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The legendary S62 engine of the BMW M5 E39: power and elegance on the road

The BMW M5 E39 is one of those vehicles that has left an indelible mark on the history of automotive engineering. During its production era, it stood as the fastest sedan in the world, a title that is not easily achieved. The secret behind its impressive performance lies in its heart: the S62 engine.

A Revolutionary V8

The S62, also known as the S62B50, is a gem of automotive engineering. Derived from the M62, the S62 is a high-performance engine that powers both the BMW M5 E39 and the exclusive BMW Z8. This 4,941 cc (302 cubic inches) V8 stands out for its advanced architecture, including an aluminum block and a series of innovations that make it truly unique.

Technical Specifications

The S62 has a bore of 94 mm (3.70 inches) and a stroke of 89 mm (3.50 inches), allowing for a compression ratio of 11.0:1. This configuration, combined with dual variable valve timing (VANOS) on both the intake and exhaust camshafts, optimizes the engine’s performance and efficiency. The S62 is capable of generating 400 hp (294 kW) at 6600 rpm and 500 Nm (369 lb-ft) at 3800 rpm, with a redline reaching up to 7000 rpm.

But the numbers alone don’t tell the whole story. What truly sets the S62 apart is its design and the ingenious decisions made by BMW’s engineers during its development.

Photo: © BMW Group

Innovations of the S62

Eight Individual Throttle Bodies

One of the most distinctive aspects of the S62 is its system of eight individual throttle bodies, one for each cylinder. This feature is more common in high-performance racing engines than in mass-production vehicles. These throttle bodies are controlled by an electronic throttle system (drive-by-wire), allowing the driver to select between a “normal” mode and a “sport” mode. This adjustment modifies the throttle response, offering a more precise and exciting driving experience.

Electronic Management

The control of the S62 is managed by the Bosch Motronic MSS 52 version, which handles fuel injection, ignition timing, and other crucial engine functions. This sophisticated control unit is essential to maximize the S62’s capabilities, ensuring each cylinder operates optimally at all times.

Variable Valve Timing

The S62 was the first BMW V8 engine to incorporate variable valve timing for both camshafts. This system allows the adjustment of the intake and exhaust valve timing, improving both the performance and efficiency of the engine under different driving conditions.

Design Improvements

Throughout its production, the S62 received various improvements addressing initial issues and further refining its performance. For example, in March 2000, a new piston ring design was introduced to reduce oil consumption, a problem affecting the early units of the engine. In December of the same year, a pressure accumulator was added to the VANOS hydraulic system to eliminate the annoying noise it produced during cold starts. In October 2001, the VANOS diaphragms were thickened, significantly reducing noise and improving the system’s durability.

Stories and Curiosities of the S62

Dingolfing: The Home of the S62

Unlike its predecessors, the S62 engines were not manufactured at the M division headquarters in Garching, Germany. Instead, production took place at the Dingolfing assembly plant. This decision allowed BMW to leverage the plant’s high-precision manufacturing capabilities, ensuring each S62 engine was assembled with the utmost quality.

Photo: ©BMW Group

The Ascari KZ1 and A10

The S62 didn’t just find its home in the M5 and the Z8. This engine was also chosen to power the Ascari KZ1 supercar and its successor, the A10. In these vehicles, the S62 was tuned to offer even more performance, demonstrating the versatility and potential of this engine. In fact, the Ascari A10, produced from 2006 onwards, still uses the S62, highlighting the enduring legacy of this engine.

An Icon of the 90s and Early 2000s

The BMW M5 E39 and its S62 engine represent a golden era in automotive history. During the 90s and early 2000s, BMW solidified its reputation as a manufacturer of some of the most exciting and technically advanced vehicles in the world. The S62 played a crucial role in this story, not only for its impressive performance but also for its ability to offer an unparalleled driving experience.

Conclusion

The S62 engine of the BMW M5 E39 is not just an example of advanced engineering; it is a piece of automotive history revered by enthusiasts worldwide. With its technical innovations, impressive performance, and durability, the S62 has left an indelible mark on the automotive industry. Whether on the streets in an M5 E39 or on the tracks in an Ascari, this engine continues to inspire a new generation of enthusiasts and collectors.

So next time you see a BMW M5 E39 roaring down the road, remember that under its hood beats a legendary heart, one that has redefined what it means to drive a sports sedan. The S62 is not just an engine; it is a BMW masterpiece that has won the hearts of many and secured its place in automotive history.