aka I can’t afford the s4 as a 17 year old) Any tips on 335 purchasing?

    • Jake February 12, 2018 at 2:42 pm - Reply

      What are you looking at from a price/mileage standpoint? Just keep in mind that these cars have some common issues (you can read my post about them here: N54 Common Engine Problems. Many of these issues are warrantied for 10 years/82,000 miles such as the HPFP and the Turbo’s. If you buy a car that is outside of that warranty time period, you can be in for some expensive repairs if you run into issues. Hence, I would be careful buying a 2007 335i with 85,000 on it unless it has already had the HPFP and Turbos replaced. Or unless you are already planning on running upgraded turbos…then I guess blowing them without warranty won’t matter. So just do some due diligence on the car and see what maintenance/repairs have already been done to it.

      Some dual cone intakes, downpipes, and a JB4 will have you putting down more than your old STI to the wheels. Not sure if you are looking for a DCT or 6-speed, but the 6-speeds can handle a lot more power 🙂

      • Entombb February 19, 2018 at 7:55 am - Reply

        I’m located in south Florida and prices here are actually pretty cheap but it’s not easy to find a manual, only like 3 on Craigslist. I’m currently leaning towards an 07 with 104k but I feel it’s well maintained, of course I won’t know until I go look at it, and the sti isn’t even sold yet. Looking to get about 15k for my car

  7. James Waters February 15, 2018 at 9:08 am - Reply

    I think it is a good write up. In order to complete your list, you will need a MAP sensor. If I am correct, the 335i comes with 3.0 bar and you will need 3.5 bar in order to raise the boost on the turbos. You can go to ecstuning.com and order the part. Its easy to install. I have a 335 convertible, and I am at 400 HP now. I am adding the stage 2 LPFP and I have the MAP Sensor. After, I will re-tune my car. Good write up Jake.

    • Jake February 15, 2018 at 11:43 am - Reply

      James,

      The 3.5 bar is only necessary if you plan on boosting above 20psi. Which you likely aren’t doing until you upgrade your turbos. The JB4 on Map 5 will run you 12-17psi of boost, and the race map will jump it to 18.5psi, so there is no need for an upgraded MAP sensor to just run a JB4 or other base tune. The 3.5 sensor is good for 20-36psi…its only $40 or so, but no need to upgrade until you upgrade your turbos or start pushing serious boost (at which point you will upgrade your turbos because your stock ones will get blown). Stage 2 LPFP is a great upgrade, start running E85 and you’ll get some great power gains compared to running on pump gas.

      Anyways, thanks for the read and the comment!

      Jake

  8. nate depew February 21, 2018 at 3:48 pm - Reply

    Very solid straight forward post man. I’ve had pretty much the gambit of cars (99 vr4 w/750 whp, EVO 8MR, 2011 M3 ZCP, 07 corvette z06, 08 e92 335i, 2007 bmw m5, another 2009 m3 That I totaled and most recently I picked up a 335IS e93, oh and an ecplise gsx as my first vechicle that really fought me how to mod and the importance of the supporting components. I’ve never had a Supra not really disered one at the time the vr4 was much more appealing and made the Supra feel dated. I will agree with the first comment and concede if we are purely considering stock bottom ends the 2jz can hold gobs of power however as a package (suspension, fuel delivery, drivability, luxury etc the 335 takes the cake.) not to mention the whole experience of driving any bmw over a Toyota isn’t even a comparison. I loved my “M” cars they are purpose built track cars with a linage and heritage you won’t find in any Japanese car modibility though is about a 2/10 I had a Dinan exhaust and intake along with a tune on my m5 ran me about 7k for maybe 40hp over stock. My first 335i was fbo no meth though I sold it to get another m3 because I felt it lacked something. Unfortunately I totaled when an oncoming driver veered in my lane I was going to get another when my dealer turned me on the IS. It has the m goodies my e92 m had dct, suspension etc only lacking the limited slip. It’s the best of both worlds with the overboost function and dct I have zero issues keeping pace with the m3 on the highway. Sorry for the novel but the author is dead on 1500 bucks or so will net you a 500 hp reliable luxurious ride that handles as well as it drags.

  9. nate depew February 21, 2018 at 4:08 pm - Reply

    If your 17 Id keep the STI. Save your money and buy a house with a garage and start investing in 20k or so worth of tools to start. 104k miles even on a well maintained bmw is going to empty your pockets. Almost every make/model of vehicle is going to need oem components replaced. Think suspension, brakes, wheel bearings, clutch if it’s a manual, the list just goes on from there. The sti is a solid platform it’s not as fragile imo ya can drive it hard and put it away wet and if it does brake everything is rather simple to fix in comparison. For example google diy 335 oil filter housing gasket. 425 hp is no joke and the sti has grip for days. As far as Audi’s go I say stay away if you want a fast Audi buy it CPO and keep it stock. IE RS5 etc. Not trying to offend just offer advice and save you some bucks

    • Entombb February 22, 2018 at 10:09 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the input Nate, my dads a mechanic so we’d do all the work ourselves. Also, I planned to put the money I’d have left over from selling the sti into an investment of some sort instead of just letting it burn a hole in my pocket. I appreciate the advice but I think I’m sold on selling it. Either gonna get a gti or a 335, if I go 335 I’m torn between auto and manual. I’ve always driven manual, but the sti isn’t really a fun car to drive especially with the traffic in south Florida. Also it only gets 10mpg. Part of me says get the automatic and get the flash and you can still have fun whilst being able to endure sitting in traffic, but the other side of me says that I should stick with a manual because it’ll be much more fun, and without it I’d miss it and I’d lose the coolness factor of driving a manual.

  10. Kevin March 19, 2018 at 2:52 am - Reply

    “We have seen N54’s break 800+whp on the stock internals – good luck achieving that with a 2Jz” ….really?
    everyone knows that a 2jz’s can easily hit 800whp on stock internals. People have more faith in a high hp 2jz being reliable compared to a N54 as well. You should do more research on 2jz before making such bold claims imo. Either way great articles and information source you have on this website for potential N54 owners

  11. Wyatt Everett May 31, 2018 at 9:20 am - Reply

    Hey quick question, so I have the jb4 and I got the dcis with it but I took them off for awhile due to it being in the shop and not wanting to void my warranty. When I added the dcis again, they were making a hissing sound when I would accelerate. Beforehand they wouldn’t, I’ve checked them for holes and they have none and are securely attached. Any input on that?

  12. Favio June 16, 2018 at 10:33 am - Reply

    Jake, I am looking forward to finally buy my BMW but I cat deside to get a newer version with an n55 engine or get the n54, what would happen if I use all the mod list you gently type down for us on this forum on a N55 engine?? I know the N54 is a much tune friendly engine but a newer car sounds to me like a better option. If the N55 can put this amount of power with this same mods or is better just to get the latest N54 version.
    Thanks a lot, hope to hear from you soon.

  13. Chris July 10, 2018 at 8:37 pm - Reply

    I imagine to go with castles dp you have to tune out the error codes?

  14. Omar July 15, 2018 at 6:13 pm - Reply

    Hey, not sure if anyone already asked this but would these mods also work the same for a n55 335i?

    Thanks!

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