3.2L DOHC I-6 What's to say aboutAG's "Motorsports" or M-edition, 3.2L DOHC I-6 that hasn't been said? Best Engines watchers will note that in winning a 10 Best Engines 2000 award, the BMW 3.2L I-6 is one of only two engines to win the award in each of the six years since the competition's inception.
There just isn't any beating a creamy inline 6-cyl. that also happens to have power in abundance, torque to die for and intake and exhaust tones apparently developed under consultation from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
One reason thisstraight-six pounds out win after win is its delicious throttle response: "So linear, so perfectly weighted," says one Ward's tester. We suspect we may appreciate the 3.2L M engine's throttle more so with the increasing application of "drive-by-wire" electronic throttles that work adequately but often present the "feel" of a rubber glove in mud. The 3.2L M engine, on the other hand, still employs a cable to actuate its six individual throttle butterflies - one for each cylinder.
Outstanding flexibility comes free of charge from BMW. "Combine the fat torque with that excellent throttle," gushes another tester, "and you can drive this engine at virtually any speed in any gear."
"It's almost a shame the shift quality is so satisfying," says another, "because you really don't have to shift that much if you don't want to. It's like driving a little V-12."
BMW must like this engine just the way it is, because it powers each of its four M models, yet remains unchanged since its displacement was bumped in '96 from 3L to 3.2L; that and VANOS variable valve timing provide the low- and mid-range torque that keeps drivers engaged until the power kicks in. The BMW VANOS system for U.S.-specification models, however, engages only on the intake valves - the full-blown Double VANOS system in Europe brings another 80 hp but loads more cost, claims BMW.
We're not sure we entirely buy that excuse, but it's difficult to argue with the "plain" 240-hp version sold Stateside. Nonetheless, if there's one rap on this engine that variable valve timing might fix, it's that low-ish 6,000-rpm redline - this engine design is too smooth to shackle with such an unassuming operating range. We wouldn't mind seeing the engineers finally fold the tent on the iron block, either, but BMW has had trouble with aluminum blocks and sulfur-ridden U.S. gasoline (although its other I-6s now enjoy all-aluminum construction).
In 1995, we called this engine a benchmark. Six years on, it still is. Others will rediscover the allure of the inline-six. Trust us.