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 $$$. This guide will take you step-by-step on the mods necessary to build a 500hp 135i, 335i or 535i. And we are going to do it for less than $1,500!
Mod List for a 500HP BMW N54
1. Dual Cone Intakes – BMS or VRSF
Dual cone intakes are an essential upgrade for your N54 if you are looking to further tune and modify your car. DCI’s will allow your twin-turbos to take in more air, creating more pressure and combustion, resulting in more horsepower. This was the first mod Zach and I put on our cars, and it is, in my opinion, one of the most necessary supporting mods for breaking 500hp. I say it is a “supporting mod” because the extra airflow is crucial in maximizing additional horsepower gains from other mods, such as the JB4 tuner. Aside from additional horsepower, you also get an awesome and aggressive engine sound that is intoxicating. People also claim DCI’s will improve fuel efficiency, but you can throw that out the window at 500hp. If you care about fuel efficiency, you probably don’t want 500 horsepower.
If you are unsure of which dual cone intake is the best for you, you can read our tuning guide on intakes which lists all of the available options, their prices, and horsepower gains. For the purpose of this guide, we are trying to achieve 500hp with spending the least amount of $$ 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.
Horsepower Gains: 20hp to the wheels!
2. Catless Downpipes – VRSF
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.
Horsepower Gains: 25hp to the wheels!
Link to buy on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2tbrzdk
3. JB4 Piggyback 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.
Price: $500 new, ~$350 used
Horsepower: 60-100hp, depending on supporting mods and maps
Link to buy on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2tbDB6O
4. Front Mount Intercooler (FMIC) – VRSF 7″ Street 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).
Horsepower: 15-20hp to the wheels
5. MHD Flash for E85 Ethanol – 40% E85
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
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!
1. Upgraded Chargepipe
When you reach the point of 500hp or upwards, you are really going to need a new 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 $250 and upwards depending on the blow off valve.
Link to VRSF brand on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2roWGkv
2. Low-Pressure Fuel Pump (LPFP) – Stage 2 (500hp) or Stage 3 (550+hp)
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.
500WHP with this One Additional Mod
1. Upgraded Turbo Inlets & Outlets – 50+whp & 60+ft-lbs tq
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.